Socialist Worker 380

Government ministers, right-wing economists and the media are telling us an economic ‘recovery’ is well under way.

We are being hit from all directions by self-congratulatory propaganda from our rulers on how austerity is a distant memory now that ‘we’ve turned the corner.’   However, for the majority of working class people who continue to struggle under the legacy of brutal taxes and cuts to wages, welfare and public services, there’s little appetite to celebrate.

For the Irish super-rich however, there are plenty of reasons to party like its 2005 again as, according to one newspaper, they ‘flock back once more to the country’s most expensive restaurants to toast the end of the bad times’.

Both the Sunday Independent and Sunday Times Rich Lists have recently revealed that a tiny minority of the population are richer now then even at the height of the Celtic Tiger.  The wealthiest 300 people were busy enjoying a massive €35 billion  increase in their fortunes.  Among the 13 billionaires on the Rich List in the mood to party is tax exile Denis O’Brien, who saw his wealth increase by 1.5 billion in 2014.  Thanks to 450 million in debt write-downs from AIB, Bank of Ireland and IBRC in order to buy the likes of Siteserv, The Beacon and Topaz, O’ Brien is now worth 5.97 billion.

This small elite group are now worth a staggering 85 billion, equivalent to 35% of the entire wealth the country produces in a single year and 20 billion more than the entire bottom half the population.  Thanks to a soaring stock market and rising corporate profits plus a rapidly inflating property bubble and government tax cuts for the wealthy, this extraordinary transfer of wealth from the poorest to the richest is creating vast levels of inequality.

Economic and Employment Mirage

Our leaders tell us we have the fastest growing economy in the EU.  In reality it’s an economic mirage that masks a stagnating domestic economy and a recovery in employment based on a race to the bottom for tens of thousands of workers.

Economic growth is measured by both Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and Gross Net Product (GNP) figures, but both are heavily inflated by multinational profits and  accountancy tricks such as companies temporarily parking their profits in Ireland before shipping them back to other countries to avoid taxes.  Exports are the only real growing sector, yet even here a $14 billion fall in imports and companies headquartered in Ireland contracting manufacturing overseas distorts these figures too.

Overall investment in the economy is still down 23 billion from 2007 and a collapse in government spending of 5.6 billion below its peak puts a halt to any real economic recovery.

Falling unemployment figures do not take account of the 90,000 in activation programmes such as JobsBridge or the nearly 290,000 people forced to emigrate since 2009.  And there are still 20 unemployed for every vacancy and 200,000 less jobs today than there were six years ago.  The numbers underemployed and on zero-hour contracts have risen sharply to 128,000, one of the highest in the EU as bosses impose low-pay/no-pay and temporary or no contracts onto growing numbers of ne workers.

Fighting back

Clearly this is a recovery where the rich get richer and FG/Labour play tricks with statistics ahead of the next election.  They are also continuing to embrace the same boom-bust economics by stoking up another disastrous property bubble, even as examples of the social misery and destruction caused by the last crash are everywhere.   Average incomes since 2009 have shrunk 15% and the real incomes of the poorest 10% have collapsed by 20%.

There are now 1.4 million people living in deprivation, unable to afford basics like two pairs of shoes, a warm coat or a proper diet.

There is a catastrophic housing crisis with 100,000 without social housing, homelessness at epidemic levels and no debt write-downs for the nearly 60,000 families in long-term mortgage arrears in danger of losing their homes.   The public health system is in meltdown with hundreds on hospital trolleys.  Children are particularly made to suffer, with 138,000 living in consistent poverty, over 1,000  homeless and one in five going to school or bed hungry.

Talk of recovery in the face of such appalling inequality is an insult and is fuelling anger among ordinary  people.   The demand to tax the vast incomes of the super-rich and take back some the wealth they’ve taken off us to invest in a sustainable and genuine economic recovery for all will be the next great battle for equality.

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