Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Irish patriotism, the rich, and tax returns

Gombeen Man is often accused of being “unpatriotic”. As it happens, it’s one of the fairer criticisms aimed at this blog, and he is glad to pronounce himself guilty as charged. Mindless patriotism – and isn’t it mindless by necessity – and religion have been the two ever-present factors in war, persecution and division down the ages. They both still exist only because we have not evolved sufficiently as yet.

I remember reading a quote from Brendan Behan, of all people, some years back. Something to the effect that he was proud to be a Dubliner “so far as you can be proud of being born somewhere”. Then there was a letter in Metro two weeks ago, of a lower literary elevation, where someone declared that they “loved being Irish”. What? As if it's a choice.

You won’t find any of that guff here - Gombeen Man is very definitely an internationalist. But while he cannot see the attraction of patriotism for the vast bulk of the populace, he can appreciate why the Irish “elite” might be well disposed towards it; and why Brian Lenihan might invoke it to appeal to the more stupid of the population at large.

An excellent piece by Fintan O’Toole appeared in yesterday’s Irish Times, entitled “Rich elite due a dose of patriotic punishment”. O’Toole compiled some telling statistics (some from a Bank of Ireland Private Banking report of last year) on the prolificacy of the “boom” years, bought on cheap credit and property-based tax incentives for the rich.

Some of the highlights are:

1% of the population in Ireland had assets of EUR 100 billion in 2006.

The top 1% owns 20% of the wealth, the top 2% owns 30%, and the top 5% owns 40%.

There were 33,000 millionaires in Ireland in 2006.

And most tellingly:

During the “Celtic Tiger” years (1995-07) the personal wealth of the top 1% of the population grew by EUR 75 billion.

That’s all pretty fascinating, isn’t it? And maybe if I was one of them I’d have a little tricolour flying over Gombeen Manor. Maybe I’d stand up for the national anthem? Maybe I’d start speaking Gaelic? OK, scrub the last two, at least.

Fascinating as those figures are, O'Toole - one of the few commentators worth reading - goes on to describe how Bank of Ireland’s figures seem to be at odds with those of Revenue. And bear with me here, as you must assimliate this information against a backdrop of Budget cuts attacking pensioners, schoolchildren and ordinary working people.

It seems that Revenue can account for only 7,857 taxpayers with incomes of more than EUR 275,000 in Ireland, and only a paltry 25,000 who earn more than EUR 150,000. “In effect, we have, on the one hand, about 40,000 people sharing personal assets of EUR 100 billion and on the other we have fewer than 8,000 households with a declared taxable income of more than EUR 275,000”, O’Toole states.

So, what can we in Gombeen Nation conclude from the above? If there is really is such a black hole in the tax take, it would point to Revenue being a prime candidate for root-and-branch reform of certain Civil Service sectors. For on this evidence, it would seem that they do not bother to look beyond the easy target of the PAYE sector to raise taxes.

It also means the Government have a simple remedy for balancing the books. After years of using property tax shelters to distort the market and transfer wealth from the have-nots to the haves, they can always take the novel option of taxing the wealthy, who have become even more obscenely so thanks to the uniquely Irish, State-sponsored reverse socialism of the boom years.

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Anonymous said...

Why don't you pick your favourite nigger slum in Africa and go and live there ?

They will probably worship you as a superior being (which you would be, technically).

Now that the recession is beginning to bite, nigger-lovers like you are going to be under increasing pressure here.

Just be careful, that's all.

I have been told that a lot of niggers are leaving D.15 , due to the skangers making their lives a misery.

How sad.

I use the word niggers here in its hip-hop sense, you know.

The Gombeen Man said...

Love it.

I take it you're one of the "more stupid of the population at large" referred to, rather than the "elite"?

Thanks for proving my point.

Anonymous said...

There seem to be a lot of young Irish
lads around with views like the one above. Pity. Weren't the Irish called 'white niggers' in some countries?

The Gombeen Man said...

Yep, that's my recollection too. It's sad alright.

Anonymous said...

This type of stereotypical racism will be played upon by political parties in this country for their own ends as well as being used as an excuse for violence against innocent people moving forward.

These idiots that populate the local pub and bookies with too much time on their hands should have their dole cut and that way they might find something constructive to do.

The Gombeen Man said...

Yes, Anon, you are absolutely correct. The frightening thing is that there are idiots like Banjo Boy (as I call him) out there.

statue collector said...

speaking about Brendan Behan, I made a page about him: Behan in Dublin
great Irish writer by the way... it's even funnier to read you 'cause I'm not Irish

Anonymous said...

i did not get a good look at your site- i found it while i was just looking up the fintan o'tooel piece- as i had lost if off my computer- i too thought it was excellent, and id eamiled it to a few.....I often thought of settign up a site like yours ...with a similar title....I am from the north and i have oftne noticed that irish peopel never see anythign wrong with here- its only those who are from the north & north, england, europe, etc that point out the things on your site...i think a lot of it is due to a rote learnign education ( the shortest education cycle in western world- 5 yrs as transition yr is not necessary) leaving people here often unable to think for themselves...yes i often think what is wrong is a lack of information among ordinary irish about just how far behind this country is...and also that ever since independnce govt and tax policies always favour the rich...this is a good site

The Gombeen Man said...

Well Anon, I am always delighted to receive messages of support, as they give me some small sense of hope that I'm not alone.

Glad you like the site, and I'd encourage you to set up your own, as I think voices of dissent are few and far between on such matters at the mo'.

You are spot on. Most people who like/agree with what I'm saying have not been born here. I think too many Irish people are quite simply stuck up their own a**ses, and are infused with an uncritical attitude towards the State and its mores.

Guess I'm just a bit of an oddity here, as I've felt like this from when I was a kid!!!

Thanks again. Keep visiting, and lets know if you get a site up and running: I'll give you a link.