Thursday, October 20, 2011

Occupy Surrey

Former U. S. Presidents Bill Clinton and George Bush spoke this morning at the Surrey Regional Economic Summit held at the Sheraton Guildford Hotel in Surrey, British Columbia. 
Previously, Amnesty International had  announced that Canada should arrest President Bush for war crimes when he came to Surrey.  As a result, some of the Greater Vancouver "Occupiers" arrived to demonstrate against Bush's appearance.  The location is five minutes from my house, so I ventured up to take a few pictures. 

There were plenty of police on site, just to make sure that no one thought about rushing into the hotel and upsetting the conference, chaired by Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts and attended by BC Premier Christy Clark.

Over the years, the police have gotten smarter about controlling crowds wanting to convey a message.  Although lined up in front of the Sheraton, they didn't object to demonstrators taking over the westbound traffic lane and provided flaggers to slow the traffic going eastbound.

Years ago, stepping off the curb might have resulted in action with the baton.  Today, the demonstrators and the police stood pretty much next to each other, each content to let the other fulfill their mission.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Taxes and Social Equity

I don't really mind paying my taxes.  I can afford them; and I feel an obligation to pay my share for public services.  Of course, taxes should be fair and equitable, meaning that those who benefit should pay and those who have more should pay more.  They should also be collectible.

Taxes in the U. S. are a big issue, largely because of a sense that they are not fair and equitable.  Apparently, 47% of American households pay no income tax, creating a resentment among the "53%" who do.  Having spent my life with others who worked and paid taxes, I was somewhat surprised to hear this.  Canada Revenue Agency was immediately questioned and assured the public that only 34% of Canadians didn't pay, being primarily those earning minimum wage, part-timers, students, seniors on pension, and the disabled.  This figure seemed more reasonable and not much more was heard about it.

The other issue in the U. S. is that the wealthy don't pay an equitable share, because of  low tax rates and available deductions.  I noticed that Warren Buffett, one of the wealthiest men in the U. S., reportedly pays a lower marginal tax rate (17.5%) and a lower percentage of income (about 10%) as taxes than I do.  My enthusiasm waned a bit, but then maybe he gives a lot to charity.

Of course, I feel that I justly should pay.  I read a survey, however, than only 18% pay all of their income taxes, because it's the right thing to do.  32% pay out of fear of being caught cheating. (Fair enough; I have to own this, too.)  But then another 38% cheat to some extent; and 12% completely evade taxes.  Statistics like this may not be terrible, but they definitely make me think another system might be fairer.

The real need is to maintain a middle class with productive, well-paying jobs.  When there is a growing economy, there is better feeling towards the Government, less pressure to cheat, less concern about the "lazy" unemployed,  less resentment of the wealthy,  and fewer demands that immigrants be deported.

One effect of the "Occupy Wall Street" movement is to give an alternative to the "Tea Party".  While the "Occupiers" concerns are amorphous, multiple, and social, they contrast to the "Tea Party" approach of reaction, self-absorption, and individualism.  The "Tea Party" resents paying taxes; the "Occupiers" want a more equitable society.  The "Occupiers" are resented by the established players as a threat to their control.

For the time being, the "Occupiers" are being tolerated with the belief that they will die out.  It will be interesting to see if a movement generated by the social media can expand and have a permanent impact, potentially creating a fairer, more accessible, democratic, inclusive, and equal society.