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Socio-Poli-Economic Discussion

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Hey Everyone!

Recently, staff has been paying close attention to the activity and postings in the Capitalism versus Socialism thread.  Two things have become abundantly clear:

  1. Membership wants to discuss issues concerning economics
  2. Members have recognized the effects of social norms and political policies on economic systems.
While this is a good thing, there is a problem: the Capitalism versus Socialism thread limited the debate to the two different economic theories and didn’t provide much latitude for discussion of how social and political factors affect these economic systems.  While this artificial constraint might have worked well in the beginning of the thread, the reality is that the membership’s discussion has outgrown this restriction, and we need to allow more freedom for the membership to explore these complexities.

To that end, we have closed the original Capitalism versus Socialism thread and have given the discussion a new place to call home.  This new home will function very much like the old thread, except with plenty of room for relevant discussions that would have otherwise been off topic in the old thread.  Let me say that again just to drive home the point: Anything involving economics is welcome in this thread, plus any social and political stuff that you believe has an impact on economics.  (Explaining how you think it impacts the economic scene would also be appreciated.)  Members will be given a wide berth when it comes to what is “on topic,” so feel free to explore.  Got a theory that modern economic troubles are the result of cheese eating Martians from the 11th dimension messing with our planet from an alternate time line?  Post it!  (Okay, that might be stretching things just a bit. 3.gif)  In short, if you can relate it to economics, it’s fair game for discussion.

At this point, you might be wondering how we’re planning on letting everyone discuss their various theories and still maintain a functional level of sanity.  Staff realizes that that the thread will evolve over time as ideas define and shape debates.  It is our belief that as long as everyone follows the Site Rules and the Current Events Rules, this new thread can be a positive experience for everyone who wants to participate in it.

Hyperlink for people who would like to read posts from the old thread.

Happy Posting!

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1) Capital gains tax can hurt middle class families that were lured into the real estate market in the 90s and 00s. My mother rents out her old house and formed an LLC in order to buy a big new house (with a better view than our old house) with her lower-upper class boyfriend of half a decade (so they can both own the house without being married). She has a lower-middle class income but lives an upper-middle class lifestyle. Capital gains tax could be used on gains of 1 million dollars or more without hurting middle class Americans.

2) Progressive income tax is only good when the tax rate for lower income Americans is affordable. The tax rate is so high that a new term has been coined, a job that "pays the taxes" in which people with said jobs require a second job to "pay the bills," the only way to fix this is to cut spending. Bureaucracy is the most expensive part of any government, streamlining bureaucracy and making it more efficient can lower government expenses.

3) The "value-added tax" sounds like sales tax. Many areas of Washington have an eating in tax.

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Ah, the unexpected wiles of administrative bureaucrats. The thread was fine where it was: any discussion about the three main "isms" would always have to broaden into "socio-poli-economics" (what linguistically challenged pen-pusher dreamt up that one?) because that is what core of these strains of thought have always been about. Now we are locked in something that the casual onlooker will probably think is a debate about a new type of cantakerous misalingment of the genes.

Well, count me out..

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In Canada we have the usual stepped income tax inherited from the War to End All Wars, then we have (hidden) excise and luxury taxes on goods and services, tariffs on imports, restaurant taxes, and now, ta-da!, Harmonized Sales Tax (HST).  HST is a VAT dreamed up by the feds so they can get their hands on all the boodle.  We used to have two taxes, GST (General -fed- Sales Tax) and Provincial Sales Tax.  The HST combines both, and is new and shiny, so all they've done so far is combine the two rates for what amounts to a VAT of 14%.  Now the province of Ontario has implemented an Electronics Disposal Tax (EDT) of varying amounts depending on what you buy that is disposable electronics, and now land fills accept electronic corpses free of charge (which are gathered and sent off for recycling to China(?).

The general tax burden, together with the 1% Payroll tax is supposed to pay for the government and the social programs like universal medicare (which has lots of exceptions, believe me).

