Whenever the NDP announces its intention to raise corporate taxes, critics always jump all over them, pointing out that the tax on corporations is not really a tax on corporations, since corporations can easily pass these taxes on to others (such as consumers in the form of higher prices, or workers in the form of lower wages). Yet these critics seldom stop to note that the argument cuts both ways. If corporations don’t really pay these taxes, then what is the point of cutting them either? Indeed, the Progressive Conservative party in Ontario is currently campaigning on a platform that calls for a dramatic reduction of corporate taxes – by 3.5%, from 11.5% to 8% (much more significant than the NDP platform, which calls for an increase of 1%). So why are the Conservatives so much more exercised about this issue than the NDP?
Before getting too far into it, I should mention that underlying the criticism of the NDP there is an important point, which relates to the concept of tax incidence.… Continue reading
I have been derelict in my blogging duties these last few weeks. I could claim that the exigencies of the end of the academic year, with its grading and travelling to academic conferences, have been responsible for my silence. I could also claim post-election fatigue. But those would only be half-truths. The fact is that all that I have been thinking about these last few weeks – all anyone has been thinking about in Montreal – has been hockey. At time of writing, our city’s much-beloved Canadiens are three rounds deep into the NHL playoffs. The rhythms of the city have over the course of the last month-and-a-half or so been those of more or less thrice-weekly hockey games, followed by off-days during which the city attempts to recover a normal heart rate and breathing pattern, before being plunged again into collective hyperventilation and cardiac shock.
Here are some of the things that I have done these last few weeks in order not to have to miss any games: during a recent trip to the UK for academic talks, I stayed up by myself in my hotel room in Southampton until 3AM watching the Canadiens clinch their second-round series against the dastardly Boston Bruins on a choppy CBC feed (which for some reason was in Punjabi!).… Continue reading
I have Jonathan Kay to thank for the series of excerpts from my book, Enlightenment 2.0, that the National Post ran during the week of April 14-19. The paper did, however, do me a slight disservice by running the last excerpt under the heading “How to Beat Racism.” (It’s always important to remember, when reading a newspaper, that the headlines are written by different people than the articles.) This made it sound as though I thought there were some kind of easy formula that could be followed to overcome racism. (Ivor Tossell also took issue with this, in his Globe and Mail review, complaining about my attempt “to diagnose and prescribe a balm for America’s race problem in three pages, flat.”)
The fact that I go on to discuss “the eternal problem” of race in America might suggest that I am less optimistic about the problem being solved anytime soon.… Continue reading
I spent the morning today down at CBC Radio, taping an interview with Michael Enright for Sunday Edition, which will be broadcast in 2 or 3 weeks. I also did Ontario Today on CBC last week, for those who are interested. Phone-in shows are a bit of a mixed bag. On the one hand they’re pretty relaxed, because people almost always ask really long questions, so you have lots of time to think about what to say (unlike with hosts, who almost always ask very short questions, then get fidgety once you’ve talked for more than 30 seconds). On the other hand, the discussion on these shows tends to be rather untidy, because it bounces from one topic to another. So you don’t leave it with the sense of having said anything in particular.
In any case, talking about the book some more has reminded me of a few items of unfinished business.… Continue reading
Personally I always turn down interview requests from Sun TV. Partly it’s because they’re not a real news organization, but rather a branch of the Conservative Party posing as a news organization. But mainly it’s because of their attempt to smear my colleague Peter Loewen a few years back.
Nevertheless, if you have to do an interview with Sun TV, you can’t do much better than Scott Vrooman the other day. This is level 99 trolling:
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The other day in the Ottawa Citizen I was complaining about the made-up quality of certain numbers that the Ontario Progressive Conservative party has been throwing around, such as their “Million Jobs Plan”:
It takes a certain amount of chutzpah to pluck a number out of thin air and then make it the central organizing theme of one’s campaign.
For reasons of space I neglected to mention that the PCs did make some attempt to explain where they got the “one million” number from. They provided to journalists — not to the public, but just to journalists — a breakdown of where the jobs were supposed to come from. These numbers were suspiciously exact, as opposed to suspiciously round. But it turns out there may be even bigger problems with them.
Just to provide a sense, here is how the CBC reported what they got from the party:
Hudak’s plan acknowledges that more than 523,000 jobs would be created anyway if the government simply continued the policies of the last decade.
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So everyone’s been making fun of Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner lately, thanks to a story they recount in their new book Think like a Freak (sequel to Superfreakonomics, sequel to Freakonomics). It concerns a meeting they had with David Cameron, sometime before he became the British Prime Minister. They offered him some advice on how to deal with the problem of expanding health care costs in the U.K.. The problem, they said, was that government was giving it away for free:
What’s wrong with that? When people don’t pay the true cost of something, they tend to consume it inefficiently. Think of the last time you sat down at an all-you-can-eat restaurant. How likely were you to eat a bit more than normal? The same thing happens if health care is distributed in a similar fashion: people consume more of it than if they were charged the sticker price…
We tried to make our point with a thought experiment.
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Again apologies for the light blogging. It’s partly due to travel, but partly because I was writing an op-ed for the Ottawa Citizen. The column was just published a few moments ago:
The Year of the Suspiciously Round Number.
Ontario politics stuff, which I felt compelled to comment on, just because the situation is so alarming. The campaign has been a bit baffling so far. The NDP, which brought on the election, seems to have been caught unprepared (which seems impossible, but how else can one account for the lack of a platform, lack of a bus, etc.?) The Liberal government is, like the old Charest government in Quebec, exhausted and tainted by scandal (although what counts as a scandal in Ontario is slightly less scandalous than what goes by that name in Quebec). Losing an election would do them some good. But the Conservatives, rather than presenting themselves as the safe, friendly alternative, have been tacking hard right, and have now made a number of ‘promises’ that would be disastrous if actually carried out.… Continue reading
Here in BC, the government has become a strict adherent to the LNG faith. (If you live in BC you’ll already know what LNG stands for. But for the rest of you, it means Liquefied Natural Gas.) The Liberal government believes that development of a massive LNG industry in the province is the best way to secure heaven on earth or at least future economic prosperity. So it is orientating a great deal of public policy toward devout pursuit of the promised salvation of LNG. I venture no opinion here about whether the gospel of LNG is sound economic policy. My concern is how the narrow evangelical focus on LNG is having a deleterious effect on the government’s understanding and approach to higher education.
The government says it wants “re-engineer” education to orient it directly to providing job training. This re-engineering is intended to ensure that there will be a suitably skilled labour force ready to fill the thousands of new jobs it anticipates the LNG venture will create.… Continue reading
Apologies for the light-to-nonexistent blogging. Catherine and I were in Osoyoos BC all week at a Trudeau Foundation conference that kept us busy. Jocelyn is heading off on vacation. The others I have no idea. I do have some things I need to write up in the next few days, but in the meantime, here’s a nice bootleg I found of Canada’s greatest band:
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