30 April 2009

"Taxes are the price we pay for civilization"

It's April 30th, a day occasioning two things to smile about: the death of Hitler in 1945 and the filing deadline for your income taxes. As for Hitler shooting himself in the head on April 30th, 1945 ... well, enough said. But paying your income taxes is worth a few words outlining one of our country's best bargains.

At least that's what authors Hugh Mackenzie and Richard Shillington call it in their report, "Canada's Quiet Bargain: The Benefits of Public Spending," published by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. The report is full of intriguing observations such as the fact that, depending on the type of tax cut, the vast majority of Canadians are better off with improvements in public services rather than tax cuts, and benefits from public services adds up to more than 50% of the household earned income for more than two-thirds of Canadians.

These conclusions support the opinion of the great American jurist, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., that "taxes are the price we pay for civilization." Taxes allow for not only the basic infrastructure of a society but also for a more equitable, more compassionate society, i.e. a civilization.

As for the argument high taxes diminish a society's prosperity, an argument endlessly repeated in the corporate press, that is a lie. Sweden has the world's highest taxes, and it also has one of the world's highest GDPs per capita, higher than any country in North America. This is hardly a surprise. We should expect a healthy, well-educated population and good physical infrastructure to contribute to a successful economy. Quality is expensive and high quality public services require relatively high taxes. The price is high but the product is, as Mackenzie and Shillington report, a bargain.

The press will continue to push for lower taxes. They are good and faithful servants of the corporations who own them and corporations, focused solely on profit, always want lower taxes. We would all like to pay lower taxes, of course. I would like to pay less for bread, too, but not if it's mouldy. I'm willing to pay the price for good, tasty bread not past its due date, just as I'm willing to pay for high quality public services. I suspect most Canadian feel the same way, both about the bread and the taxes. Best then, to ignore the corporate propaganda.

So send in your taxes and smile; you're about to pay for the biggest bargain in the country. As the report says "For the vast majority of Canada’s population, public services are, to put it bluntly, the best deal they are ever going to get."

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