Taxes, welfare, Black Friday, KISS

Indo col week 30

I quite like paying taxes. This is partly because, as a low earner, I don’t pay a lot of tax. However, it is also because I have been so well supported by the State over the course of my life. In my 20s, I went from work to the dole to the back to education allowance, which – along with third-level grants – saw me through to masters level. When I took redundancy three years ago, I got a similar level of dole payment to what I had been earning for a 37-hour week, as well as full medical cards for my family and I. After eight long months I was fortunate enough to get a job, but even then the State supported me, via the Family Income Supplement (FIS). We recently got a statement from the Department of Social Protection on how much we were paid in FIS last year  – more than 12,000. This is because we were a single income household with a low wage and considerably more children than we can afford. I can give you various reasons for the excessive amount of human life I have co-created, but overall I would say that economics rarely features in the romantically engorged mind. Except maybe in David McWilliams’s mind, he seems to really, really like economics.


So I pay tax, and I get support in return. From my point of view, Ireland is a good country to live and work in. I’m always slightly bemused by the various Robespierres of the hard left, talking about Ireland as though we were currently trapped in a live re-enactment of Swift’s Modest Proposal. There are things that need to change here – a quick flick through the pages of this paper will give you a dozen or more good examples – but overall I would say that I love living here, and I love my country, not in some chest-thumping, nationalist fashion, but rather in a pay-my-taxes, clean-up-after-myself way. That said, I’d always be open to finding a solid tax efficiency – or loophole as they are more commonly known.


The furore over firms using offshore structures to increase their profits and reduce their taxes isn’t all that different from me claiming credits for waste disposal or pet ownership or just about anything I can legally use. But I felt great sympathy for poor Bono, who gets the most stick for this, as though he should give all his money to Revenue and go live in a wheelie bin to be true to either his beliefs, his lyrics or his attempts to make the world a better place through whatever charity it is he has been going on about recently. At this time of year especially I think of poor Bono, getting dogs abuse for being a tax exile, albeit a charismatic one. It must suck to be rich sometimes. So tonight, as I do every night at this time of year, I thank god that it’s Bono who is the multi-millionaire tax-exile hate figure, instead of me.


Obviously all this gauche talk of money or my lack thereof is leading to the pleasing announcement that I no longer qualify for FIS as I landed myself with a second job (it’s this, my role as opinionista). This means I will now pay more tax – hooray! – and also will get less support from the State. I’m delighted. Obviously, I’m still not quite at the level of earnings of Bono, but I can at least now buy the odd treat without feeling like I am tightening the Primark corset of the ‘squeezed middle’. There is a great joy in spending money you have worked hard to earn. Except of course on Black Friday, when there is no joy in spending money at all.


I’m sure there are upsides to globalisation – having a Starbucks/Subway/Costa on every street corner, or our kids talking about sidewalks and gas stations – but Black Friday is not one of them. This is especially true of our watered-down version of it. While the Americans get to have the real fun, stamping each other to death and shooting assault rifles into the air as they try to buy a six metre wide TV for a fiver, over here it is just a big sad rip-off. This is partly due to the fact that the US is a low tax economy – anyone bleating about how much cheaper things are in the States might want to try getting sick there, or losing their job there, before they start seeing it was some economic utopia.

Yet somehow we have decided that Black Friday is something worth adopting, despite the obvious disparity between our economies. UK consumer group Which? Has pointed out that more than half of the deals offered in the UK on Black Friday last year were cheaper or the same price at other times of the year. It is no different here, but we get swept along in the hype, acting as though 15% off electronic items is worth queueing up for. It seems only a matter of time until we adopt Thanksgiving itself, holding a celebration of the arrival of the Normans in 1167 and all the awful things they gave us, such as feudalism and Dublin.  

If you need a good example of how different we are from Americans, just spend a few minutes watching Fox. It’s like the TV station in The Hunger Games, if it were hosted by an animatronic Adam Smith and Libertarian Barbie. You would imagine it would take a lot to get banned from the station, given the Rolodex of the criminally insane it uses to keep its couches warm. Step forward Gene Simmons: The KISS frontman, best known for having an oversized tongue and some terrible opinions about women, was on Fox to promote his new book, which comes with the snappy title On Power: My Journey Through the Corridors of Power and How You Can Get More Power. The book, which gives expert tips on how to be more like Simmons – ie, ‘powerful’ – is actually a follow-up to the equally snappily titled Me, Inc.: Build an Army of One, Unleash Your Inner Rock God, Win in Life and Business.

After his interview on Fox Business, he burst into a Fox News meeting, shouted ‘hey chicks, sue me!’ and mercifully only exposed his chest and navel. He also took the opportunity to thump two people on the head with his book, which is probably as close it will ever get to actually stimulating a human brain. Sadly, Simmons is now banned for life from the station, which means he has one less platform for his various lessons on economics, which, unsurprisingly, are largely centred on how rich people like him shouldn’t have to pay tax to support ‘the welfare state’. So if you needed one more reason to feel pride in being a taxpayer, it is that it makes you that little bit less like Gene Simmons.

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