Raise taxes — it’s time

The Compass - - OPINION - Rus­sell Wanger­sky is TC Me­dia’s At­lantic Re­gional colum­nist. He can be reached at rus­sell.wanger­sky@tc.tc; his col­umn ap­pears on Tues­days, Thurs­days and Satur­days in TC Me­dia’s daily pa­pers.

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.

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