Monday, May 18, 2015

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your Monday reading.

- Frances Woolley reminds us of some of the hidden advantages of the rich, and suggests that they point toward the fairness of taxing wealth in addition to consumption:
The greatest freedom money offers is the freedom to walk away. Your bank doesn't offer you unlimited everything with no monthly fees? Walk away. There's always someone else who wants your money. Your phone plan is too expensive? Walk away (o.k., that may not be the best example).

People with money have alternatives, which makes their demand for goods and services elastic. Food may or may not cost more in poor areas. But a rich person can shop at Value Village if he chooses. A poor person may not be able to afford expensive purchases which save money in the long run, like bread machines or high efficiency appliances or pressure cookers. Consumption taxes aim to tax the amount of stuff people actually consume. But if poor people pay a higher price for their stuff than rich people, is a system that taxes only consumption spending, without taking into account the ability to command consumption wealth conveys, fair?
Some might argue that taxing consumption taxes capital - once that capital is spent. But wealth generates benefits for the holder even if the holder never spends a cent. Canada has relatively low taxes on capital - we do not have an inheritance tax, do not tax capital gains on principal residences, provide dividend tax credits to offset corporate tax paid, and provide room for tax-free savings within pension plans and tax free savings accounts.

The noted economist Tony Atkinson has recently made the case for introducing an annual tax on wealth. His argument is that taxing wealth would reduce inequality.

Even those who find Atkinson's argument for wealth taxation on purely distributive grounds unconvincing, and believe that consumption is the most equitable basis for taxation, should still be open to the idea of wealth taxes - because such a tax would recognize the comforts of being comfortably off.
- Meanwhile, Jameson Parker points out how one tycoon's excess wealth is being used to suppress scientific research which shows how fracking causes earthquakes. Rita Celli exposes both the appalling secrecy surrounding Ontario's resource royalties, and the pitifully low loyalty revenue amount which managed to leak out. And Samantha Page discusses the damage the Trans-Pacific Partnership and other trade agreements could do to our climate.

- Garry Leech points out that we're far too willing to accept corporatist terminology such as the language of entrepreneurship to describe activity which should be seen in social terms.

- Ethan Cox discusses the Cons' strategy in trying to limit and control the leadership debates in this fall's election.

- Finally, Dave Cournoyer weighs in on the frivolity of the Alberta right's attacks on NDP MLA Deborah Drever for having been young in the social media era.

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