Tuesday, December 1, 2009

I hope they don't teach what they preach!

Today has seen Finbar Geaney of the Dublin City post primary branch of the TUI make a number of media appearances. He started the day on RTE's Morning Ireland, later on he spoke on Lunchtime with Eamon Keane on Newstalk and finished the with an segment on Today FM's The Last Word with Matt Cooper. His RTE interview is available here.

What did he say? Here is an extract from a press release issued by the TUI Dublin Branch.

Speaking at press conference in Dublin today Finbar Geaney of the Dublin City Branch of the Teachers Union of Ireland said that we are witnessing the greatest betrayal in the history of the Irish trade union movement. The ICTU officials have bought the entire government agenda and are behaving now as government agents within the trade unions. However this pay cut will be resisted and the union leaders who are attempting to foist in on their members will be replaced through the action of ordinary members.

Ireland is a rich country and it is time to make the multimillionaires and billionaires pay for the crisis which is their creation.

Geaney claimed that people were gambling "hundreds on billions" on the stockmarket and that had Sean Quinn being taxed for one billion he would not have been able to lose in trades involving shares in Anglo Irish Bank. He also claimed that a broad increase in taxes on Denis O'Brien, Bernard McNamara and other high net worth individuals is the optimum route out of the crisis in the public finances.

Another group give a similar set ideas here (This group is related to Finbar Geaney though he named in an article in the pamphlet. Though he may not be entirely unrelated if he is the same Finbar Geaney who wrote this 1972 piece). Anyway the set of proposals that include:

  • Overhaul the tax system to create an equitable system. Make the rich pay more tax.
  • Emergency legislation to close the tax exile rule which allows the wealthy to abscond without paying taxes.
  • Remove all property-based tax incentives.
  • Tax all income over €100,000 at a surcharge rate of 70 percent.
  • Introduce a special 3% wealth levy on all income producing assets and houses, except the family home, for those earning more than twice the average industrial wage.
  • Cut VAT rates and increase capital gains and corporation tax.
  • Introduce a 35-hour week, while preserving existing pay rates in order to create extra jobs.

The general view here is a case of taking from one group simply because they have more. Is this what they also say in the classroom? I hope not! Don Boudreaux has an excellent piece in The Pittsburg Herald Tribune from 2005 contrasting our attitudes to property in how we deal with children and how we deal with each other. The piece is Simple rules for a complex world.

Take, for example, the rules to avoid envy and not take other people's stuff. In political discourse envy is stoked to encourage the taking of other people's stuff. Politicians proudly exhort audiences to covet wealth possessed by others. In stentorian tones they promise to take from the never-precisely-identified "rich" and give to the rest of us. We're told that we deserve this wealth simply because others have more of it than we do.

Would you ever tell your child, "Junior, if any of your classmates have nicer toys or more candy money than you have, you should envy those classmates. Stew in anger and resentment that some children have more material things than you have!"

Of course, no parent would even think of feeding his child such dysfunctional advice. So why do so many adults tolerate -- and even applaud -- identical sentiments when expressed by politicians? When candidates stump for income "redistribution" on the grounds that some people have more money than other people, they're playing upon and fueling envy -- an especially ugly and anti-social sentiment.

Speaking of thievery, what parent wouldn't severely punish a child who actually took a classmate's money or toys? What parent would excuse this offense if the child says, "I took it because my classmate is richer than me"? Or if the child says, "I took it because I can use those things better than my classmate can"? I've yet to meet the parent who would tolerate such behavior or such self-serving excuse-making in his children.

Yes, yes, I know that ours is a republic in which we allegedly consent to taxation through the political process, by majority rule. But I remain uneasy. If Thomas informs me that he and several of his friends took another playmate's money after voting to do so, I'll be furious with him. And my fury will only grow if he tries to excuse his gangster thievery by telling me that the election was a fair one in which even the victim cast a ballot.

Our world indeed is complex. But because the rules we teach our children unambiguously promote their well-being and the well-being of our society, we should apply these rules with much greater consistency and not excuse voters and officeholders from these rules just because they're acting politically.
If it's good enough for our kids it should be good enough for the rest of us.

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