Op-Ed: Let’s talk about trickle down taxation

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Things aren’t great in New Brunswick.

(Jared Monkman/CBC)

I’m sure many of you are feeling the stress of rising inflation, gas prices, housing costs, groceries, and the list could probably stretch to exceed the intended length of this article. The simple fact of life currently, is expense at least for the middle, working class, and impoverished members of our society.

For the rich it is simply life as usual. Now I should be clear, I am not talking about your dad who owns a successful small business and can afford to indulge in some of the finer luxuries that our capitalist society has to offer. Nor am I talking about the mid-level executives working for one of New Brunswick’s many ultra-wealthy and ultra-powerful corporations, though they do sit much closer to the problem.

My argument today will centre around those aforementioned powerful corporations, the families that own and benefit from them, and the executives that get paid incredible salaries to do their “work”.

The rich in Saint John

Of course I’m sure most of my dear readers, instantly conjured images of the Irvings, and that annoyingly prevalent red white and blue diamond.

Notably, New Brunswick is also home to at least two other families of billionaires, the McCain’s are worth nearly 4.3 billion, as well as the Cooke family, owners of Cooke’s aquaculture who are worth nearly 2.5 billion. Add that those two families to the combined 13 billion dollars split between the two Irving families, they have a combined wealth of around 20 billion dollars.

Okay, Okay, I get it we are like 250 words into this article, and I need to get to the point. 

All of this preamble is here to highlight just how much money comes through New Brunswick, not through governments mind you, all of that is private money.

My question though, is whether these four families could have really ever earned that kind of wealth, and can anybody truly earn that kind of money?

It may seem like a bit of a pointless question because they have so clearly, earned that money. My point, however is that this money and wealth to the tune of billions or even merely hundreds of millions is not earned in the way that you or I earn money.

Trust me you could never make that kind of money writing for the Baron (no offence Editor-in-Chief).

Irving oil refinery (Michael Hawkins/Reuters)

The struggle of the Proletariat

Billionaires are not selling their time in the way that normal, average people do. Their money is built from the exploitation of a workforce that sell their time and create goods or services that are then sold by their employers for profit.

These people have classically been known as the Proletariat, while their owners as capitalists, or the owner class. The major separating factor between the two groups is wealth, and ownership over the means of production, otherwise known as whatever is required for workers to create a product, the easiest example being a factory or refinery.

Some of my more left leaning readers are probably wondering why I am regurgitating the 200 plus year old work of Karl Marx. My answer is because I would bet that many have barley been introduced to the ideas of Marx and Friedrich Engels, the former of which has become somewhat of a boogeyman in the modern Zeitgeist, (thanks for that one Cold War Era America).

To simplify the incredible insight of these two nineteenth-century thinkers is a difficult task, but I’m just some guy so why not do it anyway.

Essentially Marx and Engels argued that because the Proletariat were the ones providing the labour, they should have equal ownership over the means of production and therefore, the profits generated. That’s it. Really, all of the controversy and negative rhetoric surrounding socialism stems from backlash from wealthy people about not wanting to give the workers they employ a fair cut of the profits. 

Roberto De Vicq De Cumptich/The New Yorker

Why does this matter right now?

Now at this point I’m sure my editor is screaming because I have not even mentioned the intended point of this article, but I promise we are getting there. 

I feel that all of this preamble is a good segway into the main topic for today, because honestly I feel like this topic deserves a lot more research than can be completed before the deadline for this article.

Recently as I am sure many are aware, Saint John councillor, David Hickey posted a tweet highlighting that the Saint John Regional Hospital had a larger tax increase than: the Port, LNG, IOL HQ, JDI Wallboard, IOL blending and packing, 300 Union, Brunswick Square, Brunswick House, Ocean Steel, West side Rail Yard, Cooke HQ, Pulp Mill, and the Refinery combined.

All of these are for profit corporations that own a means of production, employee a workforce, and take the vast majority of profits being made. Many of these companies either directly or indirectly belong to the four aforementioned ultra-wealthy families.

Saint John Regional Hospital (Horizon Health Network/Website)

I bring up the opinions of Marx and Engels because I think they are as applicable now as they were when they were written down and published. Because the tax increase for the hospital will likely be paid with tax dollars that come directly from the average worker and taxpayer, many of whom will be working for the companies that receive tax break after tax break, subsidy after subsidy, bail out after bail out.

In the 1980’s conservative leaders around the world promised their citizens, our parents, and grandparents, that tax cuts for the wealthy would trickle down into higher wages and better standards of living. I’m here today, some forty years later, asserting that the only thing that has trickled down is taxation.

So next time your insufferable uncle starts droning on about socialist handouts, do me a favour and remind him that socialism exists, you just need to be rich to benefit from it.