Monday 23 April 2018

We reaped benefits, now we may reap a whirlwind

Comment

Sarah McCabe

Sarah McCabe

SHOULD we really love President Obama as much as we do?

If the turnout at College Green when he addressed the nation three years ago was any indication, we're obsessed. Years later, it's not unusual to see an "Is feidir linn!" bumper sticker on cars.

We also have a place in our hearts for the super-suave Bill Clinton and John F Kennedy. It often seems the Democrats can do no wrong in Irish eyes.

But Mr Obama's tax policies could be catastrophic for Ireland. His stated intention of abolishing the tax advantages enjoyed by US companies in low-cost economies like Ireland could wipe out hundreds of thousands of jobs.

Our dependence on US multinationals for employment just can't be overestimated. Google, Apple, Pfizer, PayPal; the list goes on and on. US multinationals with Irish operations employ an estimated 115,000 people directly, and countless more indirectly in spin-off capacities. The decision by these firms to come here has determined the fortunes of entire towns.

Still – how hypocritical can we get? There was consternation in technology circles last week when it emerged that Israel may have beaten Ireland in the race for a €4bn investment by Intel. But we forget that every decision by an Apple or a Google to expand in Ireland is often a painful blow to some place in the US. Parts of Mississippi, for example, where 25pc of the population lives below the poverty line, are crying out for investment – investment that often ends up here thanks to our low taxes.

There is increasing evidence that the US is no longer willing to tolerate this state of affairs.

A book on wealth inequality by French economist Thomas Piketty has become an unlikely US bestseller and is being pored over in the corridors of power.

Obama adviser Jason Furman dedicated much of a speech yesterday to Dublin's Institute of International and Economic Affairs to highlighting its conclusions, which are critical of a US tax code which has helped the top 1pc of the population to own almost half of the country's wealth.

Irish Independent

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