Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Jim Stanford reminds us that even Statistics Canada's already-galling numbers showing increased inequality in Canada understate the problem, as they fail to reflect capital gains (and the preferential tax treatment thereof):
Yesterday’s release from Statistics Canada on the income share of the wealthy generated some interesting coverage and commentary.  It reported that the top 1%’s share of total income in Canada remained steady in 2011 in Canada, at 10.6 percent — but still significantly higher than in the 1980s.

Most observers did not mention, however, that this oft-cited income share statistic does NOT include capital gains in the calculation of incomes and income shares.  A capital gain, of course, is a realized benefit resulting from the disposition of an asset (buy low, sell high … unless you are a short seller, in which case you should buy high and sell low!).
Wealthy people are not just wealthy.  They are the major owners and top managers of the profit-driven businesses which are the major driving force of our economy.  This gives them a power, and a vested interest, that goes beyond their claim to a vastly disproportionate share of incomes.  And in turn, that power helps to explain why THEIR incomes receive such favourable taxation treatment, and other government favours.
- Thomas McGarity writes that Barack Obama's much-needed discussion of inequality left out a crucial point about the need for regulation to rein in the excesses of the market.

- Les Whittington comments on the Cons' shredding of Canada's social safety net. And Thomas Walkom points out that the opposition parties - including the NDP in particular - should be making clear how to strengthen the safety net to account for a job market built around precarious employment.

- This week in accountability, Con MPs are publicly insisting that they should be able to get away with illegal activity simply by concealing the facts then running another election campaign. CBC follows up on tax avoidance by the chair of the Royal Canadian Mint (and close associate of Jim Flaherty) by revealing an agreement to hide the activity from the Canada Revenue Agency. And Kady O'Malley reports on a new form of lifetime confidentiality agreement being foisted on MPs' staff - with the NDP's staff union serving as the only group questioning the blanket of secrecy.

- Finally, Don Lenihan wonders what a greater level of speed and complexity in policy-making means for representative government. And Sean Holman writes that shifting a bit of nominal power toward MPs may not substantially improve the level of public involvement in politics:
(I)t’s conceivable party leaders would have to take better account of the views expressed by MPs during the private meetings where much the public’s business is discussed.

...(I)t’s conceivable MPs may be emboldened to publicly break ranks when they disagree with their party or its leader — confident their chances of being expelled from caucus or not being able to run for their party in the next election have been reduced.

But all this is predicated on the willingness of MPs to resist the rewards of conformity, the penalties for dissent and a culture of deference.

After all, being expelled from caucus or barred from a party candidacy are just two of many punishments that can be inflicted on rebellious MPs.

And party leaders will continue to be able to check that rebelliousness by holding forth the lure of political promotion.

As such, while I strongly support the intent of Chong’s bill, I worry that legislation may, at best, just entrench and empower the private debating clubs that are party caucuses — doing little to show Canadians that representation is being done.

And if representation isn’t seen to be done, how do we know it’s even taking place?

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