Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Pat Steenberg observes that the Harper Cons' deficits are the result of conscious choices to reduce government revenue - and that we can fix our deficit and rein in inequality at the same time by reversing the damage:
(W)hen our governments say they can no longer afford something, what they are really saying is that “we” cannot afford it. But is this really the case?

Canada’s average GDP per capita — the value of total productive output divided by the population that produced it — has continued to grow, with a few minor interruptions since 1946. Our national wealth is, relatively speaking, where it has always been.

On the other hand, Canada’s median income — the midpoint income level — currently stands at only two-thirds of GDP per capita. Until the 1970s, Canadian GDP per capita and median income were roughly the same.

Obviously, we don’t have a wealth problem, we have a distribution problem.

Second, we have a revenue shortfall. Tax revenue is the interest we claim for the use of public resources which, collectively, we all own and maintain. Simply put, we are not paying ourselves enough.
(W)hy, if the total national wealth continues to grow, in absolute terms, do our governments say they can no longer afford to meet our needs?

Here’s why.

Federal corporate income tax brought in $30 billion dollars in 2012. At the 2004 rate, that would have been $42 billion. Repatriating the lost corporate tax revenues from the dead money reserves, brings us $12 billion. Restoring the GST to 7 per cent (at a cost of 84 cents each, a day) — $10 billion. Rolling back defence spending to 2006 levels — $8 billion. Altogether, that gives us an annual revenue increase of $30 billion. Given that the deficit for 2012 is estimated to be $26 billion, we cannot only balance the books this year, but do so with $4 billion to spare. 
- But in fairness, we shouldn't presume that current social programs are enough to meet obvious needs: as Guy Standing recognizes, the corporatist preference for precarious work has created a need for far more substantial income security programs than the ones we have now.

- Paul Kershaw writes that much of the B.C. NDP's election disappointment can be traced to poor turnout among younger voters - highlighting the need to expand the voter pool rather than merely trying to appear "safe" to swing voters. And Duncan Cameron notes that ultimately, the only winners in the election were business interests.

- Erin Weir points out how Regina stands to get hosed due to the costs of privatized waste water treatment, as the federal funding pursued through a P3 program will simply turn into pure profit for a private operator.

- Finally, Paul Wells comments on the Cons' miserable failure when it comes to research and innovation:
The government has known, since its first year in office, that the private sector is not doing enough applied research. Its response has been to put the brakes on pure research in universities. The result has been that the weakness has continued to aggravate, while the strength has been put in danger. At Davos more than a year ago, Harper said his government would “continue to make the key investments in science and technology necessary to sustain a modern competitive economy.” It’s not clear what he meant by “continue.” It is true that recent changes at the National Research Council are designed to bolster, or accompany, or synergize with, or somehow prop up private-sector applied research. I can only wish the NRC luck. If it manages to push Canada up 7 spots in international rankings of research intensity, the country will be back where it was, compared to peer countries, on the day Stephen Harper became prime minister.

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