I am a senior on Canada Pension with an earned income of zero.  As a result, I get a sort of negative income tax (the CPP doesn't have a red cent left in the fund, so pays out of general revenues), medicare, and cheap prescription drugs ($6.11 a hit + $100. annual deductible in July).  My pharmacist gives me the benefit of the doubt and takes two bucks off my prescriptions.

I am one of the guys who paid into the compulsory CPP from its inception in the 1960's.  I remember using the EAM gear in the Bank where I worked to print the first Social Insurance Identity cards.  Everyone who was working got one.  You also got a new payroll deduction, which is still there, under the title CPP.  There is also an Employment Insurance premium, and of course, Income Tax source deductions.  The employer is required to match the CPP and EI hits and pay a 1% tax on his payroll, theoretically to pay for medicare (hah!). 

All this money goes to the feds to then apportion it out to the provinces as "required".  The feds also run an equalization scheme so that the "have" provinces support the "have not" provinces.  This balance has been shifting in the last couple of decades.  Ontario, with its huge manufacturing and export base used to be a have province.  Not any more.  The have provinces now belong to OPEC, so you are looking at Alberta and Newfoundland and Labrador these days with all the oil revenues to support us beleaguered provinces where our manufacturing sector has taken such a hit from out sourcing.

The other day, the StatsCan people announced that the governments are now the No. 1 employer in Canada and that if you want to get a high-paying management or technical job with them you have to be fluently bilingual in English and French.  The feds have been working on official bilingualism for four or five decades now, and it is happening.  The big item now is the controversy over whether it is more important for Supreme Court appointees to be experts in law or be fully bilingual as qualifications for appointment.  The tail is now wagging the dog.

So that's the situation with Canada's No. 1 employer.

We get some good news on the jobs front occasionally.  GM just announced the re-opening of some plants with the recall of the laid-off workers.  Wouldn't surprise me if they get considerably less than the numbers they expect, as if I had a good job and was on the recall list, I would very likely say "thanks, but no thanks" to such a chancy thing.  Once bitten, twice shy.

The overall economic outlook in Canada should be fairly good because we have a lot of natural resources.  The Prime Minister, by the way, rather than being a big corporate lawyer or an entrepreneur happens to be a professor of economics.  This is quite a change from, say, the Hon. Paul Martin, who's family owns Canada Steamship Lines which is the premier shipper on the great lakes.  The company had to be put in a blind trust while he was in office, but it was run by his sons, and everyone is pretty sure the old man was consulted.  CSL has a lot of big ships, but these ships don't employ very many people each because they are bulk carriers.

My alarm system says I've got to go finish the dishes, so I'll stop here.

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Originally posted by: DocRorlach

Ah, the unexpected wiles of administrative bureaucrats. The thread was fine where it was: any discussion about the three main "isms" would always have to broaden into "socio-poli-economics" (what linguistically challenged pen-pusher dreamt up that one?) because that is what core of these strains of thought have always been about. Now we are locked in something that the casual onlooker will probably think is a debate about a new type of cantakerous misalingment of the genes.

Well, count me out..quote>

Haha-  agreed.  The powers to be seem very quick to shut down threads around here.

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Originally posted by: svachon

Haha-  agreed.  The powers to be seem very quick to shut down threads around here.quote>

Nothing is being shut down.   Everyone is invited to bring their stuff and come over to this bigger sandbox.

What is the problem?  The other thread was getting the page flip bug anyway.  

