Monday, January 12, 2015

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Stephen Burgen reports on Thomas Piketty's view that it's long past time for voters to have anti-austerity options where none existed in the past. And along similar lines, Murray Dobbin sets out the stark choice facing Canadians:
Canadians will have to continue to watch their Scandinavian neighbours use the wheel and prosper while we remain captives to the free market priesthood. Norway is the logical choice of neighbour to compare ourselves to, if you can stomach it. In Canada we have virtually given away our energy heritage through criminally low royalty rates over a period of some 70 years. Norway bargained hard with oil companies to develop its relatively newfound resource -- and kept ownership of it. The result, as reported in The Tyee last year, is a heritage fund of (as of a year ago) $909,364 billion (Canadian). That puts tiny Norway $1.5 trillion ahead of us and while each Canadian has a $17,000 share of our $600 billion debt national debt, each Norwegian has a $178,000 stake in their surplus. Norway puts aside a billion dollars a week from its oil resource.

But all that oil money aside (literally), Norway actually funds its government services through taxes which its citizens gladly pay. And why not? As Mitch Andersen reported, "Norwegians enjoy universal day care, free university tuition, per capita spending on health care 30 per cent higher than Canada and 25 days of paid vacation every year." We, on the other hand, live in a country where a third of citizens believe in Harper's fiscal self-flagellation, in an extremist religion that calls upon us all to deliberately impoverish ourselves. Hallelujah.
- Meanwhile, Carol Goar notes that we could build a stronger society by ensuring that the wealthiest among us pay their fair share:
For decades there have been sporadic calls from economists, think-tanks and opposition MPs to jack up tax rates for the privileged elite. The response of the finance department is best captured by a 1985 remark from then finance minister Michael Wilson. “Canada has an acute shortage of rich people,” he told the Canadian Economics Association, dismissing the budgetary impact as negligible.

That mindset prevailed through five Conservative and Liberal governments although no politician has expressed it as bluntly as Wilson. It still holds sway, despite a dramatic widening of the gap between rich and poor; a proliferation of self-styled “supermanagers” who rake in 170 times as much as the average worker; and a deepening sense of injustice among young people, victims of corporate cost-cutting, struggling wage earners and worried middle-class families.

It is true, as Wilson observed, that imposing higher taxes on the ultra-rich wouldn’t produce a fiscal bonanza. But it would slow the growth of inequality, ensure high-income earners pay their share of the cost of running the country and give the stalled majority a stake in Canada’s economic success. It would also bring Canada’s tax code into the 21st century. When the current rules were enacted, a salary of $137,000 put an individual in the economic stratosphere. Stock options were unheard of. The distribution of wealth was relatively stable.

None of those assumptions pertain to today’s socio-economic landscape.
- Keith Reynolds discusses another scathing report on P3s - this time from British Columbia, where a provincial cheerleading agency has regularly avoided considering publicly-owned options in order to make privatization look palatable.

- Aurin Squire notes that many in New York are far better off as a result of police refusing to enforce "quality of life" offences.

- Finally, Lana Payne comments on the broken relationship between the Harper Cons and the veterans who were used as political props for so long. And Tim Naumetz reports that a minor cabinet shuffle has done nothing to change the Cons' preference for silencing veterans rather than listening to them.

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