Bryan Wall: A State Of Profit


From top: Taoiseach Leo Varadkar; Bryan Wall

On Christmas night, the group Inner City Helping Homeless (ICHH) attended to 106 people in Dublin who were sleeping rough or in need of some aid.

One day later on St. Stephen’s Day, the Irish Examiner reported Taoiseach Leo Varadkar as saying that property taxes would now go back into the areas from which they were collected.

According to the article, this means “wealthy locations will keep their money while poorer communities will see a drop-off in funds.” Such a move is likely to be welcomed by those living in more wealthy areas of the country.

Two days later, The Irish Times reported on the Taoiseach’s defence of vulture funds, a term he finds derogatory given that “it is a political term” and apparently not in keeping with the reality of the situation. He also commented that vulture funds come under the same regulations as banks and that therefore consumers are protected.

Like his comments regarding hospital staff not taking time off work over the holidays, these are not gaffes by a politician who blurts out things that are inexcusable.

These are the comments of a man who believes what he says.

The Taoiseach believes what he says when he defends vulture funds as having a better business model than the nationalised banks here. Similarly, property taxes should not be pooled together out of which every area draws what it needs.

Instead, it should only go to those who pay into it and those who pay more should benefit more.

Given the current structure of societies in terms of class stratification, the outcome of the mooted plan is well-known by all in advance, including the Taoiseach. The context within which these comments are made is also important.

To say that we are in the midst of a housing and homelessness crisis would be an understatement. It would also not entirely capture the whole situation. Both issues are encompassed by the larger crisis of late capitalism. Intent on making profit no matter the cost, the human toll continues to mount.

Defenders of the status quo remain indifferent to the casualties of their preferred worldview or, being aware of said casualties of the ideology to which they ascribe, justify it on the basis of market discipline working itself out without the need for superfluous state intervention.

Many people have internalised this ideology. If you end up homeless it is you that has done something wrong not the system.This gains even more credence in the minds of the defenders of the faith given the supposed economic recovery that has taken a hold of the country.

Writing this past Friday, one Irish economist was at pains to understand why “so many people are worried there may be a recession around the corner” given “the otherwise rosy economic picture.”

Pointing to statistics which show that the country has nearly reached full employment and that wages have increased, the author reinforces the view that if all is well, then how can anything be wrong?

The economist – a former economic consultant to Joan Burton and the World Bank – failed to mention that the increase in rental prices negates any apparent increase in wages.

According to a rental price report published by Daft in November, rents nationwide are now thirty per cent higher than they were during their peak in the Celtic Tiger years. Year on year, the rents have risen by over eleven per cent.

Internalising of ideology is one of the core elements of how any ideology functions in the first place. It is no different when it comes to capitalism and its adherents.

When Leo Varadkar’s comments regarding the property tax was reported on, the authors of the article wrote “the move is likely to be welcomed by people living in wealthier areas who want to benefit form their own taxes.”

This is written without need for further comment. It is taken as a given that the wealthy elite simply do pay more and therefore are more deserving of help, be it in whatever form their friends in the government decide. Tax is a burden placed upon them. You would be at pains to find a more impressive level of internalising of ideology in another setting.

Mr Varadkar’s comments are welcome then, as he will rectify this obviously unfair situation. The poor, unable to pull themselves out of their self-inflicted misery, will get what they deserve: nothing.

Meanwhile, the burden of caring if the person down the road lives or dies by contributing to the national pool of tax will be removed from the wealthy and elite. They already have to live with the burden of the masses asking for more crumbs from the table.

We have a Taoiseach who accepts this worldview as the one true answer to the problems of society and the world at large. Is it any wonder that housing and homelessness have been ignored by the government?

We are undergoing a variation of the shock doctrine, albeit in slow motion.

A country in Western Europe in the 21st century that is unable to provide basic services, such as healthcare and housing, to its population is not a failed state according to capitalist doctrine. It is functioning precisely how it should.

Those who can afford to pay exorbitant amounts for housing or expedited medical care are the ones who matter. If masses of people are unable to afford either housing or medical care so be it.

Market doctrine must reign. Everyone can either get on board with the system or fall by the wayside. It is they that are the problem, not the system itself. Leo Varadkar’s statements are emblematic of this.