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one thing aobut cutting bureaucracy..

every government has bureaucracy and every opposition says they'll "cut waste"

waste in general is more or less determined by the competence of the employees of the bureaucracy

i never beleive any government which says it'll cut bureaucracy. when governments say they'll cut the number of

public sector employees i sort of beleive it but i don't think it'll last long.

bureaucracy comes from a desire for accountability and "harmonisation" of precedure.

when one wants more bureaucrats they divide responsibility and this creates more paperwork which needs to be read, drafted and signed by more people and this takes time and "manpower" (to use the phrase. this also applies to women obviously) if you go into schools you might expect to find one headmaster/mistress and the various class teachers. but find the headmaster/headmistress, senior managers, year heads (who aren't just regular teachers) policy administrators, education co-ordinators and many other useless non-jobs.

the same applies for hospitals, police and in many sections of city hall or councils.

so to eradicate bureaucraacy you concentrate powers and responsibilities into fewer individuals (don't cram them into one person since one person with all the power is dangerous) and of course just don't demand so much

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A tax on any good raises its price and, due to its flat rate, is inherently regressive. This is part of why we have a progressive income tax, to make up for that.

The premise of a gas tax is simple: a car is of no use to anyone without roads to drive it on. Those roads cost money to build and maintain. This cost is then covered by the users of the roads roughly in proportion to how much they use them by taxing the fuel for their vehicles.

Of course, this premise dates back to a day when every vehicle on the road ran on gasoline or diesel and the only way any of them used less fuel was if they were smaller and, thus, put less wear and tear on the roads anyway. Now that we've got hybrid cars, flex-fuel cars, electric cars etc. out there or getting out there, the premise stops working as originally intended because people have ways of avoiding the tax.

Now, that's not necessarily a bad thing. Cars which use less or no gasoline are "greener" and paying less or no tax on powering them can be a valid incentive for their use. However, in the long run, eventually running a car on gasoline will start to become rather old-fashioned and we will have to rethink the system.

The most obvious alternative is to tax by distance driven rather than by fuel consumed, but the problem is that this can start to become rather big-brotherish if handled improperly. When Oregon proposed it, they wanted to put a GPS device in every car that would measure distance driven only within the state of Oregon, and add it to the cost of fuel every time you go to the pump in lieu of the traditional gas tax (which would have continued to be charged to drivers from out of state). This, obviously, is the wrong way to go about a VMT Tax.

A more civilized way of handling it would be to skip the GPS and simply use the odometer that every car already comes built with. The reason Oregon didn't want to do this is because then they would be taxing people for driving in other states. Which is a valid point, but only when a VMT Tax is something unusual. When every state does it, it's as simple as saying that everyone pays the tax for the state their car is registered in, regardless of where they're driving it, with the assumption that the miles driven by a state's drivers everywhere will be roughly the same as the miles driven by every state's drivers within that state.

Tolls would also be an option, but Eisenhower made sure to prevent them from being installed on the interstate system and I don't see that provision being changed anytime soon, simply because it would make it too easy for states to collect their own revenue to fund highways with - which weakens congress' ability to use the "we can't make you do this, but we can say do this or we're pulling your highway funding" tactic.

Besides, the inherent flaw with tolls is that they are point charges rather than distributed charges. The number of tolls a driver passes through will not necessarily be proportional to the number of miles he drives, especially when you consider the potential for shunpiking. And said potential tends to lead to intentionally avoiding providing good alternate routes to try to make it unpleasant to not pay the toll... which is simply dysfunctional from a planning standpoint and from an engineering standpoint (what if there's traffic? What if the highway needs to be shut down in an emergency?).

Tolls do, however, make sense for major bridges and tunnels, because those are points of high construction and maintenance cost and thus associating a point charge with them is appropriate. Care must be taken to coordinate tolls, though, to avoid creating traffic problems. When there is a bridge with a lower toll or no toll than a parallel bridge, people are going to tend more to want to use that one, even if it's not quite as fast a route. This is not a good situation to have.

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Originally posted by: mightygoose

don't talk to me about taxation on fuel... you guys are complaining its gone over $3 dollars a gallon, over in the UK its £6.18 or $9.73. that's about 175% over the initial pre tax price.quote>

I've lost track of the price of gasoline in Canada since I haven't had a car for five years, but I suspect it is comparable to the U.S. price since the currencies are around par.

