Welfare Kings and Queens

Who are the real beneficiaries of government handouts?


Last November we pointed to articles about how individual taxpayers are contributing an increased share of government revenue.

In a story entitled What the Finance Minister hasn't told Canada's middle class taxpayers, Barrie McKenna reports for the Goble and Mail how more and more tax breaks are being directed at - dare I say it - special interest groups.
“Canadian families keep more of their hard-earned dollars as a result of the government’s actions to reduce the tax burden,” the 419-page document points out.

So it might come as a bit of a surprise to many Canadians that the government’s long road back to a balanced budget is as much a story about rapidly growing tax revenues as it is about more widely discussed spending cuts.
McKenna says that this is partly due to the fact that more people are working and incomes are rising so more people are paying more income tax and partly due to the cutting of taxes elsewhere so that the ratio of income tax to other taxes has shifted. Tax breaks have come in the form of a reduction in the GST from 7 to 5 percent,
"But the drift started long before that – the result of lower tariffs from free trade, lower corporate tax rates and other policies that have shifted more of the load of government onto individuals." ...

The party – and the Reform Party from which it emerged – has long espoused broad-based tax cuts for individuals. But what it has delivered up to now has been mainly targeted relief to very specific groups, for often political reasons. The budget touts 160 tax measures that have saved Canadians $160-billion since 2006, including breaks for children’s sports, art lessons and firefighters.
 And so it goes.

Sound Science

About a year ago, some of us attended a CLLN (Canadian Literacy and Learning Network) webinar by T. Scott Murray. Most of us were surprised when he used the images of brain scans to bolster an argument.You can see our response here.

Today I watched a TEDTalk by Molly Crockatt (embedded below) about how neuroscientific research becomes headlines and headlines become products.

It seems that we were right to be skeptical about the science behind the claims Murray makes in the webinar.

At about the 4 minute mark she explains how including pictures of brains make us more likely to believe the claims made in an article or webinar.

The science of diagnosing reading diseases through the examination of brain scans may be junk but the idea of using brain scan images to add credibility to your claims is backed up by research. And so it goes.
“If someone tries to sell you something with a brain on it … ask to see the evidence. Ask for the part of the story that's not being told.”

What do you call a group of altruists?

A selfish individual will always outcompete an altruistic individual, but a group of altruists will always outcompete a group of selfish people. 
E. O. Wilson, The Social Conquest of Earth


I wonder.

This quote comes from an article in the Globe and Mail by David Helfand called We evolve, but the university stands still.

In it, Helfand states that the problem with university education is:
There we have it – a brain evolved for two-way communication in a highly socialized environment in which collaboration leads to success. And we put this brain in a classroom of one-way communication in a highly de-socialized environment that celebrates cutthroat competition for grades and punishes collaboration. It’s brilliantly perverse.

My favourite part might be where he calls grades "meaningless tokens."

As he says, the idea that learning happens best when students can engage, participate and collaborate are not new and there are many educators trying to "evolve" this paradigm.

Here is how they are trying to change the way students participate in their education at Quest University:

Waiting on the Barbarians

Here is some news from our American cousins that seems to put to rest that low wage earners are those without skills or that low wages are a result of a skills deficit.

First, this from the Economic Policy Institute:

 And then, this from Vice President Joe Biden:

Vice President Joe Biden defended the role of organized labor, saying opponents are mounting a long-term war to attack unions.

“These guys on the right — they know without you there — they call every shot,” Biden told more than 1,000 UAW members and retirees on the final day on its four-day annual political conference here. “You guys are the only guys keeping the barbarians at the gate.”

He criticized right-to-work laws approved in Michigan and Indiana. “Did you ever think you would see a day when right to work would pass in Michigan?” Biden said. “It’s not a right to work.”

He held up a chart that said the fall in unionization had been a factor in the decline in wages.
“You built the middle class. Labor built the middle class,” Biden said. “You never leave anybody behind — even when it costs you politically and when it doesn’t benefit you directly.”

Disrupting Putin

This PSA from the Canadian Institute for Diversity and Inclusion probably does not have much to do with literacy policy or the way neo-liberal ideologies act as barriers to adult learning but I thought you might enjoy it anyway.

Music for Disruptors

From Tannis Atkinson

A little music for us disruptors...
Everybody knows it's a hard time
Livin' on the minimum wage
Ah, some people just gonna sneak on through
Others gotta rattle that cage
One of these days, I'm gonna find my way
Or else just disappear
I'm out here in the filth and squalor
And all I wanna do is stomp and holler
--from Stomp and Holler