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AltAusterity Digest #87 February 21-27, 2019

This week in Austerity News:

Mar 01, 2019

Recent snowstorms in Toronto have put a strain on municipal services. While city bylaws require homeowners to keep their sidewalks clear in areas without sidewalk plowing, enforcement has been difficult after years of austerity. Furthermore, with slip-and-fall injuries being associated with unsafe pedestrian conditions, the city has reported liability claims for about $6.7 million each year. The funding of snow removal has been hampered by a revenue crisis at the municipal level. With declining provincial transfers, a reluctance to raise property taxes and a growing population, both the Tory and previous Ford governments have failed to properly address municipal winter safety concerns.

According to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), the Republican tax cuts delivered a record US$236.7 billion in profits to banks. The FDIC estimates that the tax cuts were responsible for providing an additional $28.8 billion in bank profits. While the large banks have benefitted most from the tax bill, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities also estimates that at an individual level, the top fifth of income earners received 70% of the bill’s benefits, while the top 1% got 34%. FDIC Chair Jelena McWilliams has cautioned that “things can only go worse from here,” when asked about the fact that no banks failed in 2018, as this was a trend which also preceded the global financial collapse in 2008.

A French criminal court has ordered Swiss bank UBS to pay nearly US$5 billion in fines for its role in aiding French citizens avoid paying taxes. The fine comes after UBS turned down a proposed initial fine of $1 billion, going to court, and losing the case. According to court documents, UBS is responsible for facilitating tax avoidance for 38,000 French clients with a total amounting to approximately $13 billion. This adds to the list of settlements by UBS including tax evasion in the US and Germany, and a bond scandal which saw the lifesavings of many Puerto Rican’s wiped out.

The Health Foundation’s Sir Michael Marmot has made the case that higher taxation for the rich may be needed for the UK to halt the decline in life expectancy in parts of the UK and to close the gap in health inequalities. Marmot’s 2015 research showed that the life expectancy of a one-year-old child in one of the poorest parts of the country would on average be about 8 years shorter than a child in the most affluent 10% of the country. A new review on UK health inequalities conducted by Marmot’s Institute for Health Equity and the Health Foundation is underway and set for release in 2020. The review will examine broader social determinants of health such as early years and education as well as work, income, housing and community resources.

 That's it for this week's Digest! Check back next Friday morning for another edition, or subscribe to our newsletter for a weekly roundup. We'll also Tweet each time we add new content, so you can keep up with our work @AltAusterity and join the #altausterity conversation.