PUBLIC SECTOR JOBS DO NOT EQUAL SOCIALISM

PUBLIC SECTOR JOBS DO NOT EQUAL SOCIALISM

(These thoughts are purely the blunt, no nonsense personal opinions of the author about financial fairness and discrimination and are not intended to provide personal or financial advice.)

This blog post was prompted by an opinion letter in a local newspaper where certain conservative persons continue to demonize public sector jobs.  The opinion letter below was submitted to the local newspaper in response, but in a shortened format since only so many words can be submitted to newspapers.  The Fraser Institute report consists of blatant gaslighting since what is left out of the report is the fact that the population growth of Alberta in 2014 to 2018 was 223,000 in comparison to Saskatchewan’s 49,000 increase.

April 18, 2019 opinion letter “Public sector jobs not equal to private” again equates public sector jobs to socialism.  Quoted Fraser Institute, (right-wing think tank) report “The Illusion of Alberta’s Job Recovery” (jobs) has to be one of the most gaslighting reports ever produced.

Report states from 2014 to 2018 Alberta’s employment growth has increased by 79,000 new government jobs (23% increase) while private sector jobs have decreased by 3%. Government’s share of total employment is 23%, private sector and self-employed 77%. They then compare this to Saskatchewan’s government jobs increase of 2.1%.

Fact check:  Alberta population 4.084 million in 2014, 4.307 million in 2018 (223,000 increase).  Alta. births 55,574 in 2014, 56,239 in 2018. Saskatchewan population 2014 1.113 million, 2018 1.162 million (49,000 increase) .  Sask. births in fiscal 2014 15,157, fiscal 2018 15,693.

In entire Fraser Institute report it failed to mention that the population of Alberta increased by almost a quarter of a million persons in 2014 to 2018 while Saskatchewan’s population increased by only 50,000 persons.

Alberta birth and population growth rates have been increasing while death rates are declining.  In first twenty years of life education and medical care are not mutually exclusive but both must occur simultaneously thus requiring more employees. Death rates are declining so people living longer with greater medical needs require more medical care.

Alberta comparison to Saskatchewan is moronic.  Ever increasing population and birth rates (second highest birth rate in Canada) require increases in education, medical care, police, firefighter services to support that population.  It has nothing to do with socialism.

While we are at it, why don’t we talk about job inequity of a different kind, that is, the pay inequity of women to men.  (Canada is ranked as having the 8th highest gender pay gap out of a list of 43 countries in 2016 ….. earn approximately $7,200 less annually than their male counterparts the-wage-gap).

The Alberta employment crisis affects everyone in different ways. Public sector employees are not immune. They also have problems selling their houses.  Education and medical care employees suffer emotional and psychological stress in their jobs when they come in contact with the pain of unemployed private sector persons and children. While private sector unemployed with children will receive higher Canada Child Benefits private sector unemployed unattached persons with no children receive nothing in comparable benefits.  Families with combined private and public sector spouses likely still have one person employed. Public sector employed help support private sector unemployed by paying taxes.

The opinion writer on public sector socialism states jobs growth via socialism is trying to magically make unemployment disappear by simply having 100% government jobs. This is a false because some would be very unhappy that they couldn’t increase their incomes and benefit levels to that of corporate and wealthy private sector elites.

To prevent chaos there are vital services for the public good like airline safety, food inspection, disease control (measles), etc. that should be free of entrepreneurship and shareholder ideology.  These public services are not defined by socialism.

CONCLUSION

Many who talk about the public sector being equal to socialism do not understand what socialism is all about and incorrectly label many things as socialism when they are not. Much more public work needs to done to correct inequality and promote social justice for all workers.

(This blog is of a general nature about financial discrimination of individuals/singles.  It is not intended to provide personal or financial advice.)

HOW THE ELITE SABOTAGE BUSINESS, POLITICS AND HIGHER LEARNING

HOW THE ELITE SABOTAGE BUSINESS, POLITICS AND HIGHER LEARNING

(These thoughts are purely the blunt, no nonsense personal opinions of the author about financial fairness and discrimination and are not intended to provide personal or financial advice.

(The following is a comment on and summary of the excellent book “Winners Take All” and how the elites have taken over the business, political and higher learning institutions of the world.  Following this blog post are important pieces of discussion pulled from the book-forewarning: this is about 25 pages long)

Many are disillusioned by the all powerful control elites seem to have both politically and financially on the world.  The book “Winners Take All-the elite charade of changing the world” by Anand Giriharadas provides thought provoking ideas (as presented below) on how elites have been able to achieve their goals.

The Gilded Age and major changes in citizens’ financial lives helped to propel the advent of elite MarketWorld thought leaders who believe and promote ideas that social change should be pursued principally through free market and voluntary actions, not public life, the law and reform of systems that people share in common.

MarketWorld is an ascendant power elite that is defined by the concurrent drives to do well and do good, to change the world while also profiting from the status quo.  It consists of enlightened business people and their collaborators in the worlds of charity, academia, media, government, and think tanks. It has its own thinkers, whom it calls thought leaders, its own language, and even its own territory – including a constantly shifting archipelago of conferences at which its values are reinforced and disseminated and translated into action.  MarketWorld is a network and community, but it is also a culture and a state of mind.

There are two kinds of thinkers who share a common desire to develop important ideas and at the same time reach broader audiences.

First are “thought leader” thinkers who tend to know one big thing and believe their important idea will change the world.  Thought leaders use spreadsheets and statistical analyses to share their ideas which are often in the future tense like Venn diagrams without noting that the lion’s share of each circle (have and have-nots) remains outside the overlap of win-win.  They give TED talks that leave little space for criticism or rebuttal, and emphasize hopeful solutions over systemic change while taking little risk.

Thought leaders have often presented problems in precisely opposite ways by using their power to cause us to “zoom in” and think smaller.  They focus on vulnerability of poverty, not the wage of inequality. They don’t like “social justice” and “inequality” words, but rather use “poverty” and “fairness” while speaking of “opportunity”.

It is possible to counteract thought leader thinking by getting people to care about problems first by “zooming in” on a vivid person and then getting them to care by “zooming out” from person to see a system.  These thinkers are the “public intellectuals” who as wide-ranging ‘critics’ feel they bear a duty “to point out when an emperor has no clothes”. They are the ones who might give some hope to changing the trajectory of elite MarketWorld thought leaders.

“Zooming in” is known as the “identifiable-victim effect”…..People react differently toward identifiable victims than to statistical victims who have not yet been identified.

The social psychological concept, the one involving “zooming out” is the formal term for the concept “assimilation effect”, and it occurs when people link the personal and specific to the surrounding social context.

Re poverty, inequality and charity:  poverty is a material fact of deprivation that does not point fingers, but inequality is something more worrying:  It speaks of what some have and others lack; it flirts with ideas of injustice and wrongdoing; it leaves many chasing work instead of building livelihoods; it is rational.

MarketWorlders believe poverty can be addressed via charity by writing cheques to reduce that poverty.  “But inequality you can’t, because inequality is not about giving back, but about how you make the money that you’re giving back in the first place.”  Inequality is about the nature of the system. To fight inequality means to change systems as a group of people. With charity the elite work ALONE.

The changes of feudal financial and Gilded Age systems helped to develop organized philanthropy (whose leaders earn million dollar salaries and get tax credits for their charities while getting to keep their wealth) and ideas that after-the-fact benevolence justifies anything-goes capitalism.  The elites today do this from behind private gates, schools, jets: private world-saving behind the backs of those to be saved. Passively they do not reject public solutions in theory, but pursue private ones in practice. The private sector doesn’t merely add to public spheres, they change the language in which public spheres think and act.  This market-based, monetized thinking over all other disciplines and conceptions of value have helped to quickly spur a rising anger, nationalism and right-wing populism.

Thought leader ideas have permeated higher learning institutions.  Young people are taught to see social problems in a “zoom in” fashion by confining questioning to what socially minded businesses they can start up (buy one, give one), but not inequality.  They are persuaded by surrounding cultures that only by learning higher learning protocols can they help millions of people.

The question that elites refuse to ask is:  Why are there in the world so many people that you need to help in the first place?  The very problems elites have self righteously only partially solved have caused unrest because they act and talk in ways that insult, alienate, and energize many of their fellow citizens.

And MarketWorld’s private world-changing, for all the good it does, is also marred by its own “narcissism.”

When society helps people through its shared democratic institutions, it does so on behalf of all, and in a context of equality.  Those institutions, representing those free and equal citizens, are making a collective choice of whom to help and how. Those who receive help are not only objects of the transactions, but also subjects of it–citizens with agency. When help is moved into private spheres, no matter how efficient , the context of the helping is still a relationship of inequality:  the giver and the taker, helper and helped, donor and recipient.

History is not a straight line but a circle of events which repeat themselves such as the Gilded Age.  Many right and left political leaders have bought into the elite thought leader mythology. Are we being moved again to a Gilded age scenario?

To counteract MarketWorld our political institutions–laws, constitutions, regulations, taxes, shared infrastructure:  these million little pieces provide a counterbalance to help hold our democratic (capitalist) civilization together.

CONCLUSION

The one sided financial hegemony that elites have created has been helped by cutting funding to IRS and CRA budgets.  This means there is less money to prosecute financial high crimes of the elite. Shared economies–like Airbnb–do not help those persons of race, singles and poor who do not own homes. The present day college financial scandal provides evidence to the elite greed and graft.   The FAA allowing Boeing to “self-inspect” and SNC Lavalin corruption are clear examples of the private sector going amuck in the absence of laws and regulations counterbalance.

One word comes to the mind of this opinion writer-”brainwashing”. The elites have done a very good job of ‘brainwashing’ the political, financial and higher learning powers that be. At the very least it is “gaslighting”.

Counterbalance of MarketWorlders requires major public action for inequality and social justice change.  It is all about balance between MarketWord and government/politic worlds.

(This blog is of a general nature about financial discrimination of individuals/singles.  It is not intended to provide personal or financial advice.)

 

WINNERS TAKE ALL-The elite charade of changing the world (Anand Giriharadas) Book

MARKETWORLD DEFINITION

Page 30 MarketWorld is an ascendant power elite that is defined by the concurrent drives to do well and do good, to change the world while also profiting from the status quo.  It consists of enlightened business people and their collaborators in the worlds of charity, academia, media, government, and think tanks.  It has its own thinkers, whom it calls thought leaders, its own language, and even its own territory – including a constantly shifting archipelago of conferences at which its values are reinforced and disseminated and translated into action.  MarketWorld is a network and community, but it is also a culture and a state of mind.

HOW DID WE GET TO WHERE WE ARE

P. 18  …In the years since, though, Georgetown and the US and the world at large have been taken over by an ascendent ideology of how best to change the world.  That ideology is often called neoliberalism, and it is, in the framing of the anthropologist David Harvey, “ a theory of political economic practices that proposes that human well-being can best be advanced by liberating individual entrepreneurial freedoms and skills within an institutional framework characterized by strong private property rights, free markets, and free trade.”  Where the theory goes, “deregulation, privatization,and withdrawal of the state from many areas of social provision” tend to follow, Harvey writes.  “While personal and individual freedom in the marketplace is guaranteed, each individual is held responsible and accountable for his or her own actions and wellbeing.  This principle extends into the realms of welfare, education, health care, and even pensions.” The political philosopher Yascha Mounk captures the cultural consequences of this ideology when he says it has ushered in a new ‘age of responsibility,” in which “responsibility – which once meant the moral duty to help and support others – has come to suggest an obligation to be self-sufficient”.

P. 19 ….Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher as political figures rose to power by besmirching the role of government.  Reagan declared that ‘government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem”. Two centuries earlier, the founding fathers had created a constitutional government in order to “form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.”  Now the instrument had been created, an instrument that helped to make the United States one of the most successful societies in history, was declared the enemy of these things….What their revolution amounted to in practice in America and elsewhere was lower taxes, weakened regulation and vastly reduced public spending on schools, job retraining, parks, and the commons at large.

The political right couldn’t pull off its revolution alone, however.  That is where the need for a loyal opposition comes in. Thus neoliberals cultivated the left half of the political spectrum a tribe they could work with.  This liberal subcaste would retain the left’s traditional goals of bettering the world and attending to underdogs, but it would increasingly pursue these aims in market-friendly ways.  Bill Clinton would become the paterfamilias of this tribe, with his so called Third Way between left and right, and his famous declaration, regarded as historic from the moment it was uttered in 1996, that ‘the era of government is over.”

P. 20 …stirred by a desire to change things, their own ideas and the resources available to them tended to steer them toward the market rather than the government as the place where problems were best solved…that if you really wanted to change the world, you must rely on the techniques, resources, and personnel of capitalism.

P. 26….Sonal Shaw…. established the Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation under President Obama.  That office, according to its website, was “based on a simple idea: we cannot drive lasting change by creating top-down programs from Washington.”  It was striking statement from a liberal government – but not an uncommon one in an age dominated by market thinking – and it reflected a theory of progress that the rich and powerful could embrace.

THE PUBLIC INTELLECTUAL (CRITIC) VERSUS THOUGHT LEADER

P.91-92….Two kinds of thinkers, who share in common a desire to develop important ideas and at the same time reach a broad audience.  One of these types, the dying one, is the public intellectual whom as a wide-ranging ‘critic’ and a foe of power, ….perhaps stays ‘aloof from the market, society, or the state,” and ….proudly bears a duty “to point out when an emperor has no clothes.”  The ascendant type is the thought leader, who is more congenial to the plutocrats who sponsor so much intellectual production today. Thought leaders tend…to “know one big thing and believe that their important idea will change the world”; they are not skeptics but “true believers”; they are optimists, telling uplifting stories; they reason inductively from their own experiences more than deductively from authority. They go easy on the powerful…..

Public intellectuals argue with each other in the pages of books and magazines; thought leaders give TED talks that leave little space for criticism or rebuttal, and emphasize hopeful solutions over systemic change.  Public intellectuals pose a genuine threat to winners; thought leaders promote the winners’ values, talking up “disruption, self-empowerment, and entrepreneurial ability.”

THREE FACTORS THAT EXPLAIN THE DECLINE OF THE PUBLIC INTELLECTUAL AND THE RISE OF THE THOUGHT LEADER

P. 92 Three factors explain the decline of the public intellectual and the rise of the thought leader.[1] one is political polarization….[2] another factor is a generalized loss of trust in authority…[3] the rising inequality has most altered the sphere of ideas.

….get pulled into MarketWorld’s orbit, how thinkers…are coaxed to abandon their roles as potential critics and instead to become fellow travelers of the winners….. Thinkers are invited to become the elite’s teachers on the circuit of “Big Idea”–TED, South by Southwest, the Aspen Ideas Festival….anything sponsored by The Atlantic.”  These thinkers often find themselves having become thought leaders without realizing it, after “a slow accretion of opportunities that are hard to refuse”.

P. 93 It could be…that even as plutocrats were providing these alluring incentives, less corrupting sources of intellectual patronage were dwindling.  On American campuses in recent decades, the fraction of academics on tenure track has collapsed by half. Newsrooms, another source of support for those in the ideas game, have shrunk by more than 40 percent since 1990.  The publishing industry has suffered as bookstores vanish and print runs dwindle.

MARKETWORLD IDEOLOGY

P. 27 …[History] Today’s problems were too hard for the government.  They had therefore to be solved through partnerships among rich donors, NGOs, and the public sector.  There was no mention of the fact that this method, by putting the moneyed into a leadership position on public problem-solving, gave them the power to thwart solutions that threatened them.

The solution of public problems through public action – changing the law, going to court, organizing citizens, petitioning the government with grievances went all but unmentioned.

P. 30 These elites [thought leaders] believe and promote the idea that social change should be pursued principally through the free market and voluntary action, not public life and the law and the reform of the systems that people share in common; that it should be supervised by the winners of capitalism and their allies, and not be antagonistic to their needs; and that the biggest beneficiaries of the status quo should play a leading role in the status quo’s reform.

P. 31….So successful is the belief in business as the universal access card for making progress, helping people, and changing the world that even the White House, with its pick of the nation’s talent, under Republicans and Democrats alike, grew dependent on the special talents and consultants and financiers in making decisions about how to run the nation.

P. 32 There was a case to be made that the very people being brought in to advise the government on the public good was implicated in many of the public’s most urgent problems.  Management consultants and financiers were critical protagonists in the story of how a small band of elites, including them, had captured most of the spoils of a generation’s worth of innovation.  The financial sector had extracted more and more value from the American economy, at the expense not only of consumers and workers but also of industry itself. More and more of the nation’s financial resources were swilled around Wall Street without taking the form of new investments by companies or higher wages for workers…..[Businesses had been taught] to optimize everything which made their supply chains leaner and their income statements less volatile.  This optimization, of course, made companies less hospitable to workers, who faced things such as layoffs,offshoring, dynamic scheduling, and automation as the downside of corporate progress.  This was part of why their wages stagnated while companies’ profits and productivity rose.

P. 33…. [This] seemed to contribute to the business world’s growing influence over social change.

P. 34….Many of them are trapped in what they cannot fully see. Many of them believe that they are changing the world when they may instead – or also – be protecting a system that is at the root of the problems they wish to solve.  Many of them quietly wonder whether there is another way, and what their place in it might be.

THE DARK SIDE OF THE FINANCIAL WORLDS OF THE ELITES AND THEIR PHILANTHROPY

P. 26...Wealthy donors [like the Beecks who made their money in mining business in South America]often had a financial interest in the world being changed in ways that left things like taxation, redistribution, labor laws, and mining regulations off the table.

P. 35…A charity called Portfolios with Purpose calls itself  “ a powerful platform combining healthy competition with giving” – a short phrase that manages to hit the notes of techno-utopianism, capitalism, and charity.

P. 36 (It goes without saying, for example, that if hedge funders hadn’t been enormously creative in dodging taxes, the income available to foreign aid would have been greater).

P. 40 The increasingly extractive financial sector is in part responsible.  That sector could be arranged in other ways, including tighter regulations on trading, higher taxes on financiers, stronger labor protections to protect works from layoffs and pension raiding by private equity owners, and incentives favoring job-creating investment over mere speculation.  Such measures should help to solve the underlying problem by preventing the capture of the gains from growing productivity….It would serve to further increase an abundant thing likely to be hoarded by elites (productivity), instead of a scarce thing that millions need more of (wages).

P. 41…”-there’s a lot of things for-profit end endeavors are not suited to do, where you need the nonprofit sector, you need the government sector.  But one of the things the for-profit section is great at is self-sustaining because you don’t have to be constantly fund-raising”.

P. 45 The new win-win-ism is arguably a far more radical theory than the “invisible hand”. That old idea merely implied that capitalists should not be excessively regulated, lest the happy by products of their greed not reach the poor.  The new idea goes further, in suggesting that capitalists are more capable than any government could ever be of solving the underdog’s problems.

P. 46 …They describe “philanthrocapitalists” as “hyper agents” who have the capacity to do some essential things far better than anyone else.

P. 47 ….the founder of the Collaborative Fund, a venture capital firm in New York [writes] – Once seen as sacrificial to growth and returns, pursuing a social mission now plays a role when attracting both customers and employees.” [He] used a Venn diagram to illustrate the investment thesis that his firm has created in view of this trend.  One circle was labeled “Better for me (self interest)”; the other was labeled ”better for the world” (broader interest).  The overlap was labelled “exponential opportunity.” A charitable interpretation of this idea is that the world deserves to benefit from flourishing business.  A more sinister interpretation is that the business deserves to benefit from any attempt to better the condition of the world…..P.53 But in…. Venn diagram, it is worth noting that the lion’s share of each circle remains outside of the overlap of the win-win –what mathematicians call the relative complement.

