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Inequality needs addressing

Your editorial (Aug 10) “Fairness must define the budget” had the ring of wishful thinking about it — if the depression has taught us one thing it is that Irish politicians do not do “fairness”.

We simply have to look over the last budget to see that the poorest saw their incomes tumble while the wealthiest saw very significant increases in theirs — and this situation was delivered with a Labour Party at the helm.

Two events in the same week as your editorial demonstrated that things are very unlikely to change. Firstly we had the politicians clapping themselves on the back because the wealthiest elites have paid 30% income tax in the last year figures are available for. This looks impressive when compared to what they had previously being paying, thanks to the likes of Charlie McCreevy, a paltry 5%. (Astonishing to think that this state of affairs was going on for years and nobody in power thought that it might be in the slightest unfair.) So it is not surprising to find that Ireland is the unfairest country in Europe when you see that our highest tax rate is 41%, while in civilised countries like Denmark or Sweden high end income attracts rates of the order of 63%.

And needless to say, not a suggestion of introducing even one additional tax band here to address the appalling distributive injustice.

Secondly, we had the Minister for “Social Protection” preparing the ground to make more cuts on the incomes of those struggling on a pittance. She said that some welfare payments “cannot be justified” and held a straight face at the same time. Thoughts of her own massive remuneration package never crossed her mind — -not to mention the massive pensions we continue to pay retired politicians, some with four or five other income streams — that would suggest that the concept of fairness is at least understood and that wouldn’t do at all because it might just ignite the notion that maybe “sharing” what we have a little better might go a long way to creating a better place — and might even contribute significantly to solving our many other problems.

Mitt Romney is touring the US promising that if elected he will push those in poverty into penury. Social justice group Network have issued Romney with an invitation to spend a day with them as they work to help those with difficulties keeping up.

A similar invitation to ministers here might spark a revolution in Irish politics — decision making in the common good. It is well worth a try because the danger of another kind of revolution is smouldering away just waiting for a spark.

Jim O’Sullivan




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