In losing touch with Ireland’s struggles is Irish America losing its social conscience?

I’m not saying I agree with Andrew O’Hehir in every aspect of his column on Salon, particularly the sense that there is a singular and deterministic direction of travel in Irish American identity.  But there may be something in the idea that 1998 and the Good Friday Agreement has heralded a slow disengagement with the cause of Ireland per se:

As the title of Noel Ignatiev’s important if overly harsh academic study “How the Irish Became White” makes clear, Irish immigrants first arrived in America as despised outsiders, who were white in terms of complexion but not culture. In my colleague Joan Walsh’s“What’s the Matter with White People?”, she discusses Bacon’s Rebellion of 1676, a little-noticed event in which black and Irish indentured servants rose up against British colonial rule. (This led to the creation of the slave codes, which made African-Americans slaves for life, and the conferring of limited white privilege on the Irish.) As late as the 19th century, Anglo elites in New York perceived the drunken and disorderly Irish newcomers as an unhealthful influence on the city’s industrious and long-settled black population.

But Irish-Americans rapidly absorbed the lesson that the way to succeed in their new country was to reject the politics of class and shared economic interests and embrace the politics of race. One disgraceful result was the New York draft riots of 1863, the low point of Irish-black relations in American history, when Irish immigrants by the thousands turned on their black neighbors in a thinly disguised race riot. Irish-Americans were under no delusions that the ruling class of Anglo Protestants liked or trusted them, and anti-Irish and/or anti-Catholic bigotry endured in diluted form well into the 20th century. But by allying themselves with a system of white supremacy, the Irish in America were granted a share of power and privilege — most notably in urban machine politics, and the police and fire departments of every major city.

He continues:

…over the course of the last century the bulk of the Irish-American population drifted rightward through the Democratic Party and then out the other side into Archie Bunker-land. A key constituency of the New Deal coalition became, 40 years later, a key constituency of the Reagan revolution. But throughout that period there was always a countervailing social-justice tendency in Irish-American life, the tendency of the antiwar activist brothers Daniel and Philip Berrigan (quite likely the only Jesuit priests ever to make the FBI’s most-wanted list), or of 1952 left-wing presidential candidate Vincent Hallinan and his firebrand San Francisco family. This was the tradition of the radical Vatican II priests, nuns and theologians, who kept many of us from abandoning the Church altogether, and of the 1968 reawakening of Robert F. Kennedy and the subsequent career of his brother Teddy.

Without exception, those people started from an understanding of their own cultural and national history. They began with Irish nationalist or republican politics, and moved from there to consider how Ireland’s story fit into a worldwide pattern that transcended the specific racial paranoia of the United States. Of course Irish history did not end in 1998, and the current situation in that country – a land of immigrants for the first time in its modern history – is exceptionally interesting. But Ireland is no longer a divisive and charismatic “issue,” capable of galvanizing people who live thousands of miles away. With Irish-American identity now split between an optional lifestyle accessory and a bunch of unappealing right-wing guys yelling at us, its social-justice component has evaporated as well.

As I say, I’m not sure there’s a deterministic cause and effect here. The US’s long culture war may well have pushed many Irish American Catholics determinedly from the liberal to the conservative column for as many moral and ethical reasons as political. Still, there’s some resonant truth in the matter.


  • New Yorker

    I know of Andrew O’Hehir as a movie critic. This Salon piece is as misleading and inaccurate as a breezy movie review. People of social conscience who happen to have Irish names mostly have their social consciences because of their Catholicism. I don’t think it has much to do with Irish ancestry or recent Irish history; I think it is due to a belief that all humans were created in the image of God and therefore should have a full range of human rights.

    O’Hehir has a cartoonish view of Irish Americans and their history. I know of very few Irish Americans who have a knee-jerk hate of the British, in fact they admire many of their accomplishments. I know of very few Irish Americans who supported the last forty years of IRA violence, but many who welcome the end of it. I don’t believe there was massive Irish America financial support for IRA violence; there were probably some recent immigrants who put a few bucks in buckets along with one or two construction company owners who contributed a few thousand.

    There are a few right-wingers with Irish names on TV but they are mostly entertainers, in my view howling comics, but there are more that do not have Irish names.

    Overall I would dismiss this article as a poorly written review of an O’Hehir movie called “The Irish Americans I Don’t Know”.

  • Kevsterino

    I, of course, can only speak for myself in regards to my concerns regarding Ireland, Northern Ireland and the Irish in general. I don’t know how one can presume to speak for ‘Irish America’ as it has been called. I’m still not sure what that term means, anyway. Americans who come from an Irish background have become as diverse in their politics as any other group of Americans. I think this is Andrew’s error. Bill and Sean both have a large following on the right, and most of their followers aren’t Irish Americans.

  • “I know of very few Irish Americans who have a knee-jerk hate of the British, in fact they admire many of their accomplishments. I know of very few Irish Americans who supported the last forty years of IRA violence, but many who welcome the end of it. I don’t believe there was massive Irish America financial support for IRA violence; there were probably some recent immigrants who put a few bucks in buckets along with one or two construction company owners who contributed a few thousand.”

    @New Yorker,

    I can’t speak from personal experience–Wisconsin doesn’t have a large Irish population. But I do know that after the split the Provos sent people over to fund raise and arrange for the importation of weapons from the large cities in the Northeast. I also know that the Irish-American political elite was never pro-IRA and heavily supported the SDLP. Peter King seems to be the main exception to this rule.