Vulture funds are called that for a reason. David Hall, CEO of the Irish Mortgage Holders Organisation, has said that the Taoiseach simply “does not understand that the ‘protections’ he refers to are meaningless.”  Furthermore, Mr Hall told me that “Vultures are parasites and will destroy many more families”.

It is unlikely that Varadkar does not understand what he says regarding vulture funds. It is just that most people who have a moral centre find it difficult to understand how an obviously intelligent man can say something so ludicrous. However, intelligence is not a measure of one’s moral rectitude.

The leader of our country was more concerned with a mercenary force being attacked in retaliation to a violent attack that was carried out by them than with their initial violence in the first place. When this is the case, you can be assured that any concern for the average person is no longer a key policy issue in the halls of power.

Housing and medical care will be provided but only if it can be done at a profit. If it cannot, then market doctrine declares that other more profitable ventures must be undertaken, such as full-scale privatisation.

The power of the certainty of one’s beliefs is a potent force. Leo Varadkar’s belief in the holy doctrine of the free market is powerfully dangerous especially given his leadership of the country. His convictions will ensure that housing will be left to the whims of private entities.

Homelessness will increase and our health system will continue to lurch towards its inevitable collapse. In this equation people are expendable. Why shouldn’t they be? People, especially those organised against injustice, have an annoying tendency to get in the way of the pursuit of unbridled profit.

If injustice is to be defeated, that means confronting the forces of exploitation head-on whether they come in the form of a private corporation or the government itself. Securing a decent future requires us to fight injustice regardless of the facade it wears.

Bryan Wall is an independent journalist based in Cork. His column appears here every Monday. Read more of his work here and follow Bryan on twitter:  @Bryan_Wall


38 thoughts on “Bryan Wall: A State Of Profit

  1. andy

    So much cliche.

    First you bemoan homelessness in Dublin City then you bemoan a proposal for Dublin City Council to keep more of its property taxes. Which is it? Do you want Dublin City Council property tax to be transfered to smaller local authorities or do you want more money for DCC for services etc?

    1. Cú Chulainn

      So true.. it’s really boring the same old worn out cliches.. it’s always someone’s else’s fault.. if you want to make a difference.. go and devote yourself to actually helping others..

      1. Yep

        Bollix. How can anyone here solve the homelessness problem? There are people who devote countless hours to helping while seeing the problem get worse. Noooo private citizen is capable of solving the problem. The State needs to.

      1. ReproBertie

        When it was introduced LPT was advertised as a tax that would fund the areas it was collected in. This was intentionally done to make the bitter pill of a property tax slightly easier to swallow.

        Why should Dublin, with a much larger proportion of the population, receive the same funding as Leitrim or Cavan which have much smaller populations, as would be the case under equal distribution?

        1. realPolithicks

          I don’t understand why you think Dublin would receive the same amount of funding as Leitrim, that wouldn’t make any sense at all. The distribution would be done on a per capita basis so that each county would receive money based on the size of its population.

      2. Cian

        How about a flat-rate property tax so everyone pays the same?
        Or base it on floor area? Or number of bathrooms.

          1. Cian

            So how do you propose that the councils gets sufficient funding to pay for services?
            Higher rates for businesses? massive on-street parking charges (and fines for non-payment) huge charges to the bin companies for the disposal of waste? increased fees for existing services? reduce their services – perhaps close down the libraries?

          2. Rob_G

            Cian: “So how do you propose that the councils gets sufficient funding to pay for services?”

            GG: “The way they got them before LPT”

            ‘Borrowing’, is the answer to that question. You can’t borrow to meet current expenditure forever – ask the Greeks.

  2. Joe

    The vile “property tax” actually a roof tax is based on a citizen’s arbitrary address. Basically it’s a rapacious inequitable charge because it barely takes a citizen’s ability to pay into account. The old widow existing on a pittance of her husbands private pension whilst her wealthy neighbors pay the same but have a much greater income make this rapacious charge a thundering disgrace and this non tax must be scrapped. Under FFG the least able in society are robbed from whilst the wealthiest proportionally pay the least. For taxation to work it must be fair and equitable. General taxation can be used equitably to provide nation wide services and it is the fairest form of tax for all citizens. It’s time FFG and societal parasites like Varadkar and his supporters are dumped from government. Happy New Year folk’s

      1. Pedrovski

        The author appears to have been embedded in many areas of govt. To use this piece as proof that all is well is like asking a member of some quasi Catholic foundation to critically assess the functioning of the Catholic church – biased to the nth degree IMHO!

