Want a good chuckle this morning? Congressman Rick Boucher wants to do for Southwest Virginia what the Irish did to bring breathtaking prosperity to the island nation in the 90's. Not that he's willing to adopt the necessary policies that they did to affect that prosperity, of course. He intends instead to do it the way Democrats in this country have been talking about doing it for the last 40 years.
I can't wait for this conference to come ... and go:
Ireland could be model for renewal
Rep. Rick Boucher says Ireland's economic revival could work in Southwest Virginia.
By Duncan Adams, Roanoke Times
Rep. Rick Boucher plans to unleash a "Celtic Tiger" in Wytheville this morning but there will be no need for Katy to bar the door.
Boucher, D-Abingdon, will host a conference titled "Unleashing the Celtic Tiger: Southwest Virginia's Shared Heritage with Ireland and Western Europe." Boucher represents the 9th District, a region renowned for its Appalachian Scots-Irish heritage.
But that cultural connection will not be the key focus for the conference, scheduled to begin at 8:30 a.m. at the Wytheville Meeting Center.
Instead, that heritage will be linked to regional economic opportunities that could be tied to an economic transformation in the Republic of Ireland. That previously agrarian-based, economically struggling country is now known to many as the Celtic Tiger because of a profound economic rebound during the past two decades.
Boucher, who is running unopposed for re-election this year, acknowledged Friday that Ireland's economic upswing has been driven in large part by national policies and emphases. (link)
Fine. Let's look at Ireland's transformation. What brought it about? According to IUSB Vision (see "The Irish Miracle: How Ireland Went from Economic Basket Case to Masterpiece"), the lessons are profound:
Ireland knew that they had to bring in foreign companies and investment fast to get the economic ball rolling so they created a tax haven. Ireland lowered the corporate income tax rate to 10% for manufacturing companies or companies that trade services internationally and would move into a selected enterprise zone. [jf: since agreeing to lower the corporate income tax top rate to 12.5% for all corporations.]So, is Rick Boucher going to recommend at this conference in Wytheville this morning that corporate tax rates in the USA, the second highest in the world today, be slashed, government spending be curtailed, and personal income tax rates be reduced?
In 1987 the government started to embrace major reforms. The government realized that it could no longer be the people’s employer and enacted massive cuts in spending, slashing many government programs and agencies from 3-10%. According to The Economist Magazine, Ireland cut its capital spending by 16%.
The last piece of the puzzle that has made Ireland such an economic success is that it has been steadily dropping personal income tax rates over the years; dropping from a 65% top marginal rate (for the ultra wealthy) in 1985, to 56% in 1989, to 46% in 2000, to 44% as of 2001. [my emphasis]
Not on your life.
Instead he's looking to Ireland's example of "approaches to work force development, related adjustments to school curricula and state policies and other ways ..."
"The 9th District has attracted call centers and other operations with ties to the knowledge economy, he said.
'But we are presently focused on an effort to attract a broader range of technology companies,' Boucher said. 'What we're doing now is moving up the technology scale.'
For example, Boucher said, he has brought to Southwest Virginia companies seeking a good site for a backup data center.
Would that be the backup data center in Lebanon that was located there only because the state government demanded - if Northrop Grumman was to be given the state contract - that it be built in Southwest or Southside Virginia?
Did the Irish bring about economic prosperity at the point of a gun? Is that what you took away from "The Irish Miracle" story?
The Irish reduced corporate and personal income taxes, and shrank government spending (it also dramatically altered its monetary policy). Prosperity resulted.
You can invite foreign companies to relocate to Southwest Virginia until the cows come home. And you can pour more and more money into our schools (that provide degrees to our youth who immediately move to more opportune environs up north). Only when the business climate here changes - and only when we get someone to represent us who has a clue - will circumstances change.
"Rep. Rick Boucher plans to unleash a 'Celtic Tiger' in Wytheville"? Seems more like another paper tiger to me.
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* Special Note: I'm looking to a "Southwest Virginia Miracle" too. Boucher is running for reelection unopposed. It's my hope that a write-in candidate defeats his ass, since the Republicans in this part of the state - their strongest, ahem - gave up without a fight. It'll be miracle, to be sure. But hope springs eternal ...