Is Ireland suddenly being seen as the nation with the answer to battling the current worldwide recession?
The belief that the Irish have the right idea is taking root — but how ironic! For almost a decade, Ireland was the poster boy for the bloom-and-boom "Celtic Tiger" economy, which was the envy of the world.
Then, it all came crashing down. The bloom-and-boom was doom-and-bust.
The headline in a Washington Post article last week asked, "In Ireland's deep budget cuts, an omen for a heavily indebted United States?" Writer Anthony Failoa wondered whether what Ireland is doing in response to the recession — slashing its public service wages and taking other draconian measures — is the way of the future for the United States, too.
On Saturday, I appeared on the Fox News program "Fox and Friends" to discuss this very topic. Amid a lively debate, I detected the sound of a growing drumbeat on the political right. Forget stimulus packages: Cut-and-slash Ireland may be the way to go for America.
The Washington Post article opened with a provocative question: "Is (Ireland) the ghost of America's future?" It went on to say:
"Like other heavily indebted nations around the world, Ireland is borrowing vast sums from foreign investors to plug its budget deficit. Fearing that the country will buckle under the weight of so much debt, the Irish have an answer: Put the government on a diet."
Now, "putting the government on a diet" is the dream of most right-wing political leaders in America — so it's small wonder the Irish experiment will be very closely watched in Washington.
It almost sounds like a model economic program as explained by the Washington Post article:
"More than $4 billion in cuts coming into effect after New Year's Day will slash salaries for 400,000 government workers, while making painful reductions in benefits for such groups as widows and single mothers to the blind and disabled children. A tax targeting rich Irish nationals living overseas — dubbed the 'Bono Tax' in the Irish press — will help restock empty coffers at home. Even Prime Minister Brian Cowen, who earns about as much as President Obama, is taking a 20 percent pay cut."
The host of "Fox and Friends" could barely contain his enthusiasm for the Irish measures when he interviewed me — and I can see why. This is the kind of government-slashing program that right-wing think tanks have been dreaming of for decades.
If the Irish government stands its ground and the Republic's economy begins responding, don't be surprised if Ireland is held up as an example of what America should be doing to beat the recession.