Jason OMahony - Irish political blogger, Irish politics, EU politics
 
2

Here’s a jaw dropper: Which country used to have an income tax rate of 91%?

Posted by Jason O on Apr 19, 2012 in US Politics

Ike the dirty Commie.

Ike the dirty Commie.

In a shocking indictment of my social life, I recently came across this little nugget. Which dirty socialist country run by some filthy commie taxed its citizens at 91% of their income? The answer, if you just happened to be wondering, was the United States, under that filthy red liberal commie bastard Eisenhower. In fact, and it raises interesting questions about the whole idea that high taxes are a bad idea, the upper rate in the US did not drop below 70% until President Reagan was elected in 1981. Now, conservatives will of course whoop and holler at this, but given that the income tax rate was never below 63% from 1932 (reaching 94% during WW2) until 1981, you have to ask, was it really as detrimental as we are told? I mean, how did the US perform from 1932-1981? Well, it defeated two military superpowers, armed the free world, contained the Soviet Union, put a man on the Moon, rebuilt Europe, created Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, and created a land of prosperity for its people to a level unparallelled by any people in history. Hmm.

Now, don’t worry, I’m not going all red. I have serious issues about the morality of confiscating wealth in those proportions. The other fact was that unlike any European country attempting to impose taxes at that rate, the US does not have a culture of people leaving the US to work elsewhere to pay less tax. The truth is, if you imposed taxes like that in any single EU country all you would do is clear out the business class. However, if there was an EU income tax, especially with the (in some cases) 23 different bands that existed in the US, you might have a different effect. Ironically, the sort of people in Ireland (the left) most in favour of taxing the wealthy at high rates are also the people most opposed to creating a federal Europe that could actually do it, a point that the Eurosceptic right know full well. Funnily enough, the French Socialists and the German SPD are beginning to twig it too. Imagine, for example, if you didn’t levy it at all on people creating labour intensive or export-led companies or in R&D?   

Check out The Tax Foundation website here.  

 
1

An Occasional Guide to Irish Politics: The Infantilised Voter.

Posted by Jason O on Apr 17, 2012 in Irish Politics, Not quite serious.

I have to PAY for all this stuff?

I have to PAY for all this stuff?

“I don’t want to pay for stuff! But I want stuff!” There’s a certain type of voter who comes into their own during referendums. First of all, indignation is the order of the day. They are pissed off with everyone, which given the state of things, is understandable. But scratch a little deeper, and you encounter the reality. Take the Fiscal Compact Treaty. They will give out yards about there being “no information”, despite the guides in newspapers and websites and leaflets put out by the Referendum Commission. Say that to them, of course, and you get “I haven’t time to read all that!” Yet he still has opinions, based on some five minutes of some big mouth giving it loads on “Joe Duffy”. God forbid anyone should challenge his half-informed half-baked opinions, because he regards that as a breach of his human rights. When you correct him that No, Russia is NOT in the EU, he accuses you of being patronising because he has a RIGHT to believe that Russia is in the EU, and you are a member of the elite for disputing his right to believe that. It’s the same with taxes and government services. He bitches about not being able to afford to pay €2 a week for his Household Charge, but spends €10 a week on the lotto. He whines about how much tax he pays (always overstating the percentage because he doesn’t actually know how much he pays) and gripes about how everything from Doctor’s visits to the television licence should be free, paid magically by someone else.
But here’s the thing: it is not solely his fault. All his adult life he has had politicians tell him that all the things he says are right and correct. Of course he should get the fruit of the labours of others! Isn’t he entitled? After all, if everyone is telling him that his clothes are so fine, sure why would he believe that he was actually bollock naked?

 
3

Just why are British conservatives against Proportional Representation anyway?

Posted by Jason O on Apr 14, 2012 in British Politics

"I want an EU referendum and less immigration and more defense spending and no gay marriage and more cuts in spending and more tax cuts and I want them now!"

"I want an EU referendum and less immigration and more defense spending and no gay marriage and more cuts in spending and more tax cuts and I want them now!"

