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Installment two; Sean Healey and Brigid Reynolds

Now I get to Sean Healey. I think Cindy in Victoria is impatient for this. She can't get to Toronto and seems to be hoping I will fill her in on what is going on. I will try.

I talked with Father Sean a bit the evening of May 3rd. I had come across his name often over the years, roving the net for the latest about basic incomes. He does not mention much anymore that he is or was a catholic priest and connected with something called Council of Religious of Ireland.

Now he works with a group called "Social Justice Ireland". He came with Brigid Reynolds and I should be talking about her as well. She delivered part of the talk.

But Sean was interested in my Irish name. I told him my Irish ancestry is very far back in the mists of time; at least 150 years. I am more French and Scandinavian and native than Irish. I am a typical old stock north american, very mixed.

I talked a bit about my experience with advocating for a Basic Income in Canada. There just has not been much to latch onto. BIEN Canada has been all about a lot of academics talking to each other and unwilling to engage outside their tight circle.

Sean understood this. His long standing problem with BIEN is that it is so extremely philosophical. It is all theory, no practice.

I am also interested in voting reform and Ireland is the only state other than Malta which uses the STV voting system. He thought that this system was one of the bulwarks against the crap going down in Ireland. It makes it easy for back bench members of parliament to stand up to the party big shots.

Ireland is a very conservative country. Both the major parties are very right wing, rather than the left-right thing in most countries. The only left party, Sinn Fein, is the legal wing of the IRA. It has risen in prominence lately, is now the second party.

The party responsible for the debt crisis was almost wiped out in the last election. The present government is kidding people about dealing with the crisis. They are "we are meeting our targets so our critics don't know what they are talking about. Haw, haw."

But many other indicators are going down. Sean says that the government is being told it is in big trouble but they do not believe it. They think because people are not throwing bombs at them and burning things down, then they are all right.

It was a short, interesting talk. But soon other people wandered over from the nibbles table and grabbed him away from me. The next morning he and Brigid spoke.

First, they went into Ireland's present economic situation. Ireland is one of three countries in what he called "the bail out". That is, they have ben fitted up with odious debt and have had an IMF "austerity" program forced on them.

Or rather, the government has been telling people there is no choice. Inequality in Ireland has been increasing rapidly. IMF will not allow banks to go under so 100% of this debt is being paid by the tax payers.

A new government was voted in, with the mandate to try something new, but they are not doing it. Brigid says that capitalism needs to be done away with or we will be back in this situation every few years forever. Instead, they are trying to fund the debt by cutting services without raising taxes. The worst hit is being taken by the poorest.

The first study of Basic Income in Ireland was done in the 1970s but little progress has been made. This sounds like everywhere else.

Sean finds the options in the design of a BI to be these;

1. level of Payment

2. Implementation by group

3. Implementation in stages.

His plan is to implement it at the current welfare rate. Implementation would be in three stages over three years. The existing welfare system would be shut down. He finds it not fit for purpose.

He also finds no purpose in giving it to people who are already wealthy. Those most in need will get it first and it will then be extended to more people. The BI will not be taxed but if you work you get taxed from the first penny.

Most tax exemptions will be eliminated but most taxes will be left in place; income, value added. Thus, all work and poverty traps will be eliminated. The net cost of BI will be 38 Billion Euro in a country of 4.6 million.

This will be financed by a flat income tax rate of 44% on all personal income, raising 35 Billion Euro. This eliminates many other taxes, but it is not a charter for the rich. It takes many breaks away from them.

The poorest people in Ireland are paying 20% now. A few people were concerned about this, but Sean assures us that this is not a version of the stupid Maggie Thatcher style flat tax. The BI is exempt.

I am not sure about flat taxes. I am more inclined to a progressive tax that eventually gets to 100%. But it is an improvement on what they have. Even in Canada the very poorest are not being made to pay taxes.

People had questions. Sean would raise corporate taxes in Ireland as well. They are at 12.5 percent right now; lower than Canada. many firms are paying no taxes.

He talked about the hare-brained schemes the government was talking about to get the economy going again. It wanted to increase tourism. It seems anyone in Canada and the States with an Irish surname is going to be bombarded with invitations to visit Ireland. Just because the weather is so nice there. He looked at me briefly while he said this.

As well, disability payments will not be touched. They apparently are taxed in Ireland. yikes!

He and Brigit had much more to say about Irish and european politics. Governments should not be bailing out banks. They should go broke. He is very scathing about Angela Merkel; she has no understanding of history at all. Maybe it is because she grew up in East Germany under totalitarianism.

This is what I have on Sean Healey and his plan. He has not published any of this and is keeping it semi secret until when he plans to spring it. He gave us a privileged peek at it.

What this says about the idea of not costing a BI plan or going into specifics, I do not know. But now we have two plans out there.

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