Friday, September 18, 2015

After That Tedious Leaders' Debate: A Real Program For a Better Canada

If you liked what you saw during last night's Globe and Mail party leaders' election debate, no need to read this. But if you found Stephen Harper's grumbling sing-song promise of more one-man, control-freak administration unappealing, if you found Justin Trudeau's ill-humored flailing around, his lips often ahead of his brain, underwhelming, and if you found Tom Mulcair's low-key humor and evident intelligence insufficient to compensate for the inadequacy of the NDP's platform, here's an alternative program.

First, on climate and energy, as I noted here, the Greens have it half right: a carbon tax is — Harper's lying claim to the contrary — the most economically efficient way to cut carbon emissions and should be instituted nationally. It works this way: those for whom cutting emissions is cheaper than paying the tax, will cut their emissions; while those for whom cutting emissions is more costly than paying the tax will continue to emit. That way, we automatically get the biggest emissions reduction per dollar invested. At the same time, those who continue emitting because it is too costly to reduce emissions lose business and thus emit less carbon because the carbon tax raises the cost of their product, or service (e.g., airline flights to international climate-change and environmentalist conferences). A carbon tax means no additional costly bureaucracy, no scope for kick-backs and election funding from favored industries, just the cheapest means of getting as much carbon emissions reduction as you want.

It is true that the carbon tax does, as Stephen Harper inanely reiterated during the latest debate, raise lots of money for governments. But so what? All governments raise revenue, and Stephen Harper's government raises lots of it, $272 billion last year, an increase of $15 billion over the previous year. A carbon tax of ten cents per kilogram would raise around $60 billion, which would be great: it would allow a 50% cut in income tax. Let me say that again, a ten cent a kg carbon emissions tax would allow a 50% cut in income tax.

So second, let's have a 50% cut in income tax, combined with a massive simplification of the tax code. The result? A twenty/twenty tax regime: a $20,000.00 basic personal exemption, and a 20% flat tax on income between twenty and one hundred thousand per year with no exemptions. After that, 40%. Yay, the income tax return could be printed on a post-card (Sorry tax-return preparers).

Third, end unemployment entirely. Here as I outlined before is how it can be done: easily.

The Government auctions job subsidies equal to a living wage. There could be an E-Bay style online auction. Employers bid competitively for the subsidies (for new hires). So if the living hourly wage is, say, $8.00 for a single teenager, or $15,00 for a single mother, and if the work year is 1800 hours, and if, on average, subsidies sell for half the living wage, each subsidy will cost the government between $7000 and $20,000 per year. Assume an average cost of $12,000 per subsidy, the cost of a program creating a million jobs would be a paltry $12 billion, which is practically less than peanuts, for a government that has money to piss away sending fighter jets to Bulgaria, Estonia and Iraq. (And note, by creating several million new jobs, allowing more Canadians to make shoes and shirts, computers and car parts for one another rather than importing them from Asian sweatshops, the program automatically raises the GDP: that means more tax revenue: both GST and income tax paid by the people who profitably employ those receiving the income supplement.)

As for infrastructure, no more Micky Mouse liberal projects to fill the pockets of friends of the party. Let's do something terrific: built a couple of dozen engineered cities without cars, without power poles, with tons of year-round, air-conditioned, communal space with side-walk caf├ęs, playgrounds, parks, trees, but no damn dogs: the kind of place I described here.

In addition, let's have a national online university with vast electronic instructional resources plus tutorial rooms in every community where thousands and thousands of brilliant people in the professions and in business would serve as part-time, volunteer tutors and mentors. That way all young Canadians could pursue education cost-effectively, while simultaneously earning a living and learning the disciplines of the working world.

And yes, of course, the corporation tax should be cut, not a coupla percent, but to nothing. Profits should be taxed in the hands of shareholders when paid out as dividends. The corporation tax is a dumb tax that raises public revenue only by discouraging corporate investment. It exists chiefly because politicians pander to those members of the public who think rich corporations should be made to pay, without realizing that taxing corporations kills jobs. Actually, we want the richest companies in the world, which will be mad to invest more in Canada so that they can become even richer, creating jobs in the process and creating increased demand for labor that drives up wages.

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