Thursday, September 18, 2008

Harper's world: Linda Keen bad. Gerry Ritz good.




Ritz in hot water over wisecracks during listeria outbreak

By Steve Rennie, THE CANADIAN PRESS




OTTAWA - Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz unnerved some public servants at the height of the listeriosis crisis by resorting to gallows humour during a conference call about a public health scare that has now killed 17 people.

Ritz was also deeply concerned about the political fallout from the listeriosis crisis as the deadly disease claimed more victims in the days before the federal election was called, according to sources in on the crisis call last month.

But that concern apparently didn't stop Ritz from cracking wise while scientists, bureaucrats and political staff listened in on the Aug. 30th call.

Sources who took notes during the call said Ritz fretted about the political dangers of the crisis, before quipping:

"This is like a death by a thousand cuts. Or should I say cold cuts."

The disease was linked to cold cuts from Maple Leaf Meats.

And when told about a new death in Prince Edward Island, Ritz said:

"Please tell me it's (Liberal MP) Wayne Easter."

Easter is the Liberal critic shadowing Ritz's Agriculture Department.

About 30 people participated in the Sunday morning conference call that began after 10 a.m. EDT. Participants included scientists, senior bureaucrats and political staff.

Others on the call included communications staff from the prime minister's office, most of Ritz's staff, Health Minister Tony Clement's policy and communications advisers, and senior public servants including deputy health minister Morris Rosenberg.

Officials from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency provided updates on the disease during the conversation.

The sources who spoke to The Canadian Press did so on the condition of anonymity. Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservative government has been relentless in searching for and punishing anyone thought to have provided embarrassing information to reporters.

12 comments:

Robert Gibbs said...

And why?

Linda Keen: Although she was doing her job as mandated, she's a "secret lefty, Liberal agent."

Gerry Ritz: Although he's callous, untruthful and incompetent, he's "covering up a secret damning document."

Mystery solved!

Robert Gibbs said...

More strange, but true.

But seriously, if I may…

How does this not get seriously mentioned on television, where I would venture to say that many, if not most, voters get their politico info (esp. during an election)???

Hell, these television reporters could just print off a few of the relevant pages about carbon pricing from even the Wikipedia site, and expose the whole Harper/Layton charade!

How difficult is that?

I’m f***ing e-mailing this Ottawa Citizen article to CBC, etc.

I’m on a mission.
-----------------------------------

Dan Gardner . Harper economics

Dan Gardner, The Ottawa Citizen

Published: Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Stephen Harper has a masters degree in economics. He is conservative. He says he understands how markets function and he prefers market solutions to public policy problems.

Gregory Mankiw is a professor at Harvard University and a world-renowned economist. He was chairman of U.S. President George W. Bush's Council of Economic Advisers and adviser to Mitt Romney's campaign for the Republican presidential nomination. Mankiw definitely understands how markets function and he, too, prefers market solutions to public policy problems.

One might think Stephen Harper and Gregory Mankiw would agree on energy taxes. But one would be wrong.

Stephen Harper says the Liberal "green shift" proposal -- a carbon tax on most forms of energy with matching cuts to income, corporate and other taxes -- could do "catastrophic" damage to the economy. He is proposing instead to cut the federal tax on diesel, which will, he says, reduce shipping costs and the costs of goods in stores.

That sort of sounds like the kind of advice an economist would offer. Don't add taxes. Reduce them. Get government out of the way. Let the market provide.

But Gregory Mankiw suggested something considerably different when I called him at his Harvard office. Gas should be taxed much more, he said. So should lots of other energy-related products. But be sure to off-set those taxes with cuts to income and other taxes.

Sounds familiar, doesn't it? But let's not wander back into politics just yet because Mr. Mankiw knows little about Canadian politics and, quite sensibly, cares less.

His reasoning is straight out of Economics 101. It starts with "externalities."

Take a Sunday drive and your car emits various gases, including carbon dioxide. This adds to the rising atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide that are the principal cause of climate change. But do you pay for having contributed to the flooding of Bangladesh? No, you don't. That is an externality: A cost suffered by someone other than the responsible party.

Taxing people to ensure they pay for the external costs they impose on others is fair, but fairness is more the bailiwick of philosophers than economists. What economists care about is the efficient allocation of resources, which markets do wonderfully -- except when there are externalities involved. So making people pay for externalities improves market efficiency.

Of course, energy taxes mean higher energy costs. That hurts people and damages economies. The solution? For every dollar of increased energy tax, there must be a dollar cut from the burden of income or other taxes.

OK, some may say. I get the theory but I think climate change is bunk. So the whole thing falls down.

