By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, September 11, 2012 - 0 Comments
Frances Woolley thinks it’s time to rebrand the carbon tax.
It’s not clear why carbon taxes should be called taxes in any event. What distinguishes taxes from user fees or social insurance premiums is the absence of a quid pro quo between the taxpayer and the government. Paying more taxes does not entitle a person to more government services. By way of contrast, paying Employment Insurance premiums is a necessary (though not sufficient) condition for accessing Employment Insurance benefits. By this definition, carbon taxes are more like a user fee than a tax. There is a quid pro quo: pay the tax, burn the carbon; burn the carbon, pay the tax. Go ahead and contribute to global warming, as long as you pay your dues.
Renaming carbon taxes “atmospheric user fees” would be a start, but people are smart enough to see through purely cosmetic name changes. If funds raised through the charges on fossil fuels go into general government revenue, it is hard to argue that they are anything other than taxes. If, on the other hand, the revenues are earmarked for tax refunds, low-emissions transportation, tree planting, and initiatives to combat climate change, it becomes much easier to argue that a $0.20 per litre charge on gasoline is, in fact, a user fee.
Calling your policy an atmospheric user fee wouldn’t, of course, prevent your opponent from describing it as a “permanent tax on everything” that would “screw everybody.” In that regard, it is up to the party and the political leader proposing the policy to make the case for it and defend it against such criticism.
That said, Frances is very right to think about language and presentation. I’m reminded of this polling from the 2008 election on Stephane Dion’s signature proposal. When respondents were presented with the statement that “the Liberal party’s carbon tax will really hurt the Canadian economy,” 53.5% either strongly or somewhat agreed. When respondents were presented with the statement that “the Liberal party’s Green Shift will really hurt the Canadian economy,” 39.7% either strongly or somewhat agreed.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, January 30, 2012 at 12:50 PM - 0 Comments
Peter Van Loan says the government wants to make sure OAS is sustainable “10 years, 20 years and 30 years from now.” John Ivison’s sources tell him the government is looking at a 10-year timeframe. Don Drummond says the government would have to phase in changes over the next 20 to 25 years. Frances Woolley pinpoints 2023.
So the question is not if the pension age will be increased, but when. 1959 was the year with the highest number of births ever recorded in Canada 461,703 babies. After that, the number of births fell slightly, and then dropped precipitously with the advent of the birth control pill. (Immigration reduces the relative impact of, but does not eliminate, the baby boom bulge.)
For an increase in the entitlement age to achieve substantial cost savings, it will have to be in place when those 1959 babies hit 65 in 2024. So I’m predicting that the entitlement age will gradually be increased, in 6 month increments, with a new entitlement age of 67 in place by 2023.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, August 29, 2011 at 2:21 PM - 11 Comments
Frances Woolley considers the merits of stealth taxation.
The federal GST or goods and services tax is a case in point. The GST is a value added tax. It replaced a particularly dysfunctional (small base, high rate) manufacturer’s sales tax. Almost all economists considered the GST superior to the old sales tax. However it was extremely unpopular among the general public. The reason is simple: the old manufacturer’s sales tax was invisible, so people couldn’t tell how much they were gaining when it was eliminated. The GST was visible, so people could see the increase in their tax liabilities. As a result, they over-estimated the net impact of the GST on their tax liabilities. (To be fair, people weren’t entirely stupid: manufacturers were slow to pass on the tax savings created by the elimination of the manufacturer’s sales tax.)
Rosen et al argue that “Most economists view the visibility of the GST [goods and services tax] as one of its beneficial characteristics.” The political opposition to the GST and now the HST (harmonized sales tax) should make “most economists” reconsider this view.
By Aaron Wherry - Saturday, April 16, 2011 at 3:45 PM - 33 Comments
A study by Michael Ward published this month in Contemporary Economic Policy (earlier version ungated here) suggests that there is. He finds that an increase in video game availability, as measured by the number of video game stores, leads to a significant reduction in rates of robbery, burglary, larceny, motor vehicle theft and mortality.
Video game availability makes more difference than police officers, Ward argues. He found that the relationship between crime rates and the number of police officers was statistically insignificant, except in the case of robbery.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, April 15, 2011 at 1:35 PM - 36 Comments
Frances Woolley sets out to consider the efficiencies of vote-swapping and ends up considering the nature of our democracy.
The question is the wrong one to ask. If Party A wins three seats, then it can pursue policies that benefit people who do (or potentially might) vote for party A. If parties A, B and C win one seat each, they will pursue policies that benefit a different set of electors, not just those who vote for party A. But will a coalition government pursue policies that benefit a broader section of the electorate?
It’s not obvious. It all depends what happens at the coalition stage, when different parties are attempting to form governments. An interesting working paper by Amedeo Piolatto argues that, in certain circumstances, the power wielded by small parties in the coalition formation process can cause proportional representation systems to lead to political outcomes that are less representative of the interests of the broader population than first past the post type systems.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, August 11, 2010 at 11:25 AM - 0 Comments
Frances Woolley considers the value of history.
I’ve reproduced one of my favourite records here – my great-great-grandmother on my mother’s side, Marian Vandermin. She lived at 5 Peckham Grove – oddly enough very near to where my cousin Jan lives now, and to where I lived as a grad student. The record paints, for me, a vivid picture of her life – she was widowed when she was younger than I am now, and here she is in 1901, a single mom with four children, running a business as a yeast merchant. Her sister-in-law lived just two houses away, and ran the business with her. Thank goodness they had servants – they would never have coped otherwise.