Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Splitting decisions

Having already dealt with some of the empty rhetoric on income splitting, let's quickly respond to a few of the "arguments" made as part of the cheerleading effort:

It'll encourage childbirth.
Which it apparently manages to do by utterly failing to take into account whether a family has children. And don't worry, it's not social engineering!

It's the feminist thing to do.
Because what could be more empowering than ignoring what a stay-at-home wife actually does, and defining her worth solely in terms of her husband's income?

It'll strengthen marriage.
After all, it only makes sense that the greater the income disparity, the stronger a couple's bond to each other. (In fairness, this may well be true in one direction - but so much for the non-earning spouse having much of a choice in anything...)

$100,000 for two people is $100,000 for two people, end of story.
Because when valuing a stay-at-home spouse's contribution at zero is seen to help the cause of slashing taxes, who can possibly object to that?

Screw policy, it's a good idea politically.
Not if enough Canadians appreciate the costs involved. And that's what we'll need to point out going forward to make sure the Cons can't pretend that there's nothing but support for the idea.

In closing, it's worth noting just how flatly contradictory a lot of the arguments are. Some claim income splitting is a means of valuing stay-at-home work; others say it's justified from a fairness standpoint because a couple at a given earning level is no better off with one spouse staying at home. Some want to increase the size of Canada's labour pool in order to pay for social programs; others claim it's a means of reducing the priority placed on paid employment.

Ultimately, it all amounts to a poor effort to justify a measure which would give away scads of money without filling any particular need. But the biggest question is whether Olaf is right in saying that few Canadians will bother to oppose it - or whether progressives will instead demand that the federal government's efforts get put toward resolving real issues, rather than looking for excuses to buy votes.

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