    I think among any immigrant population the most conservative and militant attitudes regarding the old country are to be found among those living in ethnic ghettoes, which tend to freeze attitudes in time and preserve them over generations. People in these ghettoes are then in competition with others from surrounding ghettoes of different ethnic groups. Those that stay in the “old neighborhood” are less likely to encounter different opinions and to perceive the outside world as potentially hostile. Those who grow up in mixed communities that aren’t organized along ethnic lines are likely to develop different attitudes.

  • Pete Baker


    It might be worthwhile to look at the issue of discriminatory St Patrick’s Day parades in this context.

    I don’t, for example, see our politicians declining invitations to participate in those. Nor do I see them arguing that the PSNI should not participate because of that discrimination. Far from it.

    So in that context the particular group of Irish Americans involved there may not be that far astray from the electorate those politicians have their eye on at home.

    That group of Irish Americans, however, may well have been left behind by the wider US audience.

    Here’s the latest from Boston.

    Controversy has surrounded the parades in Boston and New York this year as organisers refuse to let LGBT equality groups march with their banners.

    Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said he will march [in New York] because the parade conditions are beyond his control.

    Mr Kenny is attending a number of St Patrick’s Day celebrations in Boston today, as controversy over the city’s parade continues.

    Mayor Walsh this afternoon confirmed that, despite extensive negotiations, he will not march in today’s parade due to the continued ban on LGBT organisations marching with banners.

    In a statement, he said: “As mayor of the city of Boston, I have to do my best to ensure that all Bostonians are free to participate fully in the civic life of our city.

    “Unfortunately, this year, the parties were not able to come to an understanding that would have made that possible.”

    And from the Boston Globe report, which includes the mayor’s statement.

    The now-decades-old controversy has led beer-maker Sam Adams to pull its support from the parade — a move that was met with backlash from at least one Boston restaurant that announced it would no longer serve Sam Adams beer.

    Columnist Margery Eagan wrote in today’s Boston Herald that an array of corporate “supporters” of the parade are no longer associating their names with the event:

    “First the Westin Waterfront. Gone. Then Gillette. Then Clear Channel’s JAM’N 94.5, which used to send a float. Then Entercom’s WAAF 97.7/107.3, which sent a float with a station banner. Then Entercom’s WEEI 93.7, which sent station street teams to hand out Red Sox schedules along the route. Then CBS local’s Mix 104.1 and AMP 103.3, which used to send station cars. Then Great Media’s Hot 96.9 FM. Gone, gone, gone, gone, and gone.”

  • New Yorker

    “Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said he will march [in New York] because the parade conditions are beyond his control.” What a doublespeak statement! The conditions might be beyond his control, but his attendance, one would assume, is under his control.

    By making such a stupid and insulting statement it is clear he should have stayed at home.

  • Rory Carr

    This* New York Times op-ed on ‘Paul Ryan’s Irish Amnesia’ might add something to the discussion.

  • Granni Trixie

    New Yorker

    As someone based in NI I am dependent largely on what I read to know about ‘Irish America’ and my impression was that SF,and at one point the IRA, raised large sums from that source. Are you sure this is not the case? I will try to pinpoint my views from books I have
    Read such as Jack Hollands, “The American Connection” .

    It is also worth stating that The peace movement in Ni I benefited from financial support from the states. The first hand knowledge of this is of this group tending to be conservative Catholics. My impression from reading the Irish Echo when visiting New York is the same as when reading Irish newspapers when visiting England that they too come across as conservative (old fashioned?) Catholic and certainly different to,say, the Andytown News which has a Sf bias in its reporting even though it is probably bought by a more diverse group of people.

    But then, I concede these are but my own impressions.

  • Greenflag

    ‘Is Irish America losing it’s social conscience ‘ is a misnomer . A more accurate blog header would have been

    ‘-Has America lost it’s social conscience or perhaps has it ever had one ?

    As per Credite Suisse data the net median worth (Assets minus Liabilities ) of Americans is $45,000 . That of Greeks the poorest EU country of the original 12 is $54,000 . That of France some $140,000 and of Australia $220,000 .The USA by far has the lowest net worth of all the developed countries . Even Ireland with it’s property bust bubble does better ?

    Worse than that is the fact that one third of Americans have a net worth of less than $10,000 and some 50 million or one in 6 of the population have nothing bar the clothes on their back and a hand to mouth existence -one job loss perhaps from homelessness .

    The likes of Paul Ryan /Bill O”Reilly and Hannity are utter hypocrites . They are no different than the Trevelyan’s of the 19th century or the unctious fat cats of the Empire who fed on roast beef while 27 million Indians and a million Irish died from famine at the same time s both countries exported food .

    I read that in the State of Florida there are thousands people even too poor to qualify for Obama’s Health Care reform insurance package . Not to worry though with some 5 million added to their client list next years profits for private health insurance compnies and their gangster buddies should be greater than ever 🙁

    On the other hand and theres always another hand a US Government regulator is suing 16 banks including Barclays, HSBC, Citigroup and Royal Bank of Scotland for allegedly manipulating the London Libor rate.

    The FDIC alleged that the banks mentioned in its lawsuit rigged the rate from August 2007 to at least mid-2011.

    Other banks named in the lawsuit include Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Deutsche Bank, Lloyds Bank, Credit Suisse, UBS, and Rabobank.

    You could of course wait for Ryan , O’Reilly and the other shock jocks of neo conservative Trevelyans to defend their countrymen against the bankster predators . But you might as well be waiting for Beckett’s Godot 🙁

  • New Yorker

    Granni Trixie

    SF/IRA vastly overstated their ‘donations’ from America to cover the large amounts generated by their Irish criminal operations.

