Deeply affronted by the recent change to the Ontario budget that will impose an increase of 2 percent on the income of those making over $500,000 per year, the right wing has been busy cranking out its anti-tax propaganda. Lest anyone think that a return to some form of progressive taxation is a good idea, two groups with charitable institution status are most charitably taking the time to point out the error of our thinking.
The first out of the gate was The Fraser Institute, which recently released a study telling Canadians that we are paying far too much tax as it is. According to that study, we hapless citizens are paying more in taxes at all levels than we are on the basic necessities of life.
Following in their footsteps, the Macdonald-Laurier Institute kindly informs us that the rich pay more than their fair share of taxes, and hitting them harder won't solve all the problems of the poor.
While you can read both reports through the links provided, I'd like to offer a few observations here. First, the Fraser report conveniently ignores the fact that in terms of total tax burden, Canada ranks in the middle of countries listed in a Forbes-commissioned study for 2009.
Coming in at number 33 out of 65 countries measured, the study provides some much-need context absent from the Fraser hysteria.
Next, the above-mentioned study shows that the United States, coming in at number 21 in the rankings, has a significantly higher tax burden, much of it apparently allocated in ways that do not benefit the majority of people. (Wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, on Terror, on Drugs and against Occupiers, corporate tax cuts and subsidies readily come to mind as quick examples.)
Despite that higher tax burden, U.S. citizens are mired in much higher costs for health care, the cause of 60 percent of their bankruptcies in 2009, thanks both to the occurrence of catastrophic illness and the absence of taxpayer-supported public health insurance.
In terms of education, while annual tuition for a basic undergraduate degree in Canada ranges from just over $2,000 to about $6,000, those in the United States are anywhere from about $13000 to over $41,000, excluding Florida, which appears to have the lowest tuition at $5,700.
Of course, one of the key reasons for the disparity in educational costs is the proportion of taxation each country allocates to education. Canada sees subsidized education as a worthwhile investment since society as a whole stands to benefit.
Finally, the Macdonald-Laurier Institute avers that increasing taxes on the wealthy won't solve all the problems of the poor. I can't think that anyone has suggested it will.
What has been asserted, however, is that a wisely administered system of progressive taxation will allow for the continuation and expansion of programs to help the disenfranchised become fully-participating members of our society - something that those inhabiting conservative and libertarian think-tank towers seem to forget is a core value the majority of Canadians hold dear.
So no, speaking as a member of the middle class who wants to maintain and enhance the quality of life in this country, I don't think taxation is a dirty word. Contrary to the fraught hyperbole of the so-called think tanks that are subsidized through my taxes, all I ask and expect is that my dollars be used for the betterment of all, not to simply bolster the net worth of the wealthy.