Wealth inequality is the hidden pandemic of our time

17 January 2022

Finance Minister refuses to consider wealth tax as fortunes of billionaires double
Wealth tax urgently needed to address obscene levels of inequality

Responding to today’s Oxfam report which shows that nine Irish billionaires added €18bn to their wealth during the Covid-19 pandemic, Labour’s Finance Spokesperson Ged Nash has called on the Minister for Finance to urgently introduce a wealth tax to help tackle spiralling levels of inequality and help resource a post-Covid recovery.

Deputy Nash said:

“Today’s Oxfam report highlights what we all know – that the extreme hoarding of wealth and the widening gap between the rich and poor causes both needless suffering and premature death.

“We also know that the gap between the have littles and have lots has completely spiralled out of control since the onset of Covid-19, with wealth inequality now becoming the hidden pandemic of our time.

“While the few Irish billionaires have seen their fortunes more than double during the pandemic, the already marginalised and those who are working in the everyday local economy are struggling to get by, with many pushed into poverty.

“This Government must shift the tax focus away from those who work the hardest to those who have the most. The question of taxes on vulgar levels of wealth is now a moral and ethical question as well as an economic one.

“Oxfam’s analysis shows, along with previous reports from the ESRI, IMF and others, that a special wealth tax could raise billions to support our public services and those who depend on them.

“Not only would such a tax help fund a post-Covid recovery, it would also help to reign in runaway inequality and an ever more powerful and entitled billionaire class.

“Despite all the evidence and the authoritative research available, the Minister for Finance has continually batted away Labour’s request to frame a discrete Irish wealth tax proposal.

“In light of today’s Oxfam report, the Minister must once again explain why he refuses to cost or entertain such a proposal.

“We saw some members of this government kite flying a ‘solidarity tax’ in the run up to last year’s budget but once the PR exercise was over, it was forgotten entirely. Such a progressive, albeit temporary tax measure, as proposed by the IMF would have presented an opportunity to fairly rebalance our economy and reduce the economic inequalities that have been exacerbated by the pandemic. 

“It would have been a modest tax on high rollers who have reaped high financial gains at a time when many frontline workers in retail, healthcare and childcare do not earn a living wage.

“Ordinary people cannot disproportionately carry the burden of economic and social recovery.  We need to see a decade of green investment and investment in world-class health, education and digital services and a special tax on accumulated, non-productive wealth should help with that task.”

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