    Irish Americans with serious money are usually non-immigrants, ie, born in the US, many here for several generations. Do you think they would support a terrorist operation? That is why I said above that immigrants in the few remaining immigrant areas, where the Irish Echo is sold, are where SF/IRA got their money. And, generally those people would not have large amounts of money.

    It is an urban myth that wealthy Irish Americans supported SF/IRA. Not only would they think it the wrong thing to do, they would be unlikely to come across them.

  • Harry Flashman

    And the above is why the left is always so desperately in favour of mass immigration.

    Berthold Brecht jokingly referred to the Communist leadership in East Germany deciding to dissolve the people and electing a new one because the Commies didn’t like the way the people voted. But it’s not actually a joke, the left do it all the time in western nations.

    Immigrants are voting fodder for the Democrats in the US and the Labour Party in the UK. They are clients of the government and so dependent on the party that hands out the government goodies in the form of welfare and government jobs.

    The problem is eventually the immigrants better themselves, they start businesses, buy their own homes, send their kids to non-government schools to get a decent education and then the ungrateful bastards (like the Irish-Americans mentioned above) start to think for themselves. They start to weigh up political issues on the basis of how they relate to them and their families instead of just being bussed in to vote for the party machine.

    Then it becomes time to despise these once-beloved immigrants (like the Irish-Americans mentioned above) as traitors and self-serving sell-outs. How dare they leave the plantation and become free thinkers?

    Oh well, time to start all over again and import more poor, badly educated immigrants to feed the left’s voting machine, because they can never rely on the educated, hard-working, native-born taxpayers to keep them in office.

  • Mr. Greenflag:

    Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but to say that America (basically meaning all Americans) has never had a social conscience is not only condescending and an incredibly biased statement, but erroneous. It is true, historically Americans have not looked to the government for security. However, this began to change during the New Deal and the Great Society. While the numerous programs that federal and state agencies maintain has not created a North American version of the European utopia, things are not as bad and unequal as you (and others) make it out to be. Social Security, Medicare, Section 8 housing, welfare, food stamps, Earned Income Credit, unemployment insurance etc. are never taken into account when America-bashing is at its finest. Furthermore, neither is the fact that Americans contribute more to community and charitable causes than any other nation.

    There is no such thing as being too poor for Obama’s Health Care. People/families with limited means get subsidized. Even before the Affordable Health Care Act was passed, people with limited income were entitled to some free care – hospital emergency rooms had to treat them and there was/is Medicaid.

    By the way, who are the gangster buddies that ally with private health companies (many of which are non-profit)? Do you mean doctors, nurses, hospitals or government bureaucrats?

    The American system is often misrepresented. A good example is Hurricane Katrina, something that I lived through. The Bush administration was roundly criticized for the situation in New Orleans, although at that time, the city leadership and the state of Louisiana were responsible for the initial response. Both failed due to a lack of planning, to indecision and to a slow response. In addition, most of the city’s police force deserted. No previous administration in Washington would have been ready for that disaster – although they will be in the future. Under the circumstances, federal agencies/the Bush administration got relief into New Orleans as fast as humanly possible. New Orleans is not an easy city to get into – there are only three practical routes and two (bridges) were destroyed. Furthermore, the one airport was unusable. The Mississippi Gulf Coast suffered a lot more destruction than did Louisiana (except for the city of Sliddell), but within a day after the hurricane, water and other essential supplies started becoming available. This is because the area is totally accessible by land, the police stayed and there is an Air Force base.

    So how does Katrina enter into my argument about American charity: within days of Katrina, the first of thousands (not just a few but thousands) of private, community and church groups began arriving to help. There was also considerable money raised across the country which was quickly donated to the area. Not bad for a country that has no social conscience.

    The economic statistics that you are so eager to provide obviously come from real sources. But: 1) economics is not an exact science 2) as a historian, you learn not to believe everything you read on the internet – this should be true of any other discipline 3) just because the information exists do not make it accurate or true; statistics are very easy to manipulate and economists and economic bloggers – on the right and the left – have agendas 4) a lot of it seems hard to believe.

    Am I seriously expected to believe that Australians are five times more wealthier than Americans? Bullshit.

    But of all your comments, the one that is the most outrageous is your comment on Republicans. I do not like Sean Hannity, there are some things about Bill O’Reilly that I can accept (not all) and Paul Ryan’s politics has as many good points as bad. But how are they hypocrites? They practice what they preach and just because you do not agree with them does not make them insincere.

    But to say that they would willingly watch millions of people starve to death is not only unfair but somewhat absurd. What did they do to cause the Irish/Indian famines? Their economic/social arguments are not causing such as situation today. You can accuse them of promoting income disparity, but in spite of your tenuous argument, there is very little starvation or even hunger in the United States. Yes it does exist, but if hunger is so prevalent, why are there so many undocumented immigrants.

    Why not blame them for slavery or the mass-killing of Native Americans? It’s the same argument. Hey, opponents of abortion call killing unborn children the new Holocaust. Does saying this, make it true? Furthermore, there simply are not 50 million people in America who own nothing but the clothes they are wearing. There are some, but 50 million? If so, prove it.

    By the way, George Soros, Michael Moore and all the Hollywood elite, to cite three examples, have millions. If the incredibly wealthy Left are not willing to contribute their fortunes to the starving and unhoused 16%, what are they guilty of? The Irish famine as well? murdering Ukrainian peasants? watching the Sudanese suffer? I am sure we can think of others.

  • mr x

    Just to throw in the point that a US Government worried about a UK takeover by Communists might act in certain ways to encourage right wing elements.

  • Greenflag

    @ New Yorker ,

    ‘“Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said he will march [in New York] because the parade conditions are beyond his control.’

