"Bono, Preacher on Poverty, Tarnishes Halo With Irish Tax Move"

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2002-05-20-bono-africa2.jpg

Via Bloomberg's Fergal O'Brien via Drudge comes the latest adventure from U2's Bono (show above in an unguarded moment during the qualifying rounds of the Triwizard Tournament):

Bono, the rock star and campaigner against Third World debt, is asking the Irish government to contribute more to Africa. At the same time, he's reducing tax payments that could help fund that aid.

After Ireland said it would scrap a break that lets musicians and artists avoid paying taxes on royalties, Bono and his U2 bandmates earlier this year moved their music publishing company to the Netherlands. The Dublin group, which Forbes estimates earned $110 million in 2005, will pay about 5 percent tax on their royalties, less than half the Irish rate.

More here.

Lest we forget: U2 is hardly alone among rock stars in trying to save cash on taxes (not that there's anything wrong with that, though to be pushing for more tax funding for something while dodging your own is a wee bit hypocritical). As the Rolling Stones and others might have said, "Gimme a Tax Shelter."

One way that Bono, the other members of U2, and all well-meaning folks can give something back: Push trade, not aid, as the road to wealth in Africa by publicizing the clever–and free for the asking!–"I buy goods from poorer countries" wristbands being pushed by the Adam Smith Institute.

wristbands.jpg

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  1. I think it was John Lennon who years ago said something like: even if I gave everything I had to the poor and hungry, they would still be poor and hungry.

  2. Another rich liberal, pushing the usual government cure-all elixir… dodging taxes. Why am I not surprised?

  3. Sorry to interrupt this Two Minute Hate, but Bono is already pushing international trade and the lowering of barriers to African exports.

    You are not surprised, The Libertarian Guy, because you have an attachment to stereotypes that is impervioius to reality.

  4. I ain’t wearing no wristband.

  5. Only an idiot would pay upto 42% on $100+ million if he didn’t have to. I read the article earlier. What Edge said made sense.

    I am not a huge fan of Bono. However ( as an earlier comment pointed out) I have always gotten the impression that part of his deal IS “pushing trade.” I have seen him on TV pushing goods crafted by poor Africans.

  6. The stereotype, joe, is you sticking up for any leftist, even a sports-goggle, pajamas-wearing asshat whose albums sucked since “War” (30 years ago).

  7. Bono the bonehead whats this idiot trying to pull now besides sticking his foot in his mouth?

  8. Yes, that would a stereotype, Mr. Niceguy, since I don’t do anything of the sort. Nothing substantive to add about the point I was making? Gee, what a shocker.

    Art,

    Do some research into the policies Bono and the groups he works with are pushing. All you’re doing is advertising your ignorance of the subject.

    It’s too bad you two can’t think about issues, beyond which side of the political fence someone stands on.

  9. I don’t trust anybody who wears sunglasses 24/7, but Art, you are being unfair. Trade is a big part of his organization’s platform. From their website:

    Rich countries are very interested in talking about the importance of trade as the primary motor of economic growth in developing countries, yet there?s been no real action because these rich countries heavily protect their own markets against exports from the poorest countries through import duties and quotas. Furthermore rich countries continue to subsidize their own agricultural sectors to the tune of a billion dollars a day, making it impossible for African farmers to compete internationally. What rich
    countries fail to realize is that fairer trade is not just an opportunity for Africa but for the all
    countries?even them.

  10. Trade is a big part of his organization’s platform.

    As far as I can see nobody has said that it wasn’t. The problem is that the other part of his platform is the one where he demands that governments (pronounced taxpayers) and debacles like the IMF and World Bank forgive a bunch of loans to corrupt African administrations that private banks never would have made in the first place.

  11. Rock stars. Is there anything they don’t know?

  12. One of the primary goals of the One Campaign (which I signed onto BTW) is to increase U.S. government spending on international HIV/AIDs and poverty. The chief spokesman for the One Camnpaign is Bono. On the other hand, Bono was instrumental in starting DATA, which does seek (amongst other things) to change the trading rules to so burden African countries, etc. Note that there are linkages between the One Campaign and DATA.

    Now can’t we all get along? 🙂

    http://www.one.org/

    http://www.data.org/

  13. swillfredo pareto,

    Well, debt forgiveness is an appropriate remedy IMHO; especially in cases where the population of a state had no real say in taking on the debt.

  14. Joe
    Ignorance is when you think someone asks for 50 billion dollars in taxpayer money, then moves hundreds of millions of dollars offshore after their zero income tax break is repealed, is a poster boy for free markets.
    Let’s try this again, when some one is standing on a pedastal hitting you over the head with a mallot, stop polishing the pedastal.

