Saturday, April 06, 2013

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- The Star makes the case for a serious crackdown on offshore tax avoidance:
Thanks to a spectacular data leak Canadians are getting a glimpse into what some have dubbed the “black hole” of globalization: The $20 trillion or more in unreported income thought to be stashed in offshore tax havens by the world’s richest people to avoid taxes. It’s not a pretty sight.
At a time when Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government is struggling to eliminate a $26-billion deficit and when governments around the world are starved for resources, the seismic leak to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists based in Washington can only add to the growing clamour for a crackdown on offshore accounts.
This predatory exploitation of gaps in cross-border tax rules has enabled a small, super-rich elite to shelter their wealth and avoid paying their fair share, leaving working people to shoulder the burden of sustaining the services we all rely on. It’s the kind of unfairness that fuelled the Occupy movement and shakes public confidence in the tax system. In March the CRA reported on its website that a landscaper, mortgage broker and homebuilder were fined for tax offences. But there was no evidence of the agency going after bigger, offshore fish. That’s got to change.
- And Ranjit Sidhu notes that offshoring has played a major role in exacerbating inequality around the globe - effectively ensuring the failure of any trickle-down theory of wealth.

- Josh Eidelson discusses how the state-facilitated abuse of guest workers serves as a bellwether for the treatment of workers generally. Trish Hennessy's latest numbers document the continued gender gap in Canadian workplaces. And the Economist notes that while governments have done plenty to protect elites' property rights, they're often entirely willing to take away whatever modest holdings a worker can put together in order to boost corporate profits.

- Craig and Mark Kielburger ask how citizens can influence policy decisions between elections. But I'll add that one of the most important contributions one can make involves social communication rather than direct pressure on politicians: indeed, it's only by discussion important issues with a wide enough range of people to push a government into action that the direct-contact strategy figures to be effective.

- Finally, Tabatha Southey's latest features this important retort to the Cons' divide-and-conquer approach to politics:
In the past, Ontario Conservatives have sometimes contacted her asking questions about whether, as a senior citizen, she resents paying school taxes when she has no children at home and is on a fixed income.

If they know she is retired, she reasons, they should know she has a bit of time on her hands as well.

For the record, my mother – who pretty much resents paying for almost anything – doesn’t resent “paying a tax to support a system that educated my four children,” as she puts it to the Conservatives. But she does resent “any implication that because I’m older now, I’m so shortsighted and mean as to have no interest in the education of my neighbours’ children …”


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