P. 51 …[leader of the Silicon Valley Community Foundation] he was told to stop using the phrase “social justice”.  [So he started to use the word “fairness”].

P. 52 ….Fairness seemed to be more about how people were treated by abstract systems than about the possibility of the winner’s own complicity.

….What these winners wanted was for the world to be changed in ways that had their buy-in – think charter schools over more equal public schools funding, or poverty-reducing tech companies over antitrust regulation of tech companies.  The entrepreneurs were willing to participate in making the world better if you pursued that goal in a way that exonerated and celebrated and depended on them. Win-win.

….leaves many chasing working instead of building livelihoods.

P. 54 …. the effects of a generation’s worth of changes in the lives of working class Americans, rooted in policy choices and shifts in technology and the world situation–including outsourcing, stagnant wages, erratic hours, defanged unions, deindustrialization, ballooning debt, nonexistent sick leave, dismal schools, predatory lending, and dynamic scheduling while doing nothing about these underlying problems.

P. 57 [quote from real life example] “Society tells me that I have to  go to school, get a good job, and then I’ll get a salary, because I am in America….And that’s what I did, and now I’m in debt.  And now I’m suffocating”. [Psychological stress and physical illness].

[Real life] story exposed multiple malfunctions in the machinery of American progress.  It implicated the country’s health care system and the problem of unaffordable drugs, its public transport system, its wage and labor laws; its food system and food deserts, its student debt crisis, its so-called great risk shift, through which corporate America has stabilized its own income statements over a generation of off-loading uncertainty onto workers, and the ways in which shareholders were running companies more and more for themselves, to the detriment of every other stakeholder.

P. 64 …VCs [venture capitalists] and entrepreneurs are considered by many to be thinkers these days, their commercial utterances treated like ideas, and these ideas are often in the future tense: claims about the next world, forged by adding up the theses of their portfolio companies or extrapolating from their own start-up’s mission statement.  That people listened to their ideas gave them a chance to lauder their self-interested hopes into more selfless-sounding predictions about the world. For example, a baron wishing to withhold benefits from workers might reframe that desire as a prediction about a future in which every human being is a solo entrepreneur.  A social media billionaire keen to profit from the higher advertising revenue that video posts draw, compared to text ones, might recast that interest–and his rewriting of the powerful algorithms he owns to get what he wants–as a prediction that “I just think that we are going to be in a world a few years from now where the vast majority of the content that people consume online will be video.” [Mark Zuckerberg did this].

P. 67 …[Shervin Pishevar, a leading venture capitalist in Silicon Valley] was not only casting venture capitalists and billionaire company founders as rebels against the establishment, fighting the powers that be on behalf of ordinary people.  He was also maligning the very institutions that are meant to care for ordinary people and promote equality. He referred to unions as ‘cartels’…..

P. 74 ….the Ubers and Airbnbs and Facebooks and Googles of the world are at once radically democratic and dangerously oligarchic….

P. 77 As America’s level of inequality spread to ever more unmanageable levels, these MarketWorld winners might have helped out.  Looking within their own communities would have told them what they needed to know. Doing everything to reduce their tax burdens, even when legal, stands in contradiction with their claims to do well by doing good. Diverting the public’s attention from an issue like offshore banking worsens the big problems, even as these MarketWorlders shower attention on niche causes.

P. 82 [Silicon Valley]….proposing “a new kind of economy,” as one of its digital pamphlets put it: For all the wonders the Internet brings us, it is dominated by an economics of monopoly, extraction, and surveillance.  Ordinary users retain little control over their personal data, and the digital workplace is creeping into every corner of workers’ lives. Online platforms often exploit and exacerbate existing inequalities in society, even while promising to be the great equalizers.  Could the Internet be owned and governed differently?

“PUBLIC INTELLECTUAL” THINKERS

P. 82…..One heard from speakers ways of thinking that were all but barred from MarketWorld:  the idea that there were such things as power and privilege; that some people had them in every era and some people didn’t; that this power and privilege demanded wariness; that progress was not inevitable, and that history was not a line but a wheel; that sometimes astonishing new tools were used in ways that worsened the world; that places of darkness often persisted even under new light; that people had a long habit of exploiting one another, no matter how selfless they and their ideas seem; that the powerful are your equals as citizens, not your representatives.

The attendees didn’t confine their speech to win-wins.  They spoke of exploitation and abuse and solidarity. They spoke of problems.  They were not bound by the genteel MarketWorld consensus.

THE CRITIC AND THE THOUGHT LEADER

P. 87 …[Amy Cuddy, social psychologist at Harvard] …continued to work on….project to study how men’s hegemony, that most global of phenomena, adapts to local conditions so as to enroot itself.

P. 91-92 [Cuddy – with her Wonder Woman pose]…Without necessarily intending to, she was giving MarketWorld what it craved in a thinker: a way of framing a problem that made it about giving bits of power to those who lack it without taking power away from those who hold it.  She was, to use a metaphor she would later employ, giving people a ladder up across a forbidding wall–without proposing to tear down the wall.

HOW TO MOVE TOWARDS THOUGHT LEADER AND AWAY FROM CRITICAL THINKING

P. 97-100 …The culture was full of instruction….about how to become more hearable as a thinker–how to move toward the thought-leader end of the critic/thought leader continuum….You start to see a few basic dance steps in common–what we call the thought-leader three-step.

“Focus on the victim, not the perpetrator” is first of these steps…..the second step is to personalize the political….This second step was, in a sense, to do the opposite of what a generation of feminists had taught us to do.  That movement had given the culture the phrase “the personal is political”….”Personal problems are political problems”

…In our own time, the thought leaders have often been deployed to help us see problems in precisely the opposite way.  They are taking on issues that can easily be regarded as political and systematic–injustice, layoffs, unaccountable leadership, inequality, the abdication of community, the engineered precariousness of ever more human lives–but using the power of their thoughts to cause us to zoom in and think smaller.  The feminists wanted us to look at a vagina and zoom out to see Congress.  The thought leaders want us to look at a laid-off employee and zoom in to see the beauty of his vulnerability because at least he is alive.  They want us to focus on his vulnerability, not his wage.

The third move is to be constructively actionable.  It is fine and good to write and say critical things without giving solutions–but not if you want to be a thought leader….

P. 103 [paid speeches]…may be right that each speech is its own thing, not enough to corrupt an honest person on its own.  But can a speaking career as a whole never form something like “ties” that have some degree of permanence and a two-way flow of influence and information?

P. 104 The idea that thought leaders are unaffected by their patrons is also contradicted by their very own speakers bureau website, which illustrate how the peddlers of potentially menacing ideas are rendered less scary to gatherings of the rich and powerful.

P. 106 Thought leaders can find themselves becoming like poets speaking a tax collector’s language, saying what they might not say or believe on their own.  And the danger isn’t only in what they say in this new language, but also in the possibility that they might somewhere down the line stop thinking in their native one.

CAN THOUGHT LEADERS TRANSCEND THE PITFALLS OF THOUGHT LEADERSHIP?

P. 117 Amy Cuddy wants to believe the thought leader can use the tricks of her trade to transcend the pitfalls of thought leadership.  She wants to believe there is a micro way into the macro….She thinks the secret to cajoling them toward systemic reform may lie in blending two disparate concepts from her field.  One is about how to get people to care about a problem by zooming in on a vivid person.  The other is about how to get them to care by zooming out from person to see a system.

The first of these concepts is known as the “identifiable-victim effect”…..People react differently toward identifiable victims than to statistical victims who have not yet been identified.  Specific victims of misfortune often draw extraordinary attention and resources. But, it is often difficult to draw attention to, or raise money for, interventions that would prevent people from becoming victims in the first place.

P. 118 …Wondered if a thought leader could use feedback like this to her advantage.  If you want to talk about the structural power of sexism, first make people think of their daughters.

P. 119 ….possibilities of the second social psychological concept, the one involving zooming out.  She felt it might break up this limiting symbiosis. The formal term for the concept is the “assimilation effect”, and it occurs when people link the personal and specific to the surrounding social context.

P. 120 When a thought leader strips politics and perpetrators from a problem, she often gains a access to a bigger platform to influence change-makers–but she also adds to the vast pile of stories promoted by MarketWorld that tell us that change is easy, is a win-win, and doesn’t require sacrifice.

POVERTY VERSUS INEQUALITY AND SOCIAL JUSTICE AND CHARITY

P. 120 What the thought leaders offer Market World’s winners, wittingly or unwittingly, is the semblance of being on the right side of change.  The kinds of change favored by the public in an age of inequality, as reflected from time to time in some electoral platforms, are usually unacceptable to elites….

P. 122 [Bruno Giussani, curator of TED organization].For example, ideas framed as being about “poverty” are more acceptable than ideas framed as being about “inequality”. The two ideas are related. But poverty is a material fact of deprivation that does not point fingers, and inequality is something more worrying:  It speaks of what some have and others lack; it flirts with the idea of injustice and wrongdoing; it is rational. “Poverty is essentially a question that you can address via charity.”  A person of means, seeing poverty, can write a check and reduce that poverty. “But inequality you can’t, because inequality is not about giving back. Inequality is about how you make the money that you’re giving back in the first place.”  Inequality is about the nature of the system. To fight inequality means to change the system. For a privileged person, it means to look into one’s own privilege. And, “you cannot change it by yourself. You can change the system only together.  With charity, essentially, if you have money, you can do a lot of things alone.”

PROGRESSION OF THOUGHT LEADER THINKING

P. 124 Many thinkers cut these moral corners and contort themselves in these ways because they are so reliant on the assent of MarketWorld for building their careers….”If they want to make potential benefactors happy, they cannot necessarily afford to speak truth to money.”

P. 125 It wasn’t necessarily malice or cynicism that sustained these patterns, but something more banal.  The people who served as tastemakers for the global elite were, like many, in an intellectual bubble…the sole way of thinking?  Everybody thinks the same way. In his world, he [Giussani] said, that meant an unspoken consensus (widespread but not total) on certain ideas:  Progressive views are preferable to conservative ones; globalization, though choppy, is ultimately a win-win-win-win; most long term trends are positive for humanity; making many supposed short-term problems ultimately inconsequential; diversity and cosmopolitanism and the free flow of human beings are always better than the alternatives; markets are the most realistic way to get things done.

What this…did was cause his tribe to “ignore a lot of issues that were relevant to other people and not to  us”, culture in a broad sense that then came back and is haunting us [in the form of] rising populist anger.

P. 139  [Sean Hinton, Economic Advancement Program]…..was learning the protocols to work his way into the arena of business….The protocols had grown out of corporate problem-solving, but increasingly MarketWorlders were employing them to elbow into the solution of social problems traditionally considered in other ways, by more public-spirited actors.  And the more people accepted the idea of the protocols as essential to public problem-solving, the more MarketWorld was elevated over government and civil society as the best engine of change and progress.

P. 140 ….young people…..are persuaded by the surrounding culture that only by learning the protocols can they help millions of people…..the bearers of the protocols elbow their way into the solution of social problems simply by offering their own style of diagnoses.

.It is possible to read into this that people are poor because of the absence of these linkages, not because of caste, race, land, hoarding, wages, labor conditions, and plunder, not because of anything anyone did–or is doing–to anyone else; not because of reversible decisions societies have taken.

[TechnoServe] Its managers come, in the main, from corporations, in areas such as investment banking, management consulting, health care, and fund management.

P. 141….Perhaps the clearest signal of…..faith in the power of the protocols to cure injustice–rather than, say, life experience–is the constitution of its board.  Of 28 board members listed online, 26 are white as of last check.

….If TechnoServe emphasizes the missing linkages between poor people and the right information, a rival firm…argues that too many good solutions are too small–another theory of what keeps people poor that, usefully, does not implicate the rich.

WHAT TO DO  ABOUT THE CRISIS OF INEQUALITY AND THE RISE OF ORGANIZED PHILANTHROPY

P. 154 …Ford Foundation and thus in the social justice business….

[from President of Ford Foundation]….letter….had raised, in sharp and provocative language, the question of what to do about the crisis of inequality.  This in itself was disturbing to many rich people, who preferred to talk about reducing poverty or extending opportunity, not about more thoroughgoing reforms that would perhaps require sacrifice….letter squarely blamed the very elites who give back to philanthropy for ignoring their complicity in causing the problems they later seek to solve.

P. 155….had broken what in his circles were important taboos:  Inspire the rich to do more good, but never, ever tell them to do less harm; inspire them to give back, but never, ever tell them to take less; inspire them to join the solution, but never, ever accuse them of being part of the problem.

….He was attempting to revise and update–or perhaps overturn–an old gospel that dates back to an era much like ours, a gospel that had itself transformed earlier American ideas of helping other people.

The late historian Peter Dobkin Hall….an authority on the American giving tradition, traces it back to the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, as the colonial trade in commodities magnified differences in wealth and created “an increasingly visible population of poor and dependent people for whom the public was expected to take responsibility.”

P. 156 A marked feature of American giving before the big age of philanthropy was the helping of the many by the many….

As the nineteenth century drew down, major changes in American life helped to develop this early tendencies into what is today called organized philanthropy.

P. 157 Around the turn of the nineteenth century, a new industrial capitalism flourished. Incredible fortunes were made in railroad, steel, oil, and other factors of a booming nation’s growth.  Much as is the case today, inequality widened as some seized on the new possibilities and others were displaced.  Anger bubbled, and populist impulses surged. The money that was being made in this earlier gilded age was, in the view of the many, unseemly in its quantities, unjust in its provenance, untenable in the power it conferred over a republic breaking out in new populist sentiments.  It was also fuel for new ideas about giving: “Growth in inequality might be a foe to civic comity, but it is a friend to private philanthropy. [Robert Reich].

The new form of charity birthed by this era was the private foundation, which, Reich argues, was different from the charities of the past, both in its scale and in nature.  It was an entity with broad and general purposes, intended to support other institutions and indeed to create and fund new organizations (e.g., research institutes), seeking to address root causes of social  problems rather than deliver direct services (work “wholesale” rather than “retail”), and designed to be administered by private, self-governing trustees, with paid professional staff, who would act on behalf of a public mission.  One other aspect of these foundations was new: their vast resources enabled them to operate on a scale unlike other, more ordinary endowments.

P. 158 These foundations, were, in other words, allowing a small handful of wealthy people like Carnegie and Rockefeller to commit monumental sums of money to the public good and thus gain a say in the nation’s affairs that rivaled that of many public officials….

Despite the scale of the new generosity, there were criticisms.  One had to do with how the money being given had been made.  The new foundations were troubling, as Reich puts it,”because they represented the wealth, potentially ill-gotten, of Gilded Age robber barons.”No amount of charities in spending such fortunes can compensate in any way for the misconduct in inquiring them, said President Theodore Roosevelt.  Memories remained fresh of Rockefeller’s less than benevolent monopoly in oil and less than benevolent allergy to labor unions.

P. 159 Other criticism focused on how the new philanthropy not only laundered cruelly earned money but also converted it into influence over a democratic society. Reich writes that the new foundations “were troubling because they were considered a deeply anti-democratic institution, an entity that could exist in perpetuity and that was accountable except to a hand-picked assemblage of trustees.”

P. 160-162 Andrew Carnegie…helped to found a new vision of philanthropy that not only rebutted the kinds of criticisms that he and others had faced, but effectively delegitimized critics and questioned their right to question….he argued that inequality was the undesirable but inevitable cost of genuine progress.  The “conditions of human life have not only been changed, but revolutionized,” he wrote. Inequality is a better thing than it may seem.

P. 161 This is the first step of the Carnegie’s intellectual two-step:  If you want progress, you have to let the rich people make their money however they can, even if it widens inequality.

P. 164 This is the compromise, the truce, distilled:  Leave us alone in the competitive marketplace, and we will tend to you after the winnings are won.  The money will be spent more wisely on you than by you.  You will have your chance to enjoy our wealth, in the way we think you should enjoy it.

Here lay the almost constitutional principles that one day would govern MarketWorld giving: the idea that after-the-fact benevolence justifies anything-goes capitalism; that callousness and injustice in the cutthroat souk are excused by later philanthropy; that giving should not only help the underdogs but also, and more important, serve to keep them out of the top dog’s hair–and above all, that generosity is a substitute for and a means of avoiding the necessity of a more just and equitable system and a fairer distribution of power.

P. 165 (gala for charity) ….The whole night is divided into two types of performances from the stage.  The young and the helped, mostly black and brown, repeatedly dance for their donors. Then, between performances, older white men are brought up to praise them and to talk about, and be applauded for, their generosity to the program.

Most of the [older white] men work in finance. They include the corporate raiders who, seeking to raise profits by cutting costs, having helped to do away with stable employment. They are the gentrifiers who have pushed real estate prices through the roof and made it harder for families like those of the young dancers to maintain a livelihood in the city.  They are the beneficiaries of tax laws that give carried interest a major break and help to keep the public coffers low and the schools attended by the city’s poor underfunded, thus driving them into the streets and occasionally, when they are lucky, into the charity’s arms.  But these men have been generous, and in exchange for their generosity, these issues will not come up.  No one will say what could be said:  that these precarious lives could be made less precarious if the kind of men who donated to this program made investments differently, operated companies differently, managed wealth differently,  donated to politicians differently, lobbied differently, thought differently about pretending to live in Florida to avoid a minor New York City tax–if, in other words they were willing to let go of anything dear.  It is one night in one city, but it speaks of a broad, unstated immunity deal: Generosity entitles the winners to exemption from questions like these.

WHAT ABOUT CORPORATIONS WHOSE PRACTICES ARE HARMFUL WHILE GIVING HUGE SUMS TO PHILANTHROPY?

P. 176 The Sacklers, Purdue Pharma, developers of OxyContin.

P. 180 Contrary to the picture of helpfulness and cooperation Purdue attempted to paint, Purdue’s employees were actively and secretly trying to prevent West Virginia from imposing any control on the sale of OxyContin.

P.182 ….How did the Sacklers build the 16th largest fortune in the country?…Another answer to that question might be:  by thwarting the guardians of the public good every time they tried to protect citizens….[John Brownlee, U.S. Attorney in Roanoke, Virginia] It was later reported that Brownlee had received an unusual phone call the night before securing Purdue’s guilty plea.  A senior Justice Department official had called Brownlee ..and “urged him to slow down”…Brownlee rebuffed his superior.  “Eight days later,” the Washington Post said, “his name appeared on a list compiled by Elston of prosecutors that officials had suggested be fired.”….It was part of a larger attempted purge of prosecutors by the administration of George W. Bush.  Brownlee kept his job; Elston (senior Justice Department official) lost his amid the controversy of the lists becoming public. And what had occasioned the phone call? According to Elston, his boss, a deputy attorney general name Paul McNulty, had asked him to place the call to Brownlee after receiving a request for more time from a defense lawyer representing a Purdue executive.

P. 185 Hooters [exploitation of women, but many, like Cole who started in Hooters restaurant would progress to upper management]

P. 187 This rather audacious rationalization mingled with other, more plausible-sounding ones such as that if there were going to be bad industries, good people should run them. “If in a free-market society there will be demand, whether it is for sugary products or alcohol or scantily clad waitresses in a restaurant concept, then it will exist.”

