Archive for: June 2017

  1. Undocumented Irish

    This is a strange one. Conventional wisdom and hearsay suggest that Irish-America generally tends towards voting Democrat. Actual figures are hard to come by and much of the evidence from this is historical, anecdotal or circumstantial. However, there’s no doubt that the major cities which have a significant Irish-American presence have tended towards Democrats.

    On top of that… between Kennedy, Clinton and Obama it has generally been Democratic presidents who have actively courted the Irish-American vote and made a great deal of political hay (both at home and abroad) with high-profile visits to Ireland. Reagan tried the same thing, but his search for his roots down in Ballyporeen alienated as many as it charmed.

    Having said all that; there is no indication that Irish-America is overwhelmingly Democrat. It’s hardly news to anyone that there’s a powerfully conservative streak within Irish Catholicism, and the Republicans get a great deal of support from Catholic America. Indeed, there are indications that a slim majority of Irish Americans may have voted for Trump in the last election. The actual figures are for “white Catholic” (51% of whom voted for Trump) rather than “Irish-American”, but I have to assume that means around half of Irish America supported Trump.

    A Constituency of a lot more than one

    The most recent US census informs us almost 35 million Americans identify as “Irish American”. That’s a pretty big constituency. It’s not the most important demographic for an American politician; but it’s big enough — with a near 50/50 split between the parties — to swing a national election against any party that actively alienates it.

    Which is why Trump’s decision to target undocumented Irish for deportation is strange. While those deported wouldn’t have been able to vote; the wider Irish-American community will feel threatened and betrayed by this move. I predict — if this continues — the Republicans could easily lose a few million votes across the country. Easily.

    And for what? From a purely practical / optics standpoint — an undocumented Irish resident in America is effectively invisible. They look exactly like any other Trump supporter. I’m not saying this should matter from a policy perspective. It clearly shouldn’t. But at the same time… for Trump it clearly does. He’s all about optics, and I can’t see how this is going to look good for him.

  2. Austerity

    I didn’t see Toby Young on the Channel 4 news, so I have no idea what the context of his “austerity is a myth” statement might have been. It’s possible Mr. Young was attempting to defend tory policy by insisting things “aren’t as bad as they say”. Perhaps he claimed the consistent increase in national debt, every year since the tories came to power in 2010, indicates that public services have not been cut… that the welfare state and NHS have not been dangerously undermined by a government ideologically hell-bent on slashing the services upon which the poor and vulnerable rely.

    In which case, the word “stupid” is an apt choice.

    However, I myself made exactly this point recently… that the tories cannot possibly “end austerity” because they never actually implemented it. And I stand by it. I certainly don’t think it’s a ‘stupid’ point.

    The reason there may be some confusion is a result of the two different definitions of “austerity” in play. And I think both of those definitions are useful in their own contexts. Moreover, I think it’s actually quite important that people in the UK highlight the fact that the tories never implemented “austerity” (at least, not in the sense they claimed they would do). It’s arguably the most damning indictment of them.

    For most of us, the word “austerity” is more or less synonymous with “hardship” or “tightening of belts” or “cut-backs”. And let’s be under no illusion, the ordinary people of the UK have been dealt that form of austerity in buckets since 2010. UK public spending has been cut. The welfare state, NHS, fire service and a thousand other items have been recklessly and viciously attacked by a tory government gripped by greed and ideology and the ordinary people of Britain are suffering as a consequence.

    But it hasn’t been “austerity” under the other definition.

    The Other Definition

    Austerity is supposed to be an economic policy whereby — simultaneously — public spending is cut and taxes either frozen or raised so that a nation runs a current account surplus which is then used to pay down the national debt. It’s all about debt reduction. Nothing else.

    However, a simple glance at the publicly available economic figures demonstrate that UK debt has risen every year the tories have been in power this century.

    UK Debt to GDP ratio - no indication of austerity
    By AbsolutelypuremilkOwn work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link

    Why? Because far from cutting services and raising taxes to pay off debt; the tories have cut services and lowered taxes for corporations and the wealthy. And they were talking about slashing those taxes again (the post-Brexit tax-haven fantasy of the tory inner circle), long before this talk of “dropping austerity” began.

    “Austerity” is not an economic policy I agree with (though I’m sure specific hypothetical “edge cases” could be described whereby it makes sense). But I can at least acknowledge there’s a coherent argument in its favour when it’s actually used to reduce debt. Which is why using that term to describe the dreadful tory policies of the past 7 years gives them far more respectability than they merit.

    It hasn’t been austerity. It’s been wealth redistribution.

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