Michael Noonan’s pronouncement that some Irish people earning €70,000 are also struggling financially was met with vitriol and derision by the majority of commentators on the Independent.ie.
How dare he suggest that this cosseted and entitled elite may have been affected by austerity! How dare he draw any sort of analogies between their predicament and that of the worker on the average industrial wage…
Well let’s look at the facts.
A PAYE worker in the private sector earning €70k nets around €35k after you apply the marginal rate of tax. Let’s assume they bought a modest 3 bed semi in the past 10 years and have a small car loan.
That leaves about €15k a year to play around with.
But first they have to pay bills, property tax, bin charges and health insurance which wipes out about half of that. Leaving the affluent €70k worker with about €700 – €800 a month to cover food, living expenses, petrol, doctor’s visits, medicine etc. If they have children you also have to factor in the cost of childcare which could be over €1000 a month.
That’s not to say that this person is on the breadline but they’re certainly not bathing in champagne and jetting off to the Caribbean on a regular basis…
So now that we’ve done a bit of demystification, it’s worth asking why Noonan’s remarks prompted such outrage.
The comments on the site revealed a palpable anger that some people have the audacity to earn €70,000, along with helpful suggestions that they should try living on the minimum wage and that they should be taxed more heavily.
It reminds me of that old adage… An American sees a guy drive by in a big car and says to himself, I want to be that guy. An Irishman sees a guy in a big car and says I’m gonna get that guy…
I must be a closet capitalist because I believe that hard work and ambition should be rewarded not penalised. And fairness shouldn’t mean bringing everyone down to the same level.
I think we’ve lost sight of the distinction between equal and equitable. The former meaning everyone gets the same, the latter meaning everyone gets what they deserve. And if that means those who work hard to succeed get more than those who don’t then that’s fair in my book.