Jason OMahony - Irish political blogger, Irish politics, EU politics
 
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Why do the Irish hate the rich so much?

Posted by Jason O on Dec 28, 2010 in Irish Politics

Let us be honest: In the Irish political lexicon, the phrase “the rich” is a swearword. When one looks at the posters of the hard left, “the rich” are given the same hate filled centre-of-place that the Jews would have been given on a Nazi poster in 1930s Germany. We are left in no doubt that to be rich is to be morally inferior and probably evil. Yet, curiously, as a people we have never elected an openly hostile anti-rich government. Even in the coming election, where surely the left will have their best result ever, it is very unlikely that a hard left government will be elected. We are, it seems, happy to hate the rich but not that committed to actually depriving them of their status. Why is that?

I suspect it is because we assume that the rich behave in exactly the same way the rest of us would behave if we were rich. We too would take umbrage at paying high taxes, indeed generally, as a people, we do. Our social conscience is only as deep as to demand that other people pay for social solidarity. We could easily elect a government that would confiscate wealth, but we don’t, because deep down we’re afraid that they’ll come after the rest of us. The Irish don’t ideologically hate the concept of being rich: We just hate the idea of other people being rich.  

 
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The Corrib Gas Controversy.

Posted by Jason O on Dec 27, 2010 in Irish Politics

Can someone recommend a balanced book or source on Ireland’s natural resources off the west coast? My gut instinct is to regard the Shell to Sea crowd and their allies as nutters opposed to pretty much everything who would be happier if nothing was ever built in Ireland and we all lived in a hole in the ground with a broken bodhran.

Yet I can’t help having a niggling doubt that there is something fishy about the exploitation of our natural resources, especially when you see which Fianna Fail ministers were involved. I’m constantly being told that we have gotten a raw deal on royalties compared to other countries, yet I’m told that by people who regard all oil companies as evil. I also can’t help worrying that, as with the banks, our national ministers may not have been as much corrupt as just plain incompetent and out of their depth in dealing with Big Oil.

Where can I get a balanced analysis? Any suggestions? 

 
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Republicans slam Pres. Obama for vetoing “Death to Poor People” Act.

Posted by Jason O on Dec 27, 2010 in US Politics

President Obama has been attacked as an “effete European Socialist who reads books and stuff” by Republican congressman Robert E. Glee (Georgia). The congressman was remarking on the President’s most recent decision to veto a Republican bill designed to allow registered Republicans to hunt unemployed people, executing them with high powered assault rifles. “It is this kind o’ European thinkin’ which is destroyin’ this great country of ours. Let us be cleah’: There is a cleah’ and radical homosexual agenda at play heah’: I have no doubt in my mind that the president would much rather sleep with poor people than hunt them and theah ill-bred spawn down with a laser scoped Armalite with dum-dum bullets. Shoot, we might as well be livin’ in France!”

The GOP also attacked President Obama last week when he vetoed a Republican bill to make the unemployed dance for coins thrown by passing rich people. In other news, in South Carolina, a black man was beaten to death by a group of  “secession enthusiasts” for asking for a white coffee.    

 
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The Moral Argument for Higher Taxes.

Posted by Jason O on Dec 26, 2010 in Irish Politics

I’m against high taxes in Ireland. The reason is because all my adult life I have seen an Irish state which collects taxes and, as a priority, sees ensuring a high quality of life for its own employees and favoured sectional interests as the primary destination for those taxes, with service delivery very much the second objective. As a result, I have no faith in the argument put forward by the Irish Left in defence of higher taxation. It is, quite simply, not in my own self-interest.

Having said that, I don’t have an ideological objection to high taxation. I’m not a Randist Tax-is-Theft nutter. I’m just not convinced that the Irish state could get me a better return for my money in terms of quality of life than I can myself. Having said that, I have yet to meet, with the exception of Labour Senator Brendan Ryan, an Irish politician of the Left willing to make the moral argument for us all as a society paying higher taxes for the common good. Even Joe Higgins and Richard Boyd Barrett, almost uniquely for European politicians, do not make the argument for common high taxation for common social goals. Instead, they talk of taxation in an unrealistic and punitive vein, as a weapon to be used against a class who dare to hold but also create wealth. Yet their “Soak the rich as national cash-cow” strategy is just not viable as a long term sustainable source of revenue because the penal rates they advocate are rates that not even ordinary workers would tolerate. It is, of course, true, that there are those in our society (and not just amongst the ranks of the ultra-wealthy) who object to paying any significant level of taxation yet expect the same level of services as others. They are the social parasites that exist in every society, and have to be faced with a choice: Pay and benefit, or don’t pay and leave.

But what of the rest of our society? Where are the new leaders of the Left willing to confront the failed sacred cows of the Left, by proposing ideas such as the  ordinary worker as taxpayer being the priority with regard to public spending outcomes? Where are the new leaders of the Left with the courage to advocate, for example, a Luxury Tax on high value products, or are they too frightened because of a recognition that working families too aspire to own such products? Where is the new leader of the Left willing to state his reputation on proving that your money in his hands will deliver a better outcome for you? Show me the young leader of the Irish Left willing to say that we must all pay higher taxes, and identifying specifically what rights and services we will all get in return? Show me that,  and whilst I still may not agree with him, I will respect him.

 
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Restoring confidence in the economy.

