Monday, September 29, 2008

Stability from the bottom up

Let's note one more part of the New Democrats' emerging message which both makes plenty of sense on its face, and has the potential to change the debate about effective fiscal management:
(Layton) also responded to accusations from Harper that a NDP government would be bad news for the Canadian economy in a time of global uncertainty.

"If average families are looked after, if they can pay their bills, if they can meet their monthly mortgage payments and keep they jobs, the banks will be just fine," he said.

"Let's get the fundamentals right for Canadian families."
Particularly with the U.S. meltdown threatening to spill over into Canada, it's worth pointing out the factors which led to the current bailout and continued problems. Not only did a combination of upper-class tax cuts and lax regulation give financial institutions both the opportunity and the incentive to focus on short-term profit-taking without much regard for underlying asset values, but a draconian bankruptcy reform also punished consumers who tried to go on paying their bills rather than simply walking away from mortgages.

In contrast, the New Democrats' plan figures to ensure that more Canadians will have a financial cushion every month rather than struggling to tread water. Which means in turn that financial institutions will have less need to worry about the kind of widespread non-payment that precipitated the crisis south of the border.

And of course, it shouldn't go without mention that the effect of the benefit money would potentially go far beyond the recipients themselves. After all, the pool of money now in the hands of families would provide a strong incentive for Canadian businesses to develop new or improved goods and services in an effort to win some of the resulting business.

In other words, the NDP's child tax benefit could serve both as a financial stabilizer and a spur to new commercial development - helping to benefit the economy at large as well as the recipient families. And on election day, it wouldn't be at all surprising if voters decide that's a better model for development than simply cutting taxes at the top and hoping families can find a way to make do for themselves.

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