Some thoughts on Maggie

Let me be clear at the outset – I’m not a fan. I’m enjoying all the jokes – the Iron Lady rusting in peace, the possibility of privatising her state funeral, Thatcher the milk snatcher, and especially Judy Garland’s “Ding-Dong the Witch is Dead” storming up the charts, a huge embarrassment to the British government in the week she’s to be buried, but something they can do nothing about – a pure expression of public opinion, more pure even than an election.

But in the end an old lady has died; one who for the last twenty years was out of the public eye, and who I’m sure will me missed by her family, especially her over-privileged coup-sponsoring son Mark, who without her influence would be (and should be) languishing in either a South African or Equatorial Guinean jail.

There was one thing she did get right – she predicted that the single currency would be a disaster for Europe, and that the goal of the EU was federalisation, meaning essentially the end of the sovereign nation state in Europe.

Conservatives will always admire her for the way she broke the unions, privatised many state assets and demonised socialism. Leftists (I refuse to use the word “Liberal” – this is an economics blog and in economics “liberal” has an entirely different meaning to its political usage) will remember the poll tax (actually everyone will remember that), the closing of schools and hospitals, and the depletion of social housing.

And that’s just in Britain. To say that she was not loved in Ireland would be an understatement. For South Africans, she was known as a supporter of the apartheid regime (as was Reagan). Her treatment of and comments about Nelson Mandela won’t be forgotten easily; ironically the latter gentleman will probably be joining her rather too soon in whatever passes for an afterlife for you humans. Chileans will remember her providing sanctuary to Augusto Pinochet, and Argentinians, well let’s not even go there……..

But the single biggest thing which affects us all, in every way and every day, is that the right-wing economic policies implemented and cemented by Margaret Thatcher and her US counterpart Ronald Reagan in the early 1980s have led directly to the sidelining of the productive sector of the economy, in favour of the financial sector. The latter’s rampant and unregulated economic aggression is the overriding cause of the economic crisis we find ourselves in today.






I could probably make this entire blog about refuting the right wing’s nonsense. I won’t, because frankly there’s more to life, but it makes for good entertainment from time to time.

Check this out, courtesy of some strange place called the Heritage Network:

A middle-class taxpayer’s income is subject to a 25 percent federal income tax. Then there is the federal Social Security and Medicare payroll tax of 13.3 percent in 2012—5.65 percent of that is removed from the employee’s paycheck, and the remaining 7.65 percent is paid by the employer. (In reality, the employee pays the entire 13.3 percent, because the employer’s portion of the tax does not affect the cost of labor: The employer would pay the employee 7.65 percent more if there were no employer’s portion of the payroll tax.)

Get that? Our poor employers are just dying to increase our wages, they’re just hamstrung by those damn taxes. What a load of shit. I know a thing or two about economics, accounting and business in general, and I can tell you that businesses will never pay something they don’t have to. That goes for taxes and wages. It’s not a zero sum game (something that, ironically, conservatives will often tell you when it applies to redistribution of income).

I swear to Ceiling Cat, you can’t make this crap up.

Michael O’Leary’s merry-go-round is in full tilt once again

Michael O’Leary, Ryanair’s flamboyant chief executive and chief mischief maker is back in the news again, once again trying to buy Aer Lingus. This happens every few years; Michael gets bored with crunching numbers in his Dublin Airport or London offices and decides to have some fun with the Department of Transport and the Competition Authority; trying to find new ways to turn the former into his downtown headquarters and the latter into nervous wrecks. This time he’s offered €1.30 per share, less than half what he offered in 2006. That’s fair enough, I suppose, Ryanair’s own shares are down by a similar percentage over the same timeframe. I can just picture (Minister for Transport) Leo Varadkar rolling his eyes and thinking “here we go again.” Everyone knows it will never happen, even if the government agreed to sell their stake in Aer Lingus, it’s unlikely our own competition board, let alone the EU, would sanction it.

Now don’t get me wrong – I think Michael O’Leary is great craic. I love hearing him on the news, laying into some hapless individual from the Dublin Airport Authority or the D.O.T.; I love the way he comes up with zany ideas just to get publicity, any type of publicity it seems. Remember “Spend a penny, pay a pound”? And everyone believed he would actually do it, but it was all just a publicity stunt. And all jokes aside, Ryanair is a strong company with a superb business model. They really have made travel in Europe cheaper for everyone, if perhaps a bit more irritating.

What continues to amaze me as an economist, however, is that every time Michael O’Leary is back in the news, some radio DJ will inevitably read numerous texts sent in to their show along the lines of “Michael O’Leary should be running the country, he’ll sort everything out.” This is a common phenomenon worldwide it seems – Mitt Romney’s experience as a venture capitalist alone qualifies him to run the US government, apparently. But countries are not corporations, not even remotely like them, and it’s a sign of how deep into Neoliberal thinking we all are that we think this way. When last did you hear some politician announcing that the country is “open for business” or calling us “Ireland Inc.” Probably not too long ago.

Michael O’Leary might, for all we know, make a very good Taoiseach (if he was even interested in the job, which he isn’t). But he might also be crap – we just don’t know until we hear what his policies would be. We know he hates unions and the €10 departure tax at Dublin Airport – that’s about it. There’s no earthly reason why a successful business person should be any better or worse at running the country than a successful person in any other field. Does anyone really think Michael Schumacher would automatically be a good transport minister because he’s a brilliant racing driver? Or should Padraig Harrington be minster of sport? Bono could take Arts and Culture; actually Bono could take anything, if Bob Geldof doesn’t get it first. But you see my point. An entrepreneur is just another profession, so you may as well elect a good entertainer, engineer, IT specialist, policeman, priest or cleaner.

I’ll have to end this with a Ryanair joke – this is apparently true…..I know a guy who knows a guy etc. Anyway, Ryanair flight about to depart for Gatwick is going through the usual safety brief that you humans who fly regularly are so familiar with – the recorded announcement with the stewards doing the actions – it gets to the bit with the oxygen masks. “Pull the mask down, placing it over your mouth and nose………” Someone shouts from the back: “and insert €2 for oxygen!”