- Alan Freeman discusses the need for an adult conversation about taxes to replace the Cons' oft-repeated policy of ignorance:
Focusing on low taxes is great politics. It’s also a really dumb way to run the economy of an advanced industrialized country. Getting taxes right is a complex balance. Raise them too high — particularly taxes on income — and you risk creating disincentives for productive work, which can make your economy uncompetitive. Set them too low and you threaten the social programs and public goods that are fundamental to our values as a society — things like universal Medicare, safe highways and a sound education system.- Jim Stanford and Jordan Brennan take a thorough look (PDF) at the Cons' economic record, leading to the conclusion that tax baubles, indiscriminate trade deals and feckless management have led to by far the worst economic performance of any Canadian government since World War II. And Scott Sinclair and Stuart Trew note that the Cons' impending giveaways in order to get the TPP signed will only make matters worse.
In the U.S., where the low-tax gospel has become ingrained in the political system, the damage is there for all to see. The inability to raise the federal gasoline tax — it’s been stuck at 18.4 cents a gallon since 1993 — has exaggerated the country’s infrastructure deficit by impoverishing the road system and mass transit services while discouraging energy conservation. At the same time, budget shortfalls at the state level have resulted in large tuition increases at state universities, leading to high student debt and contributing to America’s sorry record on social mobility.
So far, the Harper Conservatives seem to be delivering low taxes while still providing most of the government services and entitlements that we all value. But that’s largely because the federal government doesn’t deliver the really expensive programs — like health care — and has washed its hands of a long-term role in designing their future by unilaterally setting a funding formula that will keep its transfers under strict control, no matter how much it actually costs the provinces to deliver the services.
The upshot is that Ottawa is in fine fiscal fettle going forward, according to the Parliamentary Budget Office, which last week reported that Ottawa’s outlook is so rosy that it can afford to increase spending or cut taxes significantly over the coming decades. The provinces and municipalities, on the other hand, won’t have enough money because of the impact of an aging population on health-care costs. A solution would be to increase federal transfers for health or shift tax room to the provinces, says the PBO. But such is the allergy to taxes (look what happened to Vancouver’s proposed regional transit tax) that politicians everywhere are reluctant to move in that direction.
- Paul Buchhelt highlights how corporations are cheating the public education system in the U.S. And Hazel Sheffield reports on Wall Street's lobbying for Puerto Rico to shut down its schools in the interest of putting creditors ahead of people.
- The CP reports that privatized power has gone awry in Alberta, as a major provider has been found to have deliberately triggered power outages at peak times in order to drive up prices.
- Jordon Cooper writes about Saskatoon's new status as the city with the highest crime rate in Canada, and points out that any improvement will require some sorely-needed leadership in dealing with poverty and exclusion. And Jesse Bauman notes that a more fair minimum wage improves living conditions for everybody, not just the workers who see their wages directly increased.
- Finally, Bryan Palmer makes the point that today's policy issues surrounding precarious work are just the latest incarnation of the dispossession which has regularly faced vulnerable workers.