P. 188 Cole’s [Hooters] rationalization were strongly and sincerely held.  [If the President of the Ford Foundation] wanted to change the money-making system itself, to change how business is conducted, he was not only up against powerful corporate interests and their lobbyists.  He was up against the psychologies of thousands of people like Cole, and a way of looking at life that didn’t require cynicism or callousness to commit harm.  It was a way of viewing things that inured the viewer to the larger system around you, that made these systems not your problem.

P. 190-195   Laurie Tisch [heiress to Loews Corporation–Loews also purchased a cigarette company]

P .194 This difficulty in escaping the status quo was especially evident in Tisch when it came to the aspect of her fortune that gave her the greatest guilt: her cigarette money.

BRIDGING MARKETWORLD AND THE PUBLIC INTELLECTUAL WORLD

P. 171 At the heart of Carnegie’s message, as Walker [President of Ford Foundation] read it, was the idea of extreme inequality as “an unavoidable condition of the free market system” and of philanthropy as an effective remedy.,,,But then Walker began to go off script.  The giving world, he wrote, needed “to openly acknowledge and confront the tension inherent in a system that perpetuates vast differences in privilege and then tasks the privileged with improving the system.”

P. 173 “….In most areas of life, we have raised market-based, monetized thinking over all other disciplines and conceptions of value.

P.174 …Walker pondered at the pushback he got..–the pleas to “stop ranting at inequality,” to speak of “opportunity” instead.

P. 196 …Walker spoke highly of his own experience in the financial services industry.  It had given him ‘skills’–some of which, presumably, were the protocols he could now tell himself he had redeployed in service of the weak.  It taught him how to multitask, manage a complex portfolio of projects, assimilate data and turn it into insight, have discipline. He wasn’t flattering his audience.  He was reciting the reasons why so many people…, who aspired to help millions of people, went to places like KKR before embarking on their work of changing the world.

P. 197 Eventually, he got to subject at hand.  “We have in America and in the world a level of extreme inequality that–I don’t mean to be hyperbolic–but I think really threatens our democracy.  Because at the core of the American narrative, in our democracy, is a very simple idea of opportunity.”  That’s how he did it: poking them with a thought that might not have been their favorite, and then quickly meeting them where they were, with the language of opportunity, that MarketWorld staple.

…Now, in front of a new generation of the “barbarians at the gate,” he was meeting them where they were.  “The more inequality we get in our system, the less opportunity there is.” he said….

P. 198 [from audience questions] And his subtlety and their imperviousness had conspired to ensure that he was not really heard.

He had been addressing people still in the fearful, climbing season of their lives [young professionals trying to establish themselves].  To get to the “rainmakers’, he said, you had to be in more private settings….

This thought led Walker to the observation that America was becoming privatized now. The American public had their big conversation out there in the messy democracy, and the elite had its own ongoing intramural chat….

P. 199  Walker looked at America today and saw his rich friends building their metaphorical buildings with gates on the outside and discos indoors.  Gated communities. Home theatres. Private schools. Private jets. Privately run public parks. Private world-saving behind the backs of those to be saved.  “Life goes more and more behind the gate,” he said. “More and more of our civic activities and public activities become private activities.”

P. 200 [Walker, President of Ford Foundation joining PepsiCo board] …..The move attracted some criticism, in part because this warrior against inequality would now be earning more than a million dollars a year from the Ford Presidency and this new, very occasional role, and in part because he now bore formal responsibility for what Pepsi did, including the company’s continuing choice to sell its harmful sugary drinks.  The critics could console, or depress, themselves with the thought that he was far from alone: Several of his counterparts at the major foundations served on the boards of firms like Citigroup and Facebook. The fear was that, yet again, MarketWorld would infiltrate and win…But Walker promised and seemed to believe that he would change them, not the other way around.  “I will bring my perspective as the leader of a social justice organization.”

P. 206 ….Walker (said)…. the new UN Week (Clinton Global Initiative) lived at “this intersection of doing well and doing well was doing good.”

P.207 However, Walker said, it was also the case that “philanthropists and commercial enterprises saw in CGI a platform that they could leverage for both doing good and building their brands.”  As a result, self-service flirted dangerously with altruism at CGI, in Walker’s view.

P. 209 ….Eight events had free registration, eight sold paid registration, and forty-eight were invitation-only.  The ratio told a truth about the new MarketWorld UN week: When private actors move into the solution of public problems, it becomes less and less of the public’s business.

FORMER PRESIDENT CLINTON’S PROGRESSION TO LIBERALISM

P. 201 Many of these people had been coming to Bill Clinton’s conference for years. Though they tended to label themselves as givers, philanthropists, social innovators, impact investors, at and the like, recent political upheavals has given their tribe a new name that was sticking.  They were coming to be known, by their friends and enemies alike, as globalists….Around the world, a suspicion seemed to be taking hold that jet-setters solving humanity’s problems in private conclaves was as much a problem as it was a solution.

P. 204  Clinton …(Yale Law School) …had embraced a liberalism that was….a “systems-building philosophy,” whose revelation was “that society, left alone, tended towards entropy and extremes, not because people were inherently awful but because they thought locally.” Private individuals couldn’t be relied to see the big picture of their society…but “a larger entity such as government could.” When he started in public office, Clinton believed public problems were best solved through public service and collective action. During the White House years, though, and even more decisively afterward, he had been won over by theory that it was preferable to solve problems through markets and partnerships among entities private and public, which would find areas of common cause and work together on win-win solutions.

P. 235 ….Clinton’s globalist dream was admirable, but it was also intolerant of other dreams.  It sought to make hard choices seem inevitable and uncomplicated. It sought to blur what happened to be good for the plutocrats in the room with was was good for ordinary people…It was among the things inspiring the revolt by making so many people feel barred from decision-making about the future of their own world.

P. 238 Still, his political opposition as president does not tell the full story of why recent decades have been so gruelling for millions of Americans.  Clinton, like Obama after him, was up against militant conservatives and libertarians, backed by plutocratic donors, who loathed the very idea of public, governmental problem-solving.  To be clear, that is the movement chiefly responsible for market supremacy’s takeover of America and the bleak prospects of millions of Americans. Yet the Republican party represented less than half of the nation, and the Democratic Party had a chance to stand for a robust alternative to market hegemony.  And you could say that it did to an extent–but it often did, under Clinton, and Obama, in a tepid, market-friendly, donor-approved way that conceded so much to government’s haters that the cause lost the fire of purpose.

……Jacob Hacker, Yale political scientist, who was once described as “an intellectual ‘It boy’ in the Democratic Party said, “Many progressives still believe in a role for government that is pretty fundamental, but they have lost faith in the capacity to achieve it, and they’ve in many cases lost the language for talking about it.”  Republicans, he said, are straight forward in their contempt for government. Democrats, especially those of the Clinton school of centrist, triangulating, market-friendly politics, don’t counter the contempt with a vigorous embrace of government…instead speak in a “gauzy” language….Even their proposed policies, though, reflect ambivalence:  health care for all, but not through public provision; help paying for college, but not free college; charter schools, but not equal schools….

P. 239 [Yale political scientist]...this hesitancy and “loss of faith” in government” has “hugely asymmetric effects on the two parties.”  He said, “For Republicans and the right, it is–for the most part, though not always–conducive to their aims, because if the government doesn’t do things, it can often be consistent with what they would like to see happen.  But for the left and the Democrats, it’s a huge loss, because their vision of a good society is one in which a lot of valuable public goods and benefits have their foundations in government action.”

….From an ex-president without legal power but still with the ability to galvanize a movement one could imagine a campaign, modeled on the Progressive Era, to pressure the government to put an end to this abusive profiteering.  Yet his proposed answer was to make it easier for the offending companies to make money selling healthy products.

“If you want to get them to do less harm, it requires innovation, because they will still have to make money, especially for publicly held companies,” Clinton said….The needs of the market came first.  Even a man who had spent his lifetime in politics felt a duty to be solicitous of the business person’s concerns…..

P. 241 Such attempts to work with government, though, were not the same as a conviction in the power of government, the supreme power of government, to better people’s lives….

P. 244 Through it all, Clinton saw truths in the anger bubbling up around him.  He saw how MarketWorld-style change crowded out the habit of democracy. He genuinely worried about young people seeing social problems and, unlike in his activist-prone generation, confining their questioning to what socially minded business they could start up.

CONFLICTS WITHIN MARKETWORLD

P. 210 …the question being asked was: Why do they hate us?  The “they” were the rootless cosmopolitans’ less-rarified fellow citizens, who in one place after another were gravitating to nationalism, demagogy, and resentful exclusion–and rejected some of the elites’ most cherished beliefs:  borderless, market cures for all diseases, inevitable technological progress, benign technocratic stewardship.

…..fellow MarketWorld elites had been drafted into a new class war.  It was no longer rich versus poor but rather people who claimed to belong to everywhere versus people stuck  somewhere–echoing his colleague’s notion of somewhere people and everywhere companies…What went wrong was that the Somewheres were simply no longer fooled by the Everywhere’s performance of concern and charity, and the numbers finally caught up with the Everywheres:  “No prizes for guessing which group is more numerous. No matter how many donations the global elite made, philanthropic and political, we could never quite compensate for that disparity.”

P. 212 [suggestion for change] A new approach has to start from the idea that the basic responsibility of government is to maximize the welfare of citizens, not to pursue some abstract concept of the global good.  People also want to feel that they are shaping the societies in which they live.

Jonathan Haidt [psychology professor, New York University] offered another theory of what went wrong in an essay…”If you want to understand why nationalism and right-wing populism have grown so strong and so quickly, you must start by looking at the actions of the globalists…In a sense, the globalists ‘started it.’”  They started it…because the “new cosmopolitan elite”…acts and talks in ways that insult, alienate, and energize many of their fellow citizens, particularly those who a psychological predisposition to authoritarianism.”

[This blog author’s words–The very problems the elites have self righteously only partially solved have caused the unrest].

P. 213 In Haidt’s analysis, globalism and anti-globalism are both cogent worldviews with valid concerns and data behind them.  There are advantages to a world of free and rampant human mingling and motion, and there are different advantages to stable, tightly bound communities. But…the globalists had so convinced themselves of the moral superiority of openness, freedom, and One World that they were unable to process the genuine fear these things aroused in millions of people.

P. 215-219 [examples of five political figures (Including Clinton)]  P. 220 It was striking to have five political figures share a stage and have not one moment of real argument.  They all seemed to suppose that the good society of entrepreneurs, whose success was tantamount to that of the society itself…

THE ARGUMENT FOR POLITICS

P. 220 One could forget, watching such a civilized group, that traditional politics is argumentative for a reason.  It isn’t that politicians don’t know how to be nice, but rather that politics is rooted in the idea of a big, motley people taking their fate into their own hands.  Politics is the inherently messy business of negotiating and reconciling incompatible interests and coming up with a decent plan, designed to be liked but difficult to love.  It solves problems in a context in which everyone is invited to the table and everyone is equal and everyone has the right to complain about being underserved and unseen. Politics, in bringing together people of divergent interests, necessarily puts sacrifice on the table.  It is easier to conjure win-wins in forums like this one, where everyone is a winner. The consensus was a reminder of all the kinds of people and perspectives that had not been invited in.

P. 222 Had the organizators of CGI truly been interested in why people resented the globalists, they could have invited…Dani Rodrik…an economist at Harvard….he had become one of the more incisive critics of how the globalists’ noble intentions undermine democracy.

”Today,” she [Theresa May, British Prime Minister] said, too many people in positions of power behave as though they have more in common with international elites than with the people down the road, the people they employ, the people they pass on the street.  But if you believe you are a citizen of the world, you are a citizen of nowhere.  You don’t understand what citizenship means.

P. 223 …In other words, politics is about actual places, with actual shared histories. Globalism, chasing a dream of everyone, risks belonging to no one.

For Rodrik, it isn’t just that solving things at the global level (which, in the absence of world government, often means privately, which often means plutocratically) lacks legitimacy. Pushing things up into that realm gives globalists “moral cover or ethical cover for escaping their domestic obligations as citizens of their own national setting.” It is a way of doing good that allows them to ignore the fact that their democracies aren’t working well. Or, even more simply, it allows them to avoid the duty they might otherwise feel to interact with their fellow citizens across divides, to learn about the problems facing their own communities, which might implicate them, their choices, and their privileges–as opposed to  universal challenges ‘like climate change or the woes of faraway places like Rwandan coffee plantations.  In such cases, diffuseness or distance can spare one the feeling of having a finger jabbed in one’s face.

P. 225 …”In an ideal democratic world, where citizenship is fully exercised and participatory, it’s a process of domestic deliberation where you’re testing your idea against other domestic citizens…”

P. 226 …”The locus of politics, I think, is the key issue here,” he said.  “What is the right locus of politics, and who are the decision-making authorities?  Is it these networks and these global get-togethers? Or is it at the national level?”  Who should make change, and where should they make it?

P. 227 …..’Probably people who get together in these congregations [CGI] don’t think of what they are doing as politics,” Rodrik said.  “But of course it’s politics. It’s just politics of a different focus and has a different view of who matters and how you can change things, and has different theory of change and who the agents of change are.”…The problem with the globalists’ vision of world citizens changing the world through partnerships, Rodrik said, is that “you’re not accountable to anyone, because it is just a bunch of other global citizens like you as their audience.”  He added, “The whole idea about having a polity, having a demos, is that there’s accountability within that demos.  That’s what a political system ensures and these mechanisms don’t.”

The political system that Rodrik speaks of is not just Congress or the Supreme court or governorships.  It is all of these things and other things. It is civic life. It is the habit of solving problems together, in the public sphere, through the tools of government and in the trenches of civil society.  It is solving problems in ways that give the people you are helping a say in the solutions, that offer that say in equal measure to every citizen, that allow some kind of access to your deliberations or at least provide a meaningful feedback mechanism to tell you it isn’t working.  It is not reimagining the world at conferences.

P. 228 It isn’t necessarily that simple.  A pair of Stanford sociologists...investigated the question and came up with a surprising answer.  When elites solve public problems privately, they can do so in ways that disrupt it.  The former occurs when elite help “contributes to and enlarges the public goods provided by the state, and attends to interests not readily provided for by the state.”  But the same elite help, backed by the same noble intentions, can instead “disrupt” democracy when it “replaces the public sphere with all manner of private initiatives for special public purposes.”  These latter works don’t simply do what government cannot do. They “crowd out the public sector, further reducing both its legitimacy and its efficacy, and replace civic goals with narrower concerns about efficiency and the markets.”

WOMEN’S EQUALITY

P. 232 Women’s equality, it was now said, was a $28 trillion opportunity.  This had become a near-constant refrain in the MarketWorld–some permutation of the words “women”, “equality”, and “trillion”.  If the logic of our time had applied to the facts of an earlier age, someone would have put out a report suggesting that ending slavery was great for reducing the trade deficit.  “Of course, you should do it because it was the right thing to do, but there’s a strong business case.”…..In other words, of course you should do it because morality is enough, but since we all know morality isn’t actually enough, you should know that the business case is fantastic.

HOW THE PRIVATE SECTION CHANGED THE PUBLIC SPHERE

P. 234 ….The private sector didn’t merely add to the public sphere activities.  It got to change the language in which the public sphere thought and acted.

P. 247 [Henry Crown Fellowship of the Aspen Institute] …The fellowship is a prestigious finishing school to assist the transition from making it in business to making the world a better place.  Its mission is to mobilize a “new breed of leaders” to “tackle the world’s most intractable problems.” But it defines leader in a particular way:  “All are proven entrepreneurs, mostly from the world of business, who have reached a point in their lives where having achieve success, they are ready to apply their creative talents to building a better society.”

P. 248 [Founder of Freelancers Union]…She originally wanted to serve as a broker to help these workers [Uber drivers and magazine writers] buy health insurance as a group.  Then she realized it would be easier and more effective if she simply created the health insurance company herself.  But the economy wasn’t set up for people like (her). A company not run purely in shareholders’ interests risked lawsuits from its investors.  The dominant interpretations of corporate law,….has since the 1970s came to regard companies’ first duty as being to earn a profit from shareholders.

THE RISE OF B CORPORATIONS (BENEFIT)

P. 249 (B corporations) ….do business in a different way….Andrew Kassoy…batted around ideas for addressing this problem, and at last alighted on the vision of creating a parallel capitalist infrastructure, next to the traditional one, in which companies could be more responsible and conscious, and nonetheless raise money from capital markets and comply with the law.  Thus was born the B Corporation, or benefit corporation, as it is also known….

P. 250 …started a nonprofit called B Lab, which gives better-behaved businesses a certification based on a rigorous analysis of their social and environmental practices …Ben and Jerry’s….

…hoped that by certifying conscious companies, they could change the larger system of business….but in the MarketWorld way, they didn’t take on the system directly.  They simply sought to cultivate examples of a different way….

….But now,….B Lab was in the midst of a rethinking process, which was guided by his conviction that “what got us here is not going to get us where we’re going.”

P. 251 The thorniest questions…involved whether to stick to the MarketWorld mantra of “make good easier,” or whether instead to seek to make those who commit harm to pay a higher price–which meant changing the system of business for everyone, fighting in the arena of politics and law rather than the market, and elevating the stopping of bad business over the encouragement of good business….

For example, one of B Lab’s great victories had been the creation of a parallel corporate law, first enacted in Maryland and then adopted in other states, that allowed companies to embed a social mission into their work without fear of legal trouble such as shareholder complaints…Was it more important to make it easier for Etsy to do good, or rather to make it harder for ExxonMobil to do harm?  Was it possible to do both?

Kassoy felt drawn toward the systems work, even though he had devoted the last decade to the other approach.  “I’m not be sure everybody would say this, but I believe there’s a huge role for government regulation of business.  We’re not going to change everybody. We’re not changing human greed. Businesses act badly.”  There were, in particular, “extractive industries where just the existence of the industry” means harm and social costs being dumped on humanity.  “We’re not getting rid of all of those things”…

The United States had millions of corporations and, after a decade of B Lab’s evangelizing, just hundreds of B Corps.  Kasoy, saw now, more clearly than he did at the company’s founding, that solving problems like inequality, greed, and pollution would require more than making good easier.

P. 253 …B Corps were championed all over MarketWorld….the founders were regularly praised by recognized “thought leaders”.

CONFLICT BETWEEN POLITICAL LIBERALS AND MARKET SOLUTIONS

P. 252 He [Andrew Kassoy] was not the only MarketWorlder coming around to the thought that their ways of operating might be inadequate to the actual work of changing the world, or even just one’s own country.  These MarketWorlders, though, often lacked an understanding of how actual change did work, or they felt, sometimes dubiously, that pursuing the other kind of change called upon skills they lacked.  If government was the place you went to change systems, what could they as individuals do? They could petition the government.  They could join movements fighting to change law and policy.  But,…many in MarketWorld were daunted by this approach. He had the feeling that many in MarketWorld do that in their grounding in the norms of business made them ill-equipped for the realm of politics, where win-lose was normal and where fights often had to be picked instead of mutually agreeable deals being struck….It was peculiar, this idea of activism as manipulation; it sounded more like an excuse for not working on systems than a reason.

…..I don’t think that what we’re doing can change capitalism by itself.  But I do believe that what this does is creates a model.” On other days, Kassoy wasn’t so sure about this logic.  He kept coming backing to regulation. “I’m a big-government kind of a person,” he said.  “I believe there’s a very strong role for the state. And I don’t know how to make that happen.”

