Saturday, June 25, 2011

U2 Concert Disrupted by Protest and Violence

There they were on stage, in concert at Glastonbury, England.

And then, all of a sudden, U2’s performance was disrupted by a protest group called Art Uncut.

The Sydney Morning Herald described the scene: “The anti-capitalist group Art Uncut inflated a 6-metre balloon emblazoned with the message "U Pay Your Tax 2." Security guards wrestled them to the ground before deflating the balloon and taking it away. About 30 people were involved in the angry clash.”  Via Instapundit.

So, rich sanctimonious liberals, even noted anti-poverty crusaders like Bono and his band do whatever they can to avoid paying taxes.

Somehow or other, the liberal voices who rail against hypocrisy when some conservative is caught in flagrante delicto are silent when it comes to the hypocrisy of anti-poverty advocates not paying their fair share of taxes.

In Ireland, from whence they hail, U2 are folk heroes. At least they were until recently. As you know, Ireland has recently run into a serious spot of financial trouble, which has involved severe economic austerity.

People then noticed that the greatest Irish rock band, whose members count among the wealthiest Irishman on the planet, had been dodging its taxes.

Not that they did anything illegal. U2 moved its corporate base from Ireland to the Netherlands, where taxes on royalties are next to nill.

Of course, U2 is hardly alone. President Obama’s favorite corporation, General Electric, paid no taxes last year either.

And then we see the great humanitarian billionaires, Warren Buffett and Bill Gates, who are, legally, sheltering their vast fortunes from taxes by giving it away to the Gates foundation.

One might ask how much of the foundation’s massive philanthropic activity takes place in America and how much of it takes place around the world.

And one might ask whether all that money would not be put to better use if it was invested in new business. As Carlos Slim famously noted: “Charity never solved anything.”

Unless you want to count charity’s ability to salve the guilt of the liberal conscience.

So, we are treated to the spectacle of watching sanctimonious liberals like Buffett rail against the inequities of the tax code while sheltering their fortunes from taxes.

It brings to mind the great statement from billionaire Leona Helmsley: “We don’t pay taxes. Only the little people pay taxes.”


Jordan Henderson said...

There's a fundamental misunderstanding about what Charity is.

Charity means Love, the Latin word for Charity is Caritas, which is one of the words for Love.

As a Catholic, I completely disagree with Carlos Slim, but I also disagree that paying Taxes has anything to do with Charity (or Love).

Charity NEVER solved anything? That's obscene. The quadriplegic veteran is often the recipient of Charity and it might well allow him to live with dignity. The abused child is subject to Charity and it might well stave off starvation or worse.

Those who advocate higher taxes to support the poor generally don't want to support the poor, they want to outsource it to "The Government" and make "The Rich" support the poor so they don't have to.

Conservatives, those who generally favor lower taxes, consistently give more to Charity, even as a percentage of their income.

To be clear, I do think the Government has a role in keeping an orderly society and sometimes that involves support for the unfortunate. That should be pushed down to the lowest level that can accomplish this. First, it's a responsibility of people in the community. Then, NGOs and Churches. Next, Local Governments.

Local Governments used to support Charity Hospitals and have Poor Houses. These things still exist, in different forms perhaps, but they are increasingly supported by State and Federal programs that are impersonal and have larger overheads. People think they don't have any responsibility toward the Poor because that's what they pay taxes for. People pay taxes to get out of dealing with the Poor and unfortunate.

If the Federal Government does need to support Charity, it should be after every other avenue is exhausted and it should be clear to people that it is a personal failure on their own part to take care of their neighbor.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

Thanks for the comments, Jordan. I've written a lot about this in the past, so I did not go into too much detail here. Evidently, that created misunderstandings, which I regret.

Here's a link to some previous posts on the topic:

No one is saying that charity does not have a purpose or a use or a function.

Carlos Slim was responding to the Gates/Buffett billionaire's challenge to pledge half his fortune to charity.

When he said what he said, he meant that if you have a choice between helping people by giving them charity and setting up a new business that will give them jobs, then we should choose to direct our efforts toward the new business.

Gates and Buffett and all the other billionaires are not giving their money to help quadriplegic veterans-- as worthy a cause as there is-- but they are about to fund liberal activist groups that will be able to do their best to shut down business and stifle entrepreneurship and job growth.

When we are talking about such massive sums, we also need to ask ourselves who are going to be running these organizations and what their agenda will be.

Jordan Henderson said...

People like Buffet and Gates might do well to give a lot of their money away rather than start businesses.

They are so entangled in established businesses that it might tend to cause distortions and displacements in the marketplace.

I'm unsure if this applies to Carlos Slim.

I guess I'm in favor of people like Gates making huge bequests. I used to go to a Carnegie Library in my hometown when I was a kid.

I wouldn't be surprised if Carnegie didn't feel that his money was best spent on largess because had he spent his money in business, competitors or even potential competitors would be surpressed.

All this being said, U2's efforts to defend themselves from Irish taxes, when Ireland is facing significant tax shortfalls, is puzzling. How can people like Bono expect the West to forgive third world debt if people game the tax systems?