But it doesn't. Aside from climate change, energy use inflicts all sorts of external costs. "One might debate the science behind climate change," Mankiw notes, "but I don't think you can doubt that having more cars on the road, congestion get worse and accidents get worse." (It's worth noting the Liberal plan would not increase the existing tax on gasoline. Only other energy sources would be hit. Why is that? Politics. Only gasoline prices are advertised on large signs at the side of the road.)

Now, the Conservatives will protest that they've already introduced a plan for American-style fuel efficiency standards, which will ultimately reduce carbon dioxide emissions. But what they don't mention is that this will increase the cost of producing cars, which will be reflected in the price tag. So consumers will pay just as they would with a carbon tax -- except the government will raise no revenue and there will be no off-setting tax cuts.

The same problem vexes cap-and-trade, which is an alternative to carbon taxes supported in principle by everyone from the NDP to the Conservatives and Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty. If emission credits were auctioned off by the government, a cap-and-trade system would be almost identical to a carbon tax. But for various political and practical reasons, cap-and-trade systems seldom auction credits. Instead, credits are given out to existing polluters based on current emissions and so, in the end, the costs of a cap-and-trade system are passed along to consumers but the government raises no revenue and there are no off-setting cuts to income and other taxes.

So why is the cap-and-trade option preferred by almost all politicians? As usual, it's politics. Under cap-and-trade, politicians can claim they are hitting "big polluters" while leaving the ordinary person unscathed. That's nonsense, of course. Costs borne by big polluters will be passed on, so the ordinary person pays either way. But with cap-and-trade, unlike a carbon tax, the cost to the ordinary person is hidden.

This is all orthodox economics, Mankiw insists -- a 2006 survey of American Economic Association members found two-thirds agreed that "the U.S. should increase energy taxes" -- and so the issue shouldn't be cast as left versus right. It's more like "experts versus laypeople. There is a big gap between what economists view as very sensible and non-controversial policy and what the public is willing to swallow." Closing that gap is "fundamentally an issue of education."

I wouldn't be so sure about that last point. After all, a masters degree in economics hasn't done much for Stephen Harper.

Dan Gardner writes Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. E-mail: dgardner@thecitizen.canwest.com


© The Ottawa Citizen 2008

http://www.canada.com/ottawacitizen/views/story.html?id=244d2749-4441-4150-aeb2-8a1d8208b037

Dr Mike said...

Harper has a very shallow talent pool so he has to protect his own

OR

Harper thinks along the very lines that his minions regrettably profess.

OR

Harper is totally clueless & hires bozos to do his bidding.

Maybe it is just Harper who is the problem.

Maybe it is time for the proverbial boot to the boss.

Dr Mike Popovich.

randy said...

Robert,

Well I read the article but I don't get it. How does moving dollars from the left pocket to the right pocket reduce green house gases?

Go here: http://www.environment.alberta.ca/1319.html

Download the strategy document. No carbon taxes here but lots of reductions through direct actionable plans.

You need to tackle the issue directly. Carbon taxes only hurt families while doing nothing for the environment.


Here the simplfied verison of why is husts familis. Assume, 1 wage earner and 3 dependants. Here's the math

1 income tax offet - 4 carbon taxes = lots of cost to a family.

Robert Gibbs said...

Randy:

You're probably 'jerking' me around, but I'll give it a quick go...

I don't claim to be a PhD in economics, but I do have a background in accounting/finance, so...


Think again about these salient points, from the article and the economist's POV:

-That is an externality: A cost suffered by someone other than the responsible party.

-Taxing people to ensure they pay for the external costs they impose on others is fair.

-So making people pay for externalities improves market efficiency.

-So consumers will pay just as they would with a carbon tax -- except the government will raise no revenue and there will be no off-setting tax cuts.

-In the end, the costs of a cap-and-trade system are passed along to consumers but the government raises no revenue and there are no off-setting cuts to income and other taxes.

-Costs borne by big polluters will be passed on, so the ordinary person pays either way. But with cap-and-trade, unlike a carbon tax, the cost to the ordinary person is hidden.


And you say: "1 income tax offset - 4 carbon taxes = lots of cost to a family."

That's far too simplistic.

For one thing, the "income tax offset" is dependent on your income level, age, family makeup, location.

And, the idea of "4 carbon taxes" isn't really right.

Generally, a family of 4 people can live less 'expensively', on a 'per unit' basis, than can a single of 1 person.

And so, it is the same with carbon emissions and costs. Efficiency of scale, so to speak.

I suppose you could think about it in terms of buying groceries or other items. You can generally purchase items more cheaply, on a 'per unit' basis, when you buy in greater quantity, or bulk.