The problem with an ear-marked tax is that it never stays in the proper ear.  In Canada, at least, all taxes wind up in general revenue, and are dispensed from there.  Setting up specific fund pools is expensive, and it has turned out that the collected funds are never enough for the originally intended need.  If our road and highway system was dependent on the tax on gas alone the price of gas would make the roads unused by any except commercial ventures, the wealthy, and transit companies who could collect some of the costs back in the fare box.  Not necessarily all bad, as it could give rise to better public transit facilites.  Where I live there are none whatever.  If I want to connect to rail, I have to get a ride of about 100 Km to London, Ont.  To connect to the GO (Goverment of Ontario) transit system for the province, I have to hitch a ride to Stratford, Ontario, which is about the same distance.

Let us be clear on the civil service (in Canada).  Because it is the No. 1 employer, I know several people who are so employed.  For the most part, these are dedicated people, overworked, but not necessarily underpaid.  Most of the jobs are non-political.  For example, my niece works for the Government of Manitoba as a manager in the public housing department.  She is married, has two kids (both cute little girls), and is on-call 24/7 in addition to her regular office hours.  She is also working on getting her MSW.  She needs the masters to move up in the hierarchy.  Her husband is a computer guru of some stripe, and between them they make enough to cover all of this.  Her job is almost totally non-political other than obligatory assemblies of all kinds to show the departmental flag.

We have a socialist/captialist mixed economy.  There are a lot of crown corporations which, while quite independent, are backstopped by the government in case of an operating loss.  Canada Post is such a crown corporation, and it makes money, mostly by owning a private courier company and a few other assets.  Before it became a crown corporation, the Royal Canadian Mail was a department of the Government of Canada.  Its employees were regular civil servants and members of the CPAC, the federal goverment labor union.  Strangely enough, after his company was sold out from under him, my father worked for a while as a janitor in a local post office.  He was not employed by them but was employed by the department of labor, now part of Supply and Services, Canada.  He was able to use his veterans' preference eventually to become an officer with Canada Customs, which is now also a part of Supply and Services, so I have a pretty good perspective on civil service.  Dad retired on a relatively comfortable pensiion.

There are getting to be fewer crown corporations.  Petro Canada used to be a wholly owned government department, became a crown corporation and was eventually sold to the private sector via the usual IPO for the stock.  It is now separate.  Its origin is as BP Canada, and was purchased by the government.  An interesting transition considering the current mess that BP is in.  You really have to choose your partners well.  I wonder what possessed them to get in bed with Halliburton.

With the Conservative goverment in power now, led by an economist, things are different than they have been.  The belt is a little tighter, but I haven't noticed much difference if any.  The goverment is a minority, so they have to tread very carefully.  The official opposition is making spring election noises, but I don't think they have a prayer of forming a government.  The incumbents will spin any defeat in the Commons to look like an opposition power grab, and put out a plea for a mejority.  Canadians don't want an election now, as thinks are more or less OK.  If the Liberal Party of Canada forces an election this spring, they could wind up howling in the wilderness, because they don't have a very good front bench.  The Liberals are a tax and spend outfit, and are very good at running up the national debt.  Their compatriots on the left are the New Democratic Party (NDP) who are out-and-out socialists, descended from the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation (CCF), a western reform group, mostly of wheat farmers who have been called the Canadian Constipated Farmers here in the east.  With the succession of the NDP, which has sympathies in the large cities, the CCF is defunct.

The Canadian economy is protected by the Bank of Canada, created in the Bank of Canada Act (1936) and the Bank Act which has a sunset for renewal every ten years.  Creating a new chartered bank that is allowed to have branches (Schedule A) is very difficult in Canada.  The number of approvals you have to get is prohibitive.  The Minister of Finance in consultation with the Governor of the Bank of Canada and the Treasury Board make these kinds of decisions.  Banks are required by the Bank of Canada to hold a part of their assets on depost with them, and this percentage can be changed, up or down, without notice.  This puts the money supply firmly in the hands of the Governor of the Bank of Canada.  The Bank of Canada sets the over night rate at which banks can borrow from the Bank of Canada.  This sets the prime rate.  Currently, it is very low, but there are indications as the economy recovers from the current mess, it will be rising.  One of the main assignments of the Bank of Canada is to hold down inflation.  We didn't take nearly the hit that the rest of the world took on the Wall Street smash because of all this.  The Bank of Canada was created to prevent another big crash, and it seems to have worked.