    Any Orangeman (formerly ) reluctantly (joke ) marching through Drumcree could have said the same as Enda Kenny . It appears as if the AOH or the NYC St Patricks Day parade organising committee is determined to follow the example of their ‘Orange ‘ look alikes in maintaining backward and outdated attitudes to those among their ‘ethnic ‘ communities who may simply via the genetic lottery of life be differently gendered .

    Of course there was no sex in Ireland before television as Oliver Flangan FG TD infamously maintained . We can only hope he’s been reincarnated as a rabbit in Portmarnock where he can have lots of the former without seeing it on the latter .

  • Greenflag

    @ Kevsterino ,

    ‘Americans who come from an Irish background have become as diverse in their politics as any other group of Americans.’

    Indeed . The last post election poll I looked showed that the so called Irish American vote was split 50/50 between the GOP and the Democrats . Italian Americans were 60/40 . American Jews still overwhelmingly vote for the Democrats some 85% plus and more in some areas .African Americans still vote predominantly Democratic with 90% plus . Unhyphenated ‘white ‘ voters tend to vote GOP in the South and Democrat in the North East and on the West Coast .

    Future elections will liklely be determined on the ‘new ‘ Hispanic vote which seems to be by default going the Democrat’s way given the GOP failure to agree on an Immigration Bill .

    ‘I don’t know how one can presume to speak for ‘Irish America’ as it has been called.’

    Certainly not O’Hehir or anybody else for that matter . The vast majority of American have little interest in Irish domestic politics . Some might even say few enough have even an interest in their own domestic politics bar the 50% or so who turn out to vote at elections . It’ll be interesting to see what the Mid Term turn out will be in November 2014.

  • Greenflag

    @ Harry Flashman ,

    ‘And the above is why the left is always so desperately in favour of mass immigration.’

    Wrong again Harry . When the local ‘proles ‘ be they American , British , Irish , German , Italian, French etc refuse to breed in sufficient numbers for the next generation so that corporations and businesses can continue to produce ‘profits ‘ and keep wages low ( for competitive reasons of course ) then by default – immigrants become the favoured corporate solution . Even more so in an environment where Trade Unions have been effectively neutered . This is why new immigrants at least those who are competing for bottom tier jobs get less than a warm welcome from indigenous populations and it matters not the country origin of either immigrant or indigene .

    War is of course another major contributor to mass immigration . Without World Wars 1 & 2 Germany might not have needed it’s current 4 million immigrant Turks or France it’s 3 million North Africans among others or the UK it’s Irish , Caribbean , Indian , Polish etc etc ‘immigrants’ or certainly not in the numbers that eventually came .

    ‘Immigrants are voting fodder for the Democrats in the US and the Labour Party in the UK. They are clients of the government and so dependent on the party that hands out the government goodies in the form of welfare and government jobs.’

    More rubbish HF . There are 35 million ‘immigrants ‘ in the USA of whom some 12 million are termed illegal . The latter don’t vote and cannot apply for ‘government ‘ jobs . There is no numerical evidence that I’m aware of that the balance of 23 million legal immigrants are anyway more dependent on welfare or government goodies for their existence than say are ‘ the educated, hard-working, native-born taxpayers to keep them in office.’

    I refer you to the mostly native born (99% ) Ownsley County Kentucky mentioned in earlier articles by myself and Richard Jordan and the Delta region and you could try this site for further enlightenment .

    Have fun now and remember Ayn Rand’s solution or was that Milton Friedman or Lord Trevelyan’s or any of the current bunch of neo conservative ideologues are talking through their rear ends and to keep your face nice and white I’d step way back before trying to play lickspittle with that lot .

  • Greenflag

    @ richard jordan,

    “to say that America (basically meaning all Americans) has never had a social conscience is not only condescending and an incredibly biased statement, but erroneous.’

    That’s not what I said /wrote . The exact words I used were

    -“Has America lost it’s social conscience or perhaps has it ever had one ?’

    Note the “perhaps” and the “question mark” at the end which was meant to prompt debate . Mick’s original header was imo a misnomer and needed broadening to make any sense . As one reply to the Salon article put it succinctly

    ‘ I await Salon’s piece next on “How did African Americans get so lazy and violent?”

    On slugger you will note that on the right hand side of the front page you will occasionally see a link to an article titled ‘Why I loathe the Irish and all things Irish ‘ . You will never see an article titled “Why I loathe the British /Unionists / Americans /French / Japanese etc . You might ask why ? In the interests of whats euphemistically termed objectivity even ?

    Re your other points . As an American you are probably sensitive to what may come across as America bashing . That’s not my intention . I’m pointing out some harsh facts and numbers which most Americans will never see reported in the mainstream media . And in that regard I don’t single out the USA but have done the same for many other countries including Ireland (North /South ) and the UK etc .

    I’m aware that Abe Lincoln ended African American slavery approx 30 years after the British . I’m aware of FDR’s social security reforms and the Kennedy/Johnson Civil Rights reforms of the mid 1960’s etc etc . And I’m also aware that the former Mayor of New Orleans is quiet rightly going to jail for corruption and racketeering i.e profiting from people’s misery in the Katrina disaster . BTW I was in the Big Easy several years before the natural disaster and if I could but remember the name I’d recommend a restaurant in Hammond just across Lake Pontchatrain for the best gumbo and crawfish pie I’ve ever had anywhere . Believe you me one doesn’t frequent the same restaurant for lunch every day for two weeks unless it’s very very good.

