Friday, February 01, 2013

Friday Evening Links

Miscellaneous material to end your week.

- Lawrence Martin questions the media's obsession with fabricating stories out of imagined motivations and insignificant shifts in poll numbers:
In the year before an election, the media’s heavy focus on tiny political twists and turns is understandable. Here in Canada, a federal campaign is likely a long way off, the Conservatives’ numbers are stable and so are those of the NDP. But it doesn’t prevent the rash of pollster and media speculation about who is up and who is down and who might be headed in either direction.

A headline the other day announced that the Conservatives were benefitting from an NDP slide. The story went on to say that the Tories were at 35 per cent. This was a one per cent gain since last October. The NDP, meanwhile, was at 29 per cent — a decline of two percentage points. No matter. It was enough for a big headline making it sound like something significant was happening.

Yeah, right. A whopping one point gain for one, a catastrophic two point fall for another.

This relentless reading of the tea leaves is getting out of control. Maybe it’s time we declared a moratorium on political-impact stories. Just for a couple of days. What a refreshing change that would be.
- Meanwhile, Chris Selley rightly argues that no opposition party should be taking a coalition off the table as a possible outcome following the next federal election:
It’s not that a coalition is likely — though it’s far more likely than the plan Mr. Coyne proposes — or desirable. But why make this so complicated? We know from recent experience that when power is either offered or threatened, any party in the House of Commons will cooperate with just about any other. If any of their leaders denies that, he’s a liar or a fool. This is the way parliamentary democracies are supposed to work. I’m sticking with my own crazy plan: The Liberals, New Democrats try to win their own majorities, do not rule out cooperation should this not occur, and forge off bravely into the future.
- Iglika Ivanova and Seth Klein offer some progressive tax suggestions for British Columbia. And Toby Sanger answers the corporatist right's outrage that anybody might discuss perpetually-increasing income inequality:
The Globe also weighed in with an editorial urging us to “Hug the 1 per cent“ claiming they get a bad rap and that they are a net benefit to Canada because they pay more than their share in income taxes. The Globe editorialists forgot about the other taxes Canadians pay.  When all those other taxes (sales, payroll, property) are considered, the top 1 per cent actually pay a lower share of their income in taxes than all other income groups, including the poorest 10 per cent, as the CCPA’s comprehensive analysis demonstrated.

Another notable reaction was that the income of the top 1 per cent, with a median of $283,400, isn’t that high. (Of course, that raises the question: if $283K isn’t that high, how low does that mean the median of $28K for the 99% is?).  If anything Statistics Canada downplayed the incomes of the top 1 per cent and our growing income gap. For instance, the average mean (as opposed to median) income of the top 1 per cent was actually $429,600 in 2010. The real incomes of the top 1 per cent almost doubled (up by 96%) in the 25 years from $251,250 in 1982 to $492,900 in 2007 (in 2010$).
Meanwhile the average real income of the bottom 90% increased by only 5% over this quarter decade from $27,600 in 1982 to $29,300 in 2010.
The drop in average taxes paid by the top 1 per cent wasn’t because of a cut in the top federal marginal income tax rate, which has been 29% since 1988, but was caused both by an expansion of tax loopholes (with lower rates on capital gains and stock options) and by provincial cuts to top income tax rates, such as Alberta’s shift to a 10% flat tax rate.

And in these times of continuing fiscal concern, these are the some ways we can regain these revenues: by closing tax loopholes and raising provincial top income tax rates. And if the top 1 per cent paid their fair share of tax, they might get a little more love from the rest of us.
- And finally, Scott Clark and Peter DeVries explain why Canada's real economic issues have little to do with deficits, and everything to do with the complete lack of a sustainable economic vision from the Cons.


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