The Gist: Lee RIP, Welfare Cheats redux

The Gist: Lee RIP, Welfare Cheats redux

Comics, cruelty and cameos
Stan Lee lived to be 95 years old. Today, he died. 95 years is a long time- long enough for him to be a complicated person to write an obituary for. Fortunately this can be solved by ignoring the first 60 or so years of his life and discussing him as the man who created the Marvel universe and then wrote all its stories.
This would be easier if that were true, however.

Lee's comics career was one of nepotism and cruel credit-stealing from his co-creators, Ditko and Kirby. But the three shared progressive, New York values of tolerance and their characters' stories reflected that. The experience of the Jewish WW2 GI who was assigned the rank of Playwright became embedded in Marvel's heroes' narrative DNA. He may not have had much to do with his characters as they developed and grew into global icons but the power of that original creative bite has lingered long.

Those stories have turned out to be culturally important, as the Marvel universe has become one of the major forces reshaping movie-making. Marvel studio's use of all those characters over the last 10 years (and the staggering money they made) is comparable perhaps only to Star Wars as a transformative shift in the Hollywood ecosystem. And, at a time when much of the culture has flirted with facist notions, those stories stand as a pop culture bulwark of explicitly anti-fascist tales.

Welfare Cheats Itself
The Taoiseach set out his stand to become leader of Fine Gael by running a publicly-funded, deeply misleading campaign against the practically non-existent rounding error of social welfare fraud. After he had moved on, the Department's officials said that they wouldn't repeat it. "In retrospect I believe it was a mistake.", said the top official (who hadn't been there at the time).

And yet... and yet. It turns out that there may be an actual problem of cheating the Dept- but that the problem was not with recipients but with employers. RTE's reporter, Philip Boucher-Hayes reported on a Committee appearance by the Department's Assistant Secretary who confirmed that employers who have been discovered to have avoided paying PRSI are, as a matter of policy, not prosecuted. In addition, the Department refused to answer a question put to it by Senator Higgins asking what proportion of findings of bogus self-employment are quashed by their internal appeals office. Martin McMahon, a campaigner on the issue, asserted there was a policy to allow bogus self-employment to continue.

What the Department officials did say was that they didn't want any new laws requiring them to take action that would 'disrupt the labour market'.