Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Wednesday Afternoon Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Polly Toynbee writes about the unfortunate agreement among the UK's major parties not to talk about the real effects of gratuitous cuts for fear that the public won't abide honesty in politics. And George Monbiot discusses how the UK's tax system favours rents over productive uses of capital:
The Westminster government claims to champion an entrepreneurial society of wealth creators and hardworking families, but the real rewards and incentives are for rent. The power and majesty of the state protects the patrimonial class. A looped and windowed democratic cloak barely covers the corrupt old body of the nation. Here peaceful protesters can still be arrested under the 1361 Justices of the Peace Act. Here the Royal Mines Act 1424 gives the crown the right to all the gold and silver in Scotland. Here the Remembrancer of the City of London sits behind the Speaker’s chair in the House of Commons to protect the entitlements of a corporation that pre-dates the Norman conquest. This is an essentially feudal nation.

It’s no coincidence that the two most regressive forms of taxation in the UK – council tax banding and the payment of farm subsidies – both favour major owners of property. The capping of council tax bands ensures that the owners of £100m flats in London pay less than the owners of £200,000 houses in Blackburn. Farm subsidies, which remain limitless as a result of the Westminster government’s lobbying, ensure that every household in Britain hands £245 a year to the richest people in the land. The single farm payment system, under which landowners are paid by the hectare, is a reinstatement of a medieval levy called feudal aid, a tax the vassals had to pay to their lords.

If this is the government of enterprise, not rent, ask yourself why capital gains tax (at 28%) is lower than the top rate of income tax. Ask yourself why principal residences, though their value may rise by millions, are altogether exempt. Ask yourself why rural landowners are typically excused capital gains tax, inheritance tax and the first five years of income tax. The enterprise society? It’s a con, designed to create an illusion of social mobility.
- Jen St. Denis reports on a few of our options to reduce inequality in Canada. Carol Goar follows up by observing that fair taxation needs to be a significant piece of the puzzle. And David Cay Johnston highlights how tax giveaways to the rich have proven to be an economic failure - while more fair taxes at the top have been a boon to California's economy.

- Monika Dutt makes the case for a national pharmacare program. And the Institute for Research in Public Policy concludes that in the absence of a federal government willing to take the lead, we'd be best of to have the provinces take the first step in making medication available to everybody who needs it.

- Naomi Klein points out why the tar sands are far from the source of indefinite economic growth they've been painted at by the Cons.

- Finally, Michael Geist discusses what tends to stay hidden in selective "open government" policies. And Jim Bronskill exposes the Cons' attempt to keep telecoms from offering any information at all about how the release of personal information to police and other governmental authorities.

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