A Taxing Problem

May 3, 2013

What if we took the most recent Fraser Institute tax attack report, taxmanThe Canadian Consumer Tax Index, and its claim of a 1787% tax increase since 1961 at face value and simply shrugged? Not for the reasons Matt Elliott did yesterday when he challenged the robustness of the report’s methodology but from an angle of nonchalance. Yeah, so? Big deal. I’m with Oliver Wendell Holmes. I like paying taxes. With them I buy civilization.

Or in other words, would I rather be living now in 2013 than back in 1961?

Infant mortality rate in 1961 was 27.1/1000. In 2011? 4.9/1000. Canadians lived 10 years less on average in 1961 than they do now. GDP per capita… well this.

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Of course taxes aren’t the sole reason for those positive changes but neither did taxation roll us back to the dark ages. We are hardly taxed to death, as some like to say. In fact, the stats point to just the opposite.

So let’s stop operating from the premise that taxation is inherently bad. Politicians like Councillor Doug Ford should be derided and dismissed outright when they state something as glaringly asinine as “All taxes are evil as far as I’m concerned.” taxesareevilThe subtext of such a sentiment is that the person expressing it is not to be taken at all seriously. It is a mind-numbingly idiotic thing to say that only a certified crank would believe.

The negative economic effects of taxation have long been exaggerated while the benefits have been methodically downplayed. Every time you go to see your doctor and don’t have to open your cheque book is your tax dollars at work. You drive to work today? Your tax dollars paved the road you used. Whatever you kid learned in school comes from a portion of your property taxes.

Without taxes, there is no public sphere or common wealth. Everything’s for sale and anything deemed of worth usually goes to the highest bidder. Taxation is one way we seek to mitigate the damages inflicted by the laissez-faire, everybody-for-themselves workings of our free market system.

And now comes the great debate about paying for a long overdue public transit expansion throughout the GTHA region. How to fund The Big Move. No taxes, no way, no how says our mayor and his ardent supporters. Government’s already got its boots on the neck of the taxpayers and emptied our pockets. That well’s been tapped dry. emptypockets2Read the Fraser Institute report if you don’t believe Mayor Ford.

OK. So, well. How do you propose to build and run the transit network we really needed about a decade ago, oh haters of taxes and respecters of taxpayers? You got $50 billion or so kicking around, easily accessible?

*crickets, crickets*

With no credible plan to pay for any new transit (and with three years to come up with one), the mayor and his allies have switched tacks and now seek to undermine the trustworthiness of the governing Liberals, citing scandal after scandal as proof that they shouldn’t be allowed further access to the taxpayer money tree. ORNGE! EHEALTH!! GAS PLANTS!!! GAS PLANTS, FOLKS!!!!

Now I don’t want to sound as if I could care less about accountability. The mismanagement and dedication to evading responsibility for it is deplorable. I’d be more than happy to turf this government from power and start with a clean slate if I saw I viable alternative, at least on this particular issue of transit.

So far, I don’t. It’s all populist pandering from both left and right with nothing much more on offer than change for change’s sake. distractionThe Liberals are tired and fresh out of ideas. Vote for us, for a different kind of tired and lack of new ideas.

And in terms of transit building, I’ll go even one step further. Add these scandals up, right up, generously to the top. Call it $3 billion of ill-spent money and let’s pretend it was a single year outlay. What was the total spending in yesterday’s provincial budget? $127.6 billion? That represents a little over 2% of the total 2013 expenditure. Statistically, a rounding error.

Before you go all off and start labelling me a Liberal apologist, my point is, all that money, the entire $3 billion would make but a dent in the Big Move. It would pay for just over a year of the proposed 25 year timeline. Where’s the rest going to come from?

We can bitch and moan, mumble and grumble, huff and puff and threaten to blow the shaky credibility house down but we’ve still got a shitload of transit to build. Until someone comes up with a better plan* to pay for it, our taxes are going to have to do the trick. Just like they have always done when it comes to paying for the public good.

well

impatiently submitted by Cityslikr

 

* There won’t be a better plan. If there was a better plan, we would’ve heard about it by now.