Do We Really Have To Talk About This?

Point 4. (Following, of course, points 1, 2 and 3.)

Taxes.makingalist1

Ughh.

You know, we’d probably be happier with our governments if they just stopped asking us for money and, instead, concentrated their efforts on delivering the services we demand.

“It’s always the same issue,” Ehtisham Waqar told Jane Gerster of the Toronto Star (h/t David Hains for pointing me in the direction of the article). “Quality of life needs to increase and I think the only way to do that is to decrease taxes.”

Just like anything in life. You want more of it, at a better quality, pay less for it. It’s common business sense.

We seemed to have reached a fundamental divide these days between looking for practical solutions and wishful thinking. Goaded on by politicians of, increasingly, every stripe, we have convinced our collective selves that we pay too much in taxes to our governments and get too little in return. taxburdenWe pay too much or somebody else is paying too little. The point is, from a taxpayers’ perspective, we’re getting a raw deal with this arrangement.

How anti-tax minded have we become? The federal leader of the left-wing party in this country, those supposed tax-and-spenders, Thomas Mulcair sees any individual tax rate over 50% (I guess he’s talking marginal rates here) as confiscatory. Confiscatory, at 50%, which would be on the low side if we look back over the past 50 years or so, and which nowhere in the country do we sit at currently. But never mind. Out of the question. According to our silly socialists.

If we can’t get our loonie left to talk about the benefits and necessity of appropriate taxation applied fairly, then the anti-tax crusaders have won the battle. ducttaperepairOur public sphere will continue to be chronically under-funded, services and programs deemed increasingly inadequate and, having fenced off any talk of increasing revenue in the form of taxation as nothing short of extremism, our only response will be that of the above Mr. Waqar. Everything’s a mess. Cut taxes.

I’m not the first person to say this but I urge anyone who thinks we’re not receiving a good deal on the taxes we pay to go out and stand on a street corner, at a busy intersection and have a look around. Take a moment. Look hard.

If you don’t see, I don’t know, at least 5 services and pieces of infrastructure in place and paid for by your tax dollars that make the difference between living in a relatively accessible urban landscape instead of some ramshackle hut on a dirt road with outdoor plumbing, you’re not trying hard enough. And that’s just at a municipal level. Forget that school up the street or the hospital around the corner. What we get in return for the taxes we pay to City Hall happens all around us every day. badmathmanPerhaps we simply take it for granted.

Four years ago we bought, hook, line and sinker, the very fanciful notion of a confirmed tax hater that we were taxed too much (“The city doesn’t have a revenue problem.”) and all that was really needed was some fiscal discipline (“The city has a spending problem”). We could reduce spending by 5, 10% and not feel a lick of difference. Guaranteed.

Well, how’s that working for you, Mr. Waqar? All those potholes every block or so on the streets you drive. What about you, Mr. Generic Taxpayer? That tree limb that came crashing down in your yard during December’s ice storm, taking out the electricity and leaving you in the dark for 3 days over Christmas. Been cleaned up and collected yet? You been compensated for the food in your freezer that went off when the power took forever to be restored. Your basement now all spic-and-span after the July storm flooded it?

How’s it been, waiting for the Dufferin bus lately, Ms. Generic Taxpayer? Then cramming into the 4th subway car at Yonge and Bloor every rush hour. Imagine how paying even less taxes would greatly speed up your commute.badmath3

Anyone campaigning in 2014 on a flimsy platform built on Rob Ford’s fiscal agenda minus the scandals is doing nothing more than promising you exactly the same minus the scandals. That is, more potholes, less public transit, further weakening of infrastructure, increased user fees. A dirtier, more ragged, more congested city.

That is what’s happened since 2010. A general decline in the quality of life on the streets and in the communities of this city. And here’s the kicker. Spending has gone up with this administration as have property taxes. Sure, we got rid of one new source of revenue, the vehicle registration, which has only put further stress on others including the land transfer tax that the mayor also wants to do away with. We haven’t decreased overall spending or property taxes.

You know why?

Because we can’t.

It costs money to run this city, and no manner of magical thinking or mathematics can change that. You can’t even make do with less let alone do more with less. texaschainsawmassacreThe numbers simply don’t add up.

You certainly can choose to run the city on the cheap. That’s what we’ve been doing since 2010 but, as they say, you get what you pay for. A cheap city. A cheap city doesn’t thrive. It struggles and falters.

Toronto has been struggling and faltering. Doing more of the same, running the city on the cheap, can’t possibly turn things around for the better. It defies logic and common sense to believe otherwise.

So when a politician comes knocking at your door this campaign season and tells you our taxes are too high, ask them compared to what. The answer they give you will pretty much tell you if they’re fit to lead this city. The answer you want to hear will pretty much tell you if you’re serious about living in a vibrant, equitable city.

taxingly submitted by Cityslikr

11 Responses to Do We Really Have To Talk About This?

  1. Simon Says says:

    Everyone bemoans “its only $5 a month” when property taxes are increased. Yes, it would not much to pay, if it was the ONLY thing going up. Through on top of the property tax increase, a hydro increase, a water increase, cost of food going up, and other necessities. It leaves very little at the end for someone who hasn’t seen their real wages go up.

    Don’t look at taxes in a vacuum. There are other costs hitting families that need to be added in when the impact is measured.

    • cityslikr says:

      Dear My Says,

      We here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke actually think it’s you looking at taxes in a vacuum. If you contend that $5 a month is too much to pay, given all the other bills we have to pay, what is it you’re prepared to give up? Because it’s straight forward enough. Your taxes don’t keep up with costs, you have to give up something in return.