    ‘Am I seriously expected to believe that Australians are five times wealthier than Americans? Bullshit’

    I’d say the same however the figure are Credit Suisse’s and they refer to net median worth , The USA ‘s poor performance in that survey reflects no doubt the property bubble bust among other factors . I’d credit the Swiss and particularly their banking institutions for knowing where the ‘wealth ‘ is . They’ve been in the business of hiding it for centuries . Feel free to check with Credit Suisse or the other numerous sources which will report the same general finding

    “There is no such thing as being too poor for Obama’s Health Care. ”

    Alas there is . Although 5 million have signed up for Obamacare and they hope to increase that to 6 million by the end of March nevertheless you can refer to this link or any of the connecting ones to see how some very poor Americans fall through the cracks as it were .

    The gangsta buddies I refer to are the Private Health Care Insurance companies including those who have driven health care costs to almost 20% of American GDP which is almost double that of other developed countries .

    ‘The American system is often misrepresented”.

    True enough . I am aware of how Medicaid operates and the emergency clinic treatment for those who have nothing . But I’m also aware that over a million people file bankruptcy in the USA every year because of ‘medical ‘costs . Proper preventative care on the Dutch model would save the USA Health Care system billions .

    ‘Not bad for a country that has no social conscience.’

    Again that’s not what I stated above .-it’s your misinterpretation.

    I’m aware of the dangers and limitations of internet reportage which is why I’ll only use links that seem credible and can be verified via other sources .

    “But of all your comments, the one that is the most outrageous is your comment on Republicans.”

    Actually I thought I was understating my outrage at their idiocies .

    ‘ But how are they hypocrites?

    Ryan the so called Catholic conservative preaching Atheist Ayn Rand’s Bible of Selfishness for one . He was apparently unaware of Rand’s contempt for religion including her own Judaism . I read his WSJ piece on ‘Poverty ‘ in America and how lowering taxes for the rich would solve the problem -utter horse manure of course .

    ‘But to say that they would willingly watch millions of people starve to death”

    Again thats not what I said . I compared them to Trevelyan who turned his back to a starving Ireland on the basis of the ‘invisible hand ‘ of market forces .

    “You can accuse them of promoting income disparity’

    They are not alone in that venture . They are aided and abetted by most GOP politicians in the House and Senate and also by some Democrats . It’s not at all coincidental that during the biggest economic recession in the USA since the 1920’s and 1930’s that every member of the USA Congress is a millionaire -I’m not sure of the Senate but it would’nt surprise me if that were the case also

    ‘ Yes it does exist, but if hunger is so prevalent, why are there so many undocumented immigrants.’

    I don’t recall stating that hunger was prevalent . I know it exists but so too does obesity . Ironically the latter condition is often correlated with hunger in the nutritive sense in that people consume vast amounts of calories which are deficient in nutrative qualities .

    Why so many undocumented immigrants ? Two main reasons . The USA shares a land border with Mexico which in turn shares land borders with several central American states which have much less GDP per person than the USA .The other reason being it suits American employers to hire immigrants as US indigenes are unwilling to do the work that Mexican and other immigrants do at the wage rate offered . Supply and demand and all that .

    ‘Why not blame them for slavery or the mass-killing of Native Americans? It’s the same argument. ”

    No it isn’t. Comparing them to Trevelyan is in retrospect unfair to Trevelyan . At least Trevelyan could plead the ignorance of his times and his remoteness in London hundreds of miles and across the water from the starving millions in the then British Empire . O’Reilly , Hannity, Ryan and their political ilk only have to cross town in any major city of the USA or rural West Virginia /Kentucky etc and see for themselves how millions of their fellow countrymen have to put up with underfunded schools – low incomes -unemployment and government dependency .

    BTW -There is no Utopia -European or otherwise . But there are increasing income disparities across the developed world including the EU countries . The USA can probably claim to have the greatest disparity . There are many reasons for such disparities .What is abundantly clear both in the USA and the EU is that our elected politicians in the main parties are doing little if nothing to reduce those increasing disparities which in time will not doubt increase the numbers in prison -lead to increasing social instability and put whatever is left of ‘democracy ‘ at risk of being usurped -if it already has’nt been – by a self serving plutocracy .


  • Pete Baker


    “On slugger you will note that on the right hand side of the front page you will occasionally see a link to an article titled ‘Why I loathe the Irish and all things Irish ‘ . You will never see an article titled “Why I loathe the British /Unionists / Americans /French / Japanese etc . You might ask why ? In the interests of whats euphemistically termed objectivity even ?”

    That would the post where the title quote is, in fact, a direct quote from James Joyce – “I loathe Ireland and the Irish.

    And where the actual topic is an article discussing Joyce’s attitude to Ireland,

    The devastating cultural effects of the Ireland in which he had come to adult consciousness are amply dramatised in many of the short stories in Dubliners . These deal with unfulfilled lives and frustrated impulses, and the anger, dependency and demeaning parasitism of those trapped in an impoverished post-Parnellite culture.

    …and the fact that, “As far as Ireland was concerned, particularly in the early decades of its independence, the feeling [loathing] was, arguably, mutual.”

    Here’s another part of the article I quoted at the time

    It is easy to argue that Ireland, having looked askance at Joyce in his lifetime, was rather less than generous after his death. It is still shocking to learn that apparently our then government under De Valera instructed the Irish chargé d’affaires in Zurich not to attend Joyce’s funeral. And when his wife Nora expressed a willingness to permit the repatriation of his remains, the offer was turned down by that same government. There was at least one major consequence: an unforgiving Nora insisted Harriet Weaver donate the the manuscripts of Finnegans Wake, not to the National Library in Dublin, but to the British Museum.