  15. Art,

    Ignorance is assuming that you know what Bono thinks about trade barriers because he also supports certain aid programs.

    Shallow, one dimensional thinking.

  16. There is another option. We could just foreclose on the whole continent, and use the foreclosure auction’s proceeds to fund redevelopment. Or just development. Can’t be any worse than the way most of the countries over there are run right now, that’s for sure.

  17. Pro Libertate,

    Do you mean seizing state owned property and the like? Or do you mean re-colonization?

  18. Joe
    It appears you have a incredibly hard time looking at actions and prefer to determine others feelings.
    Let’s try again, actions speak louder than words.

  19. Well, debt forgiveness is an appropriate remedy

    That (further) sets a bad precedent if you believe that government institutions should be in the business of loaning money. The already malodorous idea of politically packaged loans will now come with the intrinsic moral hazard of the perception on the part of the loan recipient that there is a high probability of unqualified debt forgiveness. And that still does not address the issue of what national interest is served by pouring American taxpayer’s money into corrupt African nations.

  20. Phileleutherus Lipsiensis,

    I was kidding, but I like the idea of seizing state-owned property.

    Legally, I assume the “loans” were of the unsecured variety. Even if they were secured, the legal means for procuring a judgment and actually seizing those assets would be convoluted, if it exists at all in international law. Naturally, the creditor nations could just get the judgment and use their military might to seize whatever property necessary, but I somehow don’t see that happening. If it does, the U.S. and its resident private creditors should call first dibs on South Africa and Nigeria.

  21. Bono’s glasses report. Current color: Blue

  22. The (forgotten) point being, is the Bono is a fucking hypocrite. Encouraging tax money to be spent, yet avoiding it himself. Encouraging other people to donate/trade, yet not doing so himself (why can’t his publishing company set up in Ghana, for example?)

    Yet another all-talk-rich-ass-bitch who barely cracks open his own wallet when it comes to charity. At least he’s better than Sting (who sooo “graciously” offered $250K yoga lessons to benefit Tsunami relief – loves taking the credit.)

  23. Thank God! Bono is here to save the world…with your tax money. Celebrities always seem to love doling out cash to solve ills…it just never seems to be any of their personal stash. Politicians and celebrities just continue to merge into one group.

    Hypocritical tax-dodges or valid free trade arguments aside, I never quite understood the debt forgiveness. Once defaulted debts are forgiven wouldn’t the first thing these nations do is ask for more loans?

  24. Oh, and on the “I buy goods from poorer countries” schtick. I dare… dare someone to show up to an AFL-CIO meeting with that emblazoned on their tee-shirt. I double dog dare you.

  25. Where did that $110 million come from?

    Touring.

  26. not that there’s anything wrong with that, though to be pushing for more tax funding for something while dodging your own is a wee bit hypocritical

    The operative phrase being wee bit. Love him or hate him, Bono has spent way more than his fair share (of time and money) trying to help Africa.

  27. Money speaks louder thand words. Makes you wonder WWJD?

  28. Why are there no comments, yet a number of comments are indicated by the counter?

  29. Weird… it must have been my browser.

  30. The Real Bill,

    Nope, I observed the same phenomenon. One uses the Bono’s name in vain at one’s peril.

    opus,

    Silly question. Jesus would have a party and bring infinite quantities of wine and fish. The poor Africans could eat and drink their fill, then they could sell the infinite surplus. Of course, that could create inflationary pressures, but I’m sure Jesus could deal with those, too. Oh, and Hendrix would be playing at Jesus’ version of Live Aid. As would Beethoven (with his jammin’ sonatas–Ludwig van on the pianoforte, natch).

  31. As another Live 8, tax evading band sang:

    Money, it’s a hit.
    Don’t give me that do goody good bullshit.
    I’m in the high-fidelity first class traveling set
    And I think I need a lear jet.
    Money, it’s a crime.
    Share it fairly but don’t take a slice of my pie.

  32. Where did that $110 million U2 made in 2005 come from? When was the last time they had a hit? Do they even play anymore? The only time I see Bono is when he’s shopping with Oprah or schmoozing with Senators. No wonder the rest of U2 are perfectly fine with Africans starving.

    Joe, PL, and the others are right, by the way. The whole gist of the Live 8 thing was to move from Aid to Trade, and any time Bono makes a public appearance he’s hawking local crafts or shoes made in Mali like a QVC microcelebrity. The issue of his possible or probable hypocrisy is another matter, but I go with Judge Learned Hand:

    Over and over again courts have said that there is nothing sinister in so arranging one’s affairs so as to make taxes as low as possible.

    Everybody does so, rich or poor, and do right, for nobody owes any public duty to pay more taxes than the law demands.