Anyways, I'm done, and I'm sure you get the picture.

Regards.

randy said...

Robert,

I'm not jerking you around at all. I'm quite serious.

First of all, let's start with the absolute undeniable fact that even if Canada reduced it's entire emission to zero it would have no measurable effect on the amount of CO2 as a percentage of world wide emissions. Hence, even if you believe that CO2 is the cause of climate change, it will have zero effect.

Therefore, Canadians have zero "externality" effect on someone else in the world as it relates to CO2 emission. That's an undeniable fact.

Nevertheless, if you believe that we still ought to expand vast resources to do nothing, how is it that the moving of dollars from the left pocket to the right pocket will reduce any emissions? You charge me $5 in carbon tax and give me $5 back income tax reductions. Ok great. Now what? When does the magic happen?

I happen to believe just on principal and good stewards of the earth we ought not be putting stuff in the air or in ground that wasn’t there before.

The problem is that people do not want to recognize that the there is a cost to be good stewards. We build proper landfills; require industry to meet certain standards and so on. That’s a cost that we all must bear. Believe that someone else out there, the other guy how emits GHG, yeah that other guy over there is going to pay the cost – well is just dreaming.

However, if you read the Alberta plan (and review the associated web site), it has:

1) True market mechanisms (a carbon tax paid by industry)

2)Specific achievable targets

3)Implementation of known technological solutions (CO2 sequestration)

4)A technology fund (funded by the industry carbon tax) to help industry install new technology and develop others.

5)Regulations to be greener when producing energy or any or manufacturing

This type of direct action plan will drive the most change at the least cost to us all.

“Generally, a family of 4 people can live less 'expensively', on a 'per unit' basis, than can a single of 1 person. And so, it is the same with carbon emissions and costs. Efficiency of scale, so to speak.”

This is absolutely untrue and a canard. There is no efficiency of scale and who cares about efficiency per unit when I need way more units? For example, families have to have a larger vehicle and in many cases two vehicles and a larger fridge, washer dryer, house, etc., only because I have a family. It’s not nearly as efficient to have a larger house of a per unit basis than a single person living in a condo, with stackable washer and dryer, and a small vehicle for themselves.

“I suppose you could think about it in terms of buying groceries or other items. You can generally purchase items more cheaply, on a 'per unit' basis, when you buy in greater quantity, or bulk.”

Yes the old two can eat as cheap as one theory – as long as one doesn’t eat.

Yes the formula is that simple 1 income tax offset – 4 carbon taxes. I have a detailed mathematical proof but I’ve gone on long enough for now.

Regards

Robert Gibbs said...

"I have a detailed mathematical proof but I’ve gone on long enough for now."

By randy on September 18, 2008 9:31 PM
-----------------------------------

Randy:

It seems we could go on, back and forth, but I don't think either of us wants to be forever typing and trying to argue/counter-argue each other's points in this fashion.

I'm sure not a great or fast typist.

For a more free-flowing discussion, I think it would probably require a verbal exchange, but we both know the likelihood of that.

So allow me to just close with this, if I may, and without condescension, that I think the economists with PhDs are 'probably' a lot more informed and knowledgeable about this stuff than you or I.

Regards.

randy said...

"So allow me to just close with this, if I may, and without condescension, that I think the economists with PhDs are 'probably' a lot more informed and knowledgeable about this stuff than you or I."
-----------

Robert,

You of all people to say this is just shocking. I've read your postings here for months and months coming onto maybe a year or more.

You have made many excellent points on the income trust debacle and many other issues. You have made your arguments with fair assessments of the facts.

During all of that time, to my knowledge, you did not claim to have a PhD in economics, income tax law, finance, math or any other discipline that could justify your well calculated arguments against the income tax debacle.

So, if we use your argument that that neither of us are PhDs on the subject matter and that we best let those who are tell us what's right, then my friend you've just invalidated all of your arguments over the past year or so.

You're saying, that Dr. Jack Mintz, professor of economics, former president and CEO of the C.D. Howe Institute and world-renowned fiscal and tax policy specialist is by definition right in his support of Jim Flaherty’s income trust policy because he’s the expert with a PhD and you, me, Brent Fullard and everyone else who does not have Jack’s qualifications is wrong.

Well you can disqualify yourself if you want to. But I’ll tell you this, if you need a PhD to understand the Green Shift, then my friend you’re likely getting the shaft.

If you believe what you’ve posted then you ought to stop writing about things you don’t know what you’re talking about including the green shift and income trusts. How can you have an opinion on either subject and who cares anyway because you’re not a PhD?

