Friday, August 16, 2013

Piffle About Taxes

Four years ago, Stephen Harper declared: "I don't believe that any taxes are good taxes." We've come to expect that kind of piffle from the prime minister. But, Devon Black writes, these days all politicians are singing from the same hymnal:

The “Read my lips — no new taxes!” approach to politics is so popular right now that even Thomas Mulcair hopped on the anti-tax bandwagon last week, promising no new taxes if the NDP forms the government after the next election.

The problem is, of course, that we need things which we can't afford to pay for on our own:

We all benefit from things like hospitals, schools and roads, which are paid for by taxpayers. But instead of defending taxes as mildly unpleasant but fundamentally necessary, our politicians seem hell-bent on cutting them down to the lowest level possible.

We have lost the sense that we are all in this together. Conservatives, who have dominated debate in this country for thirty years, have been mesmerised by Ayn Rand and made selfishness a virtue. It sounds catchy. But that vision quickly breaks down:

That reasoning is attractive on the surface, but even a moment’s consideration should give us pause. Paying a few dollars less in income tax might be nice, but we can’t buy clean water or effective electrical grids on our own.

This vision of a low-tax, low-government society is a fundamentally selfish one that would leave all of us worse off. Taxes aren’t government theft; they’re a collaborative investment in our country. Individually, none of us can afford to pay for all the services government provides. Together, our taxes help shape Canada into one of the best places on Earth to live.
The next time the prime minister touts the advantages of lower taxes, ask yourself: Could the good people of Calgary -- his "hometown" -- clean up from this year's flood on their own?



Lorne said...

The Star had an editorial the other day questioning the adamant stance Mulcair has taken on taxation, Owen. ( As I read it, I couldn't help but think that it has become almost axiomatic that the closer a political party comes to power, no matter its alleged ideological stripe, the more conventional in policy it becomes. Perhaps not a startling insight, but a regrettable truth in today's debased political landscape.

Your post is a timely reminder that there are far more important things in life than having one of the West's lowest tax jurisdictions.

Danneau said...

The good people of Calgary probably could afford the clean-up bill were they to levy the appropriate levels of taxation and royalties on their precious fossil fuels, but, like most in the NeoCon/Libertarian crowd, they prefer to let other people support their rugged individual, unfettered free market lifestyle.

Owen Gray said...

"Lower taxes" has become a mantra, Lorne, repeated by all the parties. It's a mantra to me-too-ism; and it suggests that not one of the parties stands for an original idea.

Owen Gray said...

Somebody always has to pick up the tab, Danneau. Modern political success has been defined by a group's ability to stick someone else with the check.

Rene said...

Yes, the way they carry on you would think their electorate is composed of grizzled old codgers like Gabby Hayes or Rooster Cogburn, who purposely retreat to some backwoods frontier, socially and economically self-sufficient and desirous of the least possible social interaction with and/or responsibility for their fellow human beings. Although that it an appropriate description of the Reform base.

Owen Gray said...

Gabby Hayes as the father of the Reform Party? Despite Preston Manning's claims to the contrary, Rene, I think you''re onto something.

Like Hayes himself, they should provide comic relief. Unfortunately, they are deadly serious -- and just plain deadly.