Thursday, November 21, 2013

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Toby Sanger highlights how the Cons (following in the footsteps of the Libs before them) have already slashed federal government revenues and expenses to levels not seen since the first half of the 20th century - even as they continue to call for more blood:
Total federal government spending as a share of the economy is projected to drop to a 14% share of the economy by 2018/19.  This would be the lowest since at least 1948.  Because the government has tied the federal public service up in knots, actual spending will likely continue to be even lower than planned.   And if the Harper government follows through with its plan to allow income splitting for tax purposes and to increase the annual limit for Tax-Free Savings Accounts, revenues will be even lower.

The Harper government has already cut overall federal taxes and other revenues to the lowest rate they’ve been in over 70 years.   Total federal revenues as a share of the economy declined to 14% in 2012/13, with tax revenues down to 11.5%.  The federal government’s revenues and taxes haven’t been this low as a share of the economy since 1940.
While the federal government’s tax revenues have declined as a share of the economy, many Canadians might not feel any better off, or more lightly taxed.   That’s because there’s been a major shift in where the federal government gets its money.

Tax rates on top incomes and corporations have been cut, while the use of tax loopholes and tax havens have proliferated.   The conversion of retail sales taxes to value-added taxes such as the GST/HST has shifted the costs of these taxes to consumers and away from businesses.   And with downloading of responsibilities to provinces and municipalities, these levels of government have relied on increasing more regressive taxes.    Our tax system has become so regressive that the top 1% pays a lower overall rate of tax than the poorest 10%.
- Meanwhile, the Star laments the Cons' broken promises on social housing - though it's hard to be surprised that the Cons are far more willing to feign interest than to actually act to ensure the basic needs of Canadians are met.

- Peter Gumbel discusses another noteworthy referendum in Switzerland - this time to cap the pay divide between executives and other employees. And I'd think it would be particularly interesting to see how executive incentives changed based on that type of law - since rather than having an incentive to slash wages and claim a share of the amount cut, they'd instead have reason to push for higher salaries among all employees (while ensuring they're worth the investment). 

- Andrew Coyne, Chantal Hebert and Thomas Walkom all note that yesterday's revelations in the Cons' Senate bribery scandal only confirm that a deeply-ingrained culture of corruption starts with - and includes - Stephen Harper, who by all indications personally approved a party payment to Mike Duffy. 

- Finally, Matthew Millar documents how the National Energy Board (which is of course suppose to make unbiased decisions about development), other federal government agencies and the oil sector are in cahoots to spy on environmental and activist groups.

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