Posted by Jason O on Dec 25, 2010 in Irish Politics

One of the economic issues not being addressed agressively by the political parties is the emotional and psychological effect of the recession. Even people with money are afraid to spend, which is reducing business activity, which is costing jobs, which cuts tax revenue and expands welfare bills.  What’s more is that we are in a tricky situation where even if we could afford to give people a tax cut, the likelihood is that they would save most of it as opposed to pump it back into the economy.

What we need to consider is spending which gets into the economy, and into labour intensive industries. Perhaps we should consider (and it will have to be funded by cuts elsewhere) giving every taxpayer a €400-€500 tax credit to spend on home repair and improvement, or holidaying in Ireland, or in restaurants, in a single large payment. In other words, to be spent on something that they would not normally have spent money on in these times. Send in your receipt, get your tax rebate.

Now, I have to declare an interest here: I work in the construction and RMI industry, so I’d benefit from such a proposal. But I still reckon that the reasoning is sound. Our exports are going fine, but our indigenous service industry is tanking, and an action like this would at least inject cash into sectors of our business that would not automatically be spent on imports. Just a thought.   

 
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Couples Curios.

Posted by Jason O on Dec 24, 2010 in Just stuff, Not quite serious.

Over the last two weeks, I’ve witnessed four couples interacting in a manner that caught my eye:

The first was today today in Tesco, where, as I queued to pay a human (Not the computerised yoke that tells me that there is an “Unexpected Item” in the bagging area. If It was a butchered human torso or 3.5kilos of uranium yellowcake I’d say fair enough, but it’s always a sodding bag. My bag. In the bagging area. But I digress) a number of customers were distracted by a loud “Where the f**k were you???” and the sight of a woman effin’ and blindin’ her well-meaning dope of a partner in front of  a child. I felt for the poor bastard, whatever his transgression, and thought to myself: He must love that woman, or perhaps the child, very, very much to put up with that.

Earlier in the month I witnessed a couple have a row in the Blackrock Clinic. He was in doctor’s garb, and she had that polished look of a professional woman about him, and they were having that wonderful middle-class “We are having a row in public but we are not going to put on a show” fight through clenched teeth. Very entertaining.

Earlier than that I saw a middle aged man barrel out of a pub in Blackrock followed moments later by a middle-aged blonde woman dressed ambitiously for her age who screamed up the street at him “Yeah, go on, go back to your F**king whore!”

Finally, last week, I left my house at about ten to seven in the morning to clear snow from my car. In the laneway beside my house were a couple who looked in their late thirties, maybe early forties, dressed in sensible clothing for the cold winter, yet all over each other like two drunken teenagers at a disco. At 6:50 in the morning? Hmm. I wonder are some of my neighbours being naughty with each other?

 
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Great Christmas Treats for Someone: A View from the Foothills.

Posted by Jason O on Dec 24, 2010 in Books, British Politics

A well-written glimpse behind the ministerial door.
A well-written glimpse behind the ministerial door.

I’m only a third the way through it, but I can already recommend Chris Mullin’s “A View from the Foothills” as well worth reading. Mullin, a British Labour MP, former minister and Birmingham Six campaigner, as well as writer of the excellent political thriller “A Very British Coup” has published his diaries from his time as a junior minister, and they’re an absolute treat for anyone interested in British politics, or indeed, how decisions are made in politics.

The book is peppered with little vignettes of Blair and others, but also underlines how much of modern politics and government is taken up with time wasting nonsense. The one depressing line running through the book is the sense of helplessness amongst even ministers about how to shape society in a better way. In particular, his picture of an entire underclass (experienced through his northern England constituency)  that is completely dependent on welfare funded by the rest of society whilst at the same time completely ungrateful about it is pretty grim. He also rails against the fact that sucessive governments, both Labour and Tory, have actually improved the living standards of the great majority, yet the prevailing culture is that everything is worse then it has ever been.

Funny, fascinating, touching, and easy to pick up and put down. Possibly the British political book of the year.

 
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The President Strikes Back!

Posted by Jason O on Dec 23, 2010 in US Politics

“Lame Duck” President Obama ratifies the START Treaty, repeals Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, extends Unemployment Assistance, gets a tax-cut for working people, and gets the 9/11 First Responder bill through. Some lame duck. You can watch his press conference here. This guy continues to inspire and be a pragmatic reforming leader that Americans should be proud of. 

 
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NORAD Tracks Santa.

Posted by Jason O on Dec 23, 2010 in Just stuff, Not quite serious.

In 1955 a Sears Roebuck newspaper ad to help kids call Santa gave the wrong number and instead put kids through to United States Continental Air Defence Command’s hotline. The Operations Director, Co. Harry Shoup, instructed his staff to check for Santa, and passed on the updates to the kids on the phone. When NORAD (North American Air Defence Command) took over the job, the tradition continued. Today, Santa is tracked by 47 installations around the world, and escorted into North American airspace by Royal Canadian Air Force CF-18s.

You can check progress here.

 
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Good things about Dublin.

Posted by Jason O on Dec 23, 2010 in Just stuff

In this time of economic and weather related challenges, we often forget the good things about Dublin. Like the Luas, for example, which continues to provide an excellent service. And people helping complete strangers whose cars are stuck in the snow.

As a people we have our flaws. But we have some pretty decent qualities too.

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