For those of you who haven’t read it, because you didn’t take first year sociology in Trinity (thanks very much, taxpayers) let me save you the trouble: One of these days you’re all going to realise that you’re slaves of the bourgeoisie, and rise up against them to fulfil your own potential.
The only problem with that is: Isn’t David McWilliams almost the literal definition of petit bourgeoisie?
— David McWilliams (@davidmcw) May 1, 2020
Even for someone who’s spent a whole career chasing around after the public, watching where the public is going and then waving books at them promising to tell them why they’re totally right to think whatever they happen to be thinking already, this is an interesting departure.
“Better get used” he says, “to the return of the state”. This will of course be great comfort to people who imagine that the state ever went away, and don’t notice that it presently claims almost 50% of all marginal earnings over €34,000 to fund its various projects. What does the return of the state mean in an Irish context? 60%? 70%?
Of course, he’s probably right to some extent, in that there will be a shift towards imagining – a word chosen quite deliberately – that the state will have the answers to the various challenges that face us in the post Coronavirus economy. Yesterday, for example, we had the extremely absurd idea from the tourism industry that the state should spend one point five billion euros funding a “staycation” for everybody in Ireland. In other words, that we’d all get vouchers to spend in Irish hotels:
“The tourism industry has called for a suite of support measures to be included in the next programme for government, including €1.5 billion in grant aid and low-cost loans and a State-funded “staycation voucher” for citizens to redeem against a holiday at home later this year.
The Irish Tourism Industry Confederation (Itic), has also called for the appointment of a dedicated minister for tourism with “significant economic clout” to lead the sector’s revival following Covid-19, as well as a 5 per cent VAT rate for the duration of the next government, which could be up to five years.”
The Tourism industry, of course, can’t just say “give us one point five billion euros, please”, and so points have to be awarded to whatever innovative spindoctor came up with the idea of dressing up a one point five billion euro bailout for the tourism industry as a free holiday for every Irish family.
Of course, the problem is that it’s not really a free holiday, because we all have to pay for it in extra taxation. But you’re probably going to see a lot more schemes like this as the demands for bailouts for big companies rise. As I type this, Michael O’Leary is on Sky News, warning that Ryanair might sack 3,000 staff if it, too, doesn’t get some form of bailout:
“Ryanair will soon notify trade unions of restructuring plans that could ultimately result in as many as 3,000 job losses amongst pilots and cabin crew.
It’s also going to challenge billions of euro in State aid that’s being dished out to rival European carriers, it said this morning.
It claimed the money being handed over to airlines including Lufthansa, Air France-KLM, Alitalia and SAS will distort the competitive landscape.
Ryanair also warned that it will take at least two years for passenger demand and pricing levels to recover.”
Of course, the properly communist solution to all of these problems would be for the state just to buy all the hotels, and Ryanair, and whatever other sectors are in trouble, and to operate them as workers collectives, with the profits going to pay for our heroes in the front line services. But even if you think that’s desirable, it’s completely at odds with the rules of the European Union, of which Ireland is perhaps the most committed member. You can’t be a proper communist and the best boy in the class in Brussels, unfortunately, which presents an uncomfortable problem for Dublin’s bien-pensant, like McWilliams.
What we’re almost certainly going to see, as is normal in these situations, is a form of communism for the wealthy and ruthless capitalism for the rest of us. Industries and companies deemed “too big to fail” will be saved, and those of us lucky enough to keep our jobs will pay for it with 50% of our earnings.
The other thing about communism and a big state, in the Irish context, is that it probably means a return for old favourites like water charges. Bailing out big capitalist enterprises doesn’t come cheap, you know, and we’ll have to find some new way to pay for it that sounds noble and environmentalist, and what better way than charging people for water so that we can give the money to airlines and ferries and hotels?
Viva la revolution, comrades. Viva la revolution. But at least, in the tradition of stereotypes that McWilliams has given us, from “Breakfast Roll man” to “Low GI Jane”, we can add another: Communist Dad.