Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Una Condesa De Clase Media

As the Spanish government dropped ever heavier hints about taxing higher earners in an attempt to offset the impression that the cost of the crisis is being far from evenly shared, it didn't take long for Esperanza Aguirre to share her opinions on the idea. La Condesa de Murillo claimed that she wouldn't be paying any new tax on the wealthy as she is "pobre de pedir". Only those with very short memories or the recently arrived will believe that this is the first time that Aguirre has tried to plead poverty.

Espe claimed that the new tax would be paid by the president of the Spanish parliament, Jose Bono, who has been under heavy fire recently over the startling increase in recent years in his wealth. Whilst Bono probably should answer some of the questions over his property dealings, he still doesn't seem to be quite as lucky with the lottery as, say, Carlos Fabra. He has also been slightly more open about his possessions than most Spanish politicians. Responding to criticisms of her cynical claims of poverty, Aguirre claimed that her declaration of assets had been made available on the internet. In reality, the only document she has made public dates from 2003, before she became president of Madrid's regional government. This document does not list her assets either, instead it makes references to a set of other (unavailable) documents that may or may not deliver the goods, so to speak.

In any case it is well known that Aguirre and her husband (shall we just call them the Murillos?) possess several estates in different provinces, as well as a substantial residence in Madrid. Now the Partido Popular has taken recently to presenting itself as the defender of the middle classes, a category that constantly stretches to include anyone affected by any of the government's economic measures. Chez Aguirre it would seem that everyone from the gardener up to the Condesa herself now forms part of the same social class.

Meanwhile, the government has continued with its now familiar, but bewildering, strategy by appearing to promise a new tax on wealth but then parking the issue for an unspecified "momento oportuno". Many would think that a time when pensions are being frozen and public sector workers are having their salaries cut would be a much more "oportuno" time than any other. Particularly given the reports on how Spain's top executives have continued to do very nicely during the crisis, and when the newspapers have been carrying many announcements recently of the annual general meetings for the very generously taxed SICAV's. It's reported that the government doesn't want the wealthy to take their money elsewhere, but then if they don't pay taxes on it anyway?

The idea of a new wealth tax has provoked some predictable accusations of populism against the government. I don't see anything populist about expecting the wealthy to pay taxes, on the contrary. Populism is threatening to do something like this and then not doing it. Or doing what the PP do, which is to pretend that you can pay off the deficit by reducing a couple of ministries whilst opposing the measures that they would almost certainly introduce themselves if they were in power. But taxing those who have the means to contribute without seriously affecting their opulent lifestyles just seems like common sense. Also, if the measure doesn't affect people like the Murillos then something is wrong with it.


santcugat said...

I wouldn't be surprised if Aguirre didn't have a penny to her name. Of course, she likely controls a large amount of wealth via the usual web of life insurance wrappers, offshore entities, etc.

Her comment seems along the lines of "My tax planning is better than your stupid tax plan. So nay nay"

Graeme said...

That crucial distinction between those who are poor because they have no money and those who are "poor" because nobody knows where their money is. Looks like the tax is on again...for a few weeks time...or maybe not.

ejh said...

Anybody seen the front of El Mundo this morning? (I'm in Segovia and as you know, west of Madrid and south of Asturias it can scarcely be avoided.) They're not even pretending to keep commentary off the front page these days....

Anonymous said...

Poor Aguirre, she's obviously suffering in the same way as Camps, whose worldly goods apparently total €2000, half a flat and an old car.

I think the problem with a tax on the super-rich, which I heard was only going to affect 0.01% of the population, is that it won't make any difference whatsoever. These 'poor' politicians and business people are extremely adept at manipulating the system -apparently Correa hasn't declared anything to Hacienda since 1999 or something like that. Let's see some fiscal reform first, and then hit 'em with taxes.