The Highway Rat of ISME

I left this comment on’s article titled ‘‘Put her back in her box’: ISME slams Burton’s call to raise minimum wage‘, about Mark Fielding, ISME boss.

“He even stole his own horse’s hay.” That’s a line from The Highway Rat by popular children’s author Julia Donaldson, about a rat for whom robbery is a raison d’être. This image of a thieving rat whose abusiveness is matched only by his stupidity is appropriate as a metaphor for understanding the phenomenon that is Mark Fielding, ISME chief executive.

It works on two levels. First, small and medium enterprises need people to buy their products. Fielding’s opposition to an increase in the minimum wage is consistent with ISME’s stances throughout the entire economic crisis: the purchasing power of consumers must be destroyed through austerity. Thus the ‘horse’ –small and medium enterprises- must be starved of its ‘hay’ – consumer spending that becomes the revenue stream of those firms.

Second, the ‘horse’ as the combined workforce of Ireland’s small and medium enterprises. Fielding is treated by Ireland’s media as a representative of the interests of all small and medium businesses. It is similar to the way David Quinn of the Iona Institute is treated as representative of all lay Catholics, with the difference that Fielding is treated as if he were the representative of both the business owners and the employees. Yet Fielding consistently advocates policies that hammer the living standards of these employees. And he does so on behalf of a stratum of male stuffed shirts who spunked away much of their firms’ revenue on failed property deals during the boom and who, for all their braying in golf clubs and hotel lobbies about entrepreneurship and innovation, rely on State supports at every turn to prop up their revenues.

Note that it is not just State supports: they also rely on the labour of one million unwaged carers, mostly women, who keep Irish society operational. Then rats like Fielding turn around and boast about how his members would refuse to hire “buxom young woman of child-rearing years”, to use his words.

But it is not just stealing his own horse’s hay that Fielding excels at: he is also adept at biting the hand that feeds him. Joan Burton may have made favourable comments about raising the minimum wage, but she has also presided over JobBridge, a scheme that is both a massive effective subsidy to SMEs and an all-out attack on the principle that people should get paid in exchange for their labour.

A less pathologically greedy rat would keep his mouth shut under such circumstances, but Fielding could not help himself, launching a scandalously sexist verbal attack that also showed a sense of entitlement to the levers of power, of the kind one might expect to see from a captain of industry in a fascist regime. It therefore mystifies me why any small business owner would want to send money in the direction of this loudmouth clown.

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One response to “The Highway Rat of ISME

  1. Pingback: Ignorance is strength | The Cedar Lounge Revolution

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