My opinion though is that you do know what you’re talking about but you know that this position on the green shift is indefensible. You can read and understand what I’ve given you. Dion will lose the election over it because voters are their own professors of economics and of the environment. They understand the cost with no benefit to them or the environment.

The total down side is that we will have Harper and his band of liars probably in a majority position because of it. That is a hell of a cost for a Green Shift program that will do absolutely nothing for the environment.

By the way, it’s good to write things down. It makes you think about what you’re saying. I must have deleted a hundred emails because on second reflection, usually the day after I wrote it, I don’t agree with myself. If you want to talk directly, I’m sure we can arrange it though.

Regards

Robert Gibbs said...

Randy:

Just a couple of quick points.

First, Jack Mintz did not support Flaherty's income trust tax. He essentially advocates credits/refunds of the corporate taxes inherent with dividend distributions, particularly with respect to RRSP accounts, etc. He did not advocate Flaherty's approach.

Secondly, with respect to carbon taxation and tax shifting, what would now be the point of discussing this further with you, as apparently you're already steadfast in your opinion, as evidenced by your comments.

I'll admit there are some differing opinions, even amongst economists and environmentalists.

Unfortunately however, if the polls are to be believed, you may be right about the ultimate outcome of the election. The very word 'tax' seems to be an anathema at this point in time.

Another Harpo government...Eee gads!

I'm moving to Sweden.

Regards.

randy said...

"First, Jack Mintz did not support Flaherty's income trust tax. "

Huh? What’s this? Robert Gibbs supporting Jack Mintz? I don’t want to spend a lot of time on this and you won’t make look up the -- oh I don’t know the 100 articles or more -- where Jack’s implicated in the support of Jim Flaherty’s trust debacle I hope. But I thought since you think everything I say is my opinion, here are Brent’s thoughts on the subject.

http://caiti-online.blogspot.com/2008/08/jack-mintz-should-be-charged-with.html


“Secondly, with respect to carbon taxation and tax shifting, what would now be the point of discussing this further with you, as apparently you're already steadfast in your opinion, as evidenced by your comments.”


I guess that’s the same reason the Jim Flaherty uses for not debating Brent. Brent has a plethora of facts and figures to articulate a devastating argument over Jim Flaherty. Jim can’t argue the point with him so he just ignores him and his minions like Dan accuse Brent of being some kind of wacko.

Like Brent, I’m simply pointing to undeniable facts and figures. These facts and figures are what they are. You may as well say that because I hold the steadfast view that 2 + 2 = 4; I’m so opinionated there’s no point in debating the math.

I might just as easily say that you’re so steadfast in your views that the Green Shift has some benefit somewhere, what’s the point in debating you over it when you put no facts forward to support your case?

Again I ask about the Green Shift,

1) What will be the total reduction of GHG and over what period?

2) Specifically, how will the reductions be achieved?

3) Given that families will emit more GHG, specifically how are they compensated to equally offset the carbon tax?

4) How does the compensation account for various configurations of families? For example, consider two families. One with active children requiring to be driven to their activities at facilities that are themselves heavy GHG emitters. The other, the children stay home and do nothing.

5) The Green Shift when first announced was said to be completely balanced. Taxes in equalled tax credits out. Yet the Liberals announced an addition one billion in tax breaks to farmers, truckers and the like. Where did that money come from since the plan was already balanced?

6) Assuming that the Green Shift is wildly successful some how, as the carbon tax collected is reduced, how will the government fund itself?

I can’t get anyone, including you Robert, to answer these very simple questions about the Green Shift.

The Alberta plan, which is not my opinion but an active plan in place, answers quite clearly and effecively all of these questions.

Robert Gibbs said...

Randy:

Huh? What?

Undeniable facts?

Ya, I think Jack's a real sweetie. WTF? But I guess, amongst other references, Ja-Ja-Jack's public statements don't confirm his position, as outlined above?

Look again.

See next blog threads.

See www.thegreenshift.ca.


Are you a closet CON?

Look, I've been civil, but if you're going to be all sardonic and a complete ass, then I'm done.

I say, "Good day sir."

randy said...

Robert

So, anyone who doesn't agree with you is a closet CON?

I’m not going to turn this into a debate about Jack Mintz’s obvious support for the income trust debacle. I’ve made clear the undeniable facts and have asked clear questions about the Green Shift program; nothing sardonic at all.

Since you won't answer any of the questions I've put to you, I can only presume you can't and hence I'm correct in my assessment.

I know it’s easier to blow me off rather than answer the questions. I’m just surprised that you would take that tack since you’ve complained so bitterly that Jim Flaherty did the same to Brent Fullard and many, many other people who attempted to have Jim “prove the case or drop the tax”.

No proof no tax. Simple.