  3. Otis Blue

    Local authorities retain 80%of the LPT raised in their area while the remaining 20% is paid into an Equalisation Fund which is distributed to local authorities which cannot raise adequate amounts of LPT revenue locally.

    Varadkar is just playing to his support base on this in advance of the 2020 review of the LPT. Any substantial increase in LPT will cost votes despite the fact that the tax was intended to be progressive and that a buoyant property market would provide a sustainable form of funding for local authorities. Varadkar should at the very least make clear and be honest about how local authorities will then be resourced in the future.

    Playing fast and loose with this pretty much assures that most local authorities won’t be adequately resourced to provide the necessary local services. Questions arise though as to whether the LPT is in fact used to support local services or whether it merely supports top heavy admin in wasteful local authorities.

    Perhaps FFG would care to shine a light on this.

    1. Cian

      If house prices have increased by 50% average since the LPT was set in 2013 it would mean the councils would get 50% more money. Personally I don’t think the councils should increase their outgoings by 50% in 6 years. What will happen to council services if house prices fall?

      Perhaps the councils should have a target figure each year and divide that by the number of households…

      1. Otis Blue

        That’d be valid if the LPT was the sole source of income. It isn’t though. In 2018 it totaled €395m or just 8.2% of all local authority income.

        What’s open to question is whether this income is ring-fenced to provide local services. Doubtful I’d imagine, meaning we’re asked to specifically pay for something that, at best is opaque, and in reality is not actually provided.

        1. Giggidygoo

          But does it in fact go to the Local Authorities? It has gone to Hogan’s Irish Water in the past.
          Which reminds me – When is the referendum on ownership of water and the supply of services relating to water? Will it be before, or after, the Referendom on foggy weather?

  4. Ron

    Tick tock tick tock.. the Irish electorate are coming for Leo and his merry band of political boo boos..

    1. Dr.Fart MD

      unfortunately the alternative option (FF) operates off the same principles. Any other contenders have too little support to possibly take power. I think the only thing we can do is .. GUILLOTINE

  5. Rory Mc Closkey

    Thank you so much for framing our political failure in terms of ideology. Can you please examine this in more detail outlining its history, tenets, contradictions, failures and successes. How it has permeated our media, all major political parties, our civil service and universities.

  6. DOC

    Dear LEO
    Congratulations in advance
    Next Year you are going to be out on your ear
    Come 2020 the General Election will be called and you will be remembered as having the shortest reign as Taoiseach in Decades
    But you wont care because you can ride off in to the sunset with your state car and a nice pension
    Just like Bertie and Enda
    So look forward to your retirement and enjoy the next year and a half LEO
    No one will shed a tear

      1. dav

        the thing is blushirts have an uncle tom r=mentality, they see the rich as their “betters”, tug forlock and all. See how they treat the tax evading apple corporation or vulture funds..

          1. dav

            as I’ve stated previously blushirts work for the rich in the hope that one day their betters will reward them..

          2. dav

            well I’m sure you’ll point out any errors – once they’ve been cleared by your strategic communications unit

          3. Cian

            I have to confess I never heard of “blushirts” until I saw your (many, many, many) posts on broadsheet.

          4. jusayinlike

            Blueshirts as in having an inconveniently close relationship with the gardai.. it’s called fascism.

          5. Cian

            Hey Dav. What do you mean by blushirt?

            Is it related to the group that preceded FG? And thus meaning one who supports FG?

            Or is it related to the police? And means, um, one who supports the police?

  7. dav

    well I’m sure you’ll point out any errors – once they’ve been cleared by your strategic communications unit – defending the indefensible requires du diligence..

  8. pat the baker

    Please spare a thought on people being products of their environment
    Your family shape what you become
    If you are the product of a family where both have serious addiction problems living in deprived areas with no education well you are likely to grow up shaped by what you endure
    Its pretty simple
    Now apply that to Leo
    Born into an environment of wealth and privillage where education and access to private well funded education surrounded by privileged classes
    He is shaped by that and sincerely can he ever equate to those who are far less fortunate
    So like the kinahan’s he too is a product of society
    I always remember trading places a great film and the two scum bags that had a bet of turning their prodigy into a drug induced scum bag
    So spare a thought for little Leo as he knows no better

Comments are closed.