Saturday, October 29, 2011

Saturday Afternoon Links

Miscellaneous material for your weekend reading.

- Susan Riley comments on Brian Topp's mention of raising taxes as a necessary price of greater equality and better social programs:
(H)owever reasonable, limited or incremental (Topp's) plan turns out to be - he says he will proceed in "practical" steps - it will be greeted with howls from "high-net-worth individuals," their political protectors and media defenders. You can envision the Conservative attack ads. We know what happens to anyone (Michael Ignatieff, Stéphane Dion) who ventures beyond the ferociously guarded borders of the politically acceptable.

Yet this time might be different. The Reaganite anti-tax gospel, so deeply absorbed by Stephen Harper, is getting old. It seems particularly indefensible during recessionary times to continue doling out generous exemptions to the well-heeled, particularly when they aren't using their advantage to create jobs. The smart shops on Toronto's Bloor Street are enjoying their best sales in years, while youth unemployment is at a worrying 14 per cent. People notice.
(Jim Flaherty) ignores the fairness argument - warmly advanced by American billionaire Warren Buffett, who pronounced it ridiculous that he is taxed at 17 per cent, compared to his office staff which averages 36 per cent. Buffett, along with some of the European super-rich (including Ferrari chairman Luca di Montezemolo), are ready to pay more.

They are not entirely motivated by altruism; unequal societies are not happy places to live, or stable places to invest. The wealthy retreat into gated communities; the poor and unemployed turn inner cities into dangerous, dispiriting slums.
- And it's worth noting that it isn't just an isolated few more wealthy individuals calling for fairer taxes, with 68% of U.S. millionaires supporting an increase to their own taxes. Which means that the still-growing talk about inequality sparked by the Occupy protests already looks to be meeting with success in convincing even those who have the most to gain on paper by maintaining the status quo.

- If the Cons are eager to kill off the CBC as a source of meaningful journalism, their insistence on ordering that confidential sources be revealed to a Parliamentary committee would seem like a great place to start. And the more the Cons push forward, the less there will figure to be any "if" to speak of.

- But the Cons' complete unwillingness to listen to anybody is having some effects which could produce some significant backlash in the long run. And one could hardly ask for a better example than the gun registry, as even NDP MPs who were willing to vote to repeal the registry are uniting against legislation designed to salt the earth so that no provincial registries can replace the federal one that's being dismantled.

- Finally, pogge points out the absurd levels of corporatization of government - culminating in Illinois requiring employees to pay taxes to their employers. But it's worth noting that the source of that competition to bribe private industry lies at least in part in a lack of willingness to consider public-sector alternatives - resulting in a gross imbalance of power between governments looking to take credit for any jobs they can, and the employers who can count on multiple jurisdictions bidding for their services as good-news providers.

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