Saturday, April 14, 2012

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- John Cassidy neatly contrasts growth in the postwar period against that in recent decades - with the former seeing a "picket fence" growth pattern where all segments of society benefited roughly equally, while the latter produces a "staircase" effect (aside from an utterly unreachable jump between the top 1% and those below).

- Meanwhile, the CP corrects Jim Flaherty's blatantly false spin about the effect of slashing corporate tax rates by pointing out that it'll be another 5 years before we return to past revenue levels. And Thomas Walkom weighs in on the developing recognition that many voters see a commitment to tax fairness as a plus:
Tax fairness is back as a mainstream topic of conversation. For years, it was consigned to the margins, championed by a few advocates such as author Linda McQuaig or economist Armine Yalnizyan, but pretty much ignored by everyone else — including the NDP.

Now it’s back in style.

The Occupy Movement, with its talk of the richest one per cent, has made tax fairness cool. Rumblings from the U.S., where even billionaire Warren Buffet argues that the rich pay too little, has given it a new air of respectability.

Here in Ontario, a campaign by a group called Doctors for Fair Taxation has gained a surprising amount of attention. A poll commissioned by the left-leaning Broadbent Institute argues that almost two-thirds of Canadians would pay “slightly higher taxes” to protect social programs.

I’d take that poll with a grain of salt since it never specified what was meant by “slightly higher.”

Still, there is something going on here. If even the ultra-cautious NDP is willing to talk about higher taxes, the public mood must be shifting. Perhaps more understand the simple truth of government finance — that we can’t have public services without paying for them.
- Terrence McCoy discusses the sophisticated data mining now happening in U.S. politics - with a particularly interesting set of charts comparing both turnout and voter preferences to consumer preferences.

- Finally, while there's ample room for doubt as to whether the Cons have made any case for taking an axe to public services in the first place, Susan Riley points out that they're going about it all wrong even if there was some reason to do so:
(W)hile it is theoretically possible to improve service while shedding jobs, this government's management style has been so arbitrary, contradictory and - especially with the F-35 project - dishonest, it doesn't inspire confidence.

Cabinet's stunning lack of curiosity about the costing of the F-35s and the government's readiness to downplay the true costs of the warplanes to blunt public reaction undermine its supposed commitment to fiscal prudence. So do Clement's Muskoka shenanigans, shifting money for border infrastructure to build gazebos in the minister's riding.

Yet the government is ready to deny free Internet service to the homeless, the disabled and the poor by cutting a small Industry Canada program that helped libraries and social agencies provide computer access. Industry Canada says the service isn't needed since 79 per cent of Canadians have home access, and it isn't, except by the poor.
Meanwhile, some federal services have already been "streamlined" into uselessness. Service Canada, which is supposed to help with everything from citizenship to pension to EI inquiries, is so under-staffed that it doesn't answer its phones. Passport offices are as crowded as emergency rooms. Government websites are useless for anything but general information.

Luckily for Conservatives, widespread indifference to the fate of public servants and general failure to connect today's spending cuts with deteriorating services, provide some cover. But, when the smoke clears, we could well be left with dial tones instead of answers, longer lines at the border, more incidents of food poisoning and some very expensive jets. That's when the chickens come home to roost.
[Edit: fixed link as per comments.]

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