From Socialist Voice, November 2008

The wealthy are living on our backs

A Bank of Ireland private banking report last year revealed that
• 1 per cent of the population hold a third of the wealth, with assets of €100 billion in 2006 (excluding the value of housing).
• Including house property, the richest 1 per cent hold 20 per cent of the wealth, the richest 2 per cent hold 30 per cent, and the richest 5 per cent hold 40 per cent.
• There were 33,000 millionaires in 2006, of whom 3,000 had between €5 and €30 million and 330 had more than €30 million.
• Over the “Celtic Tiger” years, from 1995 to 2007, the personal wealth of the richest 1 per cent of the population grew by €75 billion.
• In 2006 alone, Irish people invested €8 billion in overseas property; in 2007 the figure was €11 billion.
• €41 billion was invested in commercial property in the period 2001–06, and much of that money was in turn invested in commercial property outside Ireland.
     Yet the Revenue Commissioners’ figures state that there are only 7,857 taxpayers with an income of more than €275,000 and indeed only about 25,000 with an income of more than €150,000.
     Going on tax returns, our wealthy elite is mostly made up of couples who each earn between €75,000 and €137,000.
     According to the Bank of Ireland, about 40,000 people in Ireland share personal assets of €100 billion, yet there are fewer than 8,000 households with a declared taxable income of more than €275,000.
     On the one hand we have figures that suggest that the elite was increasing its wealth by an average of at least €10 billion a year in the last few years; on the other hand the Revenue Commissioners assess the total income of the highest-earners at only €4.7 billion.
     These figures make it clear that a relatively small group of people made vast fortunes from the “Celtic Tiger.” One can only conclude that the very rich have been able to keep the bulk of their wealth outside the Irish tax system.
     As all the tribunals, present and past, have shown, in the 1980s and 90s the rich secured their wealth by illegal tax evasion. But over the last decade the Department of Finance and the Fianna Fáil coalition Governments allowed wholesale legal “tax avoidance.” They allowed their rich backers the means to escape paying tax—the elite that has creamed off €75 billion.
     These are the people who lecture us on patriotism, on tightening our belts. They tell us we have too many public-sector workers; that we are all living beyond our means; that private health is good for us (so they can make plenty of profits from it); and that small government is good (as it gives them more room to make bloated profits).

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