Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Stephanie Levitz reports on new polling showing an increasing number of Canadians self-identifying as part of the working class or poor, while also seeing little room for optimism about their futures. And Jared Bernstein offers his analysis as to why wages are remaining stagnant south of the border.

- Randy Shore writes about the growing gap between the cost of living and the wages employers are willing to pay - though it's hard to have much sympathy for businesses on the latter point. And Amelia Gentleman notes that more than half of London's poor are in working families - signalling that a job is no assurance of a reasonable standard of living.

- Thomas Piketty offers a warning about the end of France's wealth tax - which is equally applicable to jurisdictions which lack it to begin with:
 Confronted with the rise in inequality, awareness is gaining momentum. Those who advocate withdrawal into some form of cultural identity are, of course, attempting to exploit the feeling of abandonment experienced by the working classes, at times successfully. But concomitantly we see the rise of a new demand for democracy, equality and redistribution. The United Kingdom might swing distinctly to the left in the years to come – and perhaps also the United States if the democrat candidates who are preparing to stand are anything to judge by.

In this type of context, the abolition of the wealth tax today in France, almost 40 years after the arrival in power of Reagan and Thatcher, has totally missed the plot. There is absolutely no sense in making tax gifts to groups who are old and wealthy and have already done very well in recent decades. All the more so as the loss in revenue is anything but symbolic. If we add the gifts made to dividends and interests ( which will in future be taxed at a maximum rate of 30%, as opposed to 55% for salaries and incomes from non-waged activities), we come to a total cost of over 5 billion Euros. This is the equivalent of 40% of the total budget allocated to the universities and higher education which will remain static at 13.4 billion Euros in 2018, whereas the numbers of students rise steadily and preference should be given to investment in training. I would like to bet that the students will remind the government of this when it endeavours to add selection to austerity in the coming months.
The political strategy which consists in transforming the wealth tax into a property tax (impôt sur la fortune immobilière), to avoid a complete suppression of the wealth tax, quite frankly leaves me speechless. There is no logical reason to levy a higher tax on a person who invests their fortune in a house or a property rather than in a financial portfolio, a yacht or any other type of good. We can only hope that elected members remember that they were not elected to be part of this kind of farce.
- James Wood reports on the Alberta Federation of Labour's push to ensure that legalized marijuana results in decent work through publicly-owned cannabis stores. 

- Jino Distasio points out how funding for Housing First initiatives can go much further than other attempts to address homelessness.

- Finally, Monia Mazigh points out that the Canadian Museum of Human Rights is conspicuously missing the most recent violations which show how much work there is yet to be done.

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