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Originally posted by: nathanthemayor

[…] owning your own business is a right. If a country adapts socialism in my opinion, problems like those of Russia today will happen.quote>

Owning a business is not a right, at least not a positive right – you can't demand that you're entitled to own a business and argue this in front of the courts, just as you can't demand a job even though some constitutions protect this right. You can however see it as a negative right stemming from the right to property and the freedom of association (and the related right not to have anyone arbitrarily interfering with your business.

And Russia's problems stem mostly from the introduction of capitalism, not from their socialistic pre-1991 system. Seriously, who though "every man for himself" and selling state enterprises at market value (often at values less than a half-decent villa across Europe) in those days were a good idea?

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Owning a business is easy, but not a right.  It is your right to take a risk, however, and start a business.  Most business start ups in our system fail because they are either under capitalized or under planned or both. 

There are three kinds of business:  An individual doing business in a firm name (personal business), partnerships, and corporations.  In both of the last two you need either a partnership agreement or articles of incorporation.  The latter may or not be granted by the government, depending on your presentation.  The only right you have here is the right to fail and go broke.  If you are not careful, you can take your whole family world down with you.

Going into business is risky business, and I have done it, successfully.  I never made a fortune, but I kept body and soul together and didn't owe anyone anything when I folded to take a real job.  I have also been a contractor.  Being a contractor in the computer game is the same as running a business, and the tax people look at you exactly that way.

Before you say your have a right to be in business as an entrepreneur or proprietor, you should have a chat with a lawyer as to what it takes.

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Within this decade, all bridges across Lake Washington will be tolled in order to replace the Highway 99 bridge and repair the I 90 bridge. The Highway 99 tunnel will be tolled as well.

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From an economic standpoint, what would make more sense, using state money to repair existing highways that are fine now but in the future could be in need of serious repair, or using that same money to instead build new infrastructure like rail or subways? I'm just wondering what all of your viewpoints on that are.

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Pretty much all of North America's infra-structure is old and aging out.  It needs repair or replacement over the next couple of decades mostly because the maintenance funds have been easy targets at budget time.  It is easy for a councillor with a sacred cow to get the funds co-opted for his project by saying, "Well, it is OK right now, let's do that next year."  The chickens have come home to roost.

As for building new rail connections, there is a separate thread about high-speed rail in America, and it should be left there.

As sewers start to fail, contaminating ground water, isn't it time to get it fixed before the medical costs start to escalate?  Too many people on various boards of control have agendas that ignore health issues in favor of some favorite project that has been promiised to constituents.  Nobody cares much about sewers.

The same applies to the water works.  We only have to look at the misfortunes of Walkerville, Ontario, to see how a featherbedded city management can destroy the lives of people by allowing the water to be contaminated.  The Ontario government was very good at locking the barn after the horse had escaped.

People tend to think of infra-structure in terms of roads and other forms of people moving, but the most important things are the things that move gas, black and potable water underground.  Most of these facilites are under the roads, and the roads generally have to be dug up to work on this.  This gives rise to a big NIMBY reaction.  It is a BANANA peel on which our whole society could slip and fall down.

When all this stuff was installed, it was with money from another time.  Inflation and unreasonable wage demands have driven the price of doing this up so high, that taxes will have to increase to pay for it.  This is an economic blow to the guts that we'll just have to take.

