Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Right-Wing Propaganda Machine Gears Up

Deeply affronted, perhaps even frightened by the recent change to the Ontario budget that will impose an increase of 2% on the income of those making over $500,000 per year, the right-wing has been busy cranking out its anti-tax propaganda. Lest anyone think that a return to some form of progressive taxation is a good idea, two groups with charitable institution status are most charitably taking the time to point out the error of our thinking.

The first out of the gate was The Fraser Institute, which recently released a 'study' telling Canadians that we are paying far too much tax as it is. According to that study, we hapless citizens are paying more in taxes at all levels than we are on the basic necessities of life.

Following in their footsteps, the Macdonald-Laurier Institute kindly informs us that the rich pay more than their fair share of taxes, and hitting them harder won’t solve all the problems of the poor.

While you can read both reports through the links provided, I'd like to offer a few of my own observations here. First, the Fraser report conveniently ignores the fact that in terms of total tax burden, Canada ranks in the middle of countries listed in a Forbes-commissioned study for 2009. Coming in at #33 out of 65 countries measured, the study provides some much-need context absent from the Frasier hysteria.

Next, the above-mentioned study shows that the United States, coming in at #21 in the rankings, has a significantly higher tax burden, much of it apparently allocated in ways that do not benefit the majority of people. (Wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, on Terror, on Drugs and against Occupiers, corporate tax cuts and subsidies readily come to mind as quick examples.)

Despite that higher tax burden, U.S. citizens are mired in much higher costs for health care, the cause of 60% of their bankruptcies in 2009, thanks both to the occurrence of catastrophic illness and the absence of taxpayer-supported public health insurance.

In terms of education, while annual tuition for a basic undergraduate degree in Canada ranges from just over $2000 to about $6000, those in the United States are anywhere from about $13000 to over $41,000, excluding Florida, which appears to have the lowest tuition at $5700.

Of course, one of the key reasons for the disparity in educational costs is the proportion of taxation each country allocates to education; Canada sees subsidized education as a worthwhile investment since society as a whole stands to benefit.

Finally, the Macdonald-Laurier Institute avers that increasing taxes on the wealthy won’t solve all the problems of the poor. I can't think that anyone has suggested it will; what has been asserted, however, is that having a truly progressive system of taxation that is wisely administered will, in fact, allow for the continuation and expansion of programs to help the disenfranchised become fully-participating members of our society, something that those inhabiting right-wing towers seem to forget is a core value the majority of Canadians hold dear.

So no, speaking as a member of the middle class who wants to maintain and enhance the quality of life in this country, taxation is not a dirty word. Contrary to the fraught hyperbole of the so-called think tanks that are subsidized through my taxes, all I ask and expect is that my dollars be used for the betterment of all, not to simply bolster the net worth of the wealthy.


  1. I enjoy your posts and agree with much of what you say much of the time, but the Global News article you quote (and to which you give a link) is willfully misleading. Like most such comparisons, this article compares state funded Canadian universities with private US institutions (some of which are the most expensive in the world). Even when a study includes the less expensive State Universities in the US, the stats come out badly skewed because of the high costs of private universities which a very small percentage of people attend. The fact is that overall, university education in the US is very comparable to the cost in Canada, and in the case of some state universities it is even cheaper.

  2. Thanks for pointing that out. When I have a bit more time, I will do some further research to get provide more accurate data.