It happened again yesterday.
An example of poverty showed itself, and the community responded
A resident in Sooke stated a stark reality on social media: this part-time minimum wage worker had a two-week $50 food budget. Given the insane costs of groceries, that is one mighty tight budget. We in Sooke are a wonderful people: The online community exposed to this particular social media group rallied together and covered this person’s grocery costs for a week.
The same story recently played out on a bigger scale, with the the little boy from the Philippines photographed doing his homework by the light of McDonald’s. His family cannot afford electricity. In response to the heart-gripping story, a crowd-funding campaign was started.
Crowd funding, a form of community rallying, works … for the few who are “lucky” enough to have their difficult life’s situation noticed and promoted. Kind of like the lottery: it benefits one person, at least for a little bit. However, crowd funding massively fails to address the larger, the more systemic problem.
The problem in these cases is systemic poverty
The poverty plight of that one Sooke resident is common to many. The ongoing desperation from our local Food Bank speaks to that, as does the outcry at the closing of the local Salvation Army.
As Bernie Sanders (the people-funded presidential candidate who is giving Hillary Clinton a legitimate run for her corporately-donated money) points out, it’s not that the poor aren’t employed. They are, but wages just haven’t kept pace with the costs of living.
Add to the mix this: Almost all manufacturing jobs have been exported to third world countries, that raw products are shipped offshore to be refined and manufactured, and that even rich corporations (like banks) utilize employment austerity programs (err, “job cuts”) to increase shareholder returns. All this means that the jobs that once were are simply no longer there. Those that remain pay pathetic wages. Looking for work? Good luck. Looking for work that pays a livable wage? Some employers will have you think you’re asking for too much.
Sooke once had a thriving industrial core
Did you know that Sooke was once a thriving community that even had a bowling alley? That the Sooke Days event attracted 10’s of thousands of people to our community every year? That our community hall was built because of those proceeds from just one year? That was well before free trade agreements and austerity, back in the day when Canada had a “Left” on the political spectrum. (Pierre Trudeau, love or hate him, was more left-leaning than today’s NDP.)
Sooke had skill tradesmen with good incomes, a thriving community and jobs a plenty. Now, Sooke is Victoria’s bedroom community. And Victoria main industries — government and post-secondary education — have been cutting jobs since 1995 (yep, even under BC’s right-leaning NDP).
Crowd funding warms the belly but misses the point
But back to crowd funding. Throwing money at people in situations like our Sooke resident or the boy in the Philippines may alter one person’s story, but nothing else changes. It warms the belly to contribute. But really, it does nothing to address the larger issue.
Taxes as an organized form of social crowd-funding, that leaves no one behind
Bottom line is this: If you have the money to help these people, you have money to pay taxes.
But before you automatically resist this claim (as we have so been trained to respond by years of government messaging), let me remind you what taxes are really about.
Managed by a truly responsible government (by which I mean a government that protects the interest of its citizenry first and foremost), a portion of taxes are returned to those people who need it via job-creation, and programs and support, like our fellow Sooke resident and the all-too-many people in the same situation.
- Another portion goes to infrastructure.
- Another to education.
- Another to health.
- Another to start-up entrepreneurs.
- Another to the arts.
- Another to victims of abuse.
- Another to Aboriginals.
- Another to veterans.
- Another to retirees.
And so on and so on. Each of these examples is an investment in people, in their well-being and their eventual success. The REAL trickle down is that the more successful people are, the bigger the tax base, and the better the society at large.
The government drive to reduce taxes is the people’s detriment
Instead, governments today continue to reduce taxation for corporations at the expense of the people. The BC Government, for example, has currently recalled government to pass legislation. Why? To protect a Malaysian-owned LNG company from tax increases (including carbon taxes) when doing business in BC for the next 25 years.
Taxes are necessary as a form of non-discriminatory group-funding. Giving corporations tax cuts and relying on corporate trickle-down to benefit the people is nuts. It. Does. Not. Work.
To the taxpayer, be it corporate or individual, it’s not about extracting every single nickle you’ve paid into the pot. If you don’t need it, like you’re lucky enough not avoid abuse or cancer, that in and of itself is your return. And if you’re a corporation looking to access our natural resources, LNG or water or lumber, you pay taxes for the privilege of using our resources to leverage your wealth. It’s a forced way of contributing to the land you are using because it’s a proven fact that you won’t willingly give it back on your own.
A strong tax base is a better option that crowd-funding, because it removes the element of luck.
Individuals in any society shouldn’t have to be “lucky” enough to have a crowd funding campaign go viral to receive an investment in human potential, in success.
Ultimately, responsibly-managed taxes are an investment in society, which means its people, when they need it.
Austerity = no more investing in people
Worldwide, conservative austerity-driven governments have stopped investing in people. The trickle-down radical right way of thinking is to invest in corporations, who will in turn invest in people. It has worked well for the rich (aka the one per cent), making them richer. It hasn’t worked for any general population. In fact, it has created troubling ironies that allow for the BC Government to give BC water away to Nestlé (during a drought no less), while clean running water is still a luxury on Canadian reserves. The failure to invest in citizenry is blatantly — and sickeningly — obvious.
The tightening of immigration laws in Canada and worldwide demonstration that people are no longer viewed as assets but as a plague on any national system. Damn annoying people draining the public purse, getting in the way of corporate profits. Instead of: Here’s another person who can aspire to be well, work well, and contribute to society through skills, labour and taxes. Welcome to our country!
The “austerity-above-all” mantra teaches us to treat those who suffer poverty with contempt when in fact the actual issue is poverty, not the person. Crowd funding lets us throw money at one little boy, or help one Sooke resident eat for a week, so we can feel good about ourselves. Yet, we continue to treat that person on welfare, or that single mom, or that person dealing with invisible but crippling depression with contempt.
Through years of managed communication (aka spin doctoring) induced by corporate lobbying and influence, we have lost sight of what we pay taxes for in the first place.
Governments failures necessitates crowd funding, and how Sooke PocketNews plans to both help and change things
Because our governments do not invest in people, there is a sad need for crowd funding. Crowd funding has stepped in where governments have failed. To that end, Sooke PocketNews will promote ALL crowd funding efforts for the residents of Sooke. At least, all I hear of.
But I also believe that that the bigger issue is a failure of both governments and multinationals. And to THAT end, Sooke PocketNews will promote ALL local entrepreneurs, as that is (I believe) the hopeful driver for future change.
I am “socialist” in that I believe in supporting the people in my community. I am “capitalist” in that I believe in the power of entrepreneurs and the importance of rewarding their (our) success. Don’t peg me though: my political party does not yet exist. (Trust, however, come hell or high water I will vote!)
Use our contact page to let us know how you are investing in the people in our community, be it by way of fundraising or creating employment. Or any other way.
Sooke PocketNews is 100% local: ownership, management and investment-wise. We are here for you, because we are you.
– Britt Santowski, Sooke PocketNews
Resources (All of these are external)
- CBC coverage of the fundraising for the boy from the Philippines
- Haven’t heard about Bernie Sanders? He and Elizabeth Warren are shaking up Wall Street and pretty much all of Corporate America.
- 75k Canadians Demand Nestlé Pay Fair Prices for BC Groundwater Extraction
- Clean running water still a luxury on many native reserves
- LNG protected from tax hikes for 25 years in deal with B.C. government