Monday, January 11, 2016

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your Monday reading.

- In reviewing Gabriel Zucman's new book, Cass Sunstein discusses the need to rein in tax havens and ensure that the wealthy pay their fair share of the price of a functional society:
(W)hatever your political party, you are unlikely to approve of the illegal use of tax havens. As it turns out, a lot of wealthy people in the United States, Europe, and elsewhere have been hiding money in foreign countries—above all, Switzerland, Luxembourg, and the Virgin Islands. As a result, they have been able to avoid paying taxes in their home countries. Until recently, however, officials have not known the magnitude of that problem.

But people are paying increasing attention to it. A vivid new documentary, The Price We Pay, connects tax havens, inequality, and insufficient regulation of financial transactions. The film makes a provocative argument that a new economic elite—wealthy managers and holders of capital—is now able to operate on a global scale, outside the constraints of any legal framework. In a particularly chilling moment, it shows one of the beneficiaries of the system cheerfully announcing on camera: “I don’t feel any remorse about not paying taxes. I think it’s a marvelous way in life.”
In the aftermath of the financial crisis, you might expect that there would be an international crackdown on the use of tax havens, and as we shall see, international attention is indeed growing. But the numbers demonstrate that no crackdown has occurred. In Luxembourg, offshore wealth actually increased from 2008 to 2012 (by 20 percent). In Switzerland, the increase has been comparable; foreign holdings are now close to an all-time high. Disturbingly, the new wealth is coming mostly from developing countries, which poses a serious problem in light of the severe strains on their limited budgets.
A strong virtue of Zucman’s book is that it puts a bright spotlight on an area in which significant reforms might appeal to people who otherwise disagree on a great deal. You might believe that the tax system should be made more progressive, or you might believe that it should be made less so. But whatever you think, you are unlikely to support a situation in which trillions of dollars are hardly taxed at all.
- Judith Shulevitz writes that a basic income could be particularly important in extending recognition to the value of work normally performed unpaid by women. And Andrew Jackson comments on the best options to reduce poverty among seniors.

- Gregory Beatty rightly points out (as I've done previously) that Saskatchewan's current problems with equalization can be traced back to Brad Wall's choice to abandon the exact same cause when he first took power.

- Ian MacLeod notes that the Libs' supposed commitments to improved oversight over security and greater power for individual MPs both seem to be undermined by the top-down naming of a chair for a new committee on spying. And their apparent starting point of not thinking much needs to be done with C-51 doesn't bode well for the prospect of anything changing for the better.

- Finally, Murray Dobbin argues that the Libs have an ample mandate to pursue the type of proportional electoral reform supported by a majority of parties - meaning that their most important task is to get the new system right.

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