The Corner

Bono Chides ‘Cranky Left’ for Criticizing His Backing of Tax Competitiveness

The Left has figured out that Irish rock star and African-charity activist Bono is drifting off the reservation.

First, Bono gave a speech at Georgetown University in November 12 where he said: “Entrepreneurial capitalism takes more people out of poverty than aid. . . . In dealing with poverty here and around the world, welfare and foreign aid are a Band-Aid. Free enterprise is a cure.”

As if that weren’t bad enough, now he’s defending his decision to move U2’s publishing arm to the Netherlands in 2006 in order to avoid high tax rates.

The British Observer newspaper interviewed the singer while on a trip to West Africa last week and grilled him on his tax decisions: “Was it not hypocrisy for you to try to hold the Irish government to account for its spending while going through fairly exhaustive efforts to avoid paying in to the Irish Exchequer yourself ?”

Bono responded that “at the heart of the Irish economy has always been the philosophy of tax competitiveness” which he said “has taken our country out of poverty.” Furthermore he said it had helped Ireland weather a deep post-2008 recession. “It has been a successful policy. On the cranky left that is very annoying, I can see that. But tax competitiveness is why Ireland has stayed afloat. When the Germans tried to impose a different tax regime on the country in exchange for a bailout, the [Irish parliament] said they would rather not have the bailout.”

The left-leaning Irish Independent pounced on his words. “For many of us, U2’s use of a Dutch tax haven to avoid the full weight of the Irish tax system, sits oddly with their stridency on matters relating to doing the ‘right thing.’ . . . Could it be that ‘Blessed Bono’ has feet of clay? Could it raise doubt about his elevation to secular sainthood? Worse again, could the U2 frontman be just another ‘Do as I say — not do as I do’ man?”

I’d say Bono has simply woken up to the facts: Free markets best help those in need and the best way to see private philanthropy grow is not to levy punishingly high rates of taxation.

Bono himself admits to being taken aback at his new turn of thinking. After his speech at Georgetown, he laughed and put his head in his hands, “Rock star preaches capitalism. Wow. Sometimes I hear myself and I just can’t believe it!”

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