I was there during the summers of 1987 and 1988. It seemed to us Irish that some of the steam was running out of both the economy and the Dukakis' Presidential bid during 1988. With less work to go around, there were stories of union-inspired inspections of construction sites where illegals might be working.
I was reminded of these events when reading a recent State Aid case in relation to golf in the United Kingdom (here). The case involves a complaint by the Association of Golf Club Owners against member-owned golf clubs. The complaint was submitted against a background of declining golf playing numbers. For example, Golf England says that in the decade after 2004, golf club membership declined by 20%. While this was not just a UK phenomenon (see here), it does help provide some possible motivation for the complaint.
The complaint centres on relief from corporate taxation granted to Community Amateur Sports Clubs (CASC). The relief was on £30,000 of trading revenue and £20,000 of revenue from property. It was alleged that this exemption provided "selective advantage" to CASCs and also potentially damaged intra-EU trade. The EU Commission reached the conclusion that the tax measure "does not constitute State aid pursuant to Article 107(1) TFEU". This conclusion was based on the fact that CASCs did not compete in competitions at professional level, had a geographically limited attraction zone, and the amounts involved were relatively small (although the amount across all CASCs might be sizable).
It seems that State Aid is becoming a new battleground for sport as participants realise the opportunities afforded by Article 107.
And it is not only sport. While many Irish were heading to the US in the 1980s, an increasing number of US companies were heading to Ireland. Apple Computers located a plant in Cork. Three decades after the Cork plant was established the EU Commission is investigating the legality of the tax arrangements between Apple and the Irish authorities. It is doing this under a State Aid investigation.
Like the events in Boston construction, or in the UK golf industry, a downturn in economic activity could have been the catalyst. The decline in fiscal revenues that accompanied the Great Recession led to a greater inspection of corporate tax regimes. Apple came under the spotlight when Carl Levin invited Apple Inc to talk to his Permanent Sub-Committee on Special Investigations. Apple and the Irish government have been on the back-foot ever since. In the coming months the EU Commission will issue a decision on whether or not Apple received unfair State Aid from Ireland via corporate taxation. It could have important implications for a policy that sought to bring US companies to Ireland rather than have Irish people going to the US to work.