Thursday, May 29, 2014

Canada's New Parliamentary Budget Officer Doesn't Disappoint - Stephen Harper

After former Parliamentary budget officer Kevin Page locked horns with the Conservatives over their voodoo math, he was replaced by someone whose inexperience would be much easier to manipulate.

Not that Jean-Denis Frechette isn't a nice man, but as Michael Warren noted of his appointment, in the Star:
... the appointment of Jean-Denis Frechette as Page’s replacement should come as no surprise. Frechette, who was plucked from obscurity in the bowels of the Parliamentary Library, lacks almost any relevant experience. His appointment leaves the future of the PBO in doubt.

That’s a shame. From the outset Page showed the courage to speak truth to power. Despite persistent efforts by the government to reduce his budget and diminish his role, he attracted a small cadre of highly qualified staff.
Frechette's office has just released a report that could have been drafted in the Conservative Party war room.

Apparently taxpayers have saved thirty billion dollars in taxes, most of the breaks for the low-middle class. We should be overjoyed, right? Hmmm
Dennis Howlett of Canadians for Tax Fairness quarrelled with the interpretation. He noted that in actual dollars, most of the savings when to Canada’s rich.

According to figures supplied by the PBO, the top 20 per cent of income earners got $10.9 billion, or 36 per cent of the total, while the bottom 20 per cent got $1.9 billion, or only six per cent. “That’s a huge amount and who has got that money? Most of that in dollar amounts has gone to upper-income Canadians...."
David Akin over at Sun media couldn't wait to sing the praises of the Harperites. Under the ridiculous headline: Middle class, not rich, reap most from Harper tax cuts
... And the PBO says "low-middle income earners" have benefitted the most among all groups. The tax savings for these folks amount to a 4% increase in their after-tax income. For the richest 10%? An improvement of just 1.4%, the smallest of any income level ... notes that "low-middle income earners" live in households where annual income is between $12,200 and $23,300 a year.
More troubling however, is where the report places the low-middle class. There is no official poverty line in Canada, but in 2009, it was determined that to stay out of poverty, the following incomes were required

1 person: $18,421
2 persons: $22,420
3 persons: $27,918
4 persons: $34,829

The median level of this new definition of low-middle class, is $17,750.00, which sits below what even a single person requires to stay out of poverty.

According to a 2008 report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the rate of poverty in Canada, is amoung the highest of the world's wealthiest industrialized nations.

And Canada has the second worst infant mortality rate amoung those nations, topped only by the United States; which begs the question: why aren't the pro-lifers marching against these state sanctioned late term abortions?

Cuts to the GST again only benefit those with disposable income and in Ontario and other provinces, Jim Flaherty's HST was put on things that we never used to have to pay tax on.

The Ontario government did help to alleviate some of the stress with a monthly Trillium fund benefit, but it still hurt the average citizen.

Another tax benefit touted by the disillusioned, is the Working Income Tax Benefit. But according to Carlton University economics professor Frances Woolley
The stated goal of WITB is to provide "tax relief for eligible working low-income individuals". This makes little sense, as many of those eligible for WITB will pay no federal income tax. The WITB recipients who do pay federal income tax will find that WITB adds to their marginal effective tax rate, because an extra dollar of earnings will reduce their WITB payment. But I guess everyone wants a tax break, even people who don't pay much by way of taxes.
People earning between $12,200.00 and 23,300.00, don't need lower taxes. They need a raise.

And what of the thirty billion dollars in lost revenue? Frechette's report doesn't address that. While the Conservatives have put our National Healthcare on life support, we need to discuss what throwing money at the rich has done to the average Canadian, not to mention our fiscal sustainability.

When the Harper government came to power, they inherited a surplus of 13.8 billion dollars. Even before the economic crisis the Conservatives had already spent through that with their misguided tax policies. Yet at the time they refused to even admit that we were in trouble, only acting when the prospects of a coalition government threatened to topple their power.

Even if they manage to balance the books. (I'm not holding my breath), our debt is now through the roof. According to the International Monetary Fund's 2013 forecast, Canada’s gross combined government debt sits at 87% of GDP, or the 13th highest among the 30 most advanced economies.

Are tax cuts really the answer? It's pretty clear that we should be increasing government revenue, not depleting it.

But the New Parliamentary Budget Officer has done his job. He's made Stephen Harper look good.

Don't taxpayers already fork over a bundle for that?

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