A Foreigner in Ireland - A view on Politics and Life.

Sugar Drink Tax? Another nonsensical idea of our government!

Taxes are raised in Ireland (and most other countries) not to regulate something or to improve something directly related to the taxed item, but for the state to make money. But now our government wants to introduce a tax on Sugar-containing drinks to fight obesity.

Well, first of all, I can’t imagine that it will have the slightest impact on obesity. If you buy a bottle of coke for EUR 2 today, then the 20% or 40c increase won’t stop tooo many people from buying that bottle. And if you buy a non-branded 2l bottle of sugar-containing soft drink for maybe 55 or 75 cent then the new price would be 66 cent or 90 cent respectively. Does anybody really think an increase of 11 or 15 cent will change the buying behaviour significantly. Nonsense! Obesity will not be affected in the slightest by these increases.

The only area where it could have an impact is in a pub or restaurant where you already pay a very high EUR 3 or more for a small bottle of soft drink. If the 20% increase would apply there than that is a 60 cent surcharge despite the fact that the tiny 0.2 l bottle has much less of an obesity effect than the 11 cent more expensive 2 litre bottle. Odd!

Another interesting aspect is a comparison to other taxes: If Sugar Drink tax is raised to fight obesity, then Motor tax and fuel tax should be used to improve the roads or even better to improve public transport, but it isn’t directly tied to either. It also should maybe help to reduce accidents, especially fatal ones. But that is not the case. Alcohol tax (duties) should be used to reduce alcoholism, but that is not the case. Instead it is just pocketed by the state.

Actually if a Sugar Drink Tax will be introduced to fight obesity, a NEW (and additional) Alcohol Drink Tax should be also introduced to fight alcohol related illnesses. Because 88 deaths per month in Ireland are DIRECTLY attributable to alcohol and over 14,000 people were admitted to the liver unit in St Vincent’s Hospital for the treatment of alcohol dependence in 2011 and every day, 1,500 beds in our hospitals are occupied by people with alcohol-related problems. In 2012 the whopping amount of EUR 1.5 billion was needed for alcohol related hospital discharges. (Statistics are from alcoholireland.ie/facts/alcohol-related-harm-facts-and-statistics/)

Why am I so much against a Sugar Drink Tax? Because most of us are well able to either limit our sugar intake or make up for it through exercise. But the government doesn’t suggest that people who are not obese do not pay the tax, instead they plan to raise the tax indiscriminately. Even if you are stick thin, you will have to pay the 20% more. That just doesn’t make sense.

School Uniforms – What a bad invention!! ….or maybe not?

In my opinion, school uniforms are TOTALLY wrong. They are mostly ugly, impractical, outdated, discriminating, freedom-robbing, outrageously expensive, a tool for intimidation and oppression and totally unnecessary.

Since school has restarted nearly two weeks ago, you see them everywhere again and it is just unbelievable how ugly most of them are. The colours, the cut, the “worn-outness” are turning them in the ugliest possible clothing for kids. It turns them to sheep in a herd instead of giving them the opportunity to become young individuals. The uniform is used to oppress them and to punish them if they don’t have the right one and it is also used for one-upmanship where some school insist on crests on their tops because they feel they are better than others. And I just can’t believe that in the 21st century, girls in Ireland are still FORCED to wear skirts. How outdated is that?

This rant all started when I saw a “my child has started school again” picture on Facebook that was posted by a friend recently, her daughter was shown in her new school uniform and it must have been the worst I ever saw. The poor little girl even had to wear a totally unnecessary tie that was to 80% covered by the ugliest “dress”-thing you could imagine. It really makes you wonder how twisted the people must be that decide how a school uniform has to look like and what idiocy made them to add a tie even for girls.

Hey, nobody wants to wear ties, not even the grown ups and they do it less and less, so why do we have to force our six year olds to wear them? And really, would you wear an excrement coloured skirt? Well, if you wouldn’t why do we make our kids to to it?

Where I grew up, uniforms didn’t exist. So we had an opportunity to be different, there were some goths in my school and some really well dressed kids and anything in between. We all had a uniform, but it was our own uniform. Not one prescribed by the school management or the principal and we used this uniform to express our individuality.

I would love a country full of self-reliant, independently thinking, individuals, not full of sheep that need a leader to follow him/her, that have ever learned to oblige all the time, to surrender their individuality and to be dismissive,

Does the school-uniform-induced brain washing support more the first or second set of characteristics?

But now comes the kicker: Maybe times have changed so dramatically, that individualism isn’t even possible anymore. Because the (very valid!!) argument of supporters of school uniforms is that the uniform takes the pressure off kids’ back to compete with each other on clothing. Maybe kids NEED uniforms, which is why they all would want to wear the same clothes from certain clothes labels. Maybe today’s generation just can’t handle individuality anymore?

But then, “No School Uniform” still works in other countries! So is this lack of individuality maybe an Irish problem?

I can’t answer that question and still find the need of school uniforms odd! ….but I can also see that they can make sense in certain contexts.

 

Enda Kenny – the Mayo eejit?

One of a number of problems in Irish Politics is the Parish Pump politics that is done. That means that politicians care much more for there people “at home” in their constituency than for the country. As a consequence TDs (members of the National Parliament) waste time with helping Paddy to get his passport faster because he forgot to apply in time or with going to funerals of every Tom, Dick and Harry, just so that their families will vote for that politician again.

It is bad and it could relatively easily get changed, but politicians don’t like change, so we have to live with it. But you would expect that the head of the country, the Taoiseach, Enda Kenny has the interest of the country in mind as the highest priority.

