Bill O’Reilly, the host of Fox News’s ‘The O’Reilly Factor,‘ is threatening to flee America if Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont — the self-described democratic socialist who is running for the Democratic Party nomination — is elected president. As quoted in the Huffington Post, O’Reilly said:
“If Bernie Sanders gets elected president, I’m fleeing … I’m going to Ireland. And they already know it. … I shouldn’t say it publicly because that will get Sanders more votes,” he said. “But I’m not going to pay 90 per cent of my income to that guy. I’m sorry. I’m not doing it.”
On February 16, Henry Farrell*, a recent emigrant from Ireland, an American citizen, and a journalist with the The Washington Post, gave O’Reilly some facts of present day Ireland; facts that are perhaps hidden from some Irish Americans who would like to believe that Ireland still dreams on the breasts of Mary Kate Danagher.
“O’Reilly is proud of his Irish ancestry, but he probably doesn’t know very much about what Ireland is like these days,” writes Farrell. “From the perspective of its Wwestern European neighbors, Ireland is a small, market-friendly, right-of-center country. But from the perspective of American conservatism, Ireland looks like a hellhole of socialism.”
Look at the taxes
“What would O’Reilly get in return for his money? First off, a tax system that is not all that different from the U S tax system for top earners, and arguably a little less favorable. The effective top Irish income tax rate is a little over half of income.
“In the rather unlikely event that Sanders was elected president in a landslide of socialist enthusiasm, turning the Senate and the House socialist, and introducing punitive taxes to impoverish rich Fox News opinionators, O’Reilly would still be in trouble. Even if he lived in Ireland, he would have difficulty avoiding U S taxes unless he renounced his U S citizenship.
The United States continues to regard U S expatriates as taxpayers, no matter where they reside. Ireland and the United States have a double taxation treaty, to prevent people being taxed twice for the same income — this might provide some loopholes for royalties and the like, but probably not enough to make an enormous difference. O’Reilly would likely find himself paying to support Sanders’s socialist American utopia from overseas.
Serious gun control.
Bill O’Reilly has strong views on his right to own guns to defend himself under the Second Amendment.
‘I have a right to protect myself, because there are crazed animals like the guy in Oregon. … There are people like that who will come after innocent people for no reason. And you are going to deny me protection? If I live out in a rural Oregon … where the nearest cop is 40 miles away? I can’t have a gun to protect my family?’
“The Irish attitude to guns is going to be a serious culture shock. First, he’ll be far worse off than he would be in rural Oregon. While there will surely be cops closer than 40 miles away, those cops will almost certainly be unarmed. In Ireland, police only carry arms under special circumstances. Most Irish police officers don’t even have firearms training.
“Furthermore, gun ownership is highly restricted in Ireland. People have to apply for a licence to own a gun, and are likely to be refused under many circumstances. Furthermore, there are heavy restrictions on kinds of guns that they are allowed to own — roughly speaking, guns for sport and hunting (sports pistols; shotguns; some kinds of rifles ) are OK, but handguns of the kind that O’Reilly could use for “self-defense” are not, let alone automatic weapons.
Irish health care
“O’Reilly denounces Obamacare as “socialism” because it uses taxpayers’ money to subsidize the poor. The Irish health-care system does the same thing, on a much larger scale, with a hospital system that is directly run by the government. In Ireland, hospital doctors are government employees (although many senior doctors earn substantial incomes on the side from private practice ). Everyone in Ireland is entitled to free basic health care in hospitals, and low income people get medical cards entitling them to free doctors’ visits and many other services.
“This system is far from perfect, which means that many middle-class and upper-middle-class people supplement it with private health insurance (so that, for example, they do not have to wait long times for some surgical procedures ). Even so, it’s socialized medicine on a scale which would be politically unthinkable in America. Ireland also has welfare benefits for the unemployed that are not notably generous by European standards, but are wildly permissive in comparison to their U S equivalents.
“There are other ways in which Ireland is more congenial to conservatives like O’Reilly. Most obviously, abortion is far more heavily curtailed in Ireland than the United States, although the conservative party leading government has promised to liberalise Ireland’s abortion laws this year (something which may be put on the back burner now, as parties scramble for power ).
“Even though Ireland is a conservative country by West European standards, it’s far, far to the left of U S conservative preferences on many key issues.
“If O’Reilly really thinks that Ireland is a good alternative to a Sanders-led America, it’s probably because he’s unfamiliar with what Ireland is really like as a country. If a putative Sanders administration were somehow able successfully to introduce Irish-style health care, an Irish-style welfare state and Irish-style gun control, it would be viewed by conservatives as a socialist revolution.”
Last week’s election has shown that Ireland has certainly changed; but until now there were many Bill O’Reillys among us, who had not noticed it.
*Henry Farrell is associate professor of political science and international affairs at George Washington University.