Rising Boats, Trickle Down Economics And The Politics Of Regression

Another entry for my “Only In Ireland” series, this time thanks to Fine Gael’s Brian Hayes TD, with an entirely delusional piece given pride of place in the equally delusional FG Sunday Independent under the headline of the year, “A rising tide will lift all our boats!”:

“In 1959, on taking power at a bleak time in Irish history, Fianna Fail Taoiseach Sean Lemass noted that he believed “national progress of any kind depends largely on an upsurge of patriotism. . . diverted towards constructive purposes”.

We live, in terms of national morale at least, in a similarly dark age.

But similar challenges can sometimes require slightly different responses. In our case whilst the giddy optimism of the final years of the Celtic Tiger may have turned out to be a mirage, the antidote to that exaggerated optimism will not be provided by the current overdose of pessimism.

This Government faces many challenges but one of the most critical ones of all is to generate an upsurge of spontaneous optimism, or what John Maynard Keynes famously called ‘animal spirits’, which was the most positive feature of the Tiger.”

Surely most rational people now believe that the main features that formed the “animal spirits” of the Celtic Tiger era were greed, selfishness, corruption and vice? Are these the qualities a senior politician in this state should express admiration for? And the irony of a Fine Gael minister quoting a Fianna Fáil Taoiseach? How meaningless the so-called “Civil War” divisions of our two-party system, and ever more so since the latter decades of the 20th century. The Fine Fáil establishment remains the same, whatever representative of it is in power. However, Hayes in not finished in his homily to cliché just yet.

“…now that we have had our period of mourning and denial, it is time to begin the process of national resurgence by embracing a new policy of what I would call realistic optimism.

For realistic optimism to work, the first thing this Government must do is to actually fulfil the promises made to the electorate.”

Hmmm. Really? Like, say, the promises in the Fine Gael election manifesto to oppose any iniquitous forms of taxation such as a “flat rate” charge?

“Honesty requires us to admit that in areas such as banking reform and the debt crisis we continue to depend on what happens in Europe. But the mandate for widespread political and public sector reform is entirely within our control.

After eight months in government we have already come up with more than 200 concrete proposals in our public sector reform plan with specific timelines. And from procurement to reducing the size of the public service by 12 per cent over five years, much of what the Government wants to do goes well beyond the Croke Park agreement.

It has to if we are going to get out of this mess.”

So banking reform, reform of the institutions that contributed in the most direct manner to the moral bankruptcy of Irish society and ultimately the loss of Ireland’s national sovereignty, is dependent on “what happens in Europe”? What on earth does that mean? Who in “Europe” would gainsay the reform of Irish domestic laws and regulations governing the operation of financial and banking organisations? Or by “Europe” does Brian Hayes actually mean “the Markets”? Read on:

“A recent IBM survey showed Ireland is still the top location in the world for Foreign Direct Investment in terms of value whilst when it comes to the critical Information Technology sector, expansion in this area is so rapid that many companies are finding it difficult to fill their vacancies.

Earlier this year the World Bank ranked Ireland as the No 1 location in the eurozone for ease of doing business while the Heritage Foundation’s Index of Economic Freedom also ranked Ireland as No 1 in Europe for economic freedom.”

Ahh. So the Heritage Foundation gives Ireland its seal of approval for “economic freedom”? And who are they, you might ask, these lovers of Ireland (indeed, theselovers of the Celtic Tiger when it was at its most rampant)? The Heritage Foundation is a right-wing, American thinktank (motto “Leadership for America”) whose notable past adherents included one President Ronald Reagan (yes, that’s right, “Trickle Down” Ron!) and George Bush Jr. The organisation claims the dubious credit for the tax and revenue “reforms” that were implemented by Reagan, Bush Sr and Clinton in the 1980s and ‘90s (you know, the ones that all but destroyed the public services in the US, gutted the middle classes, and created a huge, impoverished underclass) as well as the ideology of the 21st century “War on Terror”. It most recent notable activities include the creation of the “Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom” (I kid you not), to mark the former British Prime Minister’s status as a patron of the organisation, as well as a new lobby group in Washington to push for even further cuts in taxes, and budgets for federal agencies (what Conservative America calls “big government” and what we in Ireland call public services like health, education, social welfare, et al).

So, an entirely suitable body for the Minister of State at the Department of Finance and the Department of Public Sector Reform to wag his tail over. Ah… “Finance”? “Public Sector Reform”? Now we get it. Good one, Brian.

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