Thanks to the seemingly endless supply of hubris, entitlement, cluelessness and asinanity* in our modern democracy, I have once again been forced to pay attention to politics. You see, our recently ordained Premier has determined that Albertans are in need of an early election this spring (not to mention the presumed upcoming federal election this autumn). I’m not terribly happy about this. Having an early election is much like having an early prostate exam; sure there is the off chance that doing so will prove fortunate and beneficial to my well-being but more likely it’ll just be another pointless day with something unpleasant shoved up my ass.
I hate politics, but….
Politics is a subject that has long lost its appeal as a source of interest or pleasure for me. I’m halfway through this life, perhaps even further along than that, and as such I have encased my democratic privilege in the rusty armour of cynicism. I am well versed in the many deflating truths surrounding this holiest of democratic pursuits, two of those being that politicians lie and voters are selfish**. And nothing shines a brighter light on these two truths than an election.
So here I am begrudgingly ingesting the drivel because despite my dislike of the entire spectacle I believe in participating in this sordid process. I also believe in being an informed voter even if the information has a life expectancy measured in nanoseconds. I think it’s making me gassy.
At least the gods are tossing me a little bone of enjoyment this time around. In order to accentuate their appreciation of some good schadenfreude, this unnecessary election, born of arrogance, sees the long governing party in genuine danger of losing their grip on power (questionable reliability of pre-vote polling duly noted). This is a grip that they’ve enjoyed for the past forty years with the veracity of a masturbating teenager. Fool the population once, shame on you; Fool the population twelve times, look out below! Or so it seems.
Needless to say the new Premier and his party are quickly approaching panic mode and are already backtracking on recent budget promises. This would be the same budget that this entire election is supposed to be a referendum on. The specific provision being reversed is an announced cut in the tax credit for charitable donations. It was set to drop from 21% to 12.75% but now, thanks to the indignation of the masses and the keen ear of a politician suddenly facing political mortality, ta da, it will remain at 21%.
When the reduction was first announced the howls of indignation from the fine people of this province were deafening. Opposition leaders from all 666 ends of the political spectrum denounced this dastardly tax credit reduction. How dare the government attempt to balance the budget on the backs of charities!
“generosity, community, and looking out for one another”
I am personally no fan of this government by any stretch (or any political party for that matter) but this little tap dance highlights once again the selfishness (cough cough, stupidity, cough cough) of much of the voting populace. In announcing the tax credit reduction reversal, Premier Prentice had this to say:
“Albertans have told me it was seen as contrary to our values as Albertans – values of generosity, community, and looking out for one another”
Albertans are indeed generous. Very much so. Albertans are also very fortunate, sitting atop a bounty of oil wealth. They have a lot and they give a lot. It’s one of their most admirable traits. They are also, apparently, full of pig farm effluent.
Here’s the thing, reducing the tax credit by any percentage, be it 1% or the entire 21%, does not in and of itself remove one single, solitary, no-longer-produced Canadian penny from any charity anywhere. None! All it did was reduce the tax credit that Albertans were eligible to claim for making such a donation. The total dollars charities received was and is wholly determined by the generosity and altruism of Albertans. That was the case before the tax credit was reduced, it was the case after the tax credit was reduced, and it remains the case now that the tax credit is no longer being reduced.
What this entire episode and accompanying uproar does manage point out, in fact, is that apparently a good number of Albertans only donate to charity in order to receive a tax credit of 21%. Drop that tax credit by 8.25%, the equivalent value of a bottle of decent guzzling wine, and suddenly those “values of generosity, community, and looking out for one another” are flushed down the toilet along with the guzzling wine aftermath. If an 8.25% reduction in a tax credit greatly influences your willingness to give to charity you aren’t nearly as altruistic as you think.
The ultimate irony, then, is that this tax credit was increased to 21% back in 2007 in hopes of stimulating higher donation levels to charities. In the government’s own words when this current budget was announced that change “was not as effective as anticipated” and perhaps encouraging in light of my above rant, “charitable donors are often motivated by factors other than tax savings.” Indeed. Such are the values of people who look out for one another.
* Asinanity is a new word I am hereby officially coining. It is a combination of asinine and inanity. I expect it to become the primary synonym for political discourse in short order.
** I am being diplomatic. My first draft said you were all stupid.