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September 19, 2013


Colum McCaffery

I accept this and I will share it on FB. However, when it comes to political debate and especially to the Labour Party, and to the wider left generally, there is a problem. Your economic argument is that the amount paid in tax by Irish business and business owners is considerably less than some European counterparts and that if they moved towards the top of the table, the increased tax take could be used to soften state spending cuts. The economic counter argument is that the rich need a money incentive to do business for the trickle down system to work. Your moral argument implied in the piece is that business could pay a fairer share in taxation. The moral counter argument is that it wouldn’t be fair to ask one section of society to pay any more – as you put it - “ to assist in the fiscal crisis”.

The problem is that all four of these arguments share a conservative root. They all back the basic position of Labour in government: that restoration of the economy and fixing the fiscal crisis are the prime considerations and that changes to the structures of inequality can wait. Now, of course I accept that the rich have contributed proportionately more to “sharing the burden” (That’s a major feature of the fairness argument.)but there is no desire for systematic change to the multiples between the poor and the top, say, 10 or 20% of earners. The structure is to be maintained.

It’s like this: The primary purpose of Labour in government should be at least to reduce inequality of income. Whether cutting spending or increasing spending the question should be, “By how much will this alter the present structure of inequality?” This is not incompatible with increased economic activity or increased prosperity but it is incompatible with restoring the old economy based on shameful levels of income inequality.

Those in cabinet who will make the decisions and those on the left who will participate in the public controversy lack data. Since 2012 equality auditing has been a Labour position but it is a well-kept secret and Labour’s harshest critics seem to want to keep it secret too.* Bluntly, if reducing income inequality is a concern for a person in cabinet, committee or the pub, the budget cannot be evaluated without the audit data. I fear that the truth might be that hardly anyone is really interested in changing the structure of inequality in Ireland. **


** From a year ago:

Raymond Fitzpatrick

An 'academic argument' by an overpaid government apologist. Reminds me very much of Daniel O'Connell's defence of child labour.

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