    Taxes are enforced exactions, not voluntary contributions

  33. I’m surprised at how easily people have swallowed the “dodging taxes makes Bono a hypocrite” argument. It doesn’t make any sense past an instinctual level. If this guy wants the Irish government to do something, and they’re not doing it, then he’s showing his lack of support for their policies by not contributing any more cash than he legally has to.

  34. If I were in Bono’s position, I’d shelter as much income as I could, and instead of paying tax to Dublin that would get ground up in the bureaucratic mills before delivering a kernel of aid to some poor country, I’d just affiliate with a foundation or start my own when I wanted to donate to my causes.

    It’s an infortunate fact of Irish life that, “Celtic Tiger” or no, social democracy is the default condition for politics there. Even the “libertarianish” Progressive Democrats support government spending that appalls me.

    Kevin

  35. It’s actually really simple to formulate a “dodging taxes makes Bono a hypocrite” argument. While calling for increased donation of public monies to third world nations, Bono acts to remove a sizable chunk of his own said taxable income to a place with more favorable tax policies once the getting’s good.

    Even at the reduced rate of GDP being donated to Africa, that means less money going to the same aid plan that he’s lobbying for more of. Is there another definition of hypocrisy that we’re not aware of?

    I don’t mind that he wants aid and trade reform for Africa, but why not stick to asking for private party donation rather than taking it by force from the population?

  36. Even at the reduced rate of GDP being donated to Africa, that means less money going to the same aid plan that he’s lobbying for more of. Is there another definition of hypocrisy that we’re not aware of?

    Well said.

    So let me add my .2 cents. One has the right to pay as little taxes as the laws allow. However, if one (at the same time) publicly demands an increasing chunk of public monies (read, other people’s money) to go to countries with bad governance, then one is fair game to any howls of hypocrisy that might ensue.

    Bottom line: pay as little taxes as you can, but don’t complain that ‘we’ don’t pay enough- either explicitly or implicitly. just keep your big, fat mouth shut.

  37. Tolly, Paul, your logic only works if the Irish government is in fact planning on donating Bono’s requested amounts of money to Bono’s requested causes. If they were, he would be a hypocrite. Since they’re not, there’s nothing hypocritical about keeping his tax money for himself. Simple.

  38. Where did that $110 million U2 made in 2005 come from?

    They had a wildly successful album in How To Dismantle An Atom Bomb, which they spent a huge chunk of ’05 touring to support, and which ultimately earned them five Grammys a few months back, including Album and Song of the Year. The iPod “U2 Edition” tie-in with Apple probably didn’t hurt much either. By pretty much any conventional standard for measuring such things (critical acclaim, chart standing, tour proceeds) U2 are still among the most successful bands in the world. And let’s face it, if Rattle And Hum couldn’t derail their career, nothing else is likely to.

  39. While calling for increased donation of public monies to third world nations, Bono acts to remove a sizable chunk of his own said taxable income to a place with more favorable tax policies once the getting’s good.

    This formulation is only hypocritical if you assume he is not planning to use his own said income to donate to third world nations himself.

    Let’s say Bono is calling for Ireland to use 10% of their tax revenue for third world debt relief, that he had $100 million in income, and that he would owe 50% of his income in taxes. That means if he left his money in Ireland, $50 million would go to the government, and $5 million would make its way to the third world.

    So instead he moves his money to a tax “haven” where his income is taxed at a 25% rate. Now $25 million goes to the government, none of which goes to the third world. But Bono can give $10 million himself to third world debt relief. This way the amount of money going to his chosen charity is doubled, while Bono himself still has more money left over than he would have otherwise.

    Simplistic, obviously, but the point is, you can’t call him hypocritical unless you know what he’s doing with his own money.

  40. People, people, people!
    Relax, take a deep breath. Now let’s get down to business.
    You are losing sight of the really important issues here. Bono has a big bubble-butt, dresses silly, and is in a band that sucks elephant balls. I don’t care if is out there buying blow-jobs for AIDS infected orphans, U2 has given us and has inspired more rock star Christ poses and bombastic drivel than Jesus and Led Zeppelin combined. He can go to hell!

    Uh, sorry, too much coffee.
    U2 sucks, but Bono’s heart is probably in the right place, and I don’t think the tax dodge is hypocritical.

  41. Brian24 / zach

    Can’t find my way back to the article but it stated that currently Ireland donates .07 percent GDP to third world affairs or something to that effect. Whether it’s 10 or 7, by moving income out of the system Bono makes certain that none of this income will reach Africa under the system he proposes all of Ireland gets shackled to. And those people dont have access to the army of accountants to squirrel their money over international borders.