We had in the context of the mess around building a new government and with the recent Apple ruling and a few other stories, quite significant events that needed a strong and decisive Taoiseach and someone who informs the people about his decisions. Did Enda Kenny speak to the nation at that time? I am not 100% sure, but I don’t think so.

This week Mayo (where he is from) is playing in a Football game. Yes, it is the final, but so what. And what does Enda Kenny do? He speaks to the nation to support his home county in a cringeworthy video, What an eejit!

Here it is: www.youtube.com/watch?v=tDmpmOy5qAk

Can we please swap him for a LEADER of the country?

 

“Bakewell Tarts” and “Tear & Share Brioche”

Have you ever heard of “Bakewell Tarts”? Why are they called that? Are other tarts not baked well? And why do we use that term, for these little shortcrust tarts and don’t just call them what they are? For example “Shortcrust Tarts”??

Or have you ever heard of “Tear & Share Brioche”? Why??? Who came up with that name and why did it stick? I am NOT sharing my Brioche, so get lost! ;-) And I am also not tearing it usually. Still most people have a good idea what Tear & Share Brioche is.

Language is odd!

If you have heard neither of the two names, type it into Google and you will EASILY find what I am referring to. :-)

Apple, Ireland and the Taxes

A school teacher from Mayo and his pack of friends are in trouble for the last few days. Everybody is giving them grief over something that started 10 years ago, even before they had anything to say and were only dreaming of getting the big job.

The bigger boys wrapped our school teacher over the knuckles for something that he didn’t do and maybe didn’t even understand when he found out. But since he is in the driving seat at the moment, it is only fair that he has to take responsibility. And I tell you, he and his mates did screw up! But they screwed up intentionally and would do it again in a heart beat. They took money from these big boys and these big boys are not happy about that at all.

But on the other side, the people our schoolteacher wanted to help with the money (at least that’s what he – probably genuinely thought – are also not happy. And it is not just one gang, but two gangs that are complaining. So the Mayo man gets it from all sides.

We could nearly feel sorry for him….but then he has form on screwing up, he does that regularly probably because he just doesn’t know better, he is just a school teacher, you know and hadn’t learned any better. We all wish we had someone who knew what he or she was doing, but the whole country has NOBODY that knows any better, A little bleak, I know, so we just let him meddle on. Complain regularly, but nothing will ever change.

Our school teacher in this story is, of course, Enda Kenny and the story is about what would be called tax fraud if you and I did it. He and his cabinet weren’t even close to being in government in 2003 (or 2007) when the is special arrangement started. So I have some sympathy with them. The special tax treatment was just another mess that they inherited form the previous Fianna Fail government. BUT they didn’t even try to fix it.

What was happening? Apple (and others do that too!) sold products in other EU countries, but officially all products were sold from Ireland and not from the Apple companies in these other EU countries. So all the money went back to Ireland, even if that shouldn’t have been the case. The other EU countries are (I have to say: understandably!) not happy about that because they lost taxes. But they can’t do much against it, because it is not illegal. They are already annoyed about Ireland just charging this super low 12.5% corporate tax, but that is also not illegal. So they were trying to find something that WAS illegal to shake up the whole cosy arrangement that Ireland has with some companies.

They found out that Ireland is not really charging any taxes at all from Apple because Apple cleverly transferred the income from the other countries from one company in Ireland to another and that other company had got a sweet deal from the Irish government. Still nothing illegal, but dodgy nevertheless AND many would say STUPID!

Apple has a lot of money and to let them run their business virtually tax free in Ireland doesn’t make sense. Sure there are 5000 jobs that they have created, but if they had to pay a few % of tax instead of well below 1%, the deal would still be soooo good, that these 5000 jobs wouldn’t be in big danger.

So the Irish government should certainly have charged them some taxes!

When the other countries found out that Ireland was doing dodgy stuff, they said that this is like paying Apple money for being in Ireland. It is and it isn’t. Either way it is a form of tax fraud. When the guy who imported garlic from China declared it as Apples (which have a significantly lower tax rate than garlic – for NO apparent reason!) he got a prison sentence of 6 (!!) years a few years ago. The Irish government was not doing much else: Re-labelling you could call it! But they are the government, not a garlic importer so they get away with it.

But let’s face it, a little school teacher from Mayo and his gang wouldn’t dare a super big company to pay more, right? It’s an inbuilt inferiority complex that the Irish government has (don’t get me started on offshore oil and how they just give it as a give to the oil companies).

When the EU said that Apple will have to pay EUR 13 billion plus interest, Apple was understandably not too happy about that (despite the fact that they have around $231 billion in cash), the Irish government wasn’t happy either (they don’t like being wrapped over the knuckles and there is definitely a danger that other foreign companies in Ireland also could have to pay a lot of money. I wonder how Microsoft feels about all that!

So the Irish government HAS to challenge the EU decision because of that. They also have to be seen to defend Apple to show other companies that they stand up for the companies that come to Ireland.

But then there is the other side. Because of that inferiority complex, a few years ago the Irish government screwed up when it came to the bank debt and took on responsibility for debt that they shouldn’t have. So these 13bn would help nicely getting rid of some of that debt. Which means now that a lot of people in Ireland say screw Apple, screw the EU and let’s take that money. Maybe we use some of it to pay our debt back, but, hey let’s buy something nice from our windfall. (and that is another opinion).

A right mess? Definitely!! And it looks like a lose-lose situation for everyone involved. Don’t you love politics and even more so, don’t you love our competent politicians? ;-)