Tag Archives: NAMA

Death and Taxes

Benjamin Franklin in a letter to Jean-Baptiste Leroy in 1789, stated that

‘In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”

While not wanting to speak ill of the dead, for the late Brian Lenihan the certainty of death is now is all too apparent, yet because of his calamitous decision to give a blanket guarantee to our banks when the financial crisis came to a head in September 2008, for the rest of us, the certainty of taxes will remain for a very long time indeed. Taxes on our homes, taxes on our wages, taxes on our water, taxes on our fuel, taxes on generations to come, and all as a result of a decision taken in in secret, without consultation or accountability, by a small group of bankers, economists and political leaders.

The recent outpouring of grief and the media love-in over the death of Mr Lenihan concentrated on the man’s personal courage in the face of death, and his affability and generous personal nature.  He was, we were told, a man of the people. Though I did not know him, I am sure that all of this is most likely true. However HSE statistics show that on the same day as Mr Lenihan passed away, close on one hundred people in total died in Ireland. I am sure that much could be said of the personal courage and affability of many of those people also, but they will have died in relative quiet in comparison to the huge coverage afforded to Mr Lenihan, for they were ordinary people, perhaps not as important to society as one such as Mr Lenihan. Nonetheless, history will record that Mr Lenihan, along with a select few politicians, economists, civil servants and bankers, is unique among us as being the only person who signed away our nations future by lumbering us with the debts of reckless and criminal bankers, a future which, had he listened to the advice given at the time by Merrill Lynch a consultancy company whom the Government hired and paid 6 million to for a few days work and who advised him against a blanket guarantee, might have lead us to a much different place today. So while we can mourn the passing of Brian Lenihan the man, we must also face the fact that Brian Lenihan the politician, due to his actions on that fateful September night, played a huge personal part in the destruction of our economy and our society and ensured that whatever about the certainty of death, the certainty of taxes will remain with the rest of us ordinary mortals for generations to come.

For Mr Lenihan at least, these certainty’s  are no longer a worry.

Ronan Gallagher


Taxman

If you drive a car I’ll tax the street,
If you try to sit, I’ll tax your seat,
If you get too cold, I’ll tax the heat,
If you take a walk, I’ll tax your feet.

Should five per cent appear too small,
Be thankful I don’t take it all.
‘Cos I’m the Taxman,
Yeah yeah, I’m the Taxman.

And you’re working for no one but me.

I was reminded of the above Beatles song while listening the other day to Joe Duffy on RTE’s ever popular Liveline in which a cash strapped small business owner told the nation how a 6,000 euro tax arrears bill, through penalties and interest, had quickly notched up to 16,000 in a very short space of time. The Revenue Commissioners it seems, cared little about his financial problems, were pursuing him for the full amount,  and had sent the Sheriff  to collect their money on a number of occasions.

One has to really question the Revenue Commissioners approach to this problem, especially in view of the current financial difficulties caused by the recession and credit crunch. Whilst their primary purpose is to collect taxes due to the state, they also have a responsibility to ensure that in doing so they do not damage the economy further.

Rather than penalising and taking such a heavy handed approach with taxpayers in arrears, why does the Revenue Commissioner not take a NAMA type approach to the problem? They could for instance adopt a policy of gathering the arrears over an agreed and sustainable payment period, as long as current taxes are being paid also. After all, the much put upon taxpayer, trying to survive a recession caused by banks, developers, and Government incompetence, sees their taxes going not to health, education, and other services, but to bolstering the finances of politicians expense accounts, bailing out bankers and developers, and rewarding incompetence and greed with large pensions and golden handshakes. If the Revenue Commissioner adopted a more pragmatic and conciliatory approach to these troubled companies, they could help alleviate the financial difficulties of many small business’s, maintain current tax revenues, and hopefully keep the jobs (and the tax revenues they generate) in these business’s long enough to be able to survive the recession which is crippling them through no fault of their own.