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Originally posted by: A Nonny Moose

People tend to think of infra-structure in terms of roads and other forms of people moving, but the most important things are the things that move gas, black and potable water underground.  Most of these facilites are under the roads, and the roads generally have to be dug up to work on this.  This gives rise to a big NIMBY reaction.  It is a BANANA peel on which our whole society could slip and fall down.quote>

you also have to remember that when the interstates and hiways were built, there was nothing  in the way along most of the lenght of these roads. Haveing to buy the right of ways  along these routes sort of forced them to to put every thing along these routes were they already had right of way.

As for the citys you pretty much cant put the Sewage and water  anywere else if you want it piped directly to and from the houses.

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Originally posted by: Easy Bakes

Would this be the right thread to ask if Social Networks are a good or bad thing?

quote>

Sure, why not.  I am only slightly on Facebook, but from what I've seen there are both pros and cons.

Originally posted by: Easy Bakes

Originally posted by: A Nonny Moose

People tend to think of infra-structure in terms of roads and other forms of people moving, but the most important things are the things that move gas, black and potable water underground.  Most of these facilities are under the roads, and the roads generally have to be dug up to work on this.  This gives rise to a big NIMBY reaction.  It is a BANANA peel on which our whole society could slip and fall down.quote>

you also have to remember that when the interstates and hiways were built, there was nothing  in the way along most of the length of these roads. Having to buy the right of ways  along these routes sort of forced them to to put every thing along these routes were they already had right of way.

As for the cities you pretty much cant put the Sewage and water  anywhere else if you want it piped directly to and from the houses.quote>

Well, yes, besides stating the obvious, were you intending to add something?

Originally posted by: morriswalters

Here's an interesting story about solar panels.  You gotta wonder.

quote>

Now why would the state of domicile help some company move to China?  Did they want their unemployment rate to increase?  The people in the state house are losing their marbles?  They  don't like tax revenue?  What?

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Nobody in Massachusetts is helping the company leave. The issue is that China is providing a lot of subsidies for the green tech industry, to the point where as a solar panel maker you'd be mad not to move your operations there. And the US, for lack of funds, and for it being politically unfeasible, isn't going to be playing any catch-up in that game.

The cost of labor doesn't help, either. Nor does the fact that in China, people do not have rights. In China, what the government says is going to happen happens. No protests. No lawsuits. No media opposition. The regime in Beigjing is most concerned with pushing business forward and will do whatever it takes to force it to. Compare that to here in America where we use regulations to restrict businesses rather than bolster them. So of course China is kicking our ass. 

Business is a cutthroat game and taking the moral high ground means losing.

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Oh were it that simple. We are in a transition from a nationalistic economy to a global economy. This is the price for it. Business is decoupling from a national identity to a global identity. China on the other hand is going to pay a price. The obstacles to being able to do what they are trying to do in a sustainable way are pretty large and they are paying a toll. We need to find another way to compete. If we have to act like them to compete with them then were done. Their labor costs will always be lower for the foreseeable future than any we can afford. To support the consumer economy you have to have high wages, and with no consumer economy than no Chinese imports. Of any type.

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Quite right.  However, the consumer economy has had an overdose of thyroid hormone, aided and abetted by the exhortations of the advertising industry (a blight on the body politic if ever there was one).  The advertising guys work very hard at changing wants into perceived needs, and they have become very good at ti.

Since the end of the War to End All Wars in 1945, manufacturers shifted production from war materiel to consumer goods without missing a beat, and I am sure it was all well and truly planned well before the end of the war.  Once rationing ended, it was up stick and away for the consumer buck.  The effect of this was rampant inflation, but nobody really seemed to care in the first flush of victory.  Now the debt is coming due, and the bubble is about to burst.  The Wall Street mess was just a taste of things to come, and the various governments had better keep their hands off and let this sort itself out.

Notice there is a considerable level of joblessness above the economic ideal of having about a 6% labor pool avilable to look after expansion and retirements.  This is going to get worse as corporations move off shore to cheaper labor markets.  In North America, the unions have finally managed to price themselves out of the market.  Demanding more and more compensation for the same or less effort is foolish, and eventually this positive feedback situation will break the economic machine, which is already creaking and showing funny vibrations.  The long era of peace and the global village are just invitations to wider trade and operations.  It is inevitable.