P. 253 Kassoy’s ambivalence is what Jacob Hacker, the Yale political scientist, seems to have in mind when he speaks of political liberals who are philosophically committed to government, to the public solution of public problems, but who have absorbed, like secondhand smoke, the right’s contempt for public action.  While people on the right believe actively in the superiority of market solutions, liberals like Kassoy do so passively–passively in that they do not reject a public solution in theory, but pursue a private one in practice….And so no one’s really told us government is a good thing for a very long time.” Saying this seemed to make Kassoy reflect on whether he had unwittingly become the last link in this change of liberals consolidating the war on government by proffering private solutions to public problems.

P. 255-256 failure of big banks

CRITIQUE OF MARKETWORLD

P. 256  Chiara Cordelli, an Italian political philosopher at the University of Chicago….sought to unravel some of MarketWorld’s self-justifications.

Take, for instance, the view that MarketWorld has a duty, and right, to address public problems–and indeed, to take a lead in developing private solutions to them.  This…was like putting the accused in change of the court system. The questions that elites refuse to ask, she said, is: Why are there in the world so many people that you need to help in the first place?  You should ask yourself: Have your actions contributed at all to that?….And, if yes, the fact that now you are helping some people, however, effectively, doesn’t seem to be enough to compensate.”

P. 257 Cordelli was speaking of both the active committers of harm and the passive permitters of it.  The committers are what she calls “the easy cases.”…”If you have campaigned against inheritance tax, if you have directly tried to avoid paying taxes, if you supported and directly, voluntarily benefitted from a system where there were low labor regulations and increased precarity,” then, she argues, “you have directly contributed to a structure that foreseeably and avoidably harmed people.”  That is “direct complicity.”

As for the people who don’t help run Goldman Sachs or Purdue Pharma, who live decent lives and attempt to make the world slightly better through the market, Cordelli called them the harder cases….She saw in each of these types of efforts not a single moral act but two.  Alongside the act of helping was a parallel act of acceptance.

P. 258-260…. Economic reasoning dominates our age, and we may be tempted to focus on the first half of each of the above sentences–a marginal contribution you can see and touch–and to ignore the second half, involving a vaguer thing called complicity….

P. 261 As harsh as her criticisms might sound to  them, Cordelli is giving…. others in MarketWorld a way out.  She is confessing, on their behalf, what some of them privately fear to be true: that they are debtors who need society’s mercy and not saviors who need its followership.  She is offering what MarketWorlders so adore: a solution. The solution is to return, against their instincts and even perhaps against their interests, to politics as the place we go to shape the world.

P. 262-263 ….Businesspersons calling themselves “leaders” and naming themselves solvers of the most intractable social problems represent a worrisome way of erasing their role in causing them.  Seen through Cordelli’s lens, it is indeed strange that the people with the most to lose from social reform are so often placed on the board of it. And MarketWorld’s private world-changing, for all the good it does, is also, for Cordelli, marred by its own “narcissism.”…..

When society helps people through its shared democratic institutions, it does so on behalf of all, and in a context of equality.  Those institutions, representing those free and equal citizens, are making a collective choice of whom to help and how. Those who receive help are not only objects of the transactions, but also subjects of it–citizens with agency. When help is moved into the private sphere, no matter how efficient we are told it is, the context of the helping is a relationship of inequality:  the giver and the taker, the helper and the helped, the donor and the recipient.

When a society solves a problem politically and systemically, it is expressing the sense of the whole; it is speaking on behalf of every citizen.  It is saying what it believes through what it does. Cordelli argues that this right to speak for others is simply illegitimate when exercised by a powerful private citizen.  “You are an individual”, she said. “You cannot speak in their name.  I can maybe speak in the name of my child, but other people are not your children.”

“This is what it means to be free and equal and independent individuals and, for better or for worse, share common institutions,” she said.  Our political institutions–our laws, our constitutions, our regulations, our taxes, our shared infrastructure:  the million little pieces that uphold our civilization and that we own together–only these, Cordelli said, “can act and speak on behalf of everyone.”  She admitted, “They often don’t do that.” But that isn’t the way out that MarketWorld so often makes it out to be.  “It’s our job,” Cordelli said, “to make them do that, rather than working to weaken and destroy those institutions by thinking that we can effectuate change by ourselves.  Let’s start working to create the conditions to make those institutions better.”

P. 266 …Goldman Sachs- sponsored lunch…in which the company’s do-gooding was trumpeted and its role in causing the financial crisis went unexamined.

AUTHOR ANAND GIRIDHARADAS’ REMARKS

P. 267 This book is the work of a critic, but it is also the work of an insider-outsider to that which it takes on….

P. 268 (His Professor at Harvard)….was the first to plant in me the the thought that money had transcended being currency to become our very culture, conquering our imaginations and infiltrating domains that had nothing to do with it. (END OF POST)

FAILURE TO PROVIDE LIVING WAGE ENSURES UNEQUAL SUBSIDIZATION OF MANY GROUPS OF SOCIETY

FAILURE TO PROVIDE LIVING WAGE ENSURES UNEQUAL SUBSIDIZATION OF MANY GROUPS OF SOCIETY

(These thoughts are purely the blunt, no nonsense personal opinions of the author about financial fairness and discrimination and are not intended to provide personal or financial advice.)

Many including conservative and far right leaning political views imply that a living wage or even a $15 minimum wage is unsustainable even while ensuring the financial privileging of the wealthy.  The following article was published in local newspapers and states much more eloquently than this author can the financial harm and discrimination that low minimum wages cause.

“Low Wages are a subsidy”  opinion letter gives an accurate summation of subsidies experienced when minimum wage does not equal what it costs to live.

Article quoted in its entirety:

“I understand the minimum wage is a very contentious issue but I would just like give my thoughts on this.

If a person is on minimum wage and does not earn enough to survive then they must have their wages topped up be it either state welfare, charity, parents or working another job.  If it is by state welfare then the business is receiving a subsidy through my taxes. If it is by charity, then the business is receiving a subsidy through the charitable donations to the worker.  If the working lives at home then it is by the parents.

If the worker takes on another job, the subsidy is through his low wages.  The simple truth is that by paying minimum wage someone is making up the difference to a living wage and someone is benefiting from the low wage.  We as consumers should feel guilty that these workers are subsidizing our lifestyle by us not paying the real price for the goods or service.”

CONCLUSION

Editorials and opinion letters to local newspapers in the recent past have dissed raising the minimum wage and climate pricing while praising charitable organizations.  Some spout biblical verses while stating there always will be poverty. Charity touted as panacea for poverty does not solve poverty problem. Charity only masks poverty and should be viewed as sinful when it replaces paying a decent living wage or pushes poor further into poverty while financially privileging the wealthy and fleecing the poor.

TFSA (CANADA) – RAMIFICATIONS OF FINANCIAL DISCRIMINATION AND ABUSE OF THE PLAN

TFSA (CANADA) – RAMIFICATIONS OF FINANCIAL DISCRIMINATION AND ABUSE OF THE PLAN

(These thoughts are purely the blunt, no nonsense personal opinions of the author about financial fairness and discrimination and are not intended to provide personal or financial advice.)

This case study outlines how a financial advisor has shown it is possible for Canadian TFSA holders with large accounts to evade paying income tax for a number of years (15) and use benefits intended for low income persons by circumventing the low income assistance programs.

HISTORY OF TAX FREE SAVINGS ACCOUNT (TFSA)

The TFSA was introduced in 2009 by Stephen Harper, Prime Minister and Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party, and Jim Flaherty, Minister of Finance.

The maximum annual contribution room at present is $6,000 per year and is indexed to the Consumer Price Index in $500 increments to account for inflation.  The 2015 Progressive Conservatives raised the contribution limit to $10,000 and eliminated indexation for inflation.  However, the newly elected Liberal government re-implemented the pre-2015 contribution limit of $5,500 for 2016 which will be indexed for inflation after that.  As of January 1, 2019, the total cumulative contribution room for a TFSA is $63,500 per person and $127,000 for couples and for those who have been 18 years or older and residents of Canada for all eligible years. Any unused contribution room under the cap can be carried forward to subsequent years, without any upward limit.  There are no limits on withdrawals from TFSA accounts. TFSAs are not declared as income and, therefore, are not taxed.

CASE STUDIES FOR COUPLE MICHAEL AND JULIE,  UNATTACHED PERSON MICHEL AND UNATTACHED PERSON PUBLIC SERVICE EMPLOYEE

(1) THEY WANT TO SPEND $50,000 PER YEAR IN RETIREMENT.  DID THEY SAVE ENOUGH? By Mark Seed, My Own Advisor and Owen Winkelmolen, PlanEasy) LINKS

Michael and Julie (they-want-to-spend-50000-per-year-in-retirement-did-they-save-enough)  $600,000 paid for home and a million dollars in retirement savings.

Sources of Income chart for Michael and Julie (Sources-of-Income-50000-per-year-.png) – they want to retire on $50,000 per year at age 55 – shows how they can avoid paying taxes for 15 years while using benefits intended for low income persons.

Net Worth chart for Michael and Julie (Net-Worth-50000-per-year-post-September-5-2018.png) at age 100 they will still have an enormous amount of wealth, especially in TFSA accounts.

(2) ALL THE FRUGALITY IN THE WORLD WON’T LET THIS 34 YEAR OLD RETIRE AT 45 by Allen Allentuck LINK                                                                                Michel (all-the-frugality-in-the-world-wont-let-this-34-year-old-retire-at-45)

(3) PUBLIC SERVICE EMPLOYEE BASED ON THE REAL LIFE EXPERIENCE (SINGLE)

Financial Profile Page 1 revised Jan. 2019 post

Financial profile TFSA holder2 page 2 revised Jan. 2019

CAVEATS – Financial information for couple in this report is limited.  It is difficult to determine if this is a real life case scenario or an example made up to illustrate what is possible for $50,000 retirement income.  As stated in the report the investment returns for TFSA remains constant for each year which is not the case in real life. It also is not possible to assess if real estate value will go up or down. It appears the couple have no children.

Financial profile for unattached individuals –  Michel’s food cost seems high (unless he requires a special diet and males require more calories). It appears he has no condo fees so he probably has expenses like condo maintenance.  Public service employee profile is based on snapshots of real life experiences of unattached persons. For the most part it closely matches the financial profile of Michel.  Food costs are replaced by mortgage costs.

Financial profiles are incomplete.  For example, expenses like medical eye and dental care and saving for vehicle replacement are not listed.

DETAILS OF CASE STUDIES FOR MARRIED COUPLE MICHAEL AND JULIE (Ontario), AGE 35 AND UNATTACHED INDIVIDUAL MICHEL, AGE 34 (Quebec)

Retirement age – Michael and Julie want to retire at age 55.  Michel wants to know if he can retire at age 45 and travel the world.  Many married couples have the ability to retire at age 55. Some would say Michel’s desire to retire at age 45 is unrealistic.  His financial advisor states that regardless of how frugal Michel is he will not be able to retire before the age of 60. Why is that unattached persons always have to be frugal and work longer?

Retirement income – Michael and Julie want a retirement after tax income of $50,000 at age 55.  Michel’s financial advisor states he unequivocally has to work to age 60 to achieve a retirement after tax income of $40,000.  There is that frugality once again!

Investment Amounts at present time – Michael and Julie’s account at present time totals $570,623 in TFSA and $423,706 in RRSP.  They have continually maxed out their TFSA accounts. Overall their portfolio has a 70/30 mix of stocks and fixed income.  A 6% rate of return on stocks and a 2.5% rate of return on fixed income is assumed for the article. They already have at age 35 a total close to a million dollars so it is difficult to figure why the amount wouldn’t be in excess of well over a million dollars in twenty years time at age 55.

Michel has $24,329 in TFSA and $90,701 in RRSP.  Calculations for retirement income are based on a 3% rate of return.

Investment Amounts at time of retirement – Estimate for Michael and Julie is stated in 2018 dollar value, not value at time of retirement, so value at retirement should be well over $1 million.  Total capital estimates for Michel at age 60 are $895,000.

Housing – Michael and Julie own a $600,000 house which they expect to own outright at time of retirement at age 55.  They plan on selling their home around age 80 and moving into an apartment or condo to rent. That might add $30,000/year to their expenses but they will have freed up almost $600,000 in real estate assets (minus 5% transaction fees).

Michel has a $165,000 condo.  He has a $97,000 mortgage with 24 years remaining amortization. At present rates, the mortgage will be paid when Michel is 58.

Income – Michael and Julie’s income is not stated, but it must be quite high to achieve the investments and $600,000  house they have at the present time. Michel has an income of $70,000 which is well above the median and average incomes for unattached individuals.

Vehicle –   Value of vehicle for couple is not stated.  The value of Michel’s vehicle is $2,500 which must be pretty much a “junker”.

How Michael and Julie will achieve their goal of retirement income of $50,000 as outlined in article

Because all their retirement savings are inside registered accounts such as their TFSAs and RRSPs, Michael and Julie have a lot of control over withdrawals and allows them to reduce taxes and optimize government benefits like CPP, OAS, and GIS.

To start, Michael and Julie will withdraw just enough from their RRSP to maximize the basic tax exemption, the rest of their income will come from their TFSA. This mix of RRSP and TFSA withdrawals (with no other income sources) will help them pay virtually zero taxes for the first 15 years of their retirement.  This will take them from ages 55 to ~ age 70.  (In the process they will have gained  almost $135,000 in benefits from paying no taxes for 15 years and reduced the income taxes on their estate to nearly zero.  At time of death their investment portfolio will consists mainly of TFSA.)

There are two other ways they can optimize their taxes and benefits during retirement.

The first is to reduce their taxable income between ages 64 and 71 by drawing primarily from TFSA. By starting OAS at age 65, but delaying CPP to age 70, their TFSA withdrawals will allow them to be eligible for GIS, GAINS, GST and Trillium benefits which are supposed to be only for low income persons (definitions provided below). Between ages 65 and 72 these benefits meant for low income persons will add $108,305 to their retirement income.

The second way they can optimize their taxes and benefits is to slowly shift their RRSPs into their TFSA each year. By taking advantage of the lowest tax bracket, they can slowly draw down their RRSPs at a low tax rate and shift these investments into their TFSA. Moving money into their TFSA makes these funds easily available in the future and reduces the taxes on their final estate.

Once they reach age 65 their withdrawal rate on investment will drop dramatically as Old Age Security (OAS) and other government benefits kick in. Then it drops again at age 70 when their Canada Pension Plan benefits begin.  By delaying withdrawal of CPP at 65 years to 70 years the rate of return on CPP will increase by 8.4% per year. By delaying CPP to age 70, they will receive 42% more than if taken at 65.

How Michel will achieve his goal of retirement income of $40,000 at age 60

From the article:  “The problem of early retirement is twofold: Not only must one build up savings faster, but those savings have to last a longer time than they would with later retirement.

In Quebec, a man we’ll call Michel, 34, works in financial services. He earns $70,000 a year and takes home $3,640 per month after many deductions for taxes and benefits. Frugal in his spending, cautious in his investing, he wants to retire at age 45 with $40,000 income per year after tax. Assuming a 3 per cent return rate after inflation, that implies he will be able to add $1 million to present savings in 11 years. On present income, it’s unlikely.

Michel’s goals will be hard to achieve even by 50, the planner says. The earliest he can retire with a $40,000 income after tax is 60. Assuming that he can achieve and maintain a 3 per cent annual return after inflation, then in 26 years his RRSP with a present value of $90,701 and $10,800 annual contributions will have risen to a value of $612,000. With the same assumptions, his TFSA with a present value of $24,329 and $6,000 annual contributions including catch-up additions to fill space will have risen to a value of $283,800. His total capital available for retirement income will total $895,800.

Assuming a 3 per cent return before tax, his RRSP and TFSA capital at 60 would generate $40,475 per year based on an annuitized payout that would exhaust all capital and income in the following 35 years to his age 95.

If he waits until age 65 and were to draw QPP (Quebec Pension Plan) of 64 per cent of a theoretical maximum benefit of $13,600 in 2019 dollars per year at age 65, $8,704, his total income would be $49,179. Retiring early makes attaining this maximum unlikely even with scheduled increases in CPP/QPP contributions and benefits, a planned 52 per cent boost to be phased in starting Jan. 1, 2019. After 20 per cent average tax, he would have $39,343 per year or $3,280 per month. At age 65, he could add Old Age Security benefits, currently $7,210 per year for total income of $56,389 before tax. Still using the 20 per cent rate, he would have post-tax income of $3,760 per month.

Calculations show that even if Michel retires at age 60, 26 years from now, he would have to live very modestly. Retiring at 60 and starting QPP benefits with a 36 per cent discount would have a drastic cost on his total lifetime benefit from CPP. The amount he will give up each month compared to the full age 65 benefit, about $5,000 per year, will have cost him $171,500 with no compounding for the following 35 years. It is a very high price to pay for what amounts to a five year bridge to full benefits at 65.”

ANALYSIS OF FINANCIAL PROFILES

Housing – Couple has $600,000 house and Michel has $165,000 condo.  Depending on what part of Ontario couple is from this is probably par for housing.  For Michel it is possible that in parts of Quebec housing can be purchased for lower prices. However, Michael and Julie will probably have much higher investment possibilities when they sell their house versus when Michael sells his condo.  One can bet that couple has a better lifestyle in their house than Michel in his condo. In many parts of Canada it would extremely difficult for an unattached individual to purchase housing under $200,000.

Accumulation of wealth – It is unmistakable that couple is able to achieve so much more in wealth than unattached individual even when unattached individual has a relatively high income and is frugal in his spending.  At age 35 they are already millionaires. The net worth information in the article is not clear on how much net worth is expected to increase between present date and retirement at age 55. The Net Worth table appears to use the same net worth at present and at age 55 – about $1 million in real estate and RRSP and $600,000 in TFSA.  At age 75, after paying no income tax for 15 years and using benefits that are supposed to be for low income persons, values appear to be about the same. However, what is shocking is how even though RRSP and non registered accounts have virtually been depleted at age 100 the TFSA has increased in value to over $2 million. The reader is encouraged to view the tables at the links provided above.  They provide a striking picture of how income tax collection is flatlined at $0 and how net worth increases over time to age 100 instead of being depleted.

It is impossible for unattached persons, no matter how wealthy they are, to ever achieve the wealth that is possible for couples because it costs more for singles to live and they must save a greater retirement amount for one person as opposed to two persons.

Taxes – Many of the financial profiles of unattached individuals with Michel’s income show he would probably pay a rate of 20%.  Couples who are able to use tax avoidance vehicles like pension splitting are often shown to pay income tax at rates as low as 10%.  For Michael and Julie they are able to not pay income tax for 15 years. It is an understatement to say that couples, even wealthy ones, seem to pay less income tax because of manipulation of marital benefits, pension splitting, etc.  Unattached individuals are bearing the brunt of the Canadian tax system which purposely favors married persons over unattached persons.

LESSONS LEARNED

Financial advantages of couples over unattached individualsJust how many times can it be said that according to Market Basket Measure it costs more for unattached individuals to live than couples without children (if single has value of 1.0, the value for a couple without children is 1.4, not 2.0).  Couples without children are able to maximize their net worth over unattached individuals because of marital benefits, ability to multiply wealth times two (TFSA) and compounding of investments times two. All things being equal it is virtually impossible for unattached individuals to achieve the same financial wealth as couples even though it costs more for singles to live.

TFSA revised 2019 copy 1

 

 

TFSA outrageously is a goldmine for the wealthy and the married – TFSA has been in place for ten years.  Maxed out TFSA now total $127,000 for couples and $63,500 for unattached individuals.

