Thursday, July 24, 2014

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Linda McQuaig criticizes the Cons' use of the tax system to try to silence charities who don't match their political message:
PEN now joins Amnesty International, the David Suzuki Foundation, Canada Without Poverty, the United Church and other groups that, having criticized an array of Harper policies, have been obliged to devote precious resources to defending themselves from a special probe of charities ordered by the Harper government.

This beefing-up of tax audits of charities is particularly striking when compared to Harper’s laid-back approach to auditing the real bad guys: corporations and citizens using offshore tax havens to cheat the government out of billions of dollars in revenue.

Indeed, the allocation of an extra $13 million to carry out audits of charities has taken place even as the government slashes the overall Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) budget by $250 million over three years and lays off hundreds of auditors.
Internal CRA documents, obtained under access-to-information by Sen. Percy Downe, reveal that an infusion of $30 million by Ottawa in 2005 to counter “aggressive international tax planning” resulted in the collection of an extra $2.5 billion over four years.

By contrast, putting extra resources into auditing charities will almost certainly produce no additional revenue.
(W)hile there aren’t enough auditors to go after many of the wealthy Canadian corporations and individuals hiding money offshore, the government managed to find two auditors to spend three days this week at PEN’s little Toronto office — the beginning of an audit that will go on for many months.
The Harperites may be inept at using audits to collect vast sums of revenue hidden by the rich — but they sure know how to beat up on defenceless groups trying to promote the public good.
- And Dean Beeby breaks the news that the Cons aren't satisfied going after charitable organizations, and instead want to be able to compile their own list of individual donors as well. But there is some push for disclosure where it's actually needed as a check on undue institutional influence, as MoveOn is calling for corporate spending in U.S. politics to be subject to public scrutiny.

- Bill Curry reports on the C.D. Howe Institute's recommendation that the federal government focus on economic development rather than deficit scolding - with Joe Oliver naturally responding that he has no interest in job creation if it might conflict with his political goals. And Rick Goldman comments on the futility of using austerity policies in the name of fighting deficits when they ultimately cause more harm than good even by that measure.

- Steven Chase discusses the latest application of the Baird Doctrine that bluster matters more than action in foreign policy - as a much-trumpeted aid announcement for the Ukraine four months ago has led to zero actual contribution from Canada.

- Finally, David Atkins connects the U.S.' drift to the right with participation in party primaries - as the Tea Party and other right-wing groups have driven Republican turnout (and thus policy oriented toward its base) while Democrats have been increasingly staying on the sidelines over the past 40 years:
When conservatives don't get what they want, they tend to double down at the ballot box. When progressives don't get what they want, many of us tend to storm away and fantasize about engaging the system outside of electoral politics somehow. This is part of why conservatives have been successful in moving the country to right.

I've brought these points up again and again. Politicians don't care about people who don't vote, and the Tea Party gets coddled because they actually vote in primaries and Democrats tend not to.

But, of course, Democratic politicians also bear a lot of the blame. It's awfully hard to get motivated to vote when you know that not much is going to change regardless of the outcome.

Even so, you can't lay the entire blame for the problem at the feet of centrist corporate Democrats. The trend toward lower turnout started in 1970, hardly the heyday of the DLC. Yes, Democratic politicians need to do a better job of advancing progressive priorities and building base enthusiasm. But progressive voters also need to come out and actually vote, too.

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