There are certain badges of conviction that British small-c conservatives carry with them. The first is euroscepticism, and the second is a belief that the First Past the Post electoral system is sacrosanct. The belief in FPTP would make perfect sense if it delivered what it was they wanted, yet the funny thing is, they spend most of their time bitching about what FPTP has delivered. Now, I’m not just talking about the coalition. That is still a novelty. But cast your mind back through British politics since Mrs Thatcher. In 1992 John Major won a general election and proceeded to implement policies on Europe that started the rot as far as the eurosceptics were concerned. Blair got in in 1997, winning three elections (including a 60 seat majority in 2005 with 35% of the vote) and doing all sorts of stuff that annoyed those on the right. In 2012 Cameron failed to win a majority, and had to enter a coalition with the hated Lib Dems.

Here’s my question: It has been 20 years since FPTP has given representation to the political ideals of true blue conservatives. On top of that, FPTP is now allowing votes of the right to drain away from the Conservatives (under FPTP, read wasted votes) which ironically will help left wing candidates get elected. Seriously? This is the great voting system that is going to get rightists what they want?

The problem for the right is that they approach politics with a “Verucca Salt” philosophy. They want it all, and want it now, and so often end up with nothing. Writing as a centre-right liberal, I quite like David Cameron and Nick Clegg, which means that conservatives must be plain livid.

But supposing Britain had, say, New Zealand’s Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) system, where voters have two votes. One for a local MP, elected under FPTP, and a second for a party list, which tops up party seats to ensure a proportional result. What would be the result in the UK? There would almost certainly be a pure conservative eurosceptic party to the right of the Cameron Conservatives, with anything from 20-40 seats, going on UKIP’s most recent poll figures. A party that would happily trade votes in the house for things that they wanted, like a referendum on EU membership or British membership of the ECHR. The right tends to sneer at such continental (or Irish) style political give-and-take, but would they really let that sneeriness let them dismiss a referendum on Europe? Really?

The right needs to decide what it really wants. To shout endlessly through the cakeshop window, demanding all the cake, or the ability to come in and get a slice, and from there figure out how to get another.

 
2

An Occasional Guide to Irish Life: Terenure Woman.

Posted by Jason O on Apr 12, 2012 in Not quite serious.

Welcome to Terenure, her staging post of the Dublin class system, and gateway to where the “nice” people live. To her west is Walkinstown, Greenhills and Crumlin, actual working aspiring working class looking to Terenure as the place to go. To her east are the hallowed lands of Rathgar (Or Rott Gore to the born and breds). Oh, how she’d love to live in Rathgar, with it bijous and bakeries and Protestants (Yes, they have Protestants, people who have Sales of Work as opposed to Bring and Buy sales. She’d love to have Protestant neighbours, the ultimate Catholic Dublin middle class accessory!) and nice schools and the odd judge living two doors up.

But here she is in Terenure, the aspiring Rathgar, the home of the lower but ambitious middle class who look up the social ladder at their betters, and then down at their social inferiors with a sniff of the nose and the slightest hint of fear. It still has “the college”, which counts for something, although let’s be honest: it’s no Blackrock. There’s still a village feel, and the pubs and restaurants aren’t bad, and she loves Downey’s butchers, which is a proper butchers that also sells mad stuff (Was that crocodile?) and there’s that fancy organic place beside Eddie Rockets too (Nolan’s?). But go down the main street and see the grotty shops too, some selling God knows what? Is that a cross dresser’s boutique? You wouldn’t get that in Rathgar! She’s pretty sure that even the adultery in Rathgar is much more elegant, as opposed to getting drunk and felt up in Brady’s pub. In Rathgar, you might get seduced by a barrister. In Terenure it’ll be a used car salesman in a 1998 Porsche.    

It also has the synagogue, which in Terenure counts as exotic, and is ironic, because if Hitler, appealing to the lower middle calsses with a mix of aspiration and fear, had been born in Ireland, he almost certainly would have come from Terenure. 

 
9

What does “the rich should pay their fair share ” actually mean?

