Bias at the BBC again!

Yet another example of left wing bias from the Beeb.

In a piece about Republican endorsements of Hilary Clinton the BBC trumpets the fact that she has been endorsed by the Dallas Morning News, which is described ” a conservative leaning” paper.dallasmorningnews Well this WAS true. But during my recent visits to Dallas over the last several years it has become clear that that the Morning News has been slipping to the left. Consequently its endorsement of Mrs Clinton proves little; although the BBC ‘s mishandling of the story, such as it is, shows that auntie has not forgotten her prejudices!

More on Apple

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I can’t find a picture of properly stored apples!

One of the few memories that I have of my father, who died when I was seven, is helping him store apples in a loft so that they could be used throughout the winter. The idea was make sure that they were as close together as possible so that we could make as much use as we could of the space; but at the same time to ensure that individual apples did not touch one another, so that if one were to start to rot the rottenness would not pass from one apple to another so infecting  them all.

I can’t help thinking of this when I think about the mess we have got ourselves over the Apple finding. Eamon-Delaney-150x150Our friend Eamon Delaney put his finger on the implications of what has happened in a piece in the Sunday Business Post  Mr. Delaney makes the point that the Apple finding is very close to the very heart of how this state has operated since its very foundation.

In fact it may well go back further than that, to the time when Gerald Balfour launched his campaign “to kill home rule by kindness.” The political part of his project failed. But for good or ill he and the others such as Sir Horace Plunkett who worked alongside him, left the new state a legacy of government activism ( for example the multifarious activities of the Congested District Board, and The Department of 200px-GeraldBalfourTechnical Instruction ) which dominated the way in which first the Free State and then Republic have acted.

Part of this was inevitably  taxation.  As Mr. Delaney points out the industrial policy of this state has always been grounded in the notion that the state could offer incoming businessmen a an extremely favourable tax environment which other jurisdictions simply could not match. I for one can remember advertisements inserted in the financial pages of British newspapers the sixties and seventies that made this clear. One of them ( I think ) went so far as to taunt the British Inland Revenue with the phrase “the one that got away.”

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Could low taxes be part of the answer?

In the early 1980’s I was placing freelance articles in Irish business magazines about what the Industrial Development Authority was doing. My focus was to suggest that the IDA was not good at backing winners, and I doubted the wisdom of strategy that it was adopting. During the course of my enquiries it became obvious that the IDA and other state agencies ( not excluding the Revenue Commissioners ) were doing everything that they could to attract investment to Ireland.

It was also clear that the officials of the IDA knew very well that what they were doing infringed certainly the spirit of the European regulations, but also probably their letter. And they showed a good deal of nervousness on the issue. I could be wrong but my sense is now with hindsight that some kind of informal deal may perhaps have been done with the relevant authorities in Brussels who will have known what was happening but were turning a blind eye to what was being done in Dublin. There was certainly a lot of nodding and winking going on.apple-logo_318-40184

Well, well, whatever may have been the case the Apple finding has blown the whole case open. The fact is that policy makers in Dublin failed to see that whole free market culture of the EU was in conflict with the kind of industrial policy which was deeply engrained in the Irish State from, and even from before, its foundation.

The outcome of the current mess is difficult to predict. Word is that the governments and Apple’s appeal against the finding is likely to fail- but, of course, there is no way of knowing at this stage.  If it does then the implications are going to be momentous. The rot is starting to spread from Apple to Apple, or rather from Multinational to Multinational, and from country to country.

Brexit, of course, makes the situation look all the more intriguing. It may well be that freed from the constraints of the EU that the UK- or at least parts of the UK – might be able to offer extremely dangerous competition to Ireland for incoming projects. Ireland would, it is true, be able to point to unimpeded access to the EU something which UK could not in those circumstances be able to match. The Financial Services Centre in Dublin could well be a beneficiary.

Nevertheless aggressively promoted Enterprise Zones / industrial estates in say Fishguard and Enniskillen where Corporation tax might be lower than in this state could become the stuff of nightmares in Dublin. Irish policy makers are going to have to start arranging their apples with great care.

In respect of the Apple finding…

….it is odd to find an unnamed official in the Department of Finance saying “Ireland did not give favourable tax treatment to Apple” and “Ireland does not do deals with taxpayers.” Well this may be true now, but on my book shelves I have copies of the Telesis report ” A review of Industrial Policy” dated February 1982, the Government white paper on “Industrial Policy” issued on 12 July, 1984. In view of recent events they make instructive reading, although it should naturally be borne in mind that only the latter was official government policy even at the time.

