TASC, statistics and inequality

Sir, – We in TASC are pleased at the extensive coverage for our report, Cherishing All Equally, and we welcome that this has led to a debate about inequality and how we can address it as a society.

However, we were surprised at inaccurate claims about the report made by columnist Chris Johns (“Inequality debates gives rise to statistical abuse”, February 18th).

Mr Johns accuses the TASC report of being “cavalier with numbers” – a serious charge to level at a research organisation, especially against a detailed report which references a wide range of official data.

One example cited by Mr Johns is the use of percentage of GDP as a measure of the amount of tax Ireland raises. While he may not agree, using GDP (rather than GNP) is international standard practice when comparing tax systems. It certainly cannot be described as “statistical abuse”.


Another criticism is that TASC’s report barely acknowledges that Ireland’s post-welfare (net) income inequality is at the EU average. On the contrary, this is highlighted in the first page of the preface. The report clearly states that “net income inequality in Ireland is close to the EU28 average, demonstrating the importance of progressive taxation and social protection”.

However, central to the argument about inequality is that gross income inequality (before tax and social welfare) involves looking at underlying root causes. Focusing on net income inequality looks only at how we treat the symptoms.

The OECD, the World Bank, and the IMF have all made two of the core arguments in TASC’s report, which is that gross income inequality is growing and that this has been identified as a serious impediment for future economic growth.

The report does not propose anything like a simple “tax the rich” solution but points to a wide range of social and economic policies that need to be examined as part of a strategy to reverse the rise of inequality in Ireland. – Yours, etc, NAT O’CONNOR and CORMAC STAUNTON TASC, Dublin 2 Sir, – Is it possible that Chris Johns (Business: “Inequality debates gives rise to statistical abuse”, February 18th) is unaware of how mired in his own agenda he might actually be?

Would it be unreasonable to request a re-articulation, from him, of his latest and most casual monologue?

Next time perhaps, with less emphasis on dismissive platitudes and more emphasis on clear and thoughtful expression of his actual gripe with the notion of inequality and the debate that surrounds it.

Surely even Johns would agree with the great Homer Simpson that “people can come up with statistics to prove anything. Forty per cent of all people know that”. – Yours, etc, ANDREW GRANT, Ballinamona, Waterford.