Posted by Jason O on Apr 11, 2012 in Irish Politics

It’s a default statement that is never questioned, but what does it actually mean? After all, the top 0.5% of earners in Ireland in 2009 paid 18% of all income tax. In 2010, the top 5% paid 44% of income tax. How is that unfair? When you talk to people about it, the argument goes a funny way, because it emerges, in my experience, that the argument is not about what a fair share actually is, but about the fact that the rich are somehow rich through some form of trickery, and that admitting that hard work creates wealth is curiously un-Irish. But let’s be honest: there’s also the simple fact that it is not regarded as socially unacceptable in Ireland to be just plain openly jealous about other people being rich. When Richard Boyd Barrett speaks about the rich, he speaks about them as if they deserve to be punished, in short, for being rich and therefore wicked. 

There is an argument that the rich should pay a higher proportion of their income because they have “spare money”. The problem with that is that “spare money” is a subjective idea. If Dennis O’Brien’s wealth plummets to €2-3 million, he no longer feels he’s rich, or has “spare money”. What about an unemployed guy living next to a civil servant who has just bought a 2011 Ford Focus? In his eyes, his neighbour is loaded, and should pay extra tax. After all, he can afford a brand new Ford Focus. Yet to a  returned immigrant living in a bedsit, looking at his unemployed neighbour who has a house, he’s thinking how he would love to have the house the unemployed guy has. In short, to be as rich as him.

What we really mean when we talk about fairness is “Leave my money alone. Take that guy’s money instead!” If we are to really talk about fairness, let’s talk about what we really mean. Of course we should have a progressive tax system, and of course those of us who earn more than others should pay higher tax, but where does fairness end? I reckon it’s about 40% of gross income. After that, people, regardless of how wealthy they are, start to get antsy for the simple reason that they see a large chunk of their effort taken off them. It’s then compounded by the fact that those taxes are, in the eyes of many Irish people, misspent. Yet Richard Boyd Barrett wants those people to be the villains of the piece. For working?

The curious thing is that if the top 5% did leave, our income tax receipts would drop by 44%, forcing us to slash spending on the poorest in our society. What’s the hard left’s answer to that?

 
0

10 things “elites” forced on the ordinary Irish people.

Posted by Jason O on Apr 11, 2012 in Irish Politics

Bloody elites telling us who we can take in!

Bloody elites telling us who we can take in!

In recent times, it has become standard to hint that various elites are making decisions against the wills of the great majority of Irish people. Thinking about this, and using “elite” to mean a relatively small self-selecting group of people outside of prevailing mainstream opinion at the time, I have tried to compile a list of policies or actions forced by an elite on the Irish people.

1. The 1916 Rising. The ultimate example of an elite forcing its view upon the majority? Of course, the Irish people did ultimately endorse the view, but that was after the event. The men and women of the Rising believed that in later years, when they understood what they had done and why, the people would thank them, surely the ultimate elite defence?

2. Equal pay for women, a policy pushed primarily by the small Labour party against much grumbling from FF and FG, the parties who represented the great majority.

3. Sex discrimination legislation. People forget this, but there was once a time when it was acceptable for politicians to claim that letting women work was depriving “a good man” of a job, and that action was an injustice.

4. The availability of contraception.

5. The availability of divorce. Throughout the 1970s, even the Labour party was weary of touching this.

6. The abolition of articles two and three and the recognition of the right of the majority in the North of Ireland to decide their own future. When I was in the PDs, people in Ogra Fianna Fail used to attack us for being elitist West Brits particularly for this policy. Where are they now, eh?

7. Planning corruption in Ireland. Throughout the 1980s, the political establishment dismissed those concerned about planning irregularities in Dublin County Council as cranks and eccentrics who did not understand what “real” politics was about. Think they ever dreamed that Fianna Fail would one day move to expel its most successful leader since Dev?

8. And now we are onto same sex marriage, which we are told is an obsession of a metropolitan liberal elite. In the 1960s, when the Race Relations Act in the UK banned signs saying things like “No Blacks, No Dogs, No Irish”, we were told that this was the action of an out-of-touch liberal elite. Those critics are very quiet today.

9. The EEC, which was a project devised by a political elite over the heads of the French and German people who despised each other. Certainly, if the non-German peoples had their say, they would probably have devised a treaty not as close to the treaty of Rome, but that of Versailles. I wonder how that would have worked out?

10. Domestic violence and rape within marriage were once “family problems” to be ignored by society, with radical feminist liberals sticking their noses in, not “understanding” that this is the way ordinary people live.