      So let’s stop talking about tax increases and start talking about service cuts.

      And please, don’t respond, yammering about efficiencies. We’ve been trying to find them for at least 3 years now. They aren’t there. To think otherwise is just living in your own little dream world.

      • Simon Says says:

        Why should my family or other families be constantly be giving something up? We’ve had to cut our food bill and we don’t go to the movies anymore. We put less into our RRSP, which will in the long run cause most people retiring to have less. If a household can make some decisions on SPENDING, so can the city. Something has to give. Salaries, pensions, benefits? Arts funding, leaf collection?

        If the government takes and takes, what is there left for a family to spend?

      • cityslikr says:

        Dear Mr Says,

        Again, we here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke need to point out to you that it’s not a question of the government take, take, taking. You consistently neglect to mention what you get in return for your tax dollars. We can all sit down and point out the services and programs we don’t get or use personally but that’s part of the collective experience. You might not use everything the city has to offer but you chip in anyway because pooling our resources is the cheapest and most efficient way to provide them to those who do.

      • Simon Says says:

        The only efficiency is the collection of money, not its usage. There is no long term benefit if the city requires families to make economic decisions because of the cities need for growing revenue.

        The more I read this blog, the more I think the writers here don’t have kids or toil for a living.

      • Sonny says:

        It was under Thatcher, Reagan. Mulroney in CANADA that wages started to flatline under their policies! Chretien/Martin had growth. Under Harper we are moving to a low wage Economy…

        In Ontario the minimum wage stayed at $6.85 for 9 years during the Harris/Eves years. It went up from 2004-2010 under the Libs.(smile)

        How’s supporting Cons working?

      • Simon Says says:

        My wages are going up, but so is everything else.

        Raising minimum wage 50 cents doesn’t do much if your rent, hydro and property taxes keep going up.

        And like I mentioned before, don’t think people here have kids to raise and plan for their education.

  2. Ron Wm. Hurlbut says:

    Simon is partly correct. Wages have stagnated and fallen behind the rate of inflation.

    However.

    Looking to reduce costs is REGRESSIVE.

    What you really need to be doing is increase WAGES!

    It is the fault of disorganized labour that has allowed wages to fall behind the rate of inflation.

    Don’t fight for lower taxes.

    Fight for Higher Wages.

  3. torontopeter says:

    While in general I agree with this blog and I certainly disagree with the Fordite Luddites 99% of the time, can our author guarantee that there are no wasted dollars in the entire minimal government enterprise?

    There are no middle managers ANYWHERE in the City government that are overpaid?

    There are no TTC ticket collectors that are overpaid?

    There are absolutely no opportunities to cut costs by continuing things like contracting out garbage collection (which most people across the political spectrum save the extreme left agree is prudent?)

    Because if the author cannot guarantee ALL of these savings (yes, they are those efficiencies you seem to believe don’t exist), then his entire argument falls apart.

    Raise my taxes but you better make damn sure you are running as tight of a ship as you can.

    But thanks for trying.

    • cityslikr says:

      Dear Mr Torontopeter,

      We here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke wonder if you’re setting an impossibly high bar to clear in order to justify your latent anti-tax sentiments.

      Guarantee that there’s no waste anywhere in a corporation with a $10 billion annual operating budget? Really? So I guess you demand the same thing in the private sector when you’re buying a phone, say. You’re not going to hand over your hard earned cash for the latest upgrade unless Samsung guarantees there is no waste in its ranks that they cover by padding the price of their phones?

      The KPMG report the administration paid for to help it ferret out all the gravy the mayor claimed there was came up largely empty-handed, showing instead that the city was being run very efficiently. Essentially it confirmed that to reduce costs, the city was going to have to reduce and cut services. End stop.

      Now you can comfort yourself that there are overpaid middle managers and ticket collectors out there, wasting all your tax dollars but, 1) who determines what is overpaying and 2) you’re working with anecdotal evidence that even if true amounts to pennies per year per individual taxpayer. I suggest you get a little more robust in your claims about all those efficiencies out there before demanding impossible to meet guarantees.

      A suggested starting point?

      Google contracting out waste collection. I think you’ll discover it ain’t the slam dunk savings you suggest only extreme leftists refuse to acknowledge.

  4. With the huge and growing income and wealth divide (from which Canadians are not spared), one has to ask: Where are we going to get the funds to support infrastructure, social services, and what are quickly turning out to be crippling costs related to severe weather events? What I see is a finite planet whose resources can only be exploited so much, and whose exploitation is actually destabilizing the planet’s life-support systems. The reason I mention this? Developed and emerging economies are actually increasing emissions. Things are going to get much worse. The wealthy aren’t going to suffer when the cost of food, for example, continues to rise. So who’s going to subsidize it? Money has to come from somewhere, it has to flow somehow, and everyone is pretending that the flow of capital from the public sphere to the private is somehow something both natural and desirable! There was a time when our healthcare really was the envy of the world, when we had a diversified, stable economy, and when we were better able to support vulnerable and marginalized people. Why was that? Because personal (high income earners) and corporate (large businesses) tax rates were much, much higher. Somehow, we’re told that along with these tax breaks we should implement austerity programs. We forget that in a society, no one is ever truly the sole source of their success. When a handful of people have more money than they know what to do with, and we allow them to squirrel more and more away – while people die from preventable causes and starve – there is something very wrong. If the working and middle class feel they’re being squeezed by taxes (and they are), then what they need to do is press to have taxes increased on people who can afford it, and demand policies that will actually make our lives better, e.g. increase wages, benefits, and job security. Neoliberalism has impoverished us, but its lie lives on. This is more an ideological struggle than anything.

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