Saturday, May 30, 2015

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Andrew Jackson weighs in on the need for our public policy to ensure a fair initial distribution of income and power in order to ensure that further redistribution is sustainable:
The issue of how to deal with rising inequality and the squeezed middle-class has recently moved to the centre of political debate, with the various parties proposing significant policy changes. International experience suggests that a more equal Canada will require major changes to a wide range of policy levers and not just to the tax and transfer system.

Work by the OECD and others shows that the rising income share of the affluent, especially that of the top 1%, has been mainly driven by rising incomes from the market. Senior executive salaries and bonuses as well as investment returns have grown much more rapidly than the wages of the middle-class and those at the bottom of the income spectrum.

Inequality is mainly an issue of a more unfair “pre-distribution” of income and wealth by the market, driven by such economic forces as globalization, technological change, the decline of union bargaining power and the growing proportion of low paid and insecure jobs.

That said, inequality of after-tax income has been compounded by a trend towards reduced re-distribution through the tax and transfer system. In most countries there has been a move to lower top income tax rates and reduced taxation of corporate profits, as well as cuts to income support programs such as unemployment insurance, welfare and public pensions.
Rising inequality is politically self reinforcing to the degree that it increases the political weight of the rich as well the distance between the well-off and everyone else. Extreme inequality sets the stage for a “secession of the affluent” to gated communities and private elite universities and high quality privatized health care.

If market income inequality is allowed to inexorably rise, one can expect even more resistance by the well-off to redistributive policies. This suggests that more must also be done to equalize market incomes.
- Scott Santens responds to a laughable set of calculations from the Economist by pointing out how a basic income is entirely affordable. Paul Krugman comments on the disconnect between the privileged few who constantly call for flogging the poor as the answer to any policy question, and the people who are already facing insecurity far beyond what the elites would understand. And Brad Wassink discusses how we should recognize the value of taxes as a means of funding our social rights and responsibilities, while also pointing out that we've allowed our tax system to become unfair by giving in to calls for top-end and corporate giveaways:
In 2005, the total tax rate was an inverted U-shape, progressive from the bottom to the middle, but regressive thereafter. So much so, that the top one per cent paid a lower tax rate (30.5 per cent) than the bottom 10 per cent (30.7 per cent). As our tax code exacerbates income inequality, we fail in our responsibility to protect the rights of low-income Canadians to live in dignity.

Canadians get a good deal when we pay our taxes. By pooling our resources, we are able to purchase better and more efficient services than we ever could on our own. And the benefit most Canadians receive from public services exceeds the amount we contribute.

So where do we go from here?

First, we need to be less squeamish about discussing taxation. According to data from the OECD and the UN, countries that invest in public programs enjoy higher levels of well-being. This story is not always being told, but it needs to be emphasized.

Second, we need to engage our political representatives in this discussion. Their policies and actions are usually a response to what they hear while out canvassing or reading their mail. So when they promise us lower taxes, it's likely because it's what they think we want from them. They won't know any better until we tell them otherwise.

Third, we need to vote. Polls have shown that Canadians support progressive taxation, yet our tax code doesn't reflect this. This isn't hard to comprehend when we think about the fact that just 61 per cent of registered voters cast a ballot in 2011. Low voter turnout is yet another way in which we are not living up to our responsibilities to each other.

We each owe it to the rest of Canadians to contribute our time, our energy, our money, and our vote to contribute to the common good.
- Hassan Yussuff makes the case for the federal government to genuinely expand the universal Canada Pension Plan to ensure a secure living upon retirement. And Lana Payne makes abundantly clear that the Cons' last-minute trial balloon about allowing people with spare money to put it into the CPP without employer contributions falls far short of offering a real alternative.

- David Howell and Bill Mah report that Rachel Notley's NDP government is following through on its campaign promise to increase Alberta's minimum wage to $15, with a first step to be taken by this fall. And David Olive argues that Canadian workers need to make more use of holidays already provided to them by law.

- Finally, Alexander Knight offers a thorough review of the dangers of the Cons' terror legislation. Janel Johnson reports on the Canadian Bar Association's call for Canadians to protest and be heard before their ability to do so is taken away. And Andrew Mitrovica highlights the need for citizens to keep challenging the lack of justification for C-51 and the risks of abuse even as the Cons ram it through Parliament.

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