The Fraser Institute’s annual publicity stunt, called tax freedom day, has come and gone. Instead of using a pie chart or graph to show the percentage of taxes we pay, they use the calendar. Every year they eagerly tell us how much we toil to pay the hated taxman.
The exercise generates the desired annoyance in taxpayers, as illustrated in the headline in the Kamloops Daily News, “Tax Freedom Day: Government took all we made.” The message is that after June 27 the government no longer has its hand in our pocket and now we can start spending our money on what we choose. That would be good if it we true.
Taxes are just one of a number of expenditures over which we have little choice. After tax freedom day we sweat for 73 days to give money to the bank until we reach Mortgage Freedom Day on September 8. Then we hand over money to the grocery stores for the next 40 days until Food Freedom Day on October 18.
After Food Freedom Day, we give handouts to the poor automotive industry and petroleum giants until Transportation Freedom Day on December 5. Finally, in the dwindling days of December, we are free to spend the on things we really want.
I calculated these dates using Statistic Canada and Fraser Institute estimates on average family expenditures. They will vary according actual income and circumstances.
The Fraser Institute’s tax freedom day is misleading for two reasons. First, even without taxes, we are not free to spend money on what we like. And the money that we give to large corporations and to CEOs of dubious ethics is not exactly a good cause.
On close examination, the value of benefits received through taxation are remarkably good compared to similar private providers. Take health care, for example. The U.S. spends 230 per cent more on private health care per person than Canada, according to the Organization of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
If the friends of Fraser Institute had their way, we could expect pay twice as much for private coverage. According to their web site, we now spend on the average of $5600, or 17 per cent of total taxes, for health care. Add another $1400 that Statistics Canada says we spent beyond health care. Without tax paid public health care, the average family could expect to pay $14,000 a year. That makes taxes look like money well spent.
Of course, the Fraser Institute knows that public health care is a good deal and that private health care would cost more. Their problem with public health care is that it is too efficiently run to generate profits. The Fraser Institute’s concern is not that we are paying too little, it is that we are not paying enough to create a profit for business.
Education amounts to 15 per cent of our tax expenditure. Public education has always been the great equalizer of successful societies around the world but the Fraser Institute wants to fiddle with that too. They have recently published test scores of various B.C. schools that they claim indicates how well school are doing relative to others.
The release of such scores is serves no educational objective. It only serves to sow seeds of discontent in the public school system so that parents will use private schools. Once that happens, parents will then wonder why they are paying for a public school system that they aren’t using. The Fraser Institute’s intention is to create dissention and doubt in public education.
When you look at other tax expenditures; like police, roads, environment, industrial development, and social assistance, it’s hard to see where cuts can be made without hurting people and/or our environment. As the B.C. Liberals have demonstrated, there are only two ways to reduce the already lean public service; cut wages or cut services. And no public good is served by either.
Don’t be fooled. Tax savings are only incidental to the goals of the Fraser Institute. Their real motive is to discredit public services in order to extract a profit for business. Should that happen, we would all be poorer one way or another, either by paying more to receive those services or by earning starvation wages to provide them.