As if it wasn’t bad enough that the business community have free reign over our economy and society now they expect us to like them too.
There is always a danger that if you make a criticism of something regarded as ‘light entertainment’ people will tell you that you are taking it too seriously or that you are no fun. ‘Sure it’s only a bit of escapism.’ However as should be painfully aware to most people popular trends in our society manifest themselves in our popular entertainment.
Take for example the similarities between the X Factor and Ireland’s rate of corporation tax. Perhaps it isn’t that obvious at first, one isn’t caused by the other there are just some interesting parallels. You see the X Factor far from being just showcase for extremely poor music and the degradation of the creative process represents a businessman’s desire to be loved. Simon Cowell was already a wealthy man when he started the X Factor. Thanks to his father’s contacts he got a good start in the music business despite not having any real qualifications or experience, a couple of decades on he was behind unleashing some truly terrible music on our senses but we didn’t know he had done it. He needed us to know the role he had played. He needed to go centre stage. The winners and contestants of X Factor have all too brief careers before they are sent back to the hairdressing salon or supermarket checkout but Cowell returns every year with his pearly white teeth and v neck t-shirts a bit richer then last time and ready to start the whole tortuous ordeal all over again.
However the desire of businessmen to be adored doesn’t stop with those involved in the music industry, take other shows such as The Apprentice or Dragons Den. Here in Ireland TV3 in their constant rush for original and compelling entertainment has made low budget domestic versions of both these shows. The native bourgeoisie finally got to flex a a bit of capitalistic muscle in front of the slack jawed masses as they plonked their pyjama clad bottoms down on the couch of an evening to marvel the mastery of the business class.
For someone like Bill Cullen the chance to go on a show like The Apprentice is a dream come true. For years Cullen was trying to get the adulation of the masses, his memoir It’s a Long Way from Penny Apples was a proper auld honest to Jaysus rags to riches yarn that the people needed to hear so they could appreciate what a tremendous chap he was and perhaps he could finally get the recognition he deserved. He was after all the head of distribution for Renault in Ireland. Now Renault aren’t even the most popular car in Ireland by any stretch of the imagination and it’s not as if you see the head of Toyota Ireland on national television blowing his own trumpet but Bill feels he needs to be in our line of sight so we don’t forget about his tremendous achievements.
To make things worse Bill Cullen felt the need to go on The Frontline, a show devised by RTE for the dual purposes of keeping Pat Kenny in a job and making sure their current affairs programming never got too insightful, to complain that young people were just lazy and that if they were more like him they would just get up off their backsides rather than moaning and looking for handouts. Cullen seemed to have overlooked the fact that he himself was receiving massive amounts of handouts in the form of the government sponsored scrappage scheme amongst other neat little tax breaks about which we can only speculate. He also overlooked the fact that not everyone wants to be a businessperson and many of us feel that the motives of the business community, especially in light of the recent economic downturn are often dubious to say the least.
However it seems that while we all know that business people only exist to make money for themselves many of them have started to look for recognition for the tremendous service they feel bestow they upon the community. This is why they can’t possibly be expected to pay tax at a rate which would reflect their incomes. They talk about entrepreneurship as if it was a divine mission and the entrepreneur a divine being. They call for the rate of corporation tax to be preserved for fear of scaring off investors and then call for cuts to the public sector and attempt to portray the public sector as a lazy top heavy bureaucracy. However while there might be inefficiencies in the public sector not all public servants are bureaucrats. The majority of them are health care professionals, educators, social workers and a myriad of others who are all on the front line everyday helping the ordinary people of Ireland and dealing with the mess that has been left behind by our so called Celtic Tiger economy.
Even before the burst there were many who had not been touched by the boom and afterwards many thousands of decent people who worked hard and did as they were told found themselves thrown on the scrapheap as they lose jobs and can’t pay bills and mortgages. There was much talk this week about 250 jobs being created in Ballina and how our low rate of corporation tax was responsible for this, yet how many thousands of jobs have been lost at multinational corporations in spite of our low rate of corporation tax? The supposed boom in Irish society was caused by building of houses to the extent that supply outstripped demand and by foreign direct investment neither of which are now sustaining the economy.
What the country needs now is real jobs and real services. I agree that some people who are high in the civil service are paid too much but I don’t support cutting their wages, I do support increasing their taxes though. However this tax increases should be across the board and effect high earners in the private as well as public sectors. The prevailing belief in the business community is that they should be protected from the recession and the rest of us should bear the brunt. It is to this end that they advocate cutting of services in order to protect low taxes for themselves. We are for our part supposed to believe that a so called trickle down effect will somehow elevate our position but more than likely it will only leave us feeling like we’ve been pissed on.