It is astonishing how Michael and Julie and Michel have been able to reach their TFSA amounts at present time with maxed out contributions.

It stands to reason that the wealthy are more likely to exponentially increase the value of their TFSAs especially if they are more risk tolerant in investment plans than low income persons.

Vetting of Income for GIS and other low income applications – Interest and investment income does have to be declared on low income applications.  However, TFSA investments are not declared as income ever. This is what allows the wealthy to circumvent the financial restrictions on who can receive assistance the low income assistance programs.

Hypocrisy of TFSA declaration of non income –  This may be harsh but TFSA not needing to be declared as income creates anger and despair for those who do not have the means to contribute to TFSA.  TFSA holders who purposefully use benefits not intended for the wealthy could be called TFSA grifters or chiselers – grifters or chiselers are con artists; in this case they swindle people and governments out of money but all within legal limits of the law.

Hypocrisy of those who demonize public pensions – Many, including far right Conservatives and proponents of private enterprise versus government jobs, berate those who receive public pensions, especially defined benefit plans .  Many of these persons are financially illiterate by stating the taxpayers pay for these systems. The real truth is that defined benefit plans are made up of employee, employer contributions and well managed investments.

Persons who are members of public pension plans must contribute a substantial amount (10%) of their income to the plan, pay taxes as contributors and pay taxes when benefits are received.  Many who do not have a choice or choose to contribute to public pension plans cannot contribute fully to TFSAs because their incomes do not allow them to contribute to both pension plans and TFSAs.

Public pensions are not a given.  They can fail if investment managers make bad decisions and if companies decide to abandon public pensions in bankruptcy.

The Canadian Pension Plan (CPP) is a defined benefit plan, so do these same beraters want to abolish CPP?

Those who are able to maximize their TFSA should also pay taxes on their TFSA investments before they demonize public pensions.

Future consequences and collateral damage if TFSA remains the same – Ability to contribute to TFSAs have now been in place for eleven years.  If the plan is not changed so TFSA is declared as income and taxed then the wealth spread between the rich and poor will increase exponentially.  Only the need to help the middle class is being discussed by some political parties. The middle class is already being transformed into the upper middle class and wealthy while singles and the poor (boondoggle-for-singles-and-low-income) are being pushed further into poverty by the actions of these same political parties.  There will be no middle class.

Every year that goes by with no revisions to the TFSA will ensure elimination of the middle class and singles and poor families getting poorer.  Every year that goes by with the upper middle class and wealthy not paying any tax on TFSA investments and these accounts growing to incredible wealth will ensure bankruptcy of the Canadian economy.  How are schools, hospitals, roads going to be built if there is an insufficient tax base to support the building of these projects?

COMPARISON OF TFSA TO OTHER PLANS (how-does-the-tfsa-stack-up)

All TFSA plans are designed to supplement and manage income from other forms of savings.  It appears only the USA, UK, South Africa and Canada have tax free savings plans.  It also appears Canada has the most generous plan with the only limit being annual contribution limit.

The USA Roth IRA has similar contribution limits ($6,000 for those under 50 and $7,000 age 50 and over) but Americans can only make the maximum contribution if their gross income is below a specific threshold – in 2019 the threshold for unattached person modified adjusted gross income limit is $122,000 or less.  Contributions limit is reduced for income between $122,000 to $136,999 and is completely eliminated for income over $137,000. For joint filers (couples) the income limit is $193,000. Contribution limit is reduced for incomes $193,000 to $202,999 or less and is completely reduced for incomes $203,000 or more. US residents have to wait a ‘seasoning’ period of five years, and be at least 59-½ years of age, before they can withdraw tax-free from a Roth IRA.  TFSAs are primarily multi-purpose vehicles while Roth IRAs are primarily meant for retirement savings.

The fine print on Roth IRA contributions limits (roth-ira-contribution-limits) is that contributions cannot be more than individual’s taxable compensation for the year. That means that if taxable income is $3,000, the cap on Roth IRA contributions is also $3,000 for that year. If there aren’t any taxable earnings during the year, there can’t be any contributions.  The one exception is the spousal IRA which allows a nonworking spouse to contribute to an IRA based on the taxable income of the working spouse.  Roth IRA distributions aren’t included in income in retirement so are not taxable. Monies earned from investment are tax-free.

Persons age  59½ or over may withdraw as much as wanted as long as Roth IRA has been open for at least 5 years.  Persons under 59½ years of age may withdraw the exact amount of Roth IRA contributions with no penalties.  However, the earnings from the principal cannot normally be withdrawn prior to age 59½ without paying the 10% early withdrawal penalty.

It should be noted that the Roth IRA has an equivalence scale method built in similar to the Market Basket Measure.  The couple limit of $193,000 to $202,999 is not twice that of the unattached person limit of $122,000 to $136,999.

SOLUTIONS

If Canada as a country does not want to go bankrupt as a result of tax not being collected on TFSAs it is incumbent upon government and politicians to change policies so that TFSA cannot grow to unabated levels.  Also, Market Basket Measure (MBM) must be applied to TFSA formulas so that income does not benefit married persons over single unattached persons. The US Roth IRA does this. Why can’t the same be done for the Canadian plan?  The US Roth IRA does not allow the wealthy over specified limits to have a Roth IRA at all. Also, change the plan so that only contributions can be withdrawn early without penalty like the Roth IRA. Lastly, the nonsensical ability to withdraw contributions from the plan and then at a later top them up again benefits only the wealthy.  Once a contribution is made it should be not able to be topped up again when withdrawn.

Donald Trump’s ignorance on MBM and similar equivalence scale measures is demonstrated by his income tax amount reductions to double for couples to that of unattached persons instead of applying equivalence scale values of 1.0 for singles and 1.4 for couples.

It is unfathomable that Stephen Harper, an economist and Leader of the Progressive Conservatives and the PC Party, would not have taken into account the future ramifications and collateral damage that this plan would cause in creating every widening separation of the rich from the poor as the years go by.

How do governments and politicians change discriminatory financial plans that have been in place for many years without backlash from the privileged and those who feel entitled even with the discrimination?  Which political party will take this on?

For God’s sake, politicians, political parties and those who demonize social programs need to educate themselves on costs of living for unattached persons and poor families versus wealthy couples and consider full ramifications of how to avoid financial discrimination now and into the future.  If heed is not taken to the above then be prepared for the anger as has already been displayed by the poor throughout the world. You have been forewarned!

DEFINITIONS

GAINS – Ontario Guaranteed Annual  Income System may provide a monthly, non-taxable benefit to low-income seniors to between $2.50 and $83 in 2018.

GIS benefit – Guaranteed Income Supplement provides a monthly non-taxable benefit to Old Age Security (OAS) pension recipients who have a low income and are living in Canada.

GST credit – The goods and services tax/harmonized sales tax (GST/HST) credit is a tax-free quarterly payment that helps individuals and families with low and modest incomes offset all or part of the GST or HST that they pay. It may also include payments from provincial programs.

Trillium benefits – Ontario Trillium Benefit combines three credits to help pay for energy costs as well as sales and property tax: Northern Ontario Energy Credit, Ontario Energy and Property Tax Credit, Ontario Sales Tax Credit.  Beneficiaries need to be eligible for at least one of the three credits to receive the benefit.

(This blog is of a general nature about financial discrimination of individuals/singles.  It is not intended to provide personal or financial advice.)

CARBON TAX AND PRICING WILL FAIL BECAUSE OF CONSUMER AND POPULATION GROWTH EXCESSES

CARBON TAX AND PRICING WILL FAIL BECAUSE OF CONSUMER AND POPULATION GROWTH EXCESSES

(These thoughts are purely the blunt, no nonsense personal opinions of the author about financial fairness and discrimination and are not intended to provide personal or financial advice.)

Many naysayers say carbon pricing will not reduce emissions and instead will pinch household budgets, kill jobs and enrich governments.  They may be right about carbon pricing, but not for the above stated reasons.

One form of carbon pricing is charging high emitters and giving rebates back to families or consumers.  However, the naysayers will never tell the whole truth – 80 percent of emissions from a barrel of oil comes from consumption and 20 percent is generated from production of the crude.

Non renewable energy emitters or types of ‘dirty’ energy will not define the major growth or decline of emissions. The first major definer of emissions will be consumerism, the second will be increasing world population.  USA consumer spending equals 70% of economy, Europe 55% and China 40%. The world’s population is estimated to top nine billion people by 2040, and the demand for energy will increase by 27 per cent. For the environmentalists and environmental protesters, which persons will they deny energy to so that they can have green energy which possibly will not meet the energy needs of growing populations?

The most egregious and hypocritical of climate deniers and consumerism are the wealthy through climate of greed and denial of their greed.

One example is the Chinese Communist hypocrisy and oxymoron of absence of social classes and money –  all (or nearly all) property and resources are collectively owned by a classless society and not by individual citizens.  Yet there has been a sharp increase in the number of ‘new wealth’ individuals.

Even though there are restrictions on what monies can be taken out of the country and Chinese leaders clamping down on extreme ostentation displays, wealthy have found ways, as many wealthy do, to circumvent rules.  One city they have chosen to display their wealth (vancouversun) (because they can’t display their wealth in China) is Vancouver for purchase of multiple mansions and luxury vehicles.  Metro Vancouver has been nicknamed supercar capital of the world. The University of B.C. has been nicknamed the University of Beautiful Cars.  The owners of these same vehicles also buy condos whose only purpose is to house these vehicles.

Betsy DeVos, Trump appointee for education, displays her wealth in ownership of 22,000 square foot summer house and $40 million yacht (just one of nine yachts and boats).  Most of Trump appointees are wealthy Republicans who choose to use excessive consumption of energy while denying climate change.

The wealthy, hypocritical environmentalists, environmental protestors and those who just don’t care choose to ignore their energy consumption by owning and using multiple housing, cottages, recreation vehicles, and exotic world travelling for starters. These include Canadian snowbird places (snowbirds) like Arizona where housing on both sides of the border sits empty for six months of the year while still consuming energy to keep the places operational.  Additional non renewable resources are used to build these structures. Housing speculators buy housing waiting for prices to increase but never rent them out (unethical).

The wealthy also choose to ignore the anger human ramifications to their conspicuous consumption.  Studies (“The Spirit Level” wikipedia) have found people are literally less healthy in societies with large gaps between the rich and the rest. People in unequal countries are more prone to chronic stress, anxiety, depression, addiction, despair, unnecessary spending, obesity, and heart disease.

One solution for consumerism is reduce the consumerism and possibly heavily tax luxury consumption.  One solution for slowing the increase of world population is to only have number of children that will replace the number of adults, one child per adult.

There is no perfect green solution for emissions.  Solar and wind solutions use rare earth minerals, kill birds and bats and cause illnesses in some humans (ncbi).  An Ontario community-based self-reporting health survey, WindVOiCe, identified the most commonly reported industrial wind turbine-induced symptoms as altered quality of life, sleep disturbance, excessive tiredness, headache, stress, and distress. Other reported effects include migraines, hearing problems, tinnitus, heart palpitations, anxiety, and depression.  In addition, degraded living conditions and adverse socioeconomic effects have been reported. In some cases the effects were severe enough that individuals in Ontario abandoned their homes or reached financial agreements with wind energy developers.

Energy companies have done great work in reducing emissions through technological and efficiency improvements such as zero emissions refineries.

CONCLUSION

Environmentalists and environmental protesters need to focus on consumerism, not just pipelines and oil spills.  Naysayers of climate change and carbon pricing need to get real and speak the whole truth, not just partial truths.  Consumerism greed and increasing world population will define whether or not emissions will increase or decrease.

(This blog is of a general nature about financial discrimination of individuals/singles.  It is not intended to provide personal or financial advice.)

COLLATERAL DAMAGE AND FUTURE CONSEQUENCES OF POLITICAL FINANCIAL FORMULAS

COLLATERAL DAMAGE AND FUTURE CONSEQUENCES OF POLITICAL FINANCIAL FORMULAS

(These thoughts are purely the blunt, no nonsense personal opinions of the author about financial fairness and discrimination and are not intended to provide personal or financial advice.)

In the last post of October, 2018 the Alberta Conservative proposal of a teen entry level wage was discussed.  This post discusses the collateral damage or unintended consequences such an action could have on future financial lives of teens.

Every action taken can have consequences reaching far into the future.  An example is the teen entry level wage suggested by Alberta Conservative candidates.  The collateral damage and consequences of this action may impact financial programs such as Employment Insurance in the short term and Canada Pension Plan benefits for those teens forty or fifty years into the future.

CPP is a government defined benefit plan whose benefits are based on contributions deducted based on wage levels.  Employees are required to work forty full time years to receive full CPP benefits. If entry level wage up to 21 years or first five years of employment is implemented this will affect the amount of CPP benefits received for those five years, maybe even as high as 10% lost in CPP benefits (five out of forty employed years and CPP benefits for twenty years from age 65 to 85).  Even if entry level wage up to 21 years was implemented for a number of years and then repealed because of its discriminatory nature, the CPP benefits for this minority group (and only for this group) will be affected forever if CPP benefits are not fully restored for those years.

Approximately 520,000 Albertans and 4.5 million Canadians were adolescents and young adults aged 15 to 24.  If the teen entry level wage is implemented only in in Alberta Conservatives will be forcing their Alberta teen constituents to earn less wages and CPP benefits than teens in all other Canadian provinces and territories.  How can Alberta Conservatives see this as morally and ethically fair?

Conservative goals on labour policies (Jason Kenney’s teen entry wage, Doug Ford’s broken promise on basic income pilot project, Trump’s tax cut for the wealthy) seem to try to circumvent and subvert in any way possible a decent minimum wage, a basic wage or living wage without concomitant tax loophole reductions for the wealthy and without evaluating the full consequences of those actions now and in the future.

It is time for Conservatives to use forward thinking instead of narrow mindedness in problem solving related to labour.  If small businesses are having difficulties then solve the small business problems instead of targeting labourers.

Jason Kenney needs to provide full details on the proposed teen wage reduction so voters can make informed choices.

(This blog is of a general nature about financial discrimination of individuals/singles.  It is not intended to provide personal or financial advice.)

TEENAGE ENTRY LEVEL WAGE BELOW MINIMUM WAGE EQUALS BLATANT DISCRIMINATION AND SOCIAL JUSTICE FAILURE

TEENAGE ENTRY LEVEL WAGE BELOW MINIMUM WAGE EQUALS BLATANT DISCRIMINATION AND SOCIAL JUSTICE FAILURE

(These thoughts are purely the blunt, no nonsense personal opinions of the author about financial fairness and discrimination and are not intended to provide personal or financial advice.)

In preparation for the 2019 provincial election certain provincial Conservative candidates once again are proposing economic changes that target the most vulnerable – teenage entry level wage below minimum wage and flat taxes (tax-system).

Alberta Minimum Wage Profile (April 2017 – March, 2018) ‘Alberta Analysis (wage-profile)- At 28.8%, the 15 to 19 year old group  remained the largest group of minimum wage earners in Alberta, and the 20 to 24 year old group was the second largest at 20.5%.  Over one quarter or 28.3% of Alberta minimum wage earners were students’.

Fact check:

    • Some teens work to help support their families.
    • Some teens have already left home and are trying to establish themselves as hard working independent, self sufficient  and responsible individuals.
    • Some teens are emancipated minors who leave their families because of abuse and untenable living conditions at home.
    • Some unattached (and married) individuals are living at home because they can’t afford Alberta housing prices.  From the report:   During the current reference period, 39.5% of minimum wage earners were living with their parents.’
    • Households with children receive Canada Child Benefits, unattached individuals do not.
    • It costs more for unattached individuals (independent teens) to live than married without children (Market Basket Measure).  If one person (unattached) household has a value of 1.0, the value for a two person (married) household is 1.4, not 2.0.
    • Discrimination based on age is a violation of human rights.

Conservatives have referred to the Australian model for teenage entry level wages. Australia Minimum Wage Reduction for Teens in 2018 (based on $18.93 minimum wage):

  • <16 years 36.8% or $6.97
  • 16 years 47.3% or $8.95
  • 17 years 57.8% or $10.94
  • 18 years 68.3% or $12.93
  • 19 years 82.5% or $15.61
  • 20 years 97.7% or $18.49

Living wage Calgary is over $18 ($36,000/yr.) and very few living wages in Canada are below $15.00.  Alberta minimum wage of $15 ($30,000/yr.) is below the living wage, and now Conservatives want to decrease the minimum wage, for example if based on Australian model, an 18 year old to approx. 70% or $10.50/hr. ($21,000/yr.)?

It is difficult to draw statistics on specific youth ages, but from several sources and from Statistics Canada Census Profile 2016, statistics show approximate Alberta population age 15 – 19 to be 240,035, age 20 to 24 to be 261,830.  Approximately 13% to 15% of total Alberta employees are from age group 15 to 24. Do Conservatives really want to target the minority group of 13 to 15%?

In 2011 (profile-youth) the Services-Producing sector in Alberta comprised 77.9% of all youth employment.  In 2011, Alberta youth accounted for 37.7% of those employed in the Accommodation and Food Services industry.  The average hourly wage paid to youth was $9.57 less than the average hourly wage paid to all Albertans. Approximately 63% age 15 – 24 are full  time employees. In 2011 average hourly wage for all Albertans was $25.47 and for age 15-24 $15.90.

Premise that age 21 before 100% wage takes effect or five years to become skilled at a job is just plain discriminatory, a violation of human rights and a social justice failure.  At 18 years of age, these persons are adults, they can vote, and many have left home to work and become independent persons. Their parents no longer receive Canada Child Benefits.

Why would parents support a policy that is discriminatory?

If problems lie with small business then solve the small business problem instead of targeting vulnerable minorities to bear the brunt of failures of business.   Apparently politicians, businesses can’t see that they will pay one way or another-more welfare and food banks at one end and ability to live decent respectful lives at the other.

Jason Kenney needs to reveal his plan for teen minimum wage reduction in its entirety so voters can make informed choices on their candidates.

CONCLUSION

What is needed in this democratic country are centre left and right parties for balance and to challenge each other so right and fair decisions are made.  What is not needed are far right Conservatives (Jason Kenney – teen minimum wage reduction and flat taxes, Doug Ford who broke his promise by cancelling Ontario Liberal’s basic income pilot project, and Trump’s economic policies making the rich even richer).

Proper budgeting implies that if there is a problem with deficits, taxes should not be cut without reducing the “fat” or excesses.  Conservatives are also once again proposing bringing back the flat tax without cutting loopholes for the wealthy. Why is it that they always target the vulnerable, cut the revenue side by cutting taxes, but never cut regressive tax expenditures or loopholes for the wealthy?

Parkland Institute (things_to_know_about_a_15_minimum_wage_in_alberta) makes the following points:

  • Consumer spending power has more impact on employment than raising the minimum wage.

  • Raising the minimum wage by meaningful amounts helps put a dent in increasing income inequality.

  • Income inequality increases health care costs and slows economic growth.

(This blog is of a general nature about financial discrimination of individuals/singles.  It is not intended to provide personal or financial advice.)

CONSERVATIVE REGRESSIVE PENSION INCOME SPLITTING GOLDMINE FOR WEALTHY MARRIED PERSONS

CONSERVATIVE REGRESSIVE PENSION INCOME SPLITTING GOLDMINE FOR WEALTHY MARRIED PERSONS

(These thoughts are purely the blunt, no nonsense personal opinions of the author about financial fairness and discrimination and are not intended to provide personal or financial advice.)