    On the other side, even after Ireland had gained its independence, and a mature Joyce had left behind the repressive experiences of his youth, the extent of his allegiance to Ireland remained questionable. Gordon Bowker, in his recent biography, notes that in 1940, when Joyce in France was faced with imminent German invasion, the official at the Irish legation repeatedly “offered him and [son] Georgio Irish passports”, which would have allowed them to leave occupied France when they wished. The offers were declined, and Joyce “clung doggedly to his British passport”.

    We should not here jump to conclusions; but we know that Joyce was not enthused by the new Irish Free State (or as he preferred to call it, the “Irish Free Fight”), finding its nationalism regressive. He was particularly unimpressed by the ambition to restore the Irish language – a response that need not surprise us, given that Joyce, through his brilliant mastery of the English language, had engaged with a worldwide readership for his depictions of Irish experience.

    How then do we reconcile Joyce’s antipathy with a lifelong fascination with Ireland and especially with Dublin? There is no ready answer, and in this as elsewhere Joyce’s attitudes were complex or ambivalent.

    Not that you tend to ignore the actual topic… No, not at all…

  • @ greenflag:

    Fair enough, you did not actually say that America has no social conscience. However, in a debate, a subtle way of pressing a point is to pose a question that makes leads to the same conclusion. On a closer reading, I do admit overreacting.

    To address your points:

    Income disparity + the “mean-spirited” nature of American conservatism/Republicans is constantly presented to the American public through Democratic political statements, MSNBC, CNN (to a certain extent) etc. and through virtually every daily newspaper. The New York Times, Washington Post, Philadelphia Inquirer, Cleveland Plain Dealer (unfortunately I am stuck in Ohio at the moment) – to name several that I am intimately familiar with – all have a liberal slant. This is true of many southern papers such as the Atlanta Constitution-Journal, which has/had columnists such as Cynthia Tucker + the political cartoonist Mike Luckovich – both to the left of Obama.

    Australians having five times the worth of Americans – still do not believe it. If Credit Suisse argued such, I would have to know what the context was – it cannot be on wealth alone. That does not seem logical.

    Paul Ryan – I doubt that he cares about Rand’s atheism. That said, I agree and do not accept his economic argument either. I am sure he referred to the Kennedy and Reagan administrations, which both lowered income taxes and both saw the economy grow. While the upper and middle classes did better, the economic expansion did little to alleviate poverty. The trouble with politicians is that they are rarely willing to state their true motivation. Ryan should have been honest and while arguing that lowering taxes would helped the better off and provide some new jobs it would not eliminate poverty. That is not really the job of business anyway – it is the responsibility of government.

    I understand your point about Mexican immigrants, but the U. S. has no problem attracting others as well – like the Irish.

    Trevelyan might have been “isolated” in London, but I think he knew quite well what was going on in Ireland. My point about Hannity + Reilly is: yes they promote conservative economics, which means keeping more for themselves and giving less to the government to disperse to the less fortunate. But do Hollywood millionaires or Michael Moore who are so “passionate” about social justice act any different? They are the true hypocrites.

    Obama Care has a lot of flaws. If the liberals wanted to insure the poor, why did they not just do that? Instead, they opted to hijack the entire system knowing that there would not only be Republican opposition, mass confusion, but also gross federal inefficiency. Both sides are to blame for the current mess.

    etc etc

  • Greenflag


    Thanks for the ‘enlightenment ‘ .I must have missed that thread . Sometimes ‘headlines ‘ attract and sometimes they repell . As they say one never gets a second chance to form a first impression . Normally I’d read a blog /thread on Joyce and indeed contribute but for some reason I missed that one .I don’t read all threads on slugger as you can I’m sure understand . But I did skim through the whole thread last night and on the whole found not a whole lot new .

    Paddy Reilly and Alias made imo thoughtful contributions and overall I found your piece well written and researched .

    As to Joyce and ‘nationality ‘ /passports etc etc my take on that is Joyce had moved beyond simplistic nationalism of any kind be it Irish , British or anything else .. Joyce’s attitude to the Irish language was typical of many of his class at that time in Ireland and he had left the country before the major political upheaval of 1918/20/22.I’d guess he’d be a lot more at home in the Ireland (Republic ) of 2014 than in the Ireland (Free State ) of the 1920’s -1950’s . So would a lot of his contemporaries but then none of us get to choose the era we live in .

    Joyce is interred in Fluntern Cemetry ,Zurich between two German Jewish actress Theresa Giehse ( Brechts Mother Courage ) and the Bulgarian (one of his nationalities ) Elias Canetti .

    Somehow I think Joyce would hve approved of his neighbours in death’s long sleep . Archbishop McQuaid would’nt have approved but then Joyce would’nt have approved of the Archbishop either .

    As for his complex attitudes and ambivalence ? He was an artist -and they tend to their muse /muses wherever and whenever they find them or vice versa .

    Till Bloomsday then .

  • Greenflag

    @ richard jordan ,

    Re the so called liberal media you mention above – I’ve read some of the titles mentioned at various times but I usually read the WSJ for hard numbers but not it’s political opinion which is GOP -1000% .

    As to commentators /columnists being to the left of Obama in European terms that would probably mean they’d be quite comfortable in the British Conservative Party or the German Christian Democrats or even the Irish FF or FG parties .

    Mention was made above re how some American politicians saw Prime Minister Thatcher as their model leader for the neo con right -I can only recall Reagan being somewhat infatuated with her although thats probably more the result of Spitting Image cartoonery than political reality .

    Thatcher for all her union bashing and Falkland islands bellicosity did in fact tell that Ayn Rand devotee Milton Friedman that if he seriously believed that the people of the UK would adopt the American Health Care system then he did not understand the British people. Maggie did . She instinctively knew she would be out of office in a week had she tried to dismantle the NHS . Cameron today faces the same issue with the same electoral consequence.

