Saturday, March 31, 2012

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- If there's any lesson we should all be able to draw from the past decade in Canadian politics, it's that anything can happen. But it's still rather amazing to see Gerald Caplan get hopeful about the NDP's prospects of forming a social-democratic government:
Faithful readers will know that I’ve spent my adult life trying to get the NDP to be realistic about its modest status in Canadian life. Until last May I repeatedly pointed out that with a single exception, the party always got less than 20 per cent of the national vote, would not in the foreseeable future form a government, and had to learn to live with moral victories as the conscience of the nation.

This was not a status to be dismissed or minimized. The CCF/NDP played a central role, as opposition, in forcing the governing parties to introduce the welfare state, one of the great contributions to the well-being of Canadians, and now in serious jeopardy. As well, research showed that while most Canadians would not vote NDP, a majority were reassured to have the party around to keep the major players honest.

Then came May 2011, 30 per cent of the vote and Official Opposition. But how could it be sustained. Surely this was a fluke resting on the shoulders of one man, and he, tragically, was gone.
For months we had heard that the party in the House of Commons had disappeared, its interim leader submerged by the ubiquitous Bob Rae. Yet almost a year after their majority government victory, the Harperites had lost a quarter of their support and were now at 30 per cent, the Liberals had stayed put at a derisory 20 per cent, and the NDP was still at 30 per cent. The party was tied with the badly slumping Conservatives for first place!

Even more remarkably, and all but unprecedented, 49 per cent of all Canadians now believe the NDP can be trusted with government. In fact, that can be said more positively: Half of Canadians believe an NDP government would be good for Canada! Another 20 per cent are unsure, making them potential supporters. It seems the very fact of being Official Opposition means a party is taken more seriously as an alternative government. Now you can’t exactly say with a straight face the NDP is rushing headlong towards government with up to 70 per cent of the vote. But still, whoever anticipated such a breakthrough?
And to top it off, post-convention polling continues this groundbreaking trend. As one pollster summed it up this week, “It’s clear that the election of Tom Mulcair as NDP leader has considerably improved the party’s prospects.”
Clearly Stephen Harper’s enforcers believe their coming onslaught can undermine the new NDP leader in the same classy way they demolished St├ęphane Dion and Michael Ignatieff.

Who knows? Maybe they’re right. But the tides of March suggest this new NDP guy won’t be quite the pushover those Liberals were.
- Paul Moist sets out a road map to deal with inequality in Canada:
Corporations rely on our public services -- they drive our economy. So corporations need to pay their fair share to protect them.

Our current tax system is riddled with loopholes and ineffective tax credits -- along with easy access to tax havens -- that benefit the wealthy while robbing funds from public services that all Canadians need and want.

The most destructive loophole is the stock option deduction. It allows Canada's highest paid executives to have their employment income taxed at half the rate of others. Not only that, this loophole only encourages the reckless speculation that led to the global economic crisis.

The capital gains deduction costs Canada over $6 billion a year in revenues. Yet it doesn't lead to concrete, job-creating investments. It just fuels real estate speculation and corporate mergers and acquisitions.

Successive Liberal and Conservative governments have eliminated top tax rates for the wealthiest Canadians -- the only ones who have seen real income growth in the past 20 years. Today, the top rate is 29 per cent -- whether you make $130,000 a year or $130 million.
We need to move to a more progressive tax system. This means closing tax loopholes and cutting off tax havens.

We must also get rid of ineffective tax credits that only benefit the rich. Too many of these credits don't help the poor, and drain revenues from universally accessible services. We need to be directly funding public services that are available to everyone -- like public transit, child care, arts, and sports programs for our families.

And profitable corporations and the wealthiest Canadians need to pay their fair share.
- Meanwhile, Andrew Jackson points out the McGuinty Libs' similar insistence on ensuring that the wealthiest Ontarians don't pay a dime toward the deficits caused by decades of trickle-down tax slashing. And Erin notes that while the Cons have repeatedly imposed back-to-work legislation based on specious arguments that strikes could harm economic growth, it's a series of lockouts (fully embraced by the Harper Cons since they would serve to reduce the influence of workers) which have actually had that effect.

- Nick Fillmore's three-part series on what progressive Canadians can do to counter the Harper Cons' attacks on the idea of social benefits is well worth a read.

- Finally, Atrios points out another regular feature in '90s-era triangulation that desperately needs to be replaced - in Canada as well as in the U.S.:
For the past couple of decades we've all (by "we" I man all the Very Serious People in the chattering classes) bought into the fantasy that all we need to do is pursue Conservative Means to achieve Liberal Ends and everything will be awesome...Right now we have one political party that is very up front about and proud of their desire to mug everyone in the non-millionaire club, steal all their money, and give it to rich people. It's time for the other political party to recognize that the era of dumb compromises is over, and if they'd actually come up with a way to help people, instead of a plan to set up a program to provide the incentives to blahblahblahblahblahblah...

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