Regressive tax expenditures cannot be blamed on just one political party, however, some implemented by Conservatives are the most egregious of all.

The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) “Out of the shadows” (policyalternatives)is a must read for all taxpayers.  It examines benefits distribution from 64 of Canada’s personal (business not included) income tax expenditures and provides egregious and shocking facts on how wealthy minority benefit the most.  Only five were considered to be progressive. Remaining 59 regressive expenditures cost $100.5 billion in 2011 while providing more benefit to those above the median individual income level (based on CCPA individual income, not combined couple income, of $30,000 or $15/hr. wage based on 2000 worked hours) and in some cases benefit top decile of wealthy the most.  The monies doled out in these expenditures equals same amount of all monies collected in taxes.

Stephen Harper, former Canadian Conservative Prime Minister, introduced the hastily and poorly planned regressive pension income splitting (P.I.S.) partly as appeasement for the controversial crackdown on income trusts (another regressive tax expenditure).

Fact Check:  First, married seniors, who have never had children, using P.I.S. pay less taxes just because they are married even though it costs singles more to live (Market Basket Measure – MBM).  Second, married seniors with equal incomes cannot use P.I.S. and, therefore, pay more taxes.  Third, poor married seniors benefit less as they have less income to split.  Fourth, senior singles and lone parents cannot use P.I.S., ever.  So, the wealthy married benefit most (?including Stephen Harper worth $7million when he becomes a senior). Exactly how many Canadian taxpayer households are completely left out of this formula?  – Certainly more than 50% or the majority. Just speak the truth, it is impossible for singles and low income seniors to achieve financial equality with this regressive tax expenditure.

Compounding effect of regressive expenditures ensures wealthy become even wealthier. Tax savings from P.I.S.means full contributions can be dumped into Tax Free Savings Accounts (TFSA) (another regressive tax expenditure implemented by Stephen Harper where maximum contributions now total $11,000 per year for married households).  Wealth ripple becomes ever wider because investments earned from TFSA contributions without capping of individual limits are never taxed.

CCPA states P.I.S. is the most regressive tax expenditure costing government $975 million annually – that is almost $1 billion a year.  Eighty-three per cent (83%) of benefit goes to top 10% and maxes out at $11,700 (equivalent to $6/hr. wage) when $128,800 (equivalent to $64/hr. wage) of pension income is transferred from higher earner to spouse with no income (10 times the maximum benefit to Canada’s poorest from only five progressive tax expenditures).

Over ten years the P.I.S. amount to wealthy married people could total almost $120,000.  It is not possible to calculate the wealth achieved from TFSA investments. And, it is apparent that there is no shame on the part of the wealthy that they are robbing from the poor to pay themselves.  Singles and poor seniors deserve to feel righteously angered at the gross financial discrimination of this formula.

CCPA states that from an aggregate perspective $103 billion lost annually to 64 tax expenditures is an embarrassing failure of Canadian tax policy.  Many of those in poorest deciles are singles and lone parents.

When critical thinking brings sunlight to financial discrimination and selective socialistic (Conservative) financial privileging for the wealthy, it also demands financial discrimination be changed or eliminated.  Taxpayers need to educate themselves on how they are impacted by these expenditures and contact their government officials demanding change. Although Federal Liberals have successfully eliminated some regressive tax expenditures, so far, they have refused to eliminate P.I.S. Transferral of P.I.S. tax expenditures to increased OAS and GIS based on MBM and net worth and assets would ensure greater financial fairness for all Canadian seniors.

P.I.S. has been submitted to the Canadian Human Rights Commission for adjudication of financial discrimination based on marital status and income levels and once again to the Liberals for elimination.

CONCLUSION

Canada is supposed a democratic country where fairness prevails at all levels including financial.  Why aren’t regressive tax expenditures such as stock option reduction, dividend gross-up and tax credit, and partial inclusion of capital gains for the wealthy enough that we have to introduce further regressive tax expenditures such as pension income splitting, income splitting, and Tax Free Savings Accounts which again benefit wealthy the most?

Plutocratic capitalism, as discussed by many authors including Thomas Piketty, is no different than other egregious philosophies such as communism, dictatorships, far right and far left idealism which all eventually rob the poor to pay the wealthy.  Balanced social justice is the answer to plutocratic capitalism and far right and left ideologies.

Thomas Piketty quotes (quotes):

  • When the rate of return on capital exceeds the rate of growth of output and income, as it did in the nineteenth century and seems quite likely to do again in the twenty-first, capitalism automatically generates arbitrary and unsustainable inequalities that radically undermine the meritocratic values on which democratic societies are based.
  • It’s important to realize that innovation and growth in itself are not sufficient to moderate inequality of wealth.
  • We want capitalism and market forces to be the slave of democracy rather than the opposite.
  • When inequality gets to an extreme, it is completely useless for growth.
  • No hypocrisy is too great when economic and financial elites are obliged to defend their interest.
  • I don’t think there is any serious evidence that we need to be paying people more than 100 times the average wage in order to get high-performing managers.
  • What was the good of industrial development, what was the good of all the technological innovations, toil, and population movements if, after half a century of industrial growth, the condition of the masses was still just as miserable as before, and all lawmakers could do was prohibit factory labor by children under the age of eight?

(Addendum:  A study of Stephen Harper profile, former Canadian Prime Minister, shows that he claims to be an economist with only a Master’s Degree, a Christian whose right wing financial philosophy appears to be to increase the wealth of the rich, and a family man styled after the 1950’s “Leave It To Beaver”, but never includes singles in the family definition.  It seems one of his goals is to increase capital returns over wages by implementing formulas that benefit wealthy the most since they are the population who have the most capital.

After implementing Pension Income Splitting, he also introduced income splitting for families, another regressive tax expenditure benefiting the wealthy, but this was rejected by the Liberal Party who came into power shortly after.

During his tenure as Prime Minister he often introduced huge omnibus bills to hide controversial bills. His actions over time negatively affected environmental laws, cut health care funding, reduced number of food inspectors jobs, made it harder to qualify for EI benefits, and disallowed scientists to speak freely about their research, this is by no means an inclusive list.  It should be stated that omnibus bills have also been submitted by other political parties. Harper also prorogued Parliament four times for a total of 181 days when he feared he would lose a confidence vote or didn’t want to deal with controversial issues.)

(This blog is of a general nature about financial discrimination of individuals/singles.  It is not intended to provide personal or financial advice.)

REGRESSIVE TAX EXPENDITURE MISCONCEPTIONS INCLUDING GOVERNMENT DIVIDEND CHEQUES

REGRESSIVE TAX EXPENDITURE MISCONCEPTIONS INCLUDING GOVERNMENT DIVIDEND CHEQUES

(These thoughts are purely the blunt, no nonsense personal opinions of the author about financial fairness and discrimination and are not intended to provide personal or financial advice.)

This opinion letter was originally submitted in abbreviated format to a local newspaper in response to a reader opinion letter.  It emphasizes the bizarreness of Conservatives who don’t see Alaskan natural resources dividends as being equivalent to a basic income program, view dividend cheques to be a right, not a privilege (while touting individual responsibility), and have no problem with receiving these monies even for children who haven’t worked for it or paid taxes.

The blog post ‘Money Benefit Programs Financially Benefit Married/coupled Persons and Families More Than Singles’ highlighting Alaska Permanent Fund Dividends was originally published several years ago and has been reproduced in its entirety at the end of this post.

RE:  READER OPINION LETTER ON ALASKA PERMANENT FUND DIVIDEND (PFD)

(Alaskan dividend program was established by the Republican (conservative) party in 1976.  From 1996 to 2015, the benefits have ranged from a low of $846 to a high of $2,072 annually.  For a family of four the twenty year total amounts to $113,156, and for a single person household the amount is $28,289.  A lot more can be done with $113,000 than $28,000. And, all is not as rosy as it seems. Alaska also has concerns about excessive government spending (pfd-effect).  For the third straight year, dividends would be more than $1,000 less than they would be under the previous formula written into state law).

The reader opinion letter, while stating Klein and related Conservative ilk took money out of voter pockets, also implies that it is better that every Alaskan man, woman, and child has received $43,000 in annual dividend cheques since 1982 – 2017 amount was $1,100. Single person household would have received $1,100, lone parent with child or married with no children $2,200, two adults, one child $3,300 and two adults, two children $4,400. You figure out what each household would have received over twenty years during lifecycle of rearing children.

The same truth applies to Klein $400 bucks. A family with eight children received $4,000 while single person received $400 (this is a true story).

Why is it that Conservative families are always in the business of making more money for themselves, but tout individual responsibility?  Why should children, like a one day old infant receive dividends when they haven’t paid any taxes or contributed to getting those resources out of the ground?  Instead, they are consuming resources such as education without contributing to them by paying taxes.

It doesn’t matter whether it is dividend cheques, Klein ‘bucks’ or natural disaster relief funds (fire-disaster-assistance).  When children are treated financially equal to adults, single adults will always be the losers even when they have worked more than forty years, not used EI or maternity/paternity benefits, paid education taxes when they have no children, etc. Families with children are receiving government transfers that singles don’t receive.

Financial fairness for all Canadians, regardless of marital or child status, will only be achieved when Market Basket Measure and net worth and assets are included in financial formulas.  The Canada Child Benefit is financially fairer than natural resource dividends (good thing for lone parents and poor families).  The Market Basket Measure cost of living scale counts an unattached individual as 1.0, and adds 0.4 for the second person (regardless of age), 0.4 for additional adults, and 0.3 for additional children.  The addition of an adult or child to household does not double or triple the cost of living, but adds smaller percentage to it.

It is time for politicians, married persons and families to stop the financial cherry picking and gaslighting.  Instead of spreading half truths it is time to develop fair financial formulas based on MBM and net worth irrespective of what political party person belongs to.

ANALYSIS OF REGRESSIVE TAX EXPENDITURES SUCH AS DIVIDEND CHEQUES

Critical common sense thinking highlights the fallacies of Conservative thinking which they, themselves, cannot see.

  • Conservatives don’t see Alaskan dividends as equivalent to basic income programs and they don’t see this as equivalent to socialist programs.  Doug Ford, since coming into power as Ontario Conservative Premier, has broken his promise by deleting the basic income pilot program authored by the outgoing Liberal Party. Alaskan dividends are as socialiastic as any basic income program.

Karl Widerquist and Michael W. Howard on Alaskan dividends (see blog article below) state:  ‘It provides a model of cash transfers to individuals without any stigma of dependence, fraud, waste, or failure—attributes often attached recipients of other government cash transfers.  The PFD funding source in natural resources rather than in taxes on individual income or wealth seems to exempt its recipients from any need to justify their use of the dividend, and to exempt the transfer as a whole from the ‘socialist’ label….’

  • Alaskan dividends are paid irrespective of any income from other sources and does not require the performance of work or the willingness to accept a job if offered. Unlike social assistance programs, it is not means-tested. Surely, this should rile up Conservatives who continually talk about personal responsibility and denigrate the poor as being lazy.  Conservatives never want to raise the minimum wage.
  • Conservatives just don’t get that Alaskan dividends are a regressive tax expenditure. Karl Widerquist and Michael W. Howard state:   ‘the PFD together with the elimination of the state individual income tax that was part of its founding has an overall regressive effect on income distribution.  To have a significant redistributive effect, the PFD would have to be recouped from wealthy individuals; in the absence of a progressive state income, consumption, or wealth tax, the PFD would have to be distributed on a sliding scale with larger dividends given to those with less income from other sources, rather than as a uniform flat payment….’
  • Alaskan dividends are paid out to individuals rather than households.  Payouts based on Market Basket Measure (MBM) or OECD Equivalence scales (equivalence-scales) would be financially fairer and would spread monies over a longer period of time.
  • What about those states or provinces that do not have natural resources? How do they handle progressive versus regressive tax expenditure?  The answer is through taxes and social justice programs.
  • It has been argued that it is preferable to have dividends from natural resources be distributed broadly rather than end up in the pockets of only a few corporate executives, wealthy shareholders, and political cronies. However, dividends distributed without marital status, number of children, income and net worth and assets consideration still means there will be an uneven distribution of dividends benefiting wealthy the most.

REPRODUCTION OF PREVIOUS BLOG POST

http://www.financialfairnessforsingles.ca/singles/2016/03/07/money-benefit-programs-financially-benefit-marriedcoupled-persons-and-families-more-than-singles/

MONEY BENEFIT PROGRAMS FINANCIALLY  BENEFIT MARRIED/COUPLED PERSONS AND FAMILIES MORE THAN SINGLES

Married/coupled persons and families often receive ‘free money’ benefits that financially benefit them much more than singles.

Two very good examples of these benefits are the Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend and the ‘Ralph Klein $400 Bucks’ Program.

Alaska Permanent Fund Dividends

The Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend (PFD) program implemented in 1982 is an annual payment paid to individuals (children as well as adults) rather than households.  It is paid irrespective of any income from other sources and does not require the performance of work or the willingness to accept a job if offered. Unlike social assistance programs, it is not means-tested.

The book “Alaska’s Permanent Fund Dividend:  Examining Its Suitability as a Model”, edited by Karl Widerquist and Michael W. Howard states the following:

‘…..In 2008, when the PFD reached its highest level at $2,069, the individual  poverty threshold in the United States was approximately $11,000; for a family of four it was approximately $22,000.  Thus, at its highest level, the PFD would have provided less than 20 percent of the income necessary for an to individual to reach the poverty threshold, but almost 40 percent of the income necessary for a family of four to reach the poverty threshold……Thus, on basis of its level alone, the PFD is at best a partial basic income…

Finally, because of its flat and universal nature, the PFD on its own makes a very modest contribution to the reduction of inequality.  But the PFD together with the elimination of the state individual income tax that was part of its founding has an overall regressive effect on income distribution.  To have a significant redistributive effect, the PFD would have to be recouped from wealthy individuals; in the absence of a progressive state income, consumption, or wealth tax, the PFD would have to be distributed on a sliding scale with larger dividends given to those with less income from other sources, rather than as a uniform flat payment….

The PFD does serve as an excellent model for the conceptualization of natural resources as commonly owned—an important step along the path to acceptance of the idea of a basic income.  It provides a model of cash transfers to individuals without any stigma of dependence, fraud, waste, or failure—attributes often attached recipients of other government cash transfers. The PFD’s funding source in natural resources rather than in taxes on individual income or wealth seems to exempt it recipients from any need to justify their use of the dividend, and to exempt the transfer as a whole from the ‘socialist’ label….’

It has been argued that it is preferable to have oil profits distributed broadly rather than end up in the pockets of only a few corporate executives, wealthy shareholders, and political cronies.

Alaska is the only state that does not collect sales tax or levy an individual income tax on any type of of personal income, either earned or unearned.  Every Alaskan, children as well as adults, receives a payment each year from the Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation. The USA does not have child benefits, although there is a child tax credit system for parents or guardians of children under 17 who meet certain requirements.  (The PFD is taxable by the Federal government).

Further review of information shows that in 2002, the poorest 20% of Alaskans relied on their dividend for 25% of their total income….some Alaskans depend on their dividend for up to a quarter of their yearly income, especially Native Alaskans, who make up 15% of the population. Those in poverty brackets and many of those living a subsistence lifestyle cannot afford to lose the dividend as a source of income.

However, review of articles on this program also states that the sense of entitlement has been established where it is very difficult to reduce state spending in this particular benefit at the expense of politicians losing their jobs, because state residents view these dividends as ‘rights’, not ‘privileges’.

One could argue that monies are being given to children who have not earned that privilege.  They have earned no money and have not paid any taxes.

If one looks at the PFD contributions over a twenty year period (lifetime of a family with children) in comparison to singles /individuals, the financial unfairness becomes apparent very quickly.  From 1996 to 2015,the benefits have ranged from a low of $846 to a high of $2,072 annually. For a family of four the twenty year total amounts to $113,156 and for a single person household the amount is $28,289.  A lot more can be done with $113,000 than $28,000.

Prosperity Bonus (‘Ralph Klein $400 Bucks’) Program

The Prosperity Bonus, also nicknamed Ralph (Premier of Alberta at that time) bucks, announced in September 2005, was the name given to a program designed to pay money back to residents of the province of Alberta as a result of a massive oil-fuelled provincial budget surplus.  This program gave $400 to every citizen of Albertan in the year 2005.

For a family of four, the benefit was $1,600, while a single/individual received $400.

ANALYSIS

‘Free Money’ Benefits allow families to achieve greater wealth than singles/individuals even though the children of these families have not earned any income or paid any taxes. Married/coupled persons without children also achieve greater financial benefits because of accumulated assets times two.

SOLUTIONS

To achieve greater financial equality between singles/individuals and married/coupled persons and families, the following suggestions are submitted:

  • Eliminate children from these programs until they reach the age majority since they have not made any contributions to the coffers in the form of salaries or taxes; rather, they are using resources such as education instead of contributing to them.
  • Top up benefits to singles at rate of 1.4 Market Basket Measure to that of married/coupled persons as it costs more for singles to live than married/coupled persons living as a single unit.

(This blog is of a general nature about financial discrimination of individuals/singles.  It is not intended to provide personal or financial advice.)

REGRESSIVE TAX EXPENDITURES FINANCIALLY DISCRIMINATE AGAINST SINGLES AND POOR FAMILIES

REGRESSIVE TAX EXPENDITURES FINANCIALLY DISCRIMINATE AGAINST SINGLES AND POOR FAMILIES

(These thoughts are purely the blunt, no nonsense personal opinions of the author about financial fairness and discrimination and are not intended to provide personal or financial advice.)

This purpose of this blog has been to highlight the gross financial discrimination singles and poor families face in this country.  However, many including governments, families and married persons fail to understand or choose to ignore the real financial truth. The discovery of information on regressive tax expenditures has provided an “OMG moment” because it supports what we have been saying since the beginning of this blog.  It provides solid information that poverty is not a figment of the imagination and is not created by the poor. Instead, wealth has been purposefully created for the top 50% of Canadians by government policies, especially regressive tax expenditures.

Blog article discussion on “Out of the Shadows” appears at beginning of article. Reproduction of “Will federal tax review lay the groundwork for real tax reform in the next budget?” appears at the end of this article.

PRELUDE

The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) “Out of the shadows” (loopholes) report published December, 2016 ‘examines the distribution of benefits from Canada’s 64 personal income tax expenditures where data is available, ranking them from least to most progressive.  A tax measure can be said to be relatively progressive if more than half its benefits go to the lower half of income earners. Likewise, a tax measure is regressive if most benefits go to Canada’s higher-income earners’.  (It should be noted that the 64 expenditures by no means covers all of the possible expenditures as evidenced by those not reviewed that are listed in Appendix II Excluded Tax Expenditures).

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY -Excerpts from CCPA report pages 5 – 7

ONLY 5 OF THE 64 EXPENDITURES ARE PROGRESSIVE

Only five –  the working income tax benefit (only one—the Working Income Tax Benefit—exclusively supports Canada’s working poor), non-taxation of the guaranteed income supplement, non-taxation of social assistance, the refundable medical expense deduction, and the disability tax credit can be described as relatively progressive, with a maximum benefit of $1,100 or less.

THE REMAINING 59 EXPENDITURES ARE REGRESSIVE AND COST $100.5B IN 2011

The remaining 59 regressive tax expenditures cost the federal government $100.5 billion in 2011 while providing more benefit to those above the median individual income level.