In the Telesis report we learn on p 190 that “the most distinctive feature of the apple-logo_318-40184Irish package [ of incentives ] is the exceptionally low ( 10% ) corporate tax rate for the manufacturing sector. This rate is in effect until the year 2000.” Earlier on the same page the report notes that “During the negotiations between a company and prospective countries for investment, bargaining is the rule. Some powerful companies will encourage countries to outbid each other in order to maximize the benefits derived from incentive schemes” The report concluded that the incentives offered by Ireland to foreign companies were too generous.

The 1984 white paper which is in effect a response to the Telesis report notes that the “administrative and marketing headquarters of multi-national companies normally perform activities for other units within a group of companies and are not directly involved in the generation of profits. To improve the opportunities for attracting such activities to Ireland, the Revenue Commissioners will continue to give speedy advanced rulings on the allowability of certain costs to companies planning to set up their administrative and marketing headquarters in Ireland” ( p. 63 ) Does anyone really believe that the Revenue Commissioners, or rather, of course, the officials who worked for them, would not have been mindful of the potential economic benefits to Ireland as they evaluated the  potential tax liability that any particular company might face if it chose to locate some  of its operations in Ireland?

The White paper identified “information technology, including computer services” as a sector which it wanted to encourage in Ireland. “It is clear,” the White paper emphasised ” that the greatest potential for development is in information technology…information technology will be the fastest growing industry for the remainder of this century.” Consequently the Ministers of Industry, in consultation with the Minister for Communications, “and other appropriate Ministers, will report to Government at an early date on the future and development in this country of information technology services and the detailed steps necessary to that end” ( p.68 ). There is no indication of what these steps might be  ( although see 104 ) However elsewhere the White paper indicates that  executives of the Industrial Development Agency ” ( I.D.A. ) and other State agencies will develop a closer relationship with selected companies [ emphasis supplied ] and the full range of both financial and non- financial services will be directed towards the company’s key activities” ( p.112, see also p.111, also see Telesis p. 225, 229, 235 )

The White paper NEVER says that tax can be reduced for individual companies. However the Telesis report is more forth coming. In its discussion of “policies for attracting new foreign owned industry to Ireland” the report emphasises the fact that the incentives which the I.D.A.” can use to induce a company to locate in Ireland are varied and substantial.” It goes on to say that the attractions of the 10% tax rate is enhanced by the fact that it “can usually be reduced to a much lower level or eliminated altogether [ emphasis supplied ] through various depreciation and other tax credits.” On the same page ( p.173 ) the report stresses that attracting electronics companies to Ireland has been a particular concern of the I.D.A.

Taken together the Telsis Report and the White Paper paint a picture of  highly developed campaign to attract industry, and especially electronics companies to Ireland. in which grants and Ireland’s low tax rate were crucial. This process naturally involved the Revenue Commissioners if only because the companies concerned wanted to know how much tax they would pay if they set up here, as there was robust competition between  the various jurisdictions for example Scotland and Wales. The White paper makes it clear that the Revenue Commissioners were empowered to let companies know exactly what costs they could and could not write off against tax. The Telesis report adds that these write offs often, but not always meant, that the effective tax rate paid by the companies concerned was far below 10%.ireland_1

Nor can it be plausibly argued that these benefits were available to all companies equally. The Telesis notes that “creating and sustaining jobs in indigenous firms is far more difficult and expensive than doing so in foreign-owner firms” ( p.231 ) Consequently it is no surprise that both the Telesis report and the White paper make it clear that the policies of state aid that they favoured were selective. Not all companies were equal ( see Telesis, p 228 )  Foreign companies were favoured over domestic ones ( See, the White Paper, p 62-63 ) , and high tech over “screw driver” operations ( See, the White Paper, p. 36-37 ). I may be wrong, but so far as I can see nothing is said about the importance of increasing tax revenue. The whole thrust of Irish industrial policy at the time was- as the White Paper puts it – “the maximisation of value-added by industry and the capturing of this added value within Ireland for further investment and the creation of employment ( p.19 ) Ireland says the Telesis report “should respond more selectively by bidding very high on the really attractive projects [ such as Apple? ], and significantly lower on the bulk of potential projects” ( Telesis, p. 226 ) The report then goes on ( p.227 ) to describe the sort of project which it favoured.