If the Revenue Commissioner does not already see that this makes good sense for our economy, and for our society, then should he/she be collecting our taxes at all?  Or should someone with a more sensible approach take over the role? Someone who realises that being a taxman or taxwoman is not just about collecting revenue, it’s also about ensuring our economy remains healthy and is able to maintain the revenues required to support services.

I can’t see where top heavy penalties, liquidations, business closures, and forcing people on to the dole queues will help that.

‘Cos I’m the Taxman,
Yeah yeah, I’m the Taxman.



Fab Vinnie, David Lee Roth and Michael O Leary

Back in the early eighties Dave Lee Roth, the spandex wearing ‘wella’ haired front man for 80’s superband Van Halen was being interviewed by Vincent Hanley otherwise known as ‘Fab Vinnie’ for the then hugely popular MT-USA Show on RTE. Vinnie, obviously in awe of the golden haired Roth, couldn’t contain himself and asked him what it was like to be so fabulously wealthy?

With a deft wave of a gold and diamond bejewelled hand, Roth flicked back his hair and looked right at Vinnie with those dreamy eyes and said

‘ You know Vincent, by the time I get to pay my manager, my lawyers, my accountants, my staff, my entertainment bills and the taxman, I’ve just about enough left to buy a small Caribbean island!’

I was reminded of this the other day while watching Michael ‘Arc Angel’ O Leary tell the nation in RTE’s Prime Time debate on Lisbon that we should vote for Lisbon because we are broke, because it is good for business and because he would rather have Europe run Ireland than the ‘Shower of incompetents in Leinster house‘. Michael went on to tell us that he was an important businessman. He employed a thousand people. He paid huge amounts of taxes here in his home country and told the nation that he brought inward investment with his company Ryan Air. Readers should note that it was at that point the memory of Vincent Hanley interviewing Mr Roth nearly a quarter of a century ago popped into my head.

You see, when Michael pays all his taxes etc you can be sure that his take home cheque wont leave him standing at the ATM machine praying to the God of ATM machines to please give him something, anything except that heart sinking message of

‘Sorry you have insufficient funds for this transaction’.

That aside, as long as Mr O Leary pays his fair amount of taxes and covers his costs which I’m sure he does, no matter how much he pays he should not feel that he has any rights or privileges over other tax payers, or that this gives him a right to a bigger say in our democracy than any other citizen of this state, be they taxpayer or welfare recipient.

And there’s where my problem with Europe lies. Deep under my skin I get the creeping feeling that Europe is getting more concerned about markets than people. More concerned about the economic imperative than the  social one. The more I hear ‘We need to be at the heart of Europe winning friends and influencing people‘, I can’t help but wonder if the whole European project amounts to nothing more than a lobbyists paradise? If so why not send a ‘Frank Dunlop’ to Brussels and save all this voting malarkey. Frankly speaking, a word in the right ear from a ‘Frank’ would surely see a jacuzzi in every house in the land. Just imagine it. A Europe with a budget worth billions of euro, covering nearly half a billion people, controlled by a gargantuan political structure where things get done by ‘winning friends and influencing people’ and where the social agenda is being tamed to allow free market conditions to prevail. What’s not to like for  Michael and many like him. It’s a businessman’s paradise!

So every time I hear a well paid business man, politician, economist, banker,  or lawyer tell the nation that they too are sharing the cuts and the pain like everyone else in this seemingly ‘banama’d’ republic, the memory of Mr Roth comes back to me. It rises up when I hear well paid commentators and journalists tell the nation that public sector pay must be cut, education and health cuts must be implemented, that we are all living beyond our means. And it really hits home when one realises that the cuts that the well heeled are taking are more than the average yearly wage of over 80% of the people in this country.

Europe and Ireland. A world of equals? I don’t think so.


It’s Not Easy Being Green!

It’s not easy being green. So goes the old Van Morrison song, and in today’s political and economic climate, as John Gormley and the Irish Greens are finding out, never was a truer word spoken (or sung).

