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Saturday, April 18, 2009

Check the price tag 

The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives has produced a very interesting report on how much we benefit from public services.
And the answer is that we each benefit to the tune of about $17,000 a year, plus or minus. This is the value of all of the public services provided to each of us by Canadian governments at the federal, provincial and municipal levels -- that's schools, hospitals, medicare, cleaning snow off the streets, and all the other stuff that governments do for people.
Poor people benefita little more, rich people a little less, but the range isn't that large.
Two of the results I found most interesting.
First, when ideologues try to pit Canadians against each other by implying that our social welfare system gives disproportionate and unfair benefits poor people or brown people or immigrants or disabled people or people with children, well, this just isn't true. Over our lifetimes, we all benefit relatively equally:
. . . seniors derive significant benefit from personal transfer payments like Old Age Security, the Guaranteed Income Supplement and the Canada/Quebec Pension Plans. As they age further, they realize increasing benefits from the health care system.
Families with young children will tend to benefit relatively more from the health care system, whereas families with older children will tend to benefit from the public education system to a greater extent than other types of families.. . .
Canadians draw remarkably similar levels of benefit from public services in the aggregate over their lifetimes, although the specific types of public services that are the source of that benefit vary over their lifetime.
So much for wedge issues.
And second, we've got to stop slobbering like Pavlov's dogs every time a politician waves a tax decrease our way.
. . . public policy debate over taxes without reference to the public services impact of tax cuts is like shopping without looking at the price tags. Just as some Canadians can afford to shop without looking at price tags, some Canadians’ incomes are high enough that they can buy into tax cuts and remain confident that their private gains will be greater than their public services losses. But the vast majority of Canadians can’t or shouldn’t shop without looking at the tags.

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