On Ireland and taxes: Let’s try this again

Nov 23, 2010

Dan Primack was a senior editor at Fortune from 2010 to 2016. He was also the author of Term Sheet, Fortune's daily newsletter about deals and dealmakers.

Getting hammered by the email readership this morning, for including my note about how John McCain once held Ireland up as a beacon of fiscal sanity. Scott sums it up:

"Dan, your narrow cause and effect analysis of McCain's statements and Ireland's economy are nothing short of dopey. This inane commentary pleasures only you, not your readers. No more of this or half your audience will stop reading your emails entirely."

Let me be clear: I never argued cause and effect. Instead, I kind of argued the opposite.

My point was not that Ireland's corporate tax rate caused the nation's financial crisis. It was that Ireland's corporate tax rate did not prevent the nation's financial crisis.

McCain made his statements in the fall of 2008, when America was in the most panicked phase of its recession. His discussion of Ireland was in that context -- suggesting that were we to follow the Irish model, perhaps we wouldn't be in such a mess. Considering that Ireland itself has now found itself similarly dirty, McCain's certainty can no longer hold water.

It is indeed possible that Ireland would be in even worse shape had it been using a higher corporate tax rate. It also is possible that things would be better. We do not know. Neither did McCain.

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