Thursday, January 27, 2011

Wrong Way Harper time once again?

A few thoughts here on the corporate tax debate as it's shaping up in the past few days. First off, a mini-celebration on the occasion of this little offering by John Ivison: "Liberals might be onto something in tax-cut opposition." This is about as good as it will get from Ivison when it comes to things Liberal:
Small wonder Conservative ministers have been out buzzing like angry bees about how necessary the next round of corporate tax cuts are: their research must have told them much the same thing as a poll released Wednesday by Abacus Data. Namely, that while around one quarter of voters support their line on further cuts being necessary for job creation, more than one half of Canadians back the Opposition parties in their belief that the money should be invested in post-secondary education and homecare.

For once, the Conservative spin-machine seems to be on the back foot, which is odd since the prospect of the Liberal party campaigning against cuts they started, and which they have already voted for, should be an open goal.
Yes, it is amazing how Canadians seem to have the capacity to understand a realistic argument, to know when circumstances have changed and that maybe it's time to be flexible and amend the current plan. Parties can do that too. Amazing as well how the process argument about a past vote is looking like a very subsidiary consideration. What is rising to the top as important in this debate thus far is the question of what we do now, going forward, given our budgetary situation. That's where choices can be made, whether they're going to be made by voters or by current or future governments writing their budgets.

Also kind of fun is Ivison's characterization of the Conservative spin-machine being back on its heels as "odd." As if Stephen Harper, Economist™, is infallible. That does seem to be the operating presumption that we see among many commentators, despite much evidence to the contrary that has been on the record for years now (see being reluctantly dragged to a stimulus plan, overspending Canada into deficit prior to recession, and so on).

In the wake of those poor poll results on Canadians' support for corporate tax cuts, you just have to think that Harper has gotten it wrong again. Maybe it's the one-man show aspect to his style of governing coming home to roost. Maybe the media echo chamber that the Conservative machine spins very well is providing false comfort. Maybe paying heaps to monitor the media rather than listening to the people is the Harper way to run government but not the way a government should operate at all.

It's also interesting how Obama's mention in the State of the Union address of pursuing corporate tax cuts has been cited by right wing commentators and made its way into news items under the guise of Obama's move bolstering the Canadian Conservative case to proceed with more corporate tax cuts. But there's this comparative aspect that needs to be kept in mind:
According to the 2010 combined national and sub-national, or provincial, corporate tax listing by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, Canada’s combined rate of 29.5 per cent places it 23rd out of 32 countries. However, Canada’s 2010 rate is third in the G7, slightly higher than Italy and the U.K., but well below the 39.2 combined rate of the United States.
The Obama comparison actually bolsters the argument against proceeding further with these cuts here. Obama's pitch also includes an important contrasting proviso, that it be done “without adding to our deficit." Further, Obama's pursuit of those cuts is likely a practical recognition of the political circumstances he's in, an outreach to the new Republican majority he has to work with in the House. That's the really interesting and overarching aspect to that move, not the substance of the cuts. It's more about working with others, reaching out, not a strong suit up here for our leader.

Developing, as they say...