FIVE MOST REGRESSIVE TAX EXPENDITURES PROVIDE 99% BENEFITS TO TOP HALF

The five most regressive tax expenditures provide 99% or more of their benefit to the upper half of income earners. These tax expenditures pension income splitting, dividend gross-up, stock option deduction, credit for partial inclusion of capital gains, and foreign tax credit cost the government between $740 million and $4.1 billion each per year, totalling $10.4 billion in 2011. Four of these five tax expenditures have no maximum individual value, while pension income splitting where 83% of the benefit goes to the top income decile maxes out at $11,700 per person. That is 10 times the maximum benefit to Canada’s poorest from the five progressive tax expenditures.   If those loopholes were closed, the federal government could use that money to eliminate university tuition and create an affordable national child care program.

IN 2011 TAX EXPENDITURES COST ROUGHLY AS MUCH AS ALL INCOME TAXES COLLECTED

In total, personal income tax expenditures cost $103 billion in 2011, which is roughly as much as all income taxes collected that year ($121 billion). It is also not much less than what the federal government spends annually to pay for the Canada Pension Plan, employment insurance, the GST credit, the universal child care benefit, the Canada child tax benefit and the national child benefit supplement combined ($113 billion).

TWO TAX SYSTEMS, SHADOW SYSTEM FOR THE RICH, THE OTHER FOR POOR AND MIDDLE CLASS

Existing tax expenditures, on the other hand, provide on average a $15,000-per-person benefit to the richest Canadians. By comparison Canada’s poorest Canadians receive only $130 from tax expenditures and $1,130 from all federal income transfers.  In essence there are two federal transfers systems in Canada: one for the poor and middle class, and another shadow transfer system for the rich. Each system transfers roughly the same amount of money.

RECOMMENDATIONS RE MODEST STEPS TO ELIMINATING MOST REGRESSIVE AND EXPENSIVE TAX EXPENDITURES

  1. The annual tax expenditures report from Finance Canada should include the distribution of tax expenditures across the income spectrum.
  2. Tax expenditures should be included explicitly as costs in federal government financial reporting, including the main estimates, federal budget and fiscal updates.
  3. The federal government should target annual savings in tax expenditures of 5% (worth $5.1 billion a year) through the closure, capping or phasing-out of the most regressive loopholes.  This would take 20 years for total elimination.
  4. Policy-makers should continue to examine tax expenditures through a broad income inequality or vertical equity lens, and to consider the totality of these expenditures as a grossly unfair shadow transfer system for Canada’s richest tax filers.

REPORTING OF EXPENDITURES AND TRANSFERS OCCUR UNEQUALLY

(Page 9) Reporting of expenditures versus transfers – …. Moreover, while the cost of tax expenditures are individually estimated, they are not evaluated in the aggregate or compared to other large federal expenditures like federal income transfers. The latter are updated regularly and incorporated into public documents like the federal budget, main estimates and fiscal updates. Tax expenditures, on the other hand, are relegated to federal tax expenditure and evaluation reports that are published separately and frequently overlooked.

ASSESSING PROGRESSIVITY VERSUS REGRESSIVITY

(Page 10)  Progressivity versus regressivity-…..While it may be tempting to think of one set as progressive and the other regressive based on the types of activities they target, this is not how tax systems are generally judged. Assessing Canada’s tax expenditures through a vertical equity lens allows us to precisely determine what income groups benefit the most.

NET WORTH AND ASSETS LEFT OUT OF ANALYSIS

(Page 11) Report readily admits that ranking scheme focuses exclusively on current annual income and ignores other potential measures of progressivity that one might consider, such as measures based on wealth or lifetime earnings.

Blog author’s comment:

In this blog we have commented many times on how tax expenditures are handed out to the wealthy when they don’t need it because their net worth and assets have not been taken into consideration in financial formulas.

TAX EXPENDITURES PERCENTAGE OF BENEFITS TO BOTTOM HALF

(Page 12) Table 1  shows 2011 Tax Expenditures Cost, Distribution and Progressivity and % of the 64 benefits to bottom half.  (The percentage of each individual expenditure is generally below 30% to the bottom half.)

FIVE MOST PROGRESSIVE (VERTICALLY EQUITABLE) TAX EXPENDITURES

(Page 15-17) Only five of Canada’s 64 expenditures are more beneficial for lower-income earners and therefore more positive in terms of correcting income inequalities. These are the working tax credit, non-taxation of the GIS and spousal allowance, refundable medical expenses, non-taxation of social assistance benefits and disability tax credit…..These five most progressive tax expenditures have a few things in common. First, there is either an explicit maximum individual benefit or the value is based on another program that itself is capped…..Second, the maximum benefit is paid out in the lower half of the income spectrum and tapers out afterwards…..Finally, three of the five tax expenditures are related to seniors, including the non-taxation of GIS benefits, the disability tax credit and the refundable medical expenses supplement…..

Blog author’s comment:

This is the way assistance for low income Canadians should work, thus promoting financial fairness for all  Canadians.

FIVE MOST REGRESSIVE (VERTICALLY INEQUITABLE) TAX EXPENDITURES

(Page 18) ….The vast majority provide more benefit to the richest half of Canadians. To narrow it down to five (dividend gross-up and tax credit, partial inclusion of capital gains, foreign tax credit for individuals, employee stock option deduction, and pension income splitting), those tax expenditures providing 99% of their benefit to the highest-earning Canadians are isolated (14 of 64 expenditures) then sorted by cost.  The first thing that stands out in Figure 2 is the marked difference in distributional impact of Canada’s regressive and progressive tax expenditures. The benefits of the former (regressive) are clearly concentrated in the richest decile, with little or no benefit leaking down even to Canada’s middle-income earners and absolutely nothing for the poorest Canadians. In the latter (progressive) category, benefits generally peaked in the third or fourth deciles, but they also spread beyond this zone, frequently also into the upper deciles.

PENSION SPLITTING MOST REGRESSIVE TAX EXPENDITURE

(Page 18-19) The most regressive tax expenditure, which comes with a cost to government of $975 million annually, is pension income splitting. This tax measure allows a couple to shift up to half the pension income of the higher-earning spouse to the lower earner at tax time. The lower-earning spouse would still pay tax on the amount transferred, but at a lower marginal rate.  (Figure 4) This transfer effect is why the distribution shows negative bars in deciles four through seven: lower earners will pay higher taxes as pension income is transferred, but presumably net family taxes will be lower.

Benefits from pension income splitting are concentrated at the very top, with 83% of the value of the expenditure going to the richest decile. In contrast with the other most regressive tax expenditures, there is maximum benefit to this tax expenditure of $11,675 when $128,800 of pension income is transferred from a higher earner to a spouse with no income. While capped, this maximum benefit is 10 times more generous than any of the five most progressive tax expenditures.

Blog author’s comment:

Re pension splitting zero per cent (0%) of senior single person households and equal income married or coupled partners receive any monies from this expenditure.  Poor families (bottom half) receive virtually no benefit because they have less income to split than the wealthy.

DIVIDEND GROSS-UP, STOCK OPTION DEDUCTIONS AND PARTIAL INCLUSION OF CAPITAL GAINS

(Page 19-21) There are commonalities among these regressive loopholes whose benefit is most concentrated among the richest half of Canadians. For one thing, three of the five regressive expenditures are related to capital ownership; that is to say, to the ownership, purchase and sale of stocks, real estate, businesses and the like. This is not an activity most Canadians take part in, let alone have to worry about at tax time. Second, four of the five tax expenditures have no maximum value and the fifth has a very high maximum. This also has the effect of concentrating benefits among those with more money to spend.

Blog author’s comment:

These three tax loopholes are available only to the wealthiest Canadians because they are the the only ones with the means to partake of these loopholes.  When the wealthiest Canadians have these three tax loopholes why do they need even more loopholes? Article “Will federal tax review lay the groundwork for real tax reform in the next budget?” at the end of this blog post provides a very good comment on what could be done to reduce these tax loopholes.

Dividend gross-up and tax credit

(Page 24) The fifth most expensive tax expenditure is the dividend gross-up and tax credit, which cost $4.1 billion in 2011. As discussed above, the credit is also among the top five most regressive expenditures, with 92% of the benefits going to the richest decile.

(Page 25) In another comparison, recovering three-quarters of what is lost to the dividend gross-up each year could eliminate tuition for undergraduate university students, or it could halve the cost of long-term care for aging Canadians.  Tax expenditures are the same as any other real government spending: they are a fiscal choice governments make and can unmake if they want to. The money that today goes to padding the incomes of Canada’s rich could tomorrow go to eliminating poverty and reducing income inequality.

(Page 20) This tax expenditure gives shareholders of Canadian firms receiving a dividend a credit for what the corporation already paid on its profits, so that those profits are not “double taxed.”…..Seen in this light, Canada’s tax expenditure for corporate dividends looks very much like special treatment for the already very wealthy.  The dividend gross-up has no maximum value, as it is related to the amount of Canadian eligible dividends paid to any individual.

Blog author’s comment:

Re:    Good discussion on “Big 3” regressive tax expenditures (dividend gross-up, stock option deduction and credit for partial inclusion of capital gains) that overwhelmingly benefit rich Canadians is given in article “Will federal tax review lay the groundwork for real tax reform in the next budget?” shown at the end of this blog post.  (These expenditures alone cost a combined $12 billion annually – more than enough to pay for, say, a national pharmacare program).

FIVE COSTLIEST TAX EXPENDITURES

(Page 22-25) Though they may not be the most regressive, based on the criteria established above, it is worth commenting on how all five of the most costly personal tax expenditures (Credit for the Basic Personal Amount, net Registered Pension Plan or RRP expenditure, net Registered Retirement Savings Plan or RRSP expenditure, non-taxation of Capital Gains on Principal Residences, and Dividend Gross-up and Tax Credit) still provide far higher benefits to those in the upper income deciles than those in the lower half of Canadian income earners (see Figure 3).

At the top of this list is the basic personal amount all Canadians can claim as tax-free income on their tax forms ($10,527 in 2011). This tax expenditure costs an incredible $29 billion a year. To put that number in perspective, roughly a quarter of every tax dollar collected in 2011 was returned through the basic personal amount.  This tax expenditure is roughly equivalent to having an additional tax bracket under $10,527 at 0%, despite the fact that the other tax brackets are not considered tax expenditures. That being said, changing the basic personal exemption would have major implications. Besides being the most expensive, this tax expenditure is the most evenly distributed, at least in this category, with a third of the benefit going to the bottom half of Canadians. The maximum benefit in 2011 was $1,579, accessible to everyone who paid income tax, and received by virtually everyone in the fifth decile and above. The universal application of this tax expenditure to all taxpayers, particularly in the top half of the income distribution, is the reason it is so expensive.

The second and third most expensive tax expenditures are the registered pension plans (RPP) and the registered retirement savings plans (RRSP), which cost the government $16 billion and $9 billion a year respectively. The benefits of these tax expenditures are slightly more concentrated among Canada’s highest-income earners, who receive 57% of the benefit from RPPs and 63% of the benefit from RRSPs, and in both cases there is little benefit outside of the top three deciles.

(The complete discussion of RPP and RRSPs in the report has not been included here).….It is often difficult to contextualize the opportunity costs of spending billions of dollars on a tax expenditure. For comparison’s sake, the combined net loss from the RRSP and RPP tax preferences is $26 billion a year. This is three times the $9 billion spent on the GIS and spousal allowance, which are dedicated to reducing poverty among low-income seniors.  By spending only a third of the government revenues lost to RRSP and RPPs every year we could eliminate seniors’ poverty in Canada.

To evaluate the effectiveness of this tax-shifting strategy, Figure 4 shows the distribution of benefits for contributors compared to the distribution of RRSP withdrawals. Assuming that contribution and withdrawal trends continue in terms of percentage benefit, and not in terms of aggregate amounts, it is clear the richest decile will benefit the most. The richest decile sees 57% of the benefits from contributions, but only pays back 31% of the tax on withdrawals. RPPs have a slightly worse distribution, with the top two deciles seeing a net lifetime benefit. Even on a lifetime basis, instead of a cash-flow basis, the top decile sees the most benefit given current trends.

The fourth most expensive tax expenditure, non-taxation of capital gains on a principle residence, cost the government $4.7 billion in 2011. This tax expenditure is of very little use to the bottom half of the population, which sees 10% of the benefits.

The fifth most expensive tax expenditure is the dividend gross-up and tax credit, which cost $4.1 billion in 2011. As discussed above, the credit is also among the top five most regressive expenditures, with 92% of the benefits going to the richest decile.

…..Tax expenditures are the same as any other real government spending: they are a fiscal choice governments make and can unmake if they want to. The money that today goes to padding the incomes of Canada’s rich could tomorrow go to eliminating poverty and reducing income inequality.

TAX EXPENDITURES SHOULD BE TREATED AS A SYSTEM

(Page 26 – 28) 26 Beyond ComparIng Canada’s individual tax expenditures for their progressivity or regressivity, we should be treating these tax expenditures as a system, as we might federal income transfers. In that case, we can apply the same equity lens to the tax expenditure system in the aggregate to determine if the totality of these measures increase or decrease income inequality in Canada.

Based on the analysis above, the answer should be clear: if 59 of Canada’s 64 tax expenditures are regressive (i.e., they benefit the upper half of income earners more than the lower half), we should expect the system as a whole to fail the equity test. In fact, the total cost of these regressive measures is astonishing….As such, only broad conclusions are drawn from the aggregation of tax expenditures. From a policy perspective, if raising money from closing tax expenditures is the goal, a piecemeal approach is unlikely to provide as much benefit as a more comprehensive tax policy reassessment…..

The standout conclusion we come to from aggregating all personal tax expenditures is that that system is very expensive, costing the government $103 billion a year. As shown in

Table 2, this is only slightly less than the $121 billion collected in federal personal income taxes in 2011. Think about that: almost every dollar collected in personal income taxes is immediately given back through tax expenditures. Put another way, if revenues currently forgone through personal income tax expenditures were collected, the federal government would roughly double the amount of money at its disposal for other priorities.

…..While both tax expenditures and traditional income transfers result in effective transfers and are of roughly the same aggregate cost, their distribution differs dramatically, as shown in Figure 5. Federal transfers peak in the fourth decile for those with incomes between $17,000 and $22,000. The average combined federal transfer is $8,400 a person, which is mostly made up of transfers from CPP and GIS/OAS.

Blog author’s comment:

This author has talked about tax loopholes being addressed only in a vertical fashion by governments and policy makers.  This has created financial silos (continued-financial-illiteracy) where impact of one loophole is not assessed in totality with other loopholes. However, loopholes are compounded on top of loopholes.  For, example wealthy get full OAS who then put this money into their Tax Free Savings Accounts (TFSA) and then don’t have to report investment income from TFSA as income.  Financial formulas should be assessed both on a vertical and a horizontal level. Add link on financial silos.

FEDERAL TAX TRANSFERS ARE SMALL FOR LARGEST COMPONENT OF SINGLES AND LONE PARENTS

(Page 28 – 29)  FEDERAL TRANSFERS are surprisingly small for the poorest deciles when you consider that most programs target the poorest and clawback transfer payments as incomes rise. There are two reasons for this. The first is that the distribution is based on individual and not family incomes (see Appendix I for more on this). So someone earning no income would fit in the poorest decile even if their spouse made a million dollars a year.

The second, more worrying reason is that many of those in the poorest deciles are either single parents or single adults. Almost all of the federal transfer money paid to the poorest two deciles is for child-related benefits and goes mostly to single-parent families where the parent is almost always a woman. For single adults, or adult couples without children who are not seniors, the only available federal transfer is the GST credit, which maxed out at $253 per person in 2011.

FEDERAL TRANSFERS peak in the fourth decile, but they are slightly skewed to richer Canadians as they provide benefits all the way to the top of the income spectrum.  In fact, those in the richest decile, with incomes over $84,000 a year, receive slightly more on average from federal transfers ($1,300) than the average person in the poorest decile ($1,200). This is entirely due to higher CPP payments to the top deciles. Those in the ninth decile, where incomes sit between $61,000 and $84,000 a year, receive on average $2,500 a person twice as much as those in the poorest decile.

TAX EXPENDITURES, on the other hand, have a dramatically different distribution, with benefits highly concentrated (39%) in the richest decile, where the average transfer is $15,000 a year. That amount is double the $8,400 those in the fourth decile receive in government transfers (largely to support low-income seniors). Put another way, tax expenditures provide 11 times more benefit to the richest people in Canada than government transfers do for the poorest (those making under $4,000 a year).

From an aggregate perspective, therefore, the $103 billion lost annually to tax expenditures is an embarrassing failure of Canadian tax policy. With the same amount of money the government could send an annual cheque of at least $21,800 to all Canadians, completely eliminating poverty.  The money spent on tax expenditures also has an opportunity cost: it means funds are not available for physical infrastructure or to improve social program, both of which have a much higher economic multiplier in driving economic growth.

Blog author’s comment:

This blog is based on highlighting the financial discrimination of singles (ever singles and divorced early in life persons).  The above segment is refreshing in that it supports what we have been saying over the past few years.

TWO EQUAL SYSTEMS OF EQUAL VALUE-TAX INCOME TRANSFERS SYSTEM FOR POOR AND MIDDLE CLASS AND TAX EXPENDITURE SYSTEM FOR THE RICH

(Page 30) In essence, we have in Canada two federal support programs of roughly equal value: income transfers for the poor and middle class, and tax expenditures for the rich. The first (federal transfers) benefits the lower-middle class the most, but spreads widely from the very poorest to the very richest. The second (tax expenditures) benefits mainly those at the top, a shadow transfer system for Canada’s rich.

CONCLUSION (Page 31)

The unequal dIstributIon of tax expenditures remains a critically under-examined problem in Canada, particularly given their enormous cost on par with both personal income taxes collected and total federal government transfers and contribution to income inequality. Given the sheer size of these tax expenditures, it is amazing they are not listed as government spending in federal budgets and fiscal updates.

For every dollar moved into one of Canada’s individual tax expenditures, an equivalent amount is foregone in federal revenues. Since there is no cap on many of the most expensive and most regressive tax expenditures, this arrangement skews benefits toward Canada’s richest, who are more likely to have extra money to put aside (for retirement, investments, etc.). Lifetime caps, as exist for the small business capital gains exemption, would help smooth out the distributional inequities in these expenditures and lower costs for government.

Tax expenditures individually are not purposeless. Sometimes they are meant to encourage behaviour, such as saving for retirement. Sometimes, as with the dividend gross-up, they are driven by concerns about equity (the “double taxation” of dividend income in this case), though almost always in the horizontal sense of treating similar people equally under the tax code.  The vertical inequity of this measure, 91% of whose benefits go to the richest 10% of Canadians, is totally ignored.

APPENDIX I – METHODOLOGY (Page 33-36)

(Reading this section in its entirety is worthwhile to understand how statistics were used to develop the report – the following is a brief excerpt from the report).

All values in this report are in 2011 dollars. All tax rates, tax expenditure values, transfers and any other values are as they were in 2011 unless otherwise stated….

All distributional analyses in this paper are conducted for individuals 18 and over based on total income before taxes but after transfers, not families. Examining individual distribution may overstate the concentration of people in the bottom deciles, as it will split up families where one spouse earns an income and the other does not. In a situation where the former takes home, say, $1 million annually, they would end up in the top decile while the latter is in the lowest decile in this distribution. This may tend to overstate the destitution of those in the lowest income deciles on an individual basis. However, taxes are evaluated on an individual basis and Canada Revenue Agency data, in particular, is only available on an individual basis. Future research could better examine the distribution of tax expenditures across the family income distribution in Canada…..