Having derived their political power from concerns about the future of the planet they seem to have largely forgotten that they need to have a social vision as well as an environmental one. Their support of Fianna Fail seems to be predicated on them getting what they want in terms of bettering our environment, at the expense of bettering our society. The unwritten rule seems to be that Fianna Fail can bail out banks, slash and burn services, and generally have a free hand at whatever they want as long as they allow the Greens to pursue and implement their own agenda. Listening to John Gormley today on RTE one would get the impression that he was the one responsible for the recent and forthcoming amendments to the NAMA legislation. No doubt someone more qualified than me will remind him that were it not for the grass-roots revolution in their Green party, John and his fellow Greens in Cabinet would have allowed the NAMA bill to go through unchallenged.  Their relative silence regarding the social devastation which much of the McCarthy report will bring on the most vulnerable in society is indicative of their ‘keep the head down and plough on with our own Green agenda’ policy which they seem to have  adopted since taking up their positions in Government. One does not have to be a Pulitzer prizewinner to know that were the Greens in opposition right now, they would be screaming from the rooftops in protest at the McCarthy report and the totally unbalanced Commission on Taxation Report which puts the burden on ordinary citizens and gives more tax breaks to business thus allowing the economic imperative to supersede the social imperative yet again.

Whilst I am in total agreement with them on their relentless pursuit of the Green agenda, I am also fully aware that these Green policies and initiatives will not be sustained if the Green Party is, like the PD’s, decimated and banished to history in the next election. Mr Gormley’s call yesterday for a social dividend to be paid from NAMA might be seen as a sea change but might also be too little, too late. The price they might have to pay for their political singularity could be total annihilation and a collapse in public support for all things Green.

That, dare I say it, could set back the environmental agenda by decades, something which would be disastrous for everybody and which could plunge Ireland into an even deeper economic, environmental, and societal black hole.


Highway Robbery

There are some things that just don’t make sense. Things like taxing ordinary workers, cutting back services, and hitting Health and Education with massive cuts to bail out reckless and possibly criminal bankers in return for nothing more than their toxic debts.

We are told that this must happen in order to protect our international reputation. When we examine this more closely we find that those who we are concerned with impressing are actually the people who helped fuel the crisis in the first place. For example Standard and Poors are now judging our future credit rating unfavourably due to prevailing economic conditions. Fair enough you might say but you might also reasonably ask these people why, if they are such good judges of economic health, they did not foresee the crisis in the first place? Presumably their ability to judge the credit rating and economic outlook for nation states did not just come last week, or did it? Is it possible that these people decided that our borrowings should cost more because they know we need to borrow more to survive the crisis they didn’t see coming? You know how the capitalist mantra goes, the greater the demand, the higher the price. Simply put, make hay while the sun shines.

We are also told that if we don’t implement these harsh economic conditions on our citizens, our country will be taken over by the IMF who will ruthlessly cut services and slash budgets like some maniac Texan with a chainsaw. Perhaps someone could explain how this could happen? Was their an agreement made by any Government, past or present, that effectively borrowed money and put up as collateral the economic independence of this great country? Did I miss a referendum asking me to vote for something like this? This is a bit like waking up one morning to find that your wife, mother, or father, had borrowed a load of money and without your permission had given as collateral the title to your home and now that the money has been wasted, ask you to pay the debt in order to save the family home from takeover by their creditors.

It is a sobering thought that the recent 7 billion of state money pumped into our sick and blighted banks is three times that which the last mini budget tried to claw back from the taxpayer and almost equal to what will be clawed back over the next few budgets. Now I’m no rocket scientist but when you look at it that way you begin to get a sense of what is happening here. The citizens of Ireland and many generations to come, are being forced (not asked) to pay to prop up an unreformed, greed driven banking system and an incompetent, reckless Government which has failed miserably to govern this country in a responsible and prudent manner over the last ten years.

In the murky world where politics and business meet, that unfortunately does make sense.


How to escape from Plasti-cuffs.

This is something our bankers and politicians will never have to worry themselves about.


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