In times past, an enlightened elite argued that dunking women to see if they were witches was ridiculous. Radical abolitionists tried to force their elitist views about property on the white slave owners of the United States. In South Africa, an out of touch liberal elite argued against apartheid. In the US, an out of touch Eastern liberal elite argued against the majority of voters in Alabama and Mississippi and elsewhere on segregation.

Guess what: the elite were right. They’re not always right. The supporters of Eugenics certainly weren’t. But just because an idea is not of the mainstream, that does not mean it is wrong.

 
0

Sarkozy to allow voters to tweet policies into his manifesto.

Posted by Jason O on Apr 10, 2012 in European Union, Not quite serious.

Nuke Algeria? Invade les Rosbifs? Just tell my pollster!

Nuke Algeria? Invade les Rosbifs? Just tell my pollster!

The President of France, M. Nicolas Sarkozy, has continued his manic leaping up and down the political spectrum like a demented flea on Red Bull by pledging that voters may tweet policies directly into his manifesto. Addressing a rally in Toulouse under a giant banner proclaiming “Seriously, what’ll it take?”, Sarkozy declared that “it is not true, as my opponents allege, that I have no beliefs. I have always held firmly to one belief my entire life, and so have room for plenty of others, which I ask the French People to insert directly through Twitter. Let me be your vessel!” Sarkozy’s socialist opponent, M. Francois Hollande attacked Sarkozy for being as erratic as a balloon with the air escaping, and pointed out that, unlike the sitting president of the republic, he has very firm convictions on the future of France, including the restoration of the Year 1959, the nationalization of good hair so that it can be made into a human right for all, and the passing of a law to ban the losing of one’s car keys when one is in a rush to get the kids to school.

 
3

I’m a little nervous about Aaron Sorkin’s new TV show.

Posted by Jason O on Apr 9, 2012 in Movies/TV/DVDs

There’s a generation of political activists, and I’m one of them, for whom “The American President” and “The West Wing” are sacred texts to be quoted and paid homage to on a regular basis. Sorkin, to his credit, made politics sexy, and he also did a lot to make many realise that politics could also be a noble trade. On top of that, Sorkin also had effects that I suspect people don’t often realise.

I, for example, am much more sympathetic to some conservative arguments (espc on guns) as a result of Sorkin’s writing through the characters of John Hoynes and Ainsley Hayes. In Ainsley Hayes, for example, Sorkin created a sympathetic conservative character that few conservative writers of fiction have ever managed to match.      

You would think, then, that I’d be looking forward to Sorkin’s latest outing, HBO’s “The Newsroom”. I am, and I’ll watch it, but with a certain degree of nervousness. The cast looks good (Jeff Daniels is a very underrated actor) and looks like it has some good lines, only there seems to be something samey about it. It starts out with a liberal losing his cool over the state of the American media. Isn’t that how “Studio 60″ (A criminally under appreciated show, by the way) kicked off? Is this going to be another liberal whinge fest?

I ask this, by the way, as a liberal. Now, Sorkin deserves the benefit of the doubt, and I have only seen a single trailer so I could be totally jumping the gun. But I would love to see a strong and regular conservative character who is not an idiot, not because I agree with conservative values but because putting eloquent liberal characters up against morons demeans liberal values. Some years ago, Jon Stewart and Bill O’Reilly debated each other on the air. Now, I don’t like O’Reilly, but I’ll tell you something: He knew his stuff, and it was good television, and not in the usual yah-boo Fox/MSNBC way. It was two men rationally, calmly and respectfully discussing their political differences.

Sorkin’s the man to write that type of exchange of view as drama. Let’s see some of that on “The Newsroom”.

 
0

National Forum Fiscal Treaty Debate, 5th April.

Posted by Jason O on Apr 8, 2012 in European Union, Fiscal Treaty Referendum 2012, Irish Politics

Marc Coleman

Marc Coleman

I recently attended, and greatly enjoyed, a debate organised by Marc Coleman of Newstalk on behalf of the centre-right “National Forum” thinktank. The subject was the Fiscal Treaty, and the speakers were Brian Hayes TD, Minister of state at Finance, Eamon O Cuiv TD, Michael McDowell and Declan Ganley. A few observations:

Brian Hayes gave a pretty stock Vote Yes for Jobs/Send the right signals for FDI speech. Having said that, his speaking style was quite engaging, almost Blairite, and he did have the one killer line that the No campaign either avoid or struggle to engage with: What happens if we need a second bail out? He seemed on top of his brief, and along with Lucinda is beginning to emerge as one of the younger FGers worth watching.

Eamon O Cuiv is an odd fish that I can never quite work out. There seems to be a certain sincerity and thoughtfulness there, yet I can’t help thinking that he has never made a political sacrifice on a point of principle. His point seemed to be that we can blackmail Europe into giving us a deal on promissory notes and corporation tax. Curiously, he seemed to be against federalism but in favour of a federal EU banking regulator.

Declan Ganley was funny and very comfortable with the mantle of European Federalism. I’m not sure I agree with his stance on the FC, which seems to be to play chicken with the rest of Europe, and some aspects of his federalism would worry me, but he deserves credit for laying out a clear vision of the EU and its future direction. He also seems to have lost some of his more agressive style and it has done him good. Irish politics certainly gains from his participation.

Michael McDowell always reminds people when he speaks what we are missing from the Irish political scene. He’s a politican that likes ideas and discussing them, which is very refreshing compared to the “I’m calling for a full scale review” carry on that most Irish Pols offer. He strongly advocated a Yes vote, making the same “Who is going to pay?” argument that Brian Hayes made. He then attacked the concept of a United States of Europe on the grounds that there is no European demos. He made very valid points about the dangers an EU superstate without a real democratic anchor, but having listened, I’m still more with Ganley on this.

One other observation about the evening was the tone of the meeting. I spotted a lot of ex-PDs in the audience, and any mention of the Croke Park Agreement set off the crowd. Marc Coleman gave a pretty fiesty centre-right speech which was notable by its absence on the political arena, outlining a series of positions that a moderate US Republican or British Tory would regard as perfectly reasonable. I don’t say that disparagingly, by the way, what I mean is that it is a pretty disgraceful state of affairs that we don’t have a party advocating a clear centre-right pro-private sector position.

One other thing: Nessa Childers MEP spoke, giving a centre-left analysis. She was heckled a bit, but for the most part listened to. Curiously enough, I have always found right of centre meetings far more tolerant of left wing contributors (and rightly so) than vice versa. Or is that just me? One woman at the back called for a minute’s silence for that poor Greek bastard who took his own life. Do you ever notice how people who call for a minute’s silence always wait until they have exhausted what they want to say, and then want the minute’s silence from someone else’s speaking time? A pet peeve of mine.

You can get more information on the National Forum here. I’m not a member, by the way, but I would go to another meeting if it was a lively as this. 

 
1

Watch as the property tax brings out the worst in people.

Posted by Jason O on Apr 7, 2012 in Irish Politics

Cold hard cash: the real driver in Irish life.

Cold hard cash: the real driver in Irish life.

A story in the Irish Times today suggests that the government may give some tax relief to those who paid large amounts of stamp duty relatively recently, in the event of a property tax being introduced next year. Whereas it seems like a fair and reasonable idea, I can already see where the bone of contention is going to be, the “talk to Joe” moment. Can anyone see it?

The cut-off point. Just watch as the government announces that, say, anyone who paid stamp duty after June 1st 2007 will be exempt for the first five years. Watch as everyone who paid in the previous twelve months to that take to the airwaves in indignation. Watch as opposition TDs (especially on the left. Curious how much time the Irish left spend defending the very wealthy) take up the banner on behalf of those who bought hugely expensive houses and so paid large amounts of stamp duty. Watch as opportunistic independent TDs demand that the time line should be extended to a more “fair and equitable” deadline, like, say, June 1st 1854. There will be war.

Of course, all of this will be academic if the government fails to enforce the Household Charge. We all know people who have not paid, and we’ll know if they get away with it, and if they do, the government can forget about the property tax. You would assume that they know that, but you can never know how insular the Leinster House mind can get.

Copyright © 2018 Jason O Mahony All rights reserved. Email: Jason@JasonOMahony.ie.