Raise taxes — it’s time
Want me to believe that there’s a government in this country that’s willing to actually be capable of stewarding our economy?
Show me one — just one — that’s willing to raise taxes and stop running deficits.
All right, burn me at the stake. I realize that the new political mantra — the only acceptable political mantra right now — is cut taxes, cut taxes — followed by “look at the taxes we cut, so love us.”
But I have a strange belief that we should actually pay for the things we use. If we use services, we should pay for all of them up front, not just delay payment into the distant future by borrowing money someone else will have to repay. Maybe I learned that years ago. It might have been brought home to me by my parents, who loved books and read ravenously, and who bought some while borrowing others from the Halifax library. Parents who, helping three boys through school simultaneously, lived a remarkably frugal life.
I can remember coming home from university, opening the fridge and finding little more than hamburger meat, a well- carved rind of Gouda cheese and broccoli . They made their own wine; my mother picked and dried mushrooms. They had a deep freeze and bought things like a half a pig, which they then butchered and packed away in the freezer. Hands up, anyone whose mother rendered lard in the kitchen. Yet they lived well. Here’s a frugality it’s hard to even imagine now. When my mother was dying in 2009, she spent part of every day stretched out on a brown couch. It was a couch she and my father had bought in the 1970s after it was sold off from a Dalhousie University faculty lounge. It started off as leather. First, she turned it upside down and retied and resprung its springs. Later, she recovered it, and later still, redid the springs when my older brother and I broke several jumping up and down on it. (We never admitted breaking the couch, but I distinctly remember the spoing-ing sound and the resulting dent.) That couch was a family fixture for 39 years, and was probably much older than that.
But the fact was that my parents simply wouldn’t buy something unless they had the cash to buy it.
It’s about time we started thinking that way as taxpayers. Heck, it’s time we started thinking about it as consumers.
Stop and think about this: in 2006, the federal Conservatives cut the GST by one per cent, a cut that, according to the parliamentary budget officer, knocked $7 billion a year out of federal tax revenues.
In 2008, they cut it by another one per cent, meaning the annualized loss to the treasury rose to $14 billion. So, roughly $112 billion gone out of the mix.
Corporate tax cuts — meant to help businesses invest in modernizing equipment — far and away went to fattening the bottom lines of companies that just kept the cash.
We benefited, but at what cost? Well , deficits everywhere, and deficits that, while they may be manageable now, take only minor interest rate hikes to become entirely unsustainable.
Governments like to claim that they have to run deficits to stimulate the economy. I want governments — and their personal politi- cal ends — to stay the heck out of the economy. They have neither the skill, the knowledge nor the good intentions to do the right thing.
And the rest of us? Quit voting for tax breaks. Pay your way, and stop whining about it.