Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Dennis Howlett discusses what we lose when corporations are able to evade taxes, and points to some positive signs from the NDP in combating the flow of money offshore:
Federal and provincial governments lose an estimated $7.8 billion in tax revenues each year because of tax havens. The scale of the problem gets larger while the federal government cuts back on health care, food safety, rail inspections, the CBC and more.

True fiscal stewardship would recognize that staunching the flow of money offshore is the better solution. Canadian taxpayers pay the price when the CRA doesn't follow the money.

There are some hopeful beginnings. Earlier this year, NDP National Revenue critic Murray Rankin proposed new legislation that would make it easier for government and the courts to crack down on those who are playing the system.

Rankin's bill focuses on proving "economic substance." Corporations must be able to prove a transaction has economic purpose aside from reducing the amount of tax owed. Setting up a storefront office in Cayman Islands or Switzerland and then sending large invoices back to the Canadian head office charging "management" or "licensing fees" would no longer be acceptable. Make no mistake -- there are a lot of Bay Street lawyers getting very rich taking advantage of this existing black hole in Canada's Income Tax Act.

Rankin consulted on this legislation with internationally known tax expert Robert McMechan. The Ottawa-based McMechan is the author of a recent book, Economic Substance and Tax Avoidance. He points out that the U.S, Australia and the U.K. are among the countries that have drawn the line between legitimate tax minimization and unacceptable tax avoidance.
- Karen Kamp interviews Deepak Bhargava about some ways to make the case to fight against poverty:
Americans who are struggling do not see themselves in abstract language like “the poor” or “poverty.” This is partly because such language is seen as quite pejorative in America. To be poor is to have failed in pursuit of the American Dream. In too many ways, people who are poor are reviled. The first thing we need to do is stop blaming people and start talking about their real lives.
The entry point is connecting with common lived experiences such as not being paid enough to cover the bills, making difficult tradeoffs between basic necessities, inadequate or irregular work hours or not being able to save for retirement or college. Then you have to quickly connect it to shared values. In our research, the most powerful value was family — not only do people identify family as a primary identity but it is the fear or reality of not being able to provide enough for family members that motivates people to get into the debate or take action.
Phrases like “struggling to make ends meet,” “living on the brink,” “working for family” describe lived experience and not identity. They also have the added benefit of crossing supposed class lines. At this point in the Great Recession, it’s become the norm to live paycheck to paycheck — whether those paychecks cover a trailer home or a two story colonial in the burbs. Thus, even if people self-identify as “lower middle class,” these tested messages resonate. 
- But then, as Joshua Sager notes, even the U.S.' general public is already broadly in favour of progressive policies - meaning that the greatest challenge is to translate that actual policy preference into political outcomes.

- Meanwhile, Stephanie Coontz discusses the new instability facing working families, while Emad Ahdavi highlights the threat to our long-term economic development posed by youth unemployment and underemployment. And Zach McDade offers some suggestions as to new investments which can both create jobs and address glaring social needs.

- Finally, Evgeny Morozov asks whether "algorithmic regulation" might render politics obsolete while effectively handing even more control over citizens' lives to the corporate sector. But I'd think there's a sharp distinction to be drawn between data-based governance and corporate-based governance - and a strong preference the former as distinct from the latter could actually encourage meaningful debate about the goals we ultimately want our governments to pursue.

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