Putting Conservative Values Into Action
Posted on March 17, 2010Last night, I shook the hand of a person who ought to be a true hero of the conservative movement.
Nope, it wasn’t Glenn Beck. It wasn’t Rush Limbaugh. It wasn’t Jim DeMint. It wasn’t Sarah Palin. And it wasn’t Mitt Romney.
It was Brian Cowen. Brian Who?
Cowen is the Taoiseach (or Prime Minister) of Ireland, and I shook his hand at the conclusion of the annual American Ireland Fund dinner. The American Ireland Fund raises money in the U.S. to help support peace building operations in the north of Ireland.
It has been the tradition for the last two decades for the Taoiseach to come to the AIF dinner usually the day before St. Patrick’s Day, and give an address to the assembled crowd about the state of the island of Ireland. Usually, the address focuses on the latest news in the peace process, which is crawling slowly but surely forward, mostly on its own momentum now.
Last night, Mr. Cowen spent most of his time talking about the financial crisis that has gripped Ireland (and the rest of the world).
Cowen hasn’t shied away from the tough decisions he has had to make. And he has made two extremely important ones that American conservatives can draw inspiration from.
First, he actually cut spending in his budget. He made real cuts, not declines in the rate of growth. He cut social services, he cut education, he cut welfare, he cut government. Those cuts were not popular, and his poll numbers have taken a beating as a result. But as he put it last night, he really had no choice. If he doesn’t cut spending, his country will default on its loans.
Second, he didn’t raise taxes. More specifically, he didn’t raise corporate taxes. Cowen understands that the worst thing he can do to not inspire more investment in Ireland is to raise taxes. So he has kept Ireland’s corporate tax rate the lowest in the Western world.
This is a big gamble. If the economy doesn’t come roaring back, Cowan could be out of a job in 2 and a half years, when he will be compelled to call another election.
But should the Celtic Tiger come start to roar again, Cowen’s gamble will pay off, not only for him politically, but also for his nation.
It is customary to also honor an American politician at this dinner every year, and this year the honoree was Hillary Clinton.
Clinton, because of her work on the peace process, and because she is the Secretary of State, deserves to be honored by the American Ireland Fund.
But it was interesting to note how faint Hillary’s praise was of the Irish Prime Minister’s course of action. She noted how Mr. Cowen was making some hard choices, but she didn’t exactly endorse his approach.
That is because her current boss has taken a dramatically different approach. Mr. Obama is looking for ways to raise taxes and has already increased spending by north of a trillion dollars. The increased spending hasn’t done much to create jobs, but it makes the government employee unions happy.
Ireland counts on a strong American economy to help bolster its own economic growth, so the terrible irony is that the Irish might do everything right, and it still won’t be enough, because the Democrats are doing everything wrong. If the U.S. economy is still faltering because of President Obama’s poor choices, Ireland may still suffer.
But Cowen’s gamble is the best bet that the Irish can make in the short-term to bring its economy back to life. It is too bad, for us and for them that our own President has decided to go in a different direction.
Cowen is putting conservative values into action. He deserves a round of applause for that on this St. Patrick's Day holiday.