Third, economists are particularly concerned about richer tax filers attempting to avoid any tax changes, whether from marginal bracket rate increases or changes in tax expenditures. There is particular concern that wealthy Canadians will migrate, for instance to the U.S., in a “brain drain” response to higher Canadians tax rates. Natural experiments have shown a surprising lack of migration in response to higher top marginal tax rates…..

A more likely reaction to the closure of certain tax expenditures might be an increased use of related alternatives. For instance, if RRSP contributions were no longer tax deductible, wealthy Canadians might switch those contributions to TFSAs, where a tax preference still exists. This switching of moneys between tax expenditures may mean the total cost would not be recovered even if that tax expenditure were completely closed. The more tax expenditures that exist, the more choice there is as any one tax expenditure is closed. However, as fewer tax expenditures exist, the more likely it is that the closure of any additional tax expenditure will lead to the full cost of the tax expenditure being recovered. Behavioural reaction will tend to decrease the overall cost of tax expenditures. Neither the Finance Canada reporting on tax expenditures nor this report attempts to estimate the behavioural reaction to the closure of tax expenditures.

The final possibility for avoiding taxes, besides moving and switching tax expenditures, is simply to avoid them illegally. The solution here is more straightforward: hire more tax auditors to provide better enforcement of the rules that already exist. More disclosure and international co-operation of tax agencies is also critical in closing the potential for abuse in tax havens.

APPENDIX II EXCLUDED TAX EXPENDITURES (Page 41)

Table 4 details tax expenditures that are not analyzed in this report (approximately another 64). In general, these were excluded either because distributional data or else the estimated value of the expenditure were not available. A few expenditures were excluded for other reasons……Finally, as this report only focuses on expenditures related to personal income taxes, expenditures involving businesses were also excluded from the analysis (see the details in Table 4).

HIGHLIGHTING PROBLEMS OF MAXIMUM INDIVIDUAL VALUE RE TRANSFERS VERSUS EXPENDITURES

While income transfers are tightly controlled as to the maximum value a person can receive and who in the income spectrum receives them, many of the most regressive and expensive tax expenditures do not have a maximum individual value. (Page 15-17) There is either an explicit maximum individual benefit or the value is based on another program that itself is capped…..Second, the maximum benefit is paid out in the lower half of the income spectrum and tapers out afterwards.

(Page 18) The first thing that stands out in Figure 2 is the marked difference in distributional impact of Canada’s regressive and progressive tax expenditures. The benefits of the former (regressive) are clearly concentrated in the richest decile, with little or no benefit leaking down even to Canada’s middle-income earners and absolutely nothing for the poorest Canadians. In the latter (progressive) category, benefits generally peaked in the third or fourth deciles, but they also spread beyond this zone, frequently also into the upper deciles.

HOW INCOME IS REPORTED IN THE REPORT – (BLOG AUTHOR’S COMMENT)

A major shortfall of this report is using income deciles based only on individuals.

Information from page 33 states ‘All distributional analyses in this paper are conducted for individuals 18 and over based on total income before taxes but after transfers….. However, taxes are evaluated on an individual basis and Canada Revenue Agency data, in particular, is only available on an individual basis. Future research could better examine the distribution of tax expenditures across the family income distribution in Canada…..”

(Example: Figure 2, Page 19) For the CCPA report it appears income deciles are divided into nine deciles for income from $0 to $84,000 and tenth decile for incomes over $84,000.  The sixth decile shows values of $30-$38K, seventh percentile $38-$48K, eighth decile $48-$61K, ninth decile $61-$84K and tenth decile $84K+.

It is possible to obtain some information on income levels for single person and two or more person households from Statistics Canada – Upper income limit, income share and average income by economic family type and income decile (statcan).

In 2016, income single person household reported in constant dollars were total decile income $35,400, sixth decile $31,000, seventh decile $37,700, eighth decile $45,400, ninth decile $57,800 and highest decile $96,800.

In 2016. incomes for two or more person households reported in constant dollars were total deciles $89,600, sixth decile $84,300, seventh decile $97,400, eighth decile $113,600, ninth decile $137,400, and highest decile $211,600.

(Constant dollars refers to dollars of several years expressed in terms of their value (“purchasing power”) in a single year, called the base year income).

The CCPA report uses $84K+ as the dollar value for the tenth decile, whereas, Statistics Canada shows it not possible for single person households to achieve incomes of $84K+ for any of the deciles below and including the ninth decile.  Incomes of $84K+ for two or more person households can be achieved in the sixth decile.

Stated another way Statistics Canada (statcan.gc.ca/n1/daily-quotidien) states couples with children had a median after-tax income of $94,500 in 2016, up 5.6% from 2012. Lone-parent families had a median income of $44,600, while couples without children had a median after-tax income of $76,400. Unattached non-seniors had a median after-tax income of $30,400.

Vanier Institute, Modern Family finances published Jan., 2018 states individuals in Canada whose incomes were in the top 10% had a total median before ­tax income of approximately $93,700 in 2015 ($75,200 after taxes). This represented approximately  3.1 million Canadians in 2015.

The CCPA report states more work needs to done on separating incomes of single person households from two or more person households.  From page 28, a more worrying reason is that many of those in the poorest deciles are either single parents or single adults. Almost all of the federal transfer money paid to the poorest two deciles is for child-related benefits and goes mostly to single-parent families where the parent is almost always a woman. For single adults, or adult couples without children who are not seniors, the only available federal transfer is the GST credit, which maxed out at $253 per person in 2011.

Based on the above information on income deciles, more work needs to be done analyzing singles versus family incomes to achieve financial fairness for singles and lone parents.

FINAL COMMENTS BY BLOG AUTHOR

In 2011, 39% of the benefit of all tax loopholes went to the richest 10% while the bottom half of income earners only saw 16% of the benefit.

As stated on page 30, federal transfers benefit the lower-middle class the most, but spreads widely from the very poorest to the very richest. Tax expenditures benefit mainly those at the top, a shadow transfer system for Canada’s rich.

As stated on page 25 of the above report tax expenditures are the same as any other real government spending: they are a fiscal choice governments make and can unmake if they want to. The money that today goes to padding the incomes of Canada’s rich could tomorrow go to eliminating poverty and reducing income inequality.

Also, transfers are tightly controlled since there is a maximum value a person can receive and who receives them.  Many of the most regressive and expensive tax expenditures do not have a maximum individual value.

Examining tax expenditures by income inequality alone will not totally solve the inequality problem.  Net worth and assets as well as income needs to be included in financial formulas.

The financial inequality that exists between single person households and two or more person households and between poor and wealthy families needs to be addressed through inclusion of net worth and assets, Market Basket Measure and maximum individual value limits in financial formulas.  These should be included in an aggregate format, not on an individual basis to reduce distributional inequities.

Wealthy persons should not be receiving tax expenditure monies when they don’t need it.  Net worth and Assets added to financial formulas would help to ensure monies are distributed in a graduated format and gradually diminishing to zero for the wealthy.

Market Basket Measure (MBM) (gov.br) should also be used in financial formulas to ensure financial equality based on number of person in households so that marital status bias with and without children is excluded. It costs more for singles to live than two person households without children.  This scale counts an unattached individual as 1.0, and adds 0.4 for the second person (regardless of age), 0.4 for additional adults, and 0.3 for additional children.

Pension income splitting, a blatantly financial discriminatory program against single person households, was implemented in 2006 by the Conservatives, specifically Stephen Harper.  Market Basket Measure shows it costs singles more to live, so why was pension splitting given to married or coupled households and to be used by primarily wealthy couples?

Maximum individual value limits on tax expenditures gradually reduced to zero for the wealthy would ensure financial equality and fairness.  Tax Free Savings Accounts (TFSA) were introduced in 2008, again by Conservatives, namely Stephen Harper.  This has to be one of the most egregiously discriminatory programs against singles and the poor.  It is possible for the wealthy to have huge net worth and assets and low incomes excluding huge TFSA investment amounts which do not need to be declared as income.  They can then claim poverty and receive OSA without clawbacks, and even possibly the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) which is supposed to be a poverty reduction program for the very poor.  Lifetime caps, as exist for some small business formulas, would help smooth out financial inequities between the poor and the wealthy and lower costs for government.

Many regressive tax expenditures have been implemented by Conservatives (some also by the Liberals).  The Conservatives always talk about cutting taxes, but never talk about balancing tax cuts with reduction of tax expenditures and benefits for the wealthy.

The Liberal Party to their credit has reduced or eliminated Tax Expenditures for both business and personal financial systems.  On the personal tax side they refused to implement Conservative proposal for personal income splitting and increasing TFSA contributions from $5,500 to $10,000 per person.  They have also eliminated Child Arts and Child Fitness Tax Credits. On the business tax side (businesses were not addressed in the CCPA report), the Liberals have addressed financial inequalities in income splitting (“sprinkling”) and passive income.

Business income splitting (“sprinkling”) allows some families to use private corporations to sprinkle income among family members to spouse and/or children who are often in lower tax brackets than the primary owner/manager and thus the family’s total tax bill would be reduced.

For example, one of the changes means beneficiaries of business income splitting have to be actively engaged in the business and work in the business at least an average of 20 hours per week.  Since singles in their financial circle are basically financially responsible to themselves (no spouse, no children), “income sprinkling’” is of no benefit to single marital status entrepreneurs so they will pay more tax.  Tax fairness needs to be ensured regardless of marital status and how income is earned.

In short, the new rules for passive income mean that once a private corporation builds up multi-million dollar passive investment assets, its business income will no longer qualify for the federal small business tax rate (which is being lowered to 9 per cent), and instead be taxed at the regular corporate tax rate (which is 15 per cent).   The amount of business income that qualifies for the small business tax rate would be reduced depending on how much annual passive income is declared above $50,000 — and eliminated completely once passive income rises above $150,000. 

Political parties concerned about social justice (Liberals and NDP) need to be more vocal about regressive tax expenditures and why changes are needed to promote income and tax equity.

 

https://canadafactcheck.ca/tax-fairness/ Excerpts from article “Will federal tax review lay the groundwork for real tax reform in the next budget?”.  Links have been removed, links may be reviewed in article online.

While little known to the general public, the review is of enormous importance. Every year, Ottawa spends about $110 billion on programs such as health transfers to the provinces, the Canada Pension Plan, Employment Insurance, and other line item programs that comprise the federal budget. These expenditures, as with all direct spending, are put before Parliament for examination. Through this “Estimates” process, information on the costs and impact of these programs is available to the public.

Far less visible and transparent is the roughly $100 billion the federal government forgoes annually in so-called “tax expenditures”. These exemptions, deductions, credits, rebates and surtaxes are not subjected to the same kinds of parliamentary accountability mechanisms that are applied to more direct government spending. Moreover, many of these expenditures (including all exemptions and deductions), while legally embodied in the federal tax code, have huge implications for the fiscal situation of the provinces in that they also define the tax “base” against which all personal and corporate income taxes are levied at the provincial level.

Given the sheer scale of these tax expenditures, there is a strong argument for subjecting this hidden tax spending to the same oversight and public debate as any other spending. This is especially true given just how regressive (i.e. favouring the affluent) many of these expenditures are. If the government wants to provide billions of dollars in tax breaks to the richest Canadians, it should have an obligation to justify these gifts to the vast majority of Canadians who don’t benefit from such largesse.

The last comprehensive evaluation of the federal tax system was the Carter Commission of 1966. It’s clearly time to take a top to bottom look at our tax system to see if it is the truly progressive system the public deserves.

Exactly who benefits from these tax expenditures?

While the true magnitude of federal tax expenditures remains somewhat murky, what we do know is cause for concern. For example, a recent report from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) shows that, while some of these measures benefit the general population, many others benefit most those who need help the least. In fact, of the 64 tax breaks on which solid data are available, all but five provide more benefit to the top half of earners than to the bottom.

In particular, the three most regressive loopholes (the stock option deduction, the dividend gross-up, and the partial inclusion of capital gains), give enormous breaks to the very rich without doing much for the majority. According to the Department of Finance, these expenditures alone cost a combined $12 billion annually – more than enough to pay for, say, a national pharmacare program.

Here’s a brief look at the “Big 3” regressive tax expenditures that overwhelmingly benefit rich Canadians.

The stock option deduction is an offshoot of the 50% capital gains inclusion rate (see below) and cost the federal treasury $840 million in 2016. It is for employees who, as part of their compensation, are given the option to buy company stock at a set price (e.g., today’s price). If the stock rises in the future, an employee can still buy the stock at their set price, but sell it at the going price and generate a capital gain equal to the difference between the two prices. As with capital gains, only 50% of the price differ­ence from a stock option transaction of this sort is taxable, and there is no threshold above which the government taxes 100% of the capital gain.

Another regressive tax expenditure is the dividend gross-up and tax credit. With an annual cost to government of $4.64 billion in 2016, it is also one of the most expensive. This tax expenditure is extremely concen­trated, with 91% of the benefit going to income earners in the richest decile. But, again, the decile analysis actually understates the concentration. A paper by Brian Murphy, Mike Veall, and Michael Wolfson estimate half of all benefits actually go to the top 1%. Corpor­ations pay corporate income tax on their profits, which can be paid out as a dividend to shareholders.

A third extremely regressive tax expenditure is the partial inclusion of cap­ital gains which cost the government $6.68 billion in 2016. The tax expenditure for partial inclusion of capital gains applies to an in­dividual who buys a stock or other asset at one price and subsequently sells it for more, realizing a “capital gain” in the amount of the difference between the two prices. It is only the capital gain, and not the entire sale price, that is eligible for taxation. And thanks to this tax expenditure, only 50% of the value of that capital gain is considered taxable income.

With 92% of the benefits going to the top 10% — and very little for anyone earn­ing less than $84,000 — the concentration of benefits related to the partial inclusion of capital gains is similar to that for the dividend gross-up. However, additional analysis by Murphy et al. shows the concentration of this tax expenditure is much worse than a decile analysis suggests. In fact, the very richest 1% of tax filers reap 87% of the benefits.

Is there the political will to scale back capital gains related tax expenditures?

There is also a question as to whether the Trudeau government has the political will to really crack down on the most regressive expenditures given that there are powerful employer and financial interests supporting them.

For example, upon being installed as finance minister, Finance Minister Bill Morneau declared tax fairness his top priority. Yet his record on the issue is mixed. He at first vowed to close the loophole on executive stock options (a Liberal Platform item), perhaps the most objectionable such tax break, but then changed his mind under heavy industry pressure.

The challenge for Morneau is that the government has also promised to make Canada more innovative and attractive to investors. Some supporters of an innovation agenda argue that capital gains taxes hurt innovation by limiting the amount of money in the economy that is free to be re-invested in new projects. There are also numerous voices warning federal Liberals to rein in any proposed tax-the-rich agenda in light of plans by the Trump Administration and the Republican controlled Congress to dramatically reduce personal and business taxes.

On the other hand, policy experts who are concerned with income inequality see tightening up investment-related tax expenditures as a key target given that it is primarily higher-income Canadians who have the means to generate significant additional revenue from investments.

Do we really need regressive tax expenditures to spur innovation and growth?

The argument that tax related investment incentives are required to spur innovation and growth has many doubters – and not just amongst those concerned with inequality. These “pro-growth” critics of the exemptions argue that it is strategic government leadership and public investments that are most critical to building innovative economies. These critics also argue that what is needed it to build on the work being done by publicly funded bodies such as the National Research Council.

In support of this view, the influential UK economist Mariana Mazzucato has shown that publicly funded research as well as direct support for strategic corporate investments through agencies like Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), have been central to the growth of innovative capacity in the United States. Corporate research and development and venture capital often follow in the wake of ground-breaking public sector entrepreneurship.

Mazzucato’s book, The Entrepreneurial State: Debunking Public vs. Private Sector Myths, cites impressive evidence in support of this thesis. For example, the parts of the smartphone that make it smart—GPS, touch screens, the Internet—were advanced by the U. S. Defense Department. Tesla’s battery technologies and solar panels came out of a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy. Google’s search engine algorithm was boosted by a National Science Foundation innovation. Many innovative new drugs have come out of the U.S.’s National Institute for Health (NIH) research.

Many innovation experts agree that there is plenty of room to expand direct public investments to compensate for any scaling back of private capital gains incentives. These experts suggest that strategic long-term public investments need to be made across- a much broader range of sectors than is currently the case……

Where does pension fund investment fit in? See article for details.

What are the options for real tax reform?

It goes without saying that there are many options on a continuum somewhere between getting rid of the Big 3 exemptions entirely (an extremely unlikely scenario regardless of which party forms the government) and maintaining a status quo in which the rich get almost all the benefits.

…..focus on practical measures that could scale back the stock option and partial capital gains exemption.  With regard to the stock option deduction, the Department of Finance estimates that 8,000 high-income Canadians deduct an average of $400,000 from their taxable incomes via stock options. This accounts for 75% of the deduction’s fiscal impact, which was $840-million in 2016. Most of these 8,000 high-income earners have stock options built into their compensation packages and take advantage of these stock option provisions on a reoccurring basis. Needless to say, only a minority of those who exercise stock options in this manner are employed by a start-up – the ostensible reason for allowing stock options in the first place.  There are a number of approaches to stock option deductions that would let the federal government reduce the extreme regressiveness of the deduction, while not penalizing Canada’s startup community.

One approach would be for the federal government to provide a one-time only $750,000 exemption on stock options. This would treat stock options in the same way as one-time capital gains for shares held in a Canadian-controlled private corporation (CCPC) for at least two years.

The $750,000 exemption gives stock option holders significant financial benefits and, at the same time, eliminates a policy that allows well-compensated executives (such as those at Canada’s large banks and insurance companies) to exercise options on a regular basis without any limits.

For startups, a $750,000 exemption is attractive because it is large enough to use as a recruitment tool in a market where there is intense competition for talent…..

There is also plenty of room to gradually phase in an increased capital gains inclusion rate. Such a phased-in increase would be entirely consistent with the history of the exemption. From 1972 to 1988, Canadians had to pay tax on 50 per cent of their capital gains. The inclusion rate was increased to 66 2/3 per cent in 1988, rose to 75 per cent in 1990, before dropping back down to 66 2/3 per cent on Feb. 28, 2000 and then further reduced on Oct. 18, 2000 to 50 per cent, where it has remained to this day.

In other words, a five-year phase-in of an increase in the inclusion rate to 75% (i.e. a 5%/yr. increase) would be just another “up” phase in the ongoing ups and downs in the inclusion rate since the introduction of a capital gains tax in 1972. Certainly no reason for investors to panic!

And keep in mind that, under these proposals, some capital gains would remain entirely tax-free, such as the gain on the principal residence or the gain where appreciated publicly-traded securities are donated to a registered charity.

Conclusion

In the coming budget, the federal government has a historic opportunity to undertake truly progressive tax reform that will finally bring a measure of fairness to Canada’s convoluted tax code. If done properly, the tax expenditure review currently being undertaken will present strong evidence that in the name of fairness, the extraordinarily regressive capital gains related tax expenditures can be scaled back somewhat and that public and pension fund investment can make a growing contribution to Canada’s growth and innovation performance.

The opportunity is there – but will the Trudeau government seize the moment? (End of reproduced article)

(This blog is of a general nature about financial discrimination of individuals/singles.  It is not intended to provide personal or financial advice.)