    As to the Australian median wealth figures reported by Credit Suisse . Of course the USA in absolute terms i.e GDP far exceeds that of Australia. The median wealth figure represents that point in the population where 50% of the population are above that figure and 50% below . For most Americans wage and salary levels have not kept pace with real inflation and given the recession and property bubble bursts and the huge bank bailouts etc there hould be no surprise . Also Student Debt has now topped a trillion dollars which is greater than the national total for Consumer Credit Card Debt .

    Back in the 1940’s and later when America had more of a ‘social conscience ‘ some 8 million veterans of WW2 took advantage of the GI Bill and went to college . Prior to that time only the wealthy could afford to go to college . And that seems to be where America is returning as is the UK and perhaps Ireland . College fees have increased way beyond inflation rates. Another reason for their rise is that formerly Federal and State Government funding subsidised students but now that funding has reduced over the past two decades and has been replaced by Student and increasingly parent debt .I know of one college in a southern State where over half the students are ‘foreigners ‘ in the main the offspring of wealthy oil shiekhs etc while local indigenous Americans white and black cannot afford to attend that college .

    For the current generation of young Americans it’s been said they are looking into a three mortgage future if they are to achieve the American dream . The three mortgages are one for a college education -one for a home to live in -and one to pay for huge medical expense if they should become seriously ill or have a major accident while uninsured .
    In Norway every young Norwegian has a share in the country’s ‘sovereign ‘fund based on oil wealth of some $50,000 when they reach 21 .

    While it’s true that Kennedy and Reagan did lower taxes it’s also true that the USA economy and more importantly the world economy was much less competitive and ‘trickle down ‘ economics had some veracity in the 1960’s and even into the early 1980’s . All of that came to to an end with China and other East Asian economies among others opening up and becoming global competitors. We live in a changed and still changing world economy . The answers never simple are even more complex than ever heretofore.

    The Irish (FYI ) these days seem to prefer Canada and Australia to the USA as would be destinations for those with the skills etc .

    Poverty is was and probably will always be with us as long as people remain human beings . And while I agree that it’s not the job of business to end poverty – I’m not convinced that Government alone can do much more than ameliorate the worst aspects of the problem . Economies are /tend to be dynamic fast moving and even more today competitive as between countries , companies etc . Exceptions there are but these economies e.g North Korea / Belarus / are not regarded as model societies for any but the resident brainwashed . Government even in the developed world has fallen behind in it’s role to maintain a balance between capital and labour . New technologies and ideology have resulted in the vast bulk of the increased productivity 1980 through the present going to the top 1% to 5% of earners . The remainder have largely stagnated or in some cases had to endure a drop in standard of living . None of the political parties are seriously addressing this issue and even Obama’s minimum wage hike is I believe scheduled to take 3 years to kick in to the full increase thus negating (via inflation ) any real tangible financial benefit to the lower income groups .

    As to Obamacare having a lot of flaws ? Indeed but then the proper solution would have been for both parties to put their heads together and come up with a National Health Care system which would move away from almost total dependency on one’s employer and would instead be individual orientated . If the median income of Americans is $35,000 per annum then how can any individual afford to pay out $16,000 in health insurance premiums per year and till have income over to feed and clothe a family , buy or rent home , save for retirement or even afford a holiday ??
    Even in a two income family it’s simply not affordable -without employer contribution . As many employers are now backing out or reducing their health insurance share it’s only a matter of time before the system implodes .

    The answer for the USA is to have a class/income based National Health Care system whereby those with incomes of $150,000 plus or $ 250,000 for a couple would hve Private Health Care Insurance while the 90 to 95 % of Americans who do not earn at that income level would contribute as a percentage of income to a Federal or State based Health Care insurance fund with all employers also contributing and both contributions being supplemented by a sales tax which would vary as between states . States could compete /innovate to reduce costs and improve preventative care longer term .

    I’m not contrary to what you might assume a dyed in the wool leftie determinedly fixated on big government or whats called the nanny state but I do believe that both National Health Care and Education should be either controlled /regulated /financed by the State at least for that very large section of the population whose average earnings simply could not afford an education or a serious operation without going into huge debt or as is the case with many in the USA -bankruptcy .

  • Mr. Greenflag:

    Yes, the Wall Street Journal is good for financial news, but conservative in its news coverage. Although their international stories are well written. American newspapers tend to be liberal – but only under American standards. Few have the viewpoint of the Guardian.

    Prior to the Second World War many Americans could not afford to go to college/university. You are correct – the GI Bill helped to change that, but it did so only for armed forces veterans. It was not until the student loan program and Johnson’s Great Society that more Americans could afford secondary education.

    College tuition has increased, but there is still a lot of funding if you look/and or plan for it. Federally-funded Pell grants still exist ($2,000 to $4,000 a semester and which do not have to be paid back, but do not quote me on the exact figures – it has been a while since I was in school). So do federally-subsidized Stafford Loans (no interest until several years after you graduate). There is also a tuition difference, depending on which school you chose. Obviously Harvard + Princeton or Tulane, which are private schools, cost a lot more than the University of Massachusetts, Rutgers (the state college of New Jersey) or Louisiana State University, which are state schools. Tuition is much cheaper to a state school if you are a resident of that state. Otherwise you pay out-of-state fees which can be two to four times the cost. Private institutions do have some grant money, but they give it to either the underprivileged and those academically qualified. There are state programs that help students and that might not get much news coverage in Europe. For instance Georgia (go dawgs!!!) pioneered a program, funded by the state lottery, that gives free tuition to any state resident to attend any state school that will accept them (there are enough schools to find several that will). All one has to do is to graduate high school with a 3.00 average (of 4.00) and maintain that criteria while in college. Other states have similar programs. My niece, who goes to Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina bets free tuition, fees and they gave her a campus job. You can find affordable education of you do not fuck around in high school.

