Saturday, September 06, 2014

Saturday Morning Links

This and that for your weekend reading.

- Andrew Jackson writes that public investment is needed as part of a healthy economy, particularly when it's clear that the private sector isn't going to put massive accumulated savings to use. Bob McDonald notes that we'd be far better off using public money to fund basic research instead of funnelling it toward the business sector. And Ed Keenan looks to Ontario for examples of how far more money is flowing into questionable corporate handouts than toward basic human needs.

- Meanwhile, Lana Payne exposes the Cons' efforts to both downplay and reduce the federal funds available to improve both economic and social conditions if they had any interest in getting things done:
Martin serially underestimated the size of federal surpluses, surpluses the Conservatives quickly spent when they took power, mostly on reckless corporate tax cuts. The Conservatives then continued the trend started by Martin, who had reduced federal corporate taxes to historic lows. Apparently not low enough for the Conservatives, who lowered them again and again.

This has been the extent of Canada’s tax debate for a generation: tax cuts. Even the political left has bought into the mantra, to a certain extent. Political parties, for the most part, want to avoid having an adult conversation on what a fair tax system in Canada would look like.And, as a result, there is little to no fiscal room to build and deliver on the needs of the next generation of Canadians or to meet the demands of an aging population.

The Conservatives have continued the austerity agenda, slashing programs and services and laying off more than 20,000 employees.  They have overstated the size of the deficit. Indeed, for the first three months of fiscal year 2014-15, the federal government has been in official surplus.

The parliamentary budget officer (PBO) has been critical of the federal government’s continued austerity, noting that the measures have slowed economic growth and resulted in fewer jobs. The PBO has also predicted a $7-billion surplus for 2015.

These slash-and-burn austerity policies have served to keep the expectations of Canadians low, but they have also fundamentally changed and diminished the role the federal government has played in Canadian society.

This, of course, has been the point and some of the rationale behind the reckless tax cuts — empty the federal coffers, strangle the expectations of Canadians and then repeat.
- Linda McQuaig writes about the costs of allowing corporations to engage in tax-evasion maneuvers like the Burger King/Tim Hortons takeover:
We’re always told we should try to lure corporations here with low taxes. But such a strategy — even if it did result in some benefit to Canada — is ultimately self-defeating.

The more we cut our tax rates, the more other countries feel obliged to cut theirs. Round and round it goes, with less and less revenue for vital public programs everywhere. It’s a race to the bottom only corporations can win.

Instead, we should be supporting the Obama administration in its efforts to stop international corporate tax dodging. The White House is now locked in a fierce battle with powerful corporations over tax inversion schemes and also over the U.S. corporate tax rate, which — at 35 per cent — is one of the highest in the world. Corporations want it slashed.

The outcome of this showdown will affect us all. If the multinationals succeed in coercing the mighty United States government to cut its corporate tax rate, it will be much harder for less powerful countries to resist the corporate tax-cutting juggernaut.

The race to the bottom will be on in earnest — with the corporate world happily handing out steroids.
- Mike De Souza reports that the Cons refuse to let Health Canada or its scientists talk about the effects of oil-industry toxins on Alberta residents (other than to dismiss out of hand the research which actually shows harm to human health caused by the tar sands).

- Finally, Rick Salutin highlights the foreign policy that's actually threatening us at home at abroad:
Yes, there’s a threat of domestic 9/11-type attacks by ISIS: either in the name of global proselytization or to teach the West what it’s like to be bombarded at home. But it’s the predictable result of western policies since 9/11: invasions, occupations, brutalizations in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere. Western leaders and policy mavens knew these would elicit further 9/11s. That’s what I find despicable. They surely try to stop them but eventually some will probably get through — and they’re prepared to accept those, along with the terrorization of their own populations, as the price of their agenda.

In other words, they don’t invade or attack to stop future 9/11s. They accept future 9/11s as the cost for invasions and attacks with other purposes.

Such retaliations can arise in any society that’s been buffeted by outsiders, though they’re easier to mount in the globalized era. They already occurred in Ireland and Algeria. They often come from religion-based groups because those have deep roots and seem better able to survive repression than secular resistance movements. Occupiers like the U.S. are willing to risk the retaliation since, though terrifying and barbaric, it doesn’t menace them existentially: neither economically nor militarily. They’ll survive, and meanwhile have an excuse to tighten the screws on domestic dissent, further eroding personal security.

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