Friday, December 23, 2016

Friday Afternoon Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Christo Aivalis offers some suggestions for a set of progressive and effective tax policies:
My view is that the Left has to combine the general philosophy of economic redistribution with the practical needs of getting the money to preserve existing social programs and build new ones. We have to make greater peace with forms of taxation that are currently deemed regressive, because they can offer efficient paths to revenue collection. This doesn’t mean, however, that we can’t also explore means to make existing tax models more progressive.
My suggestion is that we could consider raising sales taxes by a few percentage points, but increasing the maximum income at which one can access a GST/HST rebate. And to ensure that very low-income Canadians are not unduly shocked by increased sales taxes, you can make the payouts larger and more frequent than the quarterly payments we have now.
Seldom discussed today is the 1966 Carter Report on Taxation, which concluded that the government did not tax all forms of income equally; that you paid more tax on income earned through labour than income earned through capital gains. Carter’s suggestions—which were strongly supported by labour and the NDP at the time, and mused about by Brian Topp in recent years — was that all income be taxed on a buck-is-a-buck basis, meaning that if you made $50,000 selling stocks, you would pay the same tax as you would making $50,000 working. But despite the importance of this report, the buck-is-a-buck principle never became reality. As it stands, income made from investments and capital gains has an exemption level and, even after this, is taxed at only half the rate of labour-based income.

The Left should commit to the buck-is-a-buck principle, both ideologically, and because it is an effective tactic to shift a tax burden onto the sorts of people who typically make more than negligible incomes on investments and capital gains. Of course, some exemptions could still persist which protect selling a family home or dealing with small inheritances. And some potential pitfalls exist with this suggestion in our current tax code, as do some complications when we consider things like RRSP, RESP and TFSA accounts. Still, a system where flipping stocks for $100,000 nets you significantly lower taxes than working isn’t one conducive to progressive taxation, and could be addressed via a tax policy that has an effective populist edge that seeks a fair deal for Canadians who earn the vast majority of their income through work, unlike the “boys on Bay Street.”
- And Scott Santens notes that to the extent income gains are disproportionately being enjoyed by capital rather than labour, we should be particularly interested in pursuing opportunities to increase the public revenue taken in from that income.

- Martin Regg Cohn discusses the political hot potato that is health care funding - though we should expect the politics to be second to a commitment from all levels of government to the availability of effective care.

- Gordon Price writes about the "phantom affordability" of housing which places massive transportation burdens on commuters.

- Henry Fountain and John Schwartz discuss the latest evidence that global warming has taken hold to an extent exceeding the worst fears of climate scientists. And Kiley Kroh points out John Holdren's suggestions as to how subnational governments can lead the fight against climate change even as the likes of Donald Trump take power at the national level.

- Finally, Rick Smith argues that in addition to offering the promise of far more fair and democratic elections, proportional representation could also substantially improve our governance.

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