Harper: Free Trade is a Tax Break for China

Harper was criticized the other day for wanting to increase taxes on various imported consumer goods.

There is no defense for raising taxes ever. This is even more important when Canada will be soon in recession. So what is Harper thinking? He rightly pointed out that the Liberals had voted against budgets in which there were some tiny tax cuts. Okay, sure, the Liberals lack any principled objection to higher taxes. What was his rebuttal to their criticism on the tariff issue?

“What the Liberal Party seems to stand for, Mr. Speaker, is that somehow we should give tax breaks to emerging economies like China.”

OMG, my brain just exploded from the unbelievable stupidity of that statement. I love a good cheap shot at a Canadian political party as much as the next guy, but Harper’s statement is just dumb.

So not taxing imports is a tax break to the countries from which we are buying those imports. So a free trade policy is a tax break for our trading partners.

That is incoherent, protectionist nonsense. First of all, the importer pays the tax, not the exporter. So China is not getting the tax break, per se. It is the one importing Chinese stuff.

But then this is kind of like saying it’s a “tax break” if the government taxes anything less than 100% of your income. The meaning of “tax break” is clearly being twisted. A “tax break” is meant to be a means of reducing a tax liability that already exists. The absence of a tax is not a tax break. Adding new taxes is not the same as taking away tax breaks. The underlying philosophy revealed in Harper’s words is that the government rightfully owns everyone else’s wealth, and letting people keep anything is a tax break. The whole notion is economically utterly perverse.

The case against protectionism is logically irrefutable. Harper, like virtually all politicians, is a mercantilist who thinks protectionism is good (for his friends), meaning he is no ally of capitalism and free trade. He is a classic Canadian crony prime minister.

— Read more at CBC News. —

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Recession will come to Canada in 2013.

Oh Carney. What a wacky guy. He seems convinced we will only enter a recession if the US falls off the fiscal cliff. Err, I’m sorry, not a “recession,” but a “near-recession.” Central bankers don’t like to use the word “recession” in their predictions, because that serves as a confession that they are not “managing” the economy effectively.

If the fiscal cliff is resolved, he says, Canada will surge with the resultant economic relief!

So… is it the case that Canada’s only economic threat is idiots in the US Congress? (That’s redundant — I should just say “US Congress.)

Sorry, Carney. That is nonsense.

What about recession in Europe? Asia? Not to mention the general problems of the US, out biggest trading partner.

First there is Europe. The European recession is spreading, evidenced by slowing price inflation and rising unemployment (at 12% for the Eurozone). This deeply aggravates the existing European crisis. Even Germany, the ‘good’ (cough cough) part of Europe, is grinding into economic slowdown. Its central bank predicts a pathetic 0.4% for next year. It could very easily be less. As long as everyone over there relies on Keynesianism to solve their problems, they will never escape the financial death spiral.

Japan is in a recession. Other Asian export markets are slowing down, because the weight of China’s economic distortions are turning into a brutal yoke and necessitating slowdown there.

And what of the US? The perception is that if “something” is done about the fiscal cliff, everything will be rosy. Shockingly, the US is still considered a safe haven. But foreigners are not scooping up US debt like they used to. China is reducing its exposure; Japan’s purchases are slowing. Bernanke’s surprise announcement to expand the Fed’s balance sheet by an additional $45 billion a month to buy US debt is a telltale sign that he understands the problem, at least to some extent. Yet I do not believe that Bernanke’s action will deflect the recessionary pressures coming from both sides.

Then there is Canada. Everyone here thinks we are special. “Well, if the world goes into recession, we will be okay — we’re CANADA!” they say. The myths spawned during the 2008 financial crisis have sunk deep into the nation’s collective unconscious. Canadians feel invincible. That is dangerous. So the debts continue to grow. Harper continues growing the government, thinking it’s perfectly acceptable to do so because Canada is not as bad as other countries (ignoring the fact that it is still bad).

I frequently speak with executives in the oil industry. There are big deals being made, plenty of excitement as usual. But I’ve noticed people seem strangely oblivious to even the prospect of slowdown in 2013. We are largely a resource based economy, so if the entire world is slowing down, they are not going to buy as much of our stuff. It’s a fairly easy prediction to make. Myanmar and Laos are not going to make up for lost demand from China. Canada’s slow growth will drop mid-to-late 2013 unless some new crisis speeds the world’s decline. Canadians should get ready for this. Hold cash. Get ready to use it when prices fall.

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