By Mick Barry TD
Working-class people will be worse off next year than we were in 2023. This government is shamefully prioritising the interests of big business and the super-rich over our needs.
Despite all the government’s hype about the Budget, the changes will not be sufficient to offset the ravages of the cost of living crisis. This was a Budget that in the main, unsurprisingly, delivered for the landlords via tax breaks, rather than those suffering from the housing crisis.
The wealth that exists
But it doesn’t have to be this way. There is more than enough wealth in Irish society to improve life for the vast majority of people. Some economists predict a state surplus of €65 billion over the next four years. Even if this were to prove to be double what transpires, it is clearly a sum that could be used to address the fundamental problems confronting working-class people.
But there’s a lot more wealth concentrated in a few hands than any of the projected budget surplus totals. Corporation profits have increased from €75 billion in 2012 to €250 billion in 2021, and have risen again since then.
The Socialist Party stands for a corporation tax rate of 25%. This would raise over €40 billion more than is currently raised in corporation tax, far more than is likely to be lost by any disinvestment. Getting rid of Ireland’s status as a tax haven for big business would free up billions to be invested in the vital public services we need like the creation of new, one-tier public health service – free at the point of use.
The number of people with net wealth in excess of $50 million has increased from 655 to 1,435 in the decade from 2012-2021. The richest 5% of householders (93,000) own €388 billion, an average of €4.2 million each. A mere 2% tax on this wealth (excluding a primary residence valued at less than €1m) would raise €6 billion.
A 50% tax on individual incomes between €100-150,000, coupled with 55% taxes on incomes from €150-200,000, 60% on €200-275,000 and 65% on €275,000+ would raise a further €3 billion.
Radical socialist change
We need policies such as free, quality public childcare; free, reliable and accessible public transport; a basic social welfare payment of €350 per week; a national minimum wage of €17 per hour; abolition of the regressive Universal Social Charge; and a state construction company to enact a major increase in social and affordable housing. All of this is possible. It just requires taking the key wealth and resources out of private hands and democratically planning their use – that’s what a socialist government would do.
But Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael are the gatekeepers of capitalist inequality. They need to be removed from office, but the system needs to be changed too. We need public ownership of the wealth owned and controlled by the vulture funds, corporations and billionaires. In short, all the main problems in society that successive governments have not only failed to solve but made worse, demand a socialist solution.