    Student Loans are a problem to some people, but a lot of the discussion is guided by ideology. Republicans are more critical of the program because much of it is subsidized in ways that are not necessarily well known in America or Europe. For instance, no matter how much you owe, they can only make you pay 10% of your income. Paying 10% only does not affect your credit rating. And if you are unemployed they can only make you pay $10 a month, with the same affect.

    As for health care – I accept many of your points, but I do not believe that the health care system should be controlled by the state – I do believe that its costs and accessibility should be regulated. Once again, if they wanted to make sure that everybody gets health care – they should have proposed to subsidized/pay for those who cannot afford it and not take over the whole system and make it into an ideological battle. They could also subsidize catastrophic care. Much of the system does work and many people do have good and affordable health care. These people get their coverage from their private employer or from a government entity (if they work there). These people only pay a co-pay + cover a yearly deductible. However, under Obamacare someone making $35,000 does not pay $16,000 in premiums. Where did you get these figures?

    Moreover, whatever the criteria Credit Suisse used, I still do not believe that the average Australian has a median or net worth five times that of the average American.

  • Greenflag

    @ richard jordan ,

    ‘However, under Obamacare someone making $35,000 does not pay $16,000 in premiums’

    Not what I wrote. The full cost of private health insurance for a young couple with two children is I’ve read – between $ 14,000 and $ 16,000 per annum depending on location . At that cost level the vast majority of Americans could not afford to pay the full cost from their incomes alone . Thus without the employer contribution the current system would collapse .

    While it’s true that much of the system works and many have good and affordable health care thats only because they are in employed by a company / government employment etc that can afford to pay the bulk of the insurance premium . Many private sector companies are trying to reduce their health insurance premiums and pass more of the premium onto employees due to ever rising costs .Obamacare is a bandaid but an important one for all it’s set up flaws . Its not the ‘cure ‘ for the non sustainable current system imo.

    ‘I accept many of your points, but I do not believe that the health care system should be controlled by the state – I do believe that its costs and accessibility should be regulated.’

    The reason why the USA’s health care system consumes 17 % of it’s GDP as opposed to 11% in the UK and less in Canada and other comparable countries is because of the current pre Obama care system . I’ve read some reports that health care costs are no longer rising as fast they were -but whether this is a result of Obamacare or simply due to the fact that people those who are insured are now more circumspect about using their insurance coverage or other reasons -is not yet clear .

    ‘ I still do not believe that the average Australian has a median or net worth five times that of the average American.’

    Median is not average . Average means all incomes divided by the total population and that differs even within a country depending on whether you use individual or household incomes . Heres a link which you may find explanatory

    Median is that figure at which 50% of the population are above and 50% below , The USA median wealth figure suffered more from the property bust (Australia & Canada hardly suffered at all ) and in particular the larger states of California , Florida , Texas , Arizona etc . Some parts of the USA remained less affected .

    Most people’s net worth is based on the monetary value in equity in their primary residence , their retirement savings , or other savings , stock.shares etc less their liabilities and in that respect the current American figure is towards the bottom end of the 20 or so list of developed countries .I suggest if you have serious doubts to research the topic if you have the interest /time etc .

    What you write re education at third level above is fair enough but I would suggest you ‘understate ‘ the problem when you write

    ” Student Loans are a problem to some people”

    At a trillion dollars i.e greater than consumer credit card debt and rising faster than the latter -I’d say it’s major issue which will come to the fore in future elections. I read that Obama and his wife finally paid off their college debt a couple of years ago . The whole question of whether to go to college or not – it seems now to be almost a mandatory compulsion regardless of whether the person is academically inclined or not -is an issue now being raised not just in the USA but even in the UK and Ireland .

  • Yo, Greenflag!

    I find your arguments interesting and well thought out. While I do not agree with all of them, your opinions are certainly valid.

    However, some of my “misunderstandings” occur because the economic “facts” are designed to be misleading.

    You wrote: “If the median income of Americans is $35,000 per annum then how can any individual afford to pay out $16,000 in health insurance premiums per year.”

    The question would only be relevant if the family making $35,000 paid $16,000 in premiums. If that income level qualifies for subsidized health care at a much lower rate and if a family had to make substantially more to pay $16,000, then putting the two facts together into one statement is designed to be misleading. This might not be your intention, but the writer you quoted certainly wanted the reader to consider a scenario that would not happen.

    One of the synonyms for median is average. I understand what median, net worth etc means, but I still find the data to be skewered economics and I still do not believe that the median wealth of an Australian is five times that of an American, whatever the distribution of wealth in each country. Once again, what criteria did Credit Suisse use? Half of all Australians have a net worth of at least $225,000? Do not believe it.

    Health care in the U.S. might be more than that of the UK + Canada but other things cost a lot less – houses for example.

    As for student loans/education: One reason that the Obamas might have only recently finished paying them off is that the repayment is spread out over such a long period. Because the repayment plans are long-term, most people handle them as agreed. They might not like having to, but that is life. What worries proponents/opponents of the system is that a percentage will never be repaid because the debtor has either decided not to do so or that the amount is so high that they will never have to. As I have stated, you can only be forced to pay 10% of your income and after 25 years whatever is left is written off. Example: a social worker with a PhD in sociology and who accumulated $150,000 in loans, will probably never be required to repay them all in full and a good percentage will have to be written off.