For My American Brothers & Sisters: the joys of dual income tax returns
Last US election, there was a certain desperation amongst intelligent "liberal" Americans that led to idle thoughts of and internet memes about emigration to Canada, or even secession and union, which didn't pan out of course (just try and explain "red tory" to an american and watch their eyes' spin-- UEL all the way, baby!). This time around, while it seems certain that the long US nightmare of kulturkampf repugly rule is going to finally end, the economic situation may still result in a vast economic sucking sound, this time at the northern border. Because, Nom de Dieu! et Sacre Bleu! et Tabernac!, somehow or other the Canadian financial system has proved, at least this far, to be about the most robust in the developed world. Go figure.
And as primary resource extractors, you'd think that we'd be in trouble in an economic slow-down, but this time around, I really think not. As McCain blindly claimed, but accurately from a Western Canadian point of view, the fundamentals are actually pretty strong: people are still going to need timber, minerals, food, and of course, crude (while oil prices have fluctuated wildly, they have shown no sign at all of dropping even close to the Fort MacMurray profitability point). The world stocks of these things are short, and there is little elasticity in the market. To be sure, some of these industries are kinda capital intensive, which will be a problem in the short term, but nevertheless, the markets aren't going away, and if any industrial sectors have capital and liquidity these days, it is Big Oil and Big Metal. And agribusiness has political backing like no other industry in the world; they will be like totally sheltered from liquidity crunches like no other industry, and for once, for once, given the medium to long-term environmental future, that might just be a Good Thing.
More importantly, neither are the demographics going to change, which means no matter how severe and disruptive the economic downturn may be, in most occupations outside of R&D and other long-term capital heavy investment type things, this may be a real oddity: an unemploymentless economic downturn. At least for Western Canadians, things may suck a bit more for Central Canada (things are already, actually); well, instead of internal immigration from Cape Breton, we'll start getting it from Oshawa. We can deal with that.
I spent most of today working on a galley-rush type proposal to a very large employer indeed, to provide services for Temporary Foreign Workers (ie the Canadian version of "guest workers"), and what was notable about it was the (very hard-headed & realistic I thought) expectation that a good chunk of them were going to be American. In the cause of which, I have actually had to start writing an orientation program for Americans finding themselves living in Canada for a while, and what makes it especially interesting, as kind of second class (if likely highly paid) residents (and emphatically not citizens to boot, go line up there with the rest of the Mexicans and Filipinos and
I mean there have been an awful lot of humorous and/or satirical versions of this over the last few years (I was thinking about rounding the links up, but hey, if you read this, likely you have already seen them all, from both sides of the border); but today, I was confronted by having to come up with the Real Thing.
Now, some of the arrivals may well be Northern Liberal "refugees," but actually I think it quite likely that they will be fairly representative of the US population; if anything, somewhat weighted to Red State populations where they are more likely to get the economic hit. This actually won't be hard for me, I have been settling populations with political views I most emphatically don't share, all my professional life, though given the rigidities of the US conservative mind-set, I may be dealing with a bit more culture shock than I do from say folks from communist China or even the back hills of Afghanistan (sorry, just joshing there).
I actually think it might be kind of a real problem though; people making a transition to someplace really strange, that they know and see in every way is really strange, are perhaps more able to make a major leap from prior attitudes and articles of faith. It might be a lot harder for Americans, where things are simultaneously so superficially, and fundamentally so similar, yet so very different on a day to day live your life level.
I'