Figures released by the Revenue Commissioners in 2012 show that the top 20% of income earners pay tax at only 21%, while the top 1% pay just 24%. In July, last year Social Justice Ireland reported that the gap between Ireland’s rich and poor is widening.
Over a single year, the disposable income of Ireland’s poorest households fell by a massive 18.6 %, while the income of the richest tenth increased by more than 4%.
The government’s austerity policies have had greatest impact on the least well-off and most vulnerable sections of our society, while the wealthiest have been protected.
The flat rate taxes and cuts in services introduced in successive budgets have impacted disproportionately on the lower paid and those on social welfare. The burden has been felt most by low and middle-income households and in school classrooms and hospital wards.
Many on the right still perpetuate the myth that we have no alternative to slashing wages and cutting services, despite mounting evidence that austerity is not working.
Last July, former IMF mission chief to Ireland, Ashoka Mody, cited the link between austerity and the negligible growth in the Irish economy over the last two years. He said innovative alternatives were needed.
Austerity suits a neo-liberal ideology. Nobel prize-winning economist, Paul Krugman, has shown how the case for austerity has crumbled. Joseph Stiglitz, also a Nobel prize winner, says when the economy is weak “it is economically preferable to raise taxes on those with high incomes than to cut State expenditure”.
Many believe that we have reached the social and economic limits of austerity and that we have to seek other solutions. Organisations such as Social Justice Ireland, ICTU, TASC, and the Nevin Economic Research Institute have constructed and developed alternatives.
The reader can do the research.