    True, Bono may be planning on donating 100% of his income to Africa. He might also be using it to construct a rocket to bring back cheese from the moon to feed all the starving Africans. There’s really no saying, but the hoops he’s jumping through and the PR replies don’t exactly scream “charitable intentions”. For that, he’d be throwing news conferences and picking out a ridiculous pair of googles for the event.

    highnumber has the more important concern- U2 has sucked hard since Zooropa.

  42. Legally “dodging” taxes: good.

    Legally stealing from rich countries via taxation to give to kleptocrats: bad.

    ’nuff said.

  43. swillfredo parete,

    “the intrinsic moral hazard of the perception on the part of the loan recipient that there is a high probability of unqualified debt forgiveness. And that still does not address the issue of what national interest is served by pouring American taxpayer’s money into corrupt African nations.”

    Both legitimate concerns. Most of the proposals I’ve seen would address this problem by linking debt forgiveness to responsible fiscal and economic policies, as well as to democratic and goo-goo reforms intended to prevent graft.

    Tolly, “the hoops he’s jumping through and the PR replies don’t exactly scream “charitable intentions”.”

    On the other hand, the prodigious amounts of time and money he has already donated to African development and reform in Africa and Europe don’t exactly scream “buy coke to snort off hookers.”

  44. You people don’t know what you are talking about. Your understanding of basic economics and the political implications of the subject matter are totally lacking, for it is absolutely obvious to a clear-thinking person that the last good album that U2 made was Joshua Tree.

    ?

  45. Joshua Tree the last good album?
    Fine, but they were never great.
    The Edge – an interesting guitar player.
    That is the kindest thing I will say about them.

  46. Well, we all know that hypocrisy is the worst sin in the world. I’d expect half as many comments if Bono had gone out and shot someone…

    Seriously guys, what gives. The dude dedicates a few decades to a pretty worthwhile cause and all you have to say is “he’s a hypocrite cuz his band is moving” and “his shades suxorz.”

    First of all, it’s completely legitimate for him to take his money and walk. If Ireland is taking more of it than someone else and refuses to do with it what he wants, more power to him for getting out. Had Bono’s policies actually been enacted prior to the move, perhaps a point might be available for the making here.

    Second, even if he were a hypocrite, who cares? Who among us isn’t? Who among us has spent even a fraction of our lives helping others? For that matter, who among us can realistically claim to be a better musician? (I’m not a huge U2 fan, but the songs I’ve heard don’t seem terrible).

    I’m amazed that with all the outrages we see are H&R that this of all things has seen this many comments. I propose that the cycle of elevating, then trashing celebrities is a deep and fundamental motivator for many…

  47. The dude dedicates a few decades to a pretty worthwhile cause and all you have to say is “he’s a hypocrite cuz his band is moving” and “his shades suxorz.”

    I also want to add that he is really freakin’ short.

  48. I propose that the cycle of elevating, then trashing celebrities is a deep and fundamental motivator for many…

    No, that’s the media’s job. We never elevate in the first place.

  49. Bono is also suing his former stylist over unauthorised memoribilia she tried to sell at auction.

    Anyway, Bono already pays a lot in taxes on his many business interests in Ireland, I’m sure, not to mention all his other non-royalty income. The artists’ exemption didn’t cover merchandising, income, for instance – only income derived from creative work. Perhaps U2 Inc has moved, though, and not just the publishing. And don’t forget Ireland’s 21% VAT rate. That’s a consumption tax. Rich people like Bono consume a lot.

  50. Every album U2 has is a hit and they win tons of Grammy Awards.

    Even if they didn’t..the top touring bands are rarely the Flavor of the Week..

    The Rolling Stones havent had a hit that I know of in about 10 years but they always sell out tours. U2 might not be in their league, but they are close and actually churn out hits.

  51. When was the last time they had a hit? Do they even play anymore?

    They are touring right now. I saw them in December (they were great). Their recent album sold zillions. To me, their most recent albums aren’t as good as the ones through Achtung Baby, but the albums contains some good songs, many of which sound amazing live (live performances being the main reason for U2’s fame, rather than their albums).

  52. On the other hand, the prodigious amounts of time and money he has already donated to African development and reform in Africa and Europe don’t exactly scream “buy coke to snort off hookers.”

    That’s why he needs the sunglasses.

  53. Today’s Serenity Exercise:

    Look at the photo under the caption. Imagine it’s a frame from a movie, the successor frames of which will feature the old geezer on the right hauling off and knocking a few of Bono’s oh-so-Enlightened teeth down his oh-so-Sensitive throat.

    There! Admit it – you feel better already!

    As per U2, I liked their first single (I Will Follow), but after that, I found the proceedings pretty dire.

    Smile!

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