The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer – it’s official, says Richard Boyd Barrett

PBPA TD lashes gross unfairness and inequality in the distribution of austerity burden and calls for radical shift in tax policy

Richard Boyd Barrett TD for the People Before Profit Alliance/ULA challenged Taoiseach Enda Kenny today during leaders questions over the “gross inequality and unfairness” in the manner in which “the pain of austerity policies has been imposed on the least well-off and most vulnerable sections of Irish society, while the wealthiest people in the country have been protected and in some cases have actually increased their incomes.

Deputy Boyd Barrett’s challenge to the Taoiseach comes in the aftermath of Social Justice Ireland’s recent report showing that the poorest households in Irish society have seen their disposable incomes decline by 18% whereas the wealthiest households have seen their incomes actually rise by 4%.

Deputy Boyd Barrett also referred to answers he received recently from the Minister for Finance in response to Parliamentary Questions on the annual incomes of the highest earners in the country and the levels of effective tax paid.

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The answers provided by the Minister to questions submitted by Deputy Boyd Barrett detailed the earnings the top 10,000, top 1%, top 10%, top 20% of earners and showed that these very high earners are only paying effective income tax rates of between 29% and 21%. For example, the top 10,000 earners with total earnings of €5.959 billion and average earnings of €595,905 per year paid only €1.715 billion in income tax, an effective tax rate of 29%. The top 10% of earners with total earnings of €29.6 billion and average earnings of €136,710 per year only paid €7.08 billion in income tax, an effective rate of 24%.

Richard Boyd Barrett said: “It’s official – what ordinary people knew all along, what we have been saying in the Dail for the last year – the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer.

These facts and figures from social justice Ireland and the answer to my own Parliamentary questions demonstrate, in the most dramatic fashion, that working people and the poor are getting it in the neck with cuts and austerity while the very wealthiest in our society are being protected.

All the promises in the programme for government about “protecting the vulnerable and to burden sharing on an equitable basis” have now been fully exposed as hollow.

There is no equity. There is no burden-sharing. Rather, this government like the last government are using the atmosphere of recession and crisis to facilitate a further transfer of wealth from those who have virtually nothing to those who have virtually everything.

Contrary to the the constant government mantra that there is “no pot of gold” and their constant dismissal of our calls for higher taxes on the very wealthy, we discover that there is a massive and growing pot of gold in the hands of the super-rich in our society.

If for example we raised the effective tax rate on the highest 20% of earners to between 40 and 50 per cent, we could raise somewhere between five and six billion in extra taxes. This would still leave this group very well-off but it would allow us to halt and reverse all the cuts imposed on low and middle income earners, on the poor and on the vulnerable.

The government have constantly claimed they have no choices, that austerity and pain for ordinary people was a tragic necessity. We can now see definitively that that has been one big lie. Rather they have chosen to cold-bloodedly to attack the poor and protect the super-rich. That’s why it is vital that ordinary people , who are the victims of these unjust policies, begin to mobilise onto the streets. Only people power, protests and strikes can challenge this obscene injustice.