And what of the EEC and its rules? Telesis ( p. 236 ) notes that the “EEC rules frown  [ Emphasis supplied ] upon grants for ongoing operating expenses and on subsidies directed only to indigenous but not foreign owner companies.” ( p. 236 ) And the gist of much of the next page is that because every body else was bending the rules – examples are given-  there was no reason why Ireland should not do so as well. The EEC rules were not seen as a major problem, although Irish policy makers were conscious of them. They seem to have been more nervous about the GATT rules and the OECD guidelines ( p.337 ).

Unless then there is convincing evidence to show that situation was radically less selective in 1990 when Apple arrived here, than what it had been in the eighties, it is, how best can I put it, easy to see why the authorities in Brussels might have been misled into thinking that Ireland did indeed do deals with tax payers, and that Apple, being the “powerful” company it was, might perhaps have been a beneficiary of such a transaction.

What, one wonders- would happen if the EU were to put some of our retried officials from ( say ) the Revenue Commissioners or the IDA under oath? The tale they told might be interesting.

 

The Temptation of Alan Hawe

christs-temptation-in-the-wilderness-montreal1-660x350The temptations of Christ in the wilderness mentioned by St Mark and described in the gospels of Luke and Mathew is an arresting part of the Christian message. It must of course have formed part of the early oral tradition of the Church if only because Luke and Mathew give the give the various temptations to which Jesus was subjected in different orders. It must either go back to what Jesus himself told his apostles, or be the result of some deep reflection by someone in the early church as he meditated on the internal moral challenges and temptations that he found himself subject to as he spread the Christian message.

Either way it is of extraordinary interest, and not just to Christians but to everyone who wants to understand the workings of the human mind, as we try to make sense of some of the horrifying news stories which this summer has been full. Even those who doubt the truth of Christianity should surely not ignore the fact that within the Christian tradition there is a huge body of wisdom about the difficulties that we face as human beings.

The first and most obvious point that emerges from the material in Luke and Mathew  about the temptations of Christ is its realistic understanding of human nature. The gospels see human life as being a series of struggles against the forces of evil. Humanity is beset on all sides. The misdirection of the human will is all pervasive. Here then is no optimistic enlightenment vision in which men will flourish if freed from external oppression. The structures may not help. Jesus was no uncritical admirer of the Roman Empire or the Jewish authorities. Far from it. But the real challenges are experienced within the human personality itself. The writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews ( almost certainly not St. Paul )  tells us that Jesus was tempted “in all points like we are yet without sin” ( Hebrews, iv, 15 ) There is then no exemption from temptation. We are all, even the best of us, whether we are liberals or conservatives, Jewish or Muslims, Shintoists or Sikhs, are faced with the possibility of getting it wrong. This, indeed, is a possibility that is inherent in our freedom. Error is the price we pay for choice.

The great merit of the account of the temptation in the wilderness is that it provides us with a map of the sort of temptation we are likely to face. It is a kind of summary of some of the  ways in which it is possible to crash out as a human being. We are all equally threatened with disaster. Of course we face many kinds temptations. There is nothing exhaustive about what is said here.  But the passages concerned focus on three particular forms which temptation can take. There is the temptation to materialism. There is the  temptation to misuse our religion. And there is the temptation to believe that we have the right to organize the lives of others. The temptation that is to act as if we are we alone are indispensable.

This last seems to have been the temptation to which Alan Hawe ( page23_hawe the teacher in Cavan who recently murdered his wife and their three children and then killed himself ) succumbed. In one of the notes he left behind “explaining”   ( if that is really the word) the atrocity, he wrote that his family would not be able to survive without him.

Of course this was utter nonsense. The bereaved do live on. But nonsense or not it was revealing nonsense. Somewhere within his mind was an appalling overestimate of his own importance. He was the centre of their lives. They  enjoyed no authentic existence without him. How can a decent man, and in some ways he seems to have been an exemplary human being, have come to believe this? Perhaps because his very sense of responsibility as a husband and a father had become in some strange, but all to human way, been corrupted.

Of course the rest of us will be able to congratulate ourselves with the comforting notion that we would never do anything so stupid and so evil. We would rather have died than do what he did…etc..But after we have patted ourselves on the back perhaps we should pause. How often have we made ourselves the centre of our world, and convinced ourselves that we are too are more important and wiser than is really the case?  Perhaps we should all remember the words of my late friend Maura Toler Aylward ( a very wise woman ) who pointed out that “ the grave yards of Ireland are full of indispensable people.”  Is there not perhaps a little of Alan Hawe within us all?

helplinesMay he and his family rest in peace.