Katie Marocchi: Young people embrace taxes

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From the youth-driven Occupy movement in New York that spread around the world to the youthful anti-tanker movement to the dramatically successful student demonstrations in Quebec, young people in North America have been enjoying a resurgence of political power.

Poll

Are you willing to pay higher taxes for improvements to public services?

Yes 52%
116 votes
No 36%
80 votes
Maybe 12%
27 votes

Some commentators are quick to dismiss young activists as idealistic and out-of-touch with the tough economic times in which we find ourselves. They say that young people don’t understand the connection between the massive social and environmental challenges and the cost of the solutions.

For example, the Occupy and Quebec student movements both prioritize reducing social inequality and stopping privatization of core public services. Both movements challenge the belief held by Wall Street and Bay Street that we can no longer afford a robust social safety net funded by the tax base—that “the cupboards are empty”, as we heard this week in the B.C. budget update. But in rejecting this neoliberal view of public services, do these movements implicitly support strengthening public services by broadening the tax base?

The outrage about the inadequate contribution of the so-called “one percent” is indeed justified, but generating enough revenue to eliminate regressive MSP premiums or tuition fees, or paying for a new child-care program, requires more than a new ultra-rich tax bracket or a surtax on millionaires. It will require modest tax increases for most households. Are the young people who are clamouring for a better world prepared to pay for it?

In short: yes.

Polling data recently collected by Environics for the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives shows that British Columbians aged 18 to 29 are two times more likely to be willing to pay higher taxes for improvements to public services (housing, welfare, childcare, et cetera) as those 60 and over.

So much for the idea that today’s young adults are the “Me Generation”—obsessed with our own needs and short-term gratification. It seems that, despite being absorbed by smartphones and texting, this generation is still deeply social and understands how government’s role in program delivery and reducing inequality is a collective responsibility, funded by contributions from us all.

The results of the Environics poll are encouraging given what the next generation has been saddled with. From environmental degradation to growing inequality, the status quo is simply not an option. This polling result suggests that a better world is possible because the next generation knows what it wants and is willing to share the costs of equality.

Katie Marocchi is chair of the Canadian Federation of Students-British Columbia.

Comments (4) Add New Comment
cuz
First off Katie, the occupy movement was bust - accomplishing virtually nothing. The "youthful anti-tanker movement is just that - a movement that has garnered nothing but support - no concrete action. However the Quebec student movement did accomplish something. It led to a change in government, but did not change the underlying reason that created the movement. Young activists have always been out of touch - that is what allows them to be idealistic. It's hard to be idealistic after you've had to deal with reality for a while. Face it, having someone pay for your school and bills is nice, but not reality as most adults know it. However I do agree with your main point, there is a strong need for people to come to grips that reducing social inequality and keeping control of basic core services is very important. But that is just a choice that we as society need to deal with. The issue isn't the level of support through taxes, the issue is choice. As you deal with issues over decades, you begin to understand that most problems of any type seldom have an easy solution. The problem with just paying higher taxes is that there is ALWAYS a group of people who exploit the kindness of the willing to further their own agendas and fatten their wallets. People who do things that don't serve any common good. People who think things like enabling drug addicts by giving them needles solves a problem. People who think it's important to allow addicts to remain addicts because they choose to be addicts, but yet think we should support someone who continually makes bad choices. People who think our tax money should support "artists" because the paying public isn't interested in supporting them. It's no surprise that older people don't support just paying higher taxes to solve social problems - they've been burnt too much in the past. And it's no surprise that younger people don't mind paying higher taxes, because for most younger people that is still just a concept, not a reality. The best way to address problems is to work on those problems right in front of your face. In effect, think globally -ACT LOCALLY. And Please, stay as idealistic as long as you possibly can. Just don't keep asking me to pay more taxes when the issues isn't how much we pay in taxes (enough already), but what we do with those taxes we already pay.
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Um
As if we have a choice! Two guarantees in life are death and taxes.
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ex-Haney guy
The piss-off is where the taxes go. PPP's and new rooves on pricate enterprises or unneeded wider highways should not have priority over hospitals, nurses, ambulance attendants, teachers, or social services-like welfare. I don't mind paying high taxes if the public gets a service-I don't want to pay for chicken-shit "developers" that hide behind bullshit laws written by enabling politicians.
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Bored
are young people really interested in that? says who? like libertarians say "laws are laws only because the government threatens you with force and violence when you don't comply". that's about it. would anyone pay taxes if the government didn't threaten you to kick your ass? and how is that different from a neighbour knocking on your door saying he wants 25% of your salary or else...... that is right. no difference.
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