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Whose money are you spending?

Money makes the world go around – or so we’re told.  But where does it come from and where does it go to? How come some of us have considerably more of it than others?

Take for example, Charlie McCrevy. Page 2 of today’s Irish Independent tells us about his payout when he leaves his EU office:

  • Resettlement allowance of €19,909.89
  • Transitional allowance of €358,378 payable over 3 years, working out at €119,459.50 per year
  • Lifelong pension of €50,000 per year
  • Moving costs to pack up and fly his family back to dear ole Ireland, business class

This is on top of an Oireachtas pension of €52,213 and a ministerial pension of €75,003 for his stint as finance and enterprise minster.

Whether he has done a good / bad / indifferent job is irrelevant given how massive this payout is. Can anyone possibly do a wonderful enough job to justify a payout that is as enormous as this. As a point of comparison consider that one year of the transitional allowance and one year of the lifelong pension would pay off in one swoop they mortgage that I will require the next 20+ years to pay off.

Where does this money that Charlie will be paid from come from?  Who decided that he is worth this amount of money? Who decides that his position merits this level of financial reward?

An example closer to home where the Irish taxpayer can really feel it, concerns our Ceann Comhairle (chairperson of our Parliament) John O’Donoghue and his extravagance with tax-payers hard earned tax.  The official Government jet was used to jet off to Cannes, the Heineken Cup final and the Ryder Cup event – all costing the taxpayer a cool €32,450.

The O’Donoghue expense that really caught the public’s attention, however, was the €472 limo ride to go from terminal 3 to terminal 1 in a London airport. The sheer extravagance of paying so much for a service that can be obtained for free via airport shuttle buses is just too much in these recessionary times.

As a point of comparison, consider the salary that drivers of such shuttle buses might be paid. While such information is not publicly available it’s fair to say that they would not reach far enough to even contemplate paying €472 for a service that can be obtained for free.  Would you pay €472 of your own money for a service that is obtainable for free? Would you pay €472 of someone else’s money for this service?

Spare a further thought for the shuttle bus driver. On a trip to London recently, I wandered around the Science Museum. On show was a prototype of the new driverless taxi, a series of which are soon to be deployed in Heathrow airport to ferry passengers around various destinations within the airport. Passengers tap in their requires destination to an onboard console and off the taxi goes on its merry track to that location. I wonder how much the airport is saving by not having to pay drivers.

Driverless Taxi

Some nice folks getting their pic taken beside the driverless taxi

As I am on the subject of money and whose money is being used for what. I’ll leave the last word to the very contentious issue of third level fees. Our minister for finance indicates that students should be responsible for their own college fees.  Whether right or wrong, there is negative reaction to this from certain quarters.  Have these quarters asked themselves where the money is coming from to fund their currently “free” fees?

Nothing is ever really free. Even if the students themselves (or their parents) aren’t paying the fees, someone is.  Everyone who pays taxes is funding these fees. Is this a good thing, a bad thing, or does it matter?  There seems to be mixed reaction to this, much of it arising from how directly people feel the fees are coming out of their own pocket. It all comes down to whose money is being spent – your own or some mysterious others? The aggregate of the tax of a very large number of people loses all personal meaning and, put simply, is meaningless in comparison with ones own earnings and how that is spent.

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A timeout

This is supposed to be an education-related blog but I really want to share a funny (and true!!) story that happened during the week. Ah, the joys of running the local post office, I’ll bet it’s great fun.

Decided to stop by post office on way to work to post a letter and pay 3 weeks over due licence for my televisual device. Teller gives me the stamp and I lick it (bleugh) and put it on envelop while he goes and processes my televisual device licence. He comes back and saysI gotta pay for the stamp in cash coz its only 55c and a seperate transaction to the televisual device licence. I say ok, and then uhoh. Realise I dont have a single cent in change on me, nuthin, only plastic. Oufff. Cue hilarious few moments – teller looking at me in complete disgust coz he thinks I’ve pulled a fast one on him. Me trying not to laugh coz I know I’m innocent and its all completely accidental, and the fact that he’s looking at my stamped letter and I’m wondering if he’s so annoyed he’s gonna ask for me to tear the stamp off the envelop. This goes on for several minutes. In the end he decides to let me off with price of stamp. I say I’ll drop in the following morning with the 55c but he completely doesnt believe me and his face stays the colour and expression of thunder. I make for the door and out before I collapse in giggles.

By the by, I did go back with the 55c. He was so surprised. I reckon I made his day