This morning, Seamus Healy, the Independent TD for Tipperary South and West Waterford has resigned from the United Left alliance, the far-left umbrella group established in the run-up to the 2011 general election. He cited the damage done by Mick Wallace’s VAT evasion and falsification of returns.
Healy has said that Mick Wallace’s admission to VAT evasion and the falsification of returns has fatally damaged the ULA. Healy’s decision comes as yet another item of bad news for the ULA and the broader anti-“austerity” coalition, which has seen its romantic “outsider” appeal give way to grubby stories of division, rancour and broken promises. Since returning six TDs in 2011, the ULA has faced an embarrassing expenses scandal, controversy over its opportunistic support of a couple owning ten properties in their attempt to avoid the enforcement of a mortgage securing debts to a bank owned by the Irish taxpayer and the recent revelations about their ally Mick Wallace.
While Healy is undoubtedly correct in his assertion that Wallace has damaged the ULA (possibly irreparably), implicit in his and the far left’s response to the Wallace affair has been the assumption (shared right across the circles of mainstream commentary) that Wallace’s behaviour represents a deviation against the principles of the anti-“austerity” movement and can and should be admonished in accordance with the terms of those principles.
However, a cursory glance at the mechanics of this movement demonstrate that Wallace’s actions were not an aberration but reveal an ugly truth about those who oppose public sector spending cuts. Look no further than Wallace’s attempts to to raise hard luck issues as an excuse for not remitting to the Revenue Commissioners money which had been received for VAT payments. According to Wallace, his behaviour was subject to an extenuating circumstance of having been actuated by a desire to save his company and the jobs of his workers. In making these statements, Wallace tries to generate a rationale which seems to form the basis behind how the entire radical left now works: My motivations are good. Therefore, I don’t have to obey rules that you have to obey.
Sadly, the left wing philosophy which was once based upon a subtle and complicated intellectual tradition has become a crude and unedifying game of Us v. Them and Wallace was simply acting in accordance with the movement’s basic principles when he put what we might charitably call his conscience ahead of his legal obligations. For the ULA to condemn this is hypocrisy of the highest order. Consider that the ULA’s Big Brother, Joe Higgins went to prison for running a campaign designed to encourage people to illegally evade community waste charges or that the ULA is involved in a campaign that openly incites tax evasion, called “Don’t Register – Don’t Pay“.
Each of these campaigns involves making exactly the kind of psychological trade-off that Wallace made when he failed to pay the VAT his company owed. It is the noble Us, pure of heart and unburdened by the need to observe the penal sanctions imposed upon Us by a society less virtuous than we are and an ignoble Them who are bound to not merely to observe those self-same standards but who are under additional obligations to meet further standards of conduct.
This is the mentality which you must understand in order to understand the anti-“austerity” movement. They can engage in what amounts to tax evasion but when the likes of the Ansbacher account holders do the same, it is unacceptable. They can break laws which violate their consciences but when people legally avoid tax through (for instance) changing their residence, they are open to vitriolic condemnation. Why the double standard? Double standards can easily be swallowed in a world in which Us is inherently virtuous and Them inherently evil.
When it comes to times of economic collapse and fiscal stringency, this mentality has real consequences which we have seen here in Ireland and rather more dramatically in the imploding nations of the once great Mediterranean. A group of largely taxpayer-funded “rebels” who have spent years marinating in a vaulting sense of entitlement have taken the lessons of the the anti-water and waste charges campaigns to their logical conclusion, with a cohort of the population which believes that sacrifices must be made, but not by them – not a penny in extra taxes or charges, not a penny in cuts to benefits, entitlements or public sector wages, no job cuts and no service cuts. Why such intransigence? Because the attitude of the anti-“austerity” movement is that somebody else will always be there to pick up the tab. It is reminiscent of Homer Simpson running for election as Springfield Garbage Commissioner, under the slogan “Can’t someone else do it?”. Such reckless irresponsibility may be endearing in a cartoon character for whom the consequences will be hilarious. In real life though, the Us v. Them mentality will give rise to real victims, with the irony being that ULA voters will probably suffer the most from the type of fiscal Armageddon which they are inviting on themselves.
One way or the other, Mick Wallace does not deserve the treatment he has received from his leftist friends. Godzilla is gazing lovingly into the mirror and sees Bambi staring back.