Worse still, the unemployment figures are artificially quite low.  Many people caught in various forms of downsizing have stopped looking for work, and because they have fallen off the EI and FICA rolls, they are no longer counted.  Government retraining programs are not particularly successful, and the welfare rolls are increasng.  Look at the increasing number of street beggars (panhandlers), and you will get the picture.

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Neither of my parents work union jobs. My Mum is a confidential secretary for a county doctor and my Dad is the general manager of a 4 star steak house. No Job security. My mother's boss (the county doctor) recently died of cancer and the restaurant my Dad manages is being sold.

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Originally posted by: Ilikeseattle

Neither of my parents work union jobs. My Mum is a confidential secretary for a county doctor and my Dad is the general manager of a 4 star steak house. No Job security. My mother's boss (the county doctor) recently died of cancer and the restaurant my Dad manages is being sold.quote>

You are in a minority.  However, your father will probably find a job quickly because of his resumé, and your mother has a choice to either continue support work in medicine, volunteerism or retire.  I am sure that if she wants another job, she'll quickly get it.

I fully understand the idea of being a non-union worker.  I was one all my working life.  And I got caught in a downsizing in 1990, and wound up doing part time things until I retired at age 65.  If you get the rug pulled out from under you when you are over fifty, you are in a real fix.  We downsized our life style from upper middle class to upper lower class in one 10 minute period.  My wife was disabled and unable to work.

On the economic front, Target has purchased about 200 Zeller's stores from the Hudson's Bay Company (now owned in the U.S.), and are moving into Canada in a big way.  Wal Mart deserves this.  I've never been in a Target store, but from all reports they are higher quality with about the same pricing as Wally World.  I imagine the Wal Mart managers are doing all their sums again.

Here we are in the frozen north, and every once in a while a U.S. outfit takes a flyer up here.  The most notable recent flop is Krispy Kreme.  People in Canada are not interested in a competitor for Tim Horton's, and so, now, they are gone.  It was interesting for a while because Timmy's opened several outlets in the northern U.S.  I've no idea what happened to them, but the U.S. Troops in Afghanistan have been thoroughly Timmyized.  We have a Timmy's on the Canadian Base, Yanks welcome.

Our people are not very demonstrative but we are quite picky.  I predict, ex cathedera from my navel, that Target will blow a big hole in Wal Mart.

One more economic note:  Our currencies are now at par.  The last time I looked a day or so ago, it would cost you $101 U.S. to purchase $100 Cdn. if you could get a deal at mid-rate.  The currency traders would take a spread on you of course.

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Honestly, as intrusive to one's privacy as it would be, the idea of GPS in cars to pay for roadways a la carte may not be so far fetched.

It would have some really interesting consequences. If people paid the true cost of a new freeway or even just to drive on their cul-de-sac, would individuals start making a conscious choice when moving to a new location as to whether they live in a suburban neighborhood or a more built up area?

I guess the flip side is that we may not see streets and roadways as public space anymore, especially if they were privatized. The right to freely ride a bicycle or even walk might be taken away in some areas. A question about the importance of having a inclusive public realm in the city is one that needs to be asked before we turned an entire metropolis into a balkanized patchwork of gated communities.

The connectivity of our streets and roads might change as well if planning went to privatized roadway operators. On one hand some would desire more privacy. But really, by acting as a crossroads a community could subsidize the cost of the streets used by its own residents and people would make the choice to live in these places as well.

Also many people would choose to live in areas that catered to alternate modes of transport if they were rightly cheaper than driving a car on a road. Who knows, there might even be subdivisions that have zero streets for cars, only sidewalks to each house, and people who live there share a garage or even use some kind of self-driving robot taxi system that may exist in the future.

In the present day at least, mass transit would explode in popularity and be profitable on its own again, as people found market-priced congestion tolls and parking cities to be more costly to their own pockets.

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