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"GO WHERE THE MONEY IS"

Paul Jay: Harper wants to cut the deficit. How about Bob Blair’s plan for a wealth tax?

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PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Hi. I’m Paul Jay. Welcome to The Real News Network. Well, it’s a "stinker", says Bill Gross about the latest report on Canadian unemployment. As manager of the world’s largest mutual fund, based in California, I guess Gross knows a thing or two about money. As reported in Bloomberg, Gross also said that commodity-based economies like Canada’s aren’t doing as well as expected. The median forecast of 22 economists for the expected unemployment number this month was for a gain of 12,500, not loss. Statistics Canada said on Friday that the country lost 9,300 jobs in July, the first decline this year, with the official unemployment rate rising to 8 percent from 7.9 percent. This put Canada’s unemployment rate only 1.5 percent behind the US official rate. Prime Minister Harper said the global recovery remains fragile. So what does he plan to do about it? He says there’s a strong indication the government’s focus should be on reducing the deficit. Our PM has been quite proud about how Canada’s going to lead the way out of the global crisis, and helped draft the G-20 declaration that called for member countries to halve their deficits by 2013. As I pointed out in an earlier piece, he also showed the world what to do with people who don’t agree with your plans, funneling $1 billion into policing the G-20, $500 million of it for the RCMP, which has yet to explain where it all went. As we prepare to take on the deficit, let’s not forget Harper’s plan to spend $10 billion on prisons. Defying all logic, this is supposed to lower the crime rate. That’s, by the way, at a historic low. On the other hand, if 1,000 dangerous criminals were arrested at the G-20 protest is anything to go by, perhaps once all the austerity measures really hit we will need more prisons after all. Put that together with the purchase of 65 new F-35 joint fighter jets, estimated around $16 billion once the maintenance costs are factored in, one does start to wonder just what all the deficit mania is about. Clearly it’s quite okay to spend on beefing up the RCMP’s capacity to quell angry citizens, and on the military. And just who are these fighters going to be fighting, anyways? So just how is the deficit going to be fought? Well, apparently not by cutting the public services. Newly anointed Tory House leader John Baird, he told The Ottawa Citizen: "We won’t see the massive cuts to the public service that happened under the last Liberal government." Well, what’s left? Who’s going to pay for this year’s projected $54 billion deficit? Cutting back government programs, we’re told. And we all know, in the end, that means cutting back on the social safety net and other social programs. Well, if our prime minister really wants to lead the way and show the world something original, why not follow the advice of Bob Blair on how to cut the deficit? Bob said, "Go where the money is." The rich have the money, and a wealth tax, as opposed to an income tax, could pay down the deficit in one move and make a good dent in the overall debt as well. Bob’s plan was simple: ask rich Canadians to step up and voluntarily pay down the deficit. But if they don’t give it, then tax it. His reasoning was simple: the rich are making all the decisions, and most are getting wealthier even as the government sinks further into debt. Ordinary people are not at fault for the crisis or the deficit, so why should they pay for it? Now, Blair knew a thing or two about money too. He was one of Canada’s most successful captains of industry, building Nova Corp. into one of the giants of Alberta’s oil and gas sector. Bob passed away in 2009, but not before being made a companion of the Order of Canada and Canada’s commissioner general of Expo 2000. And, by the way, he was also an enthusiastic supporter of The Real News Network. So how about it, Mr. Harper? If fighting the deficit is such a critical national priority, why not go where the money is? If it’s acceptable to ask young Canadians to sacrifice their lives fighting in a war no one can make any sense of, is it too much to ask rich Canadians to part with some of their money?

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