Larry Solway

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St. Paul's Prog...
Larry Solway

It's nice to see legendary broadcaster Larry Solway - who ran for the provincial NDP in St. Paul's in 1999 - still commenting on the issues of the day.  Here is his blog:

Here is a piece he did on taxation and democracy:


The biggest political con in America, and to some extent here, is that taxes of any kind of fundamentally bad. Anyone who votes for tax increases is the devil incarnate. Heading the “con” list is the totally meaningless statement: “Job-killing tax increases.” There is utterly no logic to the belief that tax increases lead to job losses, but it reads well to people whose attention span is at bumper-sticker level. It makes a good slogan and it plays to the uninformed prejudices of the voter, or as our mayor would say: “The rights of the taxpayer,” whatever that means.

There is the fantasy, and then there are the facts. The fact is, in America at any rate, tax “increases” are leveled at the top one percent of the population who make more than $250,000 a year – and more likely into multi-millions a year. To “penalize” the rich by taking more money from them simply does not cause unemployment. All the extra money the rich save on taxes is not money that would be spent providing jobs. In fact, most of the excess i.e. the difference between what you earn and what it costs you to live is simply stashed away, sometimes in offshore accounts where it can escape the evil eye of the tax collector. There is absolutely no evidence to connect higher taxes for the super-rich to unemployment. We have the same issues here that American corporations have: corporate taxes. Mr. Harper plans to reduce those taxes to attract business. All the evidence so far, and the Globe published this story many months ago, is that corporate tax savings do not find their way into expenditure on either capital goods or hiring more employees. The money is stashed away in the company treasury.

Because it has taken me more than a paragraph to explain the simple realities of taxes and the relationship to jobs, that is far too much to ask some people to absorb. It exceeds bumper sticker length. It probably exceeds the verbiage allowed on Twitter.

The only case that can be made for job loss associated to tax increase is that companies will always, if they can, move their operations to lower tax jurisdictions and with that moving upset the job market in their original home. That’s quite true. But it is also true that those jurisdictions with lower taxes and actually borrowing from Peter to pay Paul, One part of the country suffers, another part seems to prosper. Except that with that lower tax haven, the governments will have less to spend on silly things like education, social services, and health care. If you look at the low tax places you will find that their levels of social services are substantially lower and that their own citizens suffer most from the love affair with lower taxes.

In fact, when the epithet “tax and spend” is used (as it was here during our recent federal election), there is a fatal flaw that few of us seem to notice. It is the “spend” part. If tax revenues are spent much of it goes to pay salaries for people in essential jobs. But America, and to some extent Canada, does not connect the dots. You object to paying taxes but you also object to your neighbour having his home foreclosed on after he loses his job. Sometimes, and I am being excessively cynical. only because it lowers the value of the neighbourhood and with it your own home

You can’t have it both ways. Taxation is part of democracy. Democracy believes that it is obliged to provide services to its citizens, not to protect the rights of the wealthy to bolster their portfolios.

St. Paul's Prog...

And here is a piece he wrote about Harper's use of Israel as a wedge issue.  Sadly to say I largely agree.

A horrible new kind of reality judgement has descended upon many members of the Jewish community here. They are moving to the Right, not because they are politically conservative, but because they judge Harper by his attitude toward Israel. No matter what, he supports Israel. He is in lockstep with Netenyahu and will reject any suggestion that his government is faulty.

It has always seemed to me that the Jewish community in the Diaspora, not all but most, especially Canadian and American Jews, tend to accept whatever Israel does without question. It is: “right or wrong my country still.” Perhaps it is the sense of being threatened by a hostile world that makes so many of them crawl into a protective pan-Zionist cocoon. So whatever kind of government Israel elects – hawks or doves, conciliators or aggressors, there is no distinction. The world and politics are viewed in the glass of “what is good or bad for the Jews.”

I take heart knowing that the same is not the case in Israel, where strong anti-government attitudes are expressed; where anger over the building of settlements is evident; where many Israelis do not believe that the level of force used in Gaza is appropriate to the danger, or that the incursion into Lebanon was not justified.

Support for Israel has become one of those “wedge” issues. Sadly, and I am ashamed for it, the strategy is working. In the York Centre riding the Liberal incumbent is Ken Dryden. (I always believed he would have been the best choice for leader.) He is not a political hack. He is an honest, dedicated man. He may be defeated by the Conservative candidate. I know – that’s politics. But this is more. The riding contains a large number of ultra-orthodox Chasidic Jews who are the people who in a recent provincial election put up sighs praising Premier Harris for his stand on funding parochial schools, and completely ignoring or indifferent to the ruin Mike brought to our province. In Israel, these people are militant about “the land God promised us.”

Now, I presume that these ultra orthodox flock to the Tories because they have not protested against the building of new settlements in the West Bank. Those settlements are to provide shelter for the burgeoning population of orthodox Jews living in Israel. Add to those zealots, all the moderate Jews, even some secular non-believers, who will vote Conservative because of how good Harper has been for Israel, and how indifferent the other two parties are.

What bothers me about this whole attitude is that we are voting in Canada for the kind of government we need, not for how the government appears to feel about the State of Israel. To me, it is obvious that the Harper government is pandering for votes and using an issue that has no bearing of the future of Canada and its real problems: unemployment, health care, and education.

Israel itself is full of people who dissent just as I have. The fact is that Israel was founded by secular Jews, mostly leaning to the political Left. In recent years, between new immigration from highly orthodox Jewish communities like Morocco and Yemen, and the booming birthrate among the orthodox, that the pendulum has swung. Israel has become a theocracy. Because of proportional representation, the religious parties receive seats proportional to their share of the popular vote. They are a small group, but without them it is difficult to form a working government. They are the “squeaky wheel” that gets the grease.

I still have trouble believing that the Jewish community that was once in the forefront of progressive ideas can be turned into political zombies. By the way, it was the same during the last Presidential election when Obama’s majority threatened by Florida, where a majority of elderly Jewish voters also believed he was not a big supporter of the State of Israel, and that he might be sympathetic to the plight of the Palestinians. (I don’t share that notion. I think the Palestinian “cause” has received attention far out of proportion to the reality on the ground.)

But here in Canada, and often with the Jewish press, there is a slavish devotion to Israel and an unwillingness to be critical of anything Israel does. It’s no way to vote.