Issue 2 - 2024 200dpi

10 July 2008 Edition

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Media View

Challenging the economic consensus

The growth of regional newspapers, the arrival of the Irish Daily Mail, freesheets, new commercial radio stations and so on means there are now more media outlets in Ireland than ever before saying much the same thing.
The current consensus is on the economic downturn. The solution is simple – we have less money coming in than expected, therefore we need to cut spending. The mantra has been repeated by politicians, economists and newspapers as an accepted truth for the past couple of weeks.
Only here and there has the alternative view appeared. Step forward Tom O’Connor, lecturer in Economics and Social Care at Cork IT who argued in last Friday’s Examiner, that we should look at raising taxes to cover the shortfall.
“Ireland has the lowest tax take of all EU member states at 29%,” O’Connor pointed out. “The typical EU value is 40%. At this low level, once growth falls in the economy, and the level of tax receipts dip, the Government gets into trouble quickly, in not having sufficient tax receipts to run the state.”
And what does O’Connor propose?
“Consider...the reintroduction of a higher marginal rate of 50% on incomes over €80,000 per annum....this should net around 145,000 people....This alone would yield €3 billion, just short of the current budget deficit.
“If the Government was to impose a wealth tax of 2% on the 300 people who earn over €50 million, it could collect €1.7 billion. If it abolished the tax shelters on private hospitals and nursing homes, it could save a further €1.5 billion.”
Far from destroying the economy, O’Connor argues, by investing the money in infrastructure and capital investment it would serve to re-energise areas like the construction sector through building new schools and social housing.
It didn’t take long (Monday night on RTÉ’s Questions & Answers) for Health Minister Mary Harney to rule it out but O’Connor was on Tuesday’s Morning Ireland to advance his thesis again.
Among the objections raised by Cathal Mac Coille, was that this kind of proposal was unlikely to find favour with the voters.
“Actually I think if it was explained to people in a rational way I believe it would be a popular electoral choice,” he answered.
“If we take into account the fact that 50% of the Irish population earn less than €34,000 a year they have nothing to fear. These are not the people who will pay extra tax. These are the people who will benefit because they wouldn’t be suffering from cutbacks in hospital care or lack of childcare facilities. It is these people who would gain most from this.”

“Cockroaches!” yelled the charming old gent. “They’re like cockroaches, all over the place. There’s a big nest of those cockroaches two doors up from me and another one next door to me. Cockroaches!”
The British National Party canvassers looked a bit unsure what to do. You could sense they wanted to wholeheartedly agree with the old man’s description of Muslims, but they were also pretty sure the BNP’s Goebbels’ equivalent would come down on them pretty hard for doing so in front of Channel 4 so they just nodded politely.
Peter Oborne’s Dispatches report on Channel 4 on Tuesday night made for some pretty depressing viewing. Looking at the scale of distrust and open enmity towards Britain’s two million strong Muslim community it featured harrowing interviews with victims of anti-Muslim violence.
The results of a study by researchers at Cardiff School of Journalism, commissioned by Dispatches found:
“...the bulk of coverage of British Muslims – around two thirds – focuses on Muslims as a threat (in relation to terrorism), a problem (in terms of differences in values) or both (Muslim extremism in general).
“.... the idea that Islam is dangerous, backward or irrational is present in 26% of stories....the most common nouns used in relation to British Muslims were terrorist, extremist, Islamist, suicide bomber and militant, with very few positive nouns (such as ‘scholar’) used. The most common adjectives used were radical, fanatical, fundamentalist, extremist and militant.”
I couldn’t help but wonder what a similar poll in Ireland might reveal.

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