THE bearded brethren are coming out to play. And they seem to be amateurs at the media game.
First, our old friend ‘Union’ Jack O’Connor got an outing on Marian Finucane’s radio programme on Saturday morning. Then on Monday night, Jack took to the airwaves on Pat Kenny’s new Frontline programme. The whiskered one is quite a media star.
Ireland’s public service comrades, intent on leading us into the arms of the IMF, are attempting a spinning offensive. Good thinking, because in the coming months they are hell-bent on wrecking the economy.
Union Jack scored a spectacular own goal when he took a gratuitous swipe at RTE’s Kenny .
Jack is peddling all sorts of canards this weather, but there is a vague consistency about his demands: he wants to tax anyone who has ever earned an honest buck. Except members of his Siptu trade union, of course.
On Monday night the latest targets of Jack’s scattergun approach to taxation were the owners of what he branded “trophy houses”.
A puzzled Pat Kenny challenged him: “What’s a trophy house?”
And in a gratuitous remark that shattered the nation Jack replied: “A house like yours probably … ”
Pat Kenny: “Okay, if you want to talk personal — but I built my house in 1988. Like, why is that a trophy house?”
Jack: “No, well, I … ”
Pat Kenny (pointing his finger at O’Connor): “I don’t want that kind of crap coming out of people.”
Jack: “Well I think that the kind of house that would be a large, high-, high-profile type of house and I’m sorry if I offended you. I didn’t mean to give offence at all, but the thing about it is, is that it’s reasonable … ”
I doubt if Jack has ever been a guest at Kenny’s house. Nor is he likely to be, after his outburst, followed by his craven retreat, on Monday. He probably knows little more about the Kenny home than the details revealed in the tabloid press during our top broadcaster’s celebrated court battle last year.
But instead of spelling out the size, value or acreage of the type of houses which he had in mind for his “trophy house” tax, O’Connor trivialised his own proposal by invoking irrelevant images of Kenny’s court case.
Of course, Jack offered no projections on how much revenue could be raised, nor any definition of which houses would be caught in his new tax net. He took refuge in a cheap soundbite and a jibe at Kenny.
Just like another current favourite slogan of the brethren: “Soak the rich”. The vanishing “rich” are a soft target of the bearded ones. Unfortunately there very few rich people left. Just a middle class struggling to survive.
Admittedly there are lashings of old peoples’ savings stuffed in Ireland’s banks, which Jack could raid if he wished. Otherwise, he pretends to believe that all the money paid to landowners by property developers is still out there swelling the pockets of the sellers, ready to bridge the budget deficit.
Not so: much of that money has already been taxed at 20 per cent.
Not so: much of that money was reinvested in now worthless property.
Not so: much of that money was sunk into pulverised bank shares.
The pot of gold is gone. There are few rich figures still standing. Siptu wants to tax ghosts.
There are one or two people with high salaries — like Jack himself (on €125,000 a year from Siptu) and his colleague in industrial warfare, Peter McLoone, the leader of public service union Impact.
Peter is a rich guy. Peter not only earns €155,000 as head of Impact, but he has just resigned from his €24,000-a-year job as chairman of the troubled Fas. He held this gig as a juicy perk that comes with being a comrade from the social partnership stable.
Sympathise with poor Peter in his loss at Fas, but he will not starve. The departed Fas leader, who is urging his Impact members to strike, mercifully, has a second little cushion to comfort him. Peter is one of those lucky directors of the Labour Relations Commission (LRC). For this, Peter is paid €12,000 a year. Another little partnership perk.
Peter has done well out of social partnership. He has earned over €100,000 part-time from Fas and over €60,000 from the LRC over the last five years. Quite a comfortable perch from which to urge industrial action and sacrifices from his less-fortunate flock.
Peter and Jack are now set to lead the nation down the road to bankruptcy. Their futile day of protest last Friday is fraught with future danger.
International markets are watching the antics of Jack and Peter. After Friday’s protests, the threat of stronger industrial action could push us over an economic precipice.
Last week, yet another global agency — Fitch — downgraded Ireland’s credit rating. It cut us by two levels, from AA+ to AA-.
The reasons were ominous, namely the widening budget deficit and the increasing cost of rescuing our banks.
Fitch even commended Brian Lenihan’s actions as finance minister, calling his responses in some instances “impressive”.
They are right. Brian Lenihan recognises the urgency of the crisis. He may be wrong about Nama, but he is determined not to let the bearded brethren lead the nation into penury.
Jack and Peter have what they grandly dub an “alternative strategy”: they want to put the crisis on the long finger; they want to extend the time required to reduce the budget deficit by four years; they want public spending increases to stimulate the economy; they want no wage cuts and a series of taxes to hit the middle classes. Welcome to the economics of the anaesthetists.
So in their mission to postpone the pain they are arranging more mad days of action.
If they are successful in their insanity, we will face national bankruptcy.
If the Government adopts the union agenda of postponing the problem, our credit rating will plunge further. The cost of borrowing will soar.
Indeed, we may find that no one will any longer lend to us. The word would travel around global markets that the comrades had taken to the streets and challenged the Government. And that the Government had blinked first.
It would only be weeks before the loans dried up. The Government would run out of cash; there would be no money to pay Jack and Peter’s members.
Enter the International Monetary Fund, riding to the rescue. The problem could be solved pretty quickly — but pretty brutally.
The IMF would provide the funds to keep the country functioning. They would inject cash into government coffers. Public servants and social welfare recipients would be paid. Sadly for them, they would suffer savage reductions.
The IMF is immune to political pressures, it has no human emotions. It would not tolerate the play-acting of O’Connor and McLoone. It lends money on draconian terms. It would coldly look at Ireland’s budget deficit and draw its own conclusions: public service pay and welfare benefits would be slashed.
No doubt Jack and the other trade union plutocrats would then take to the airwaves, insisting that all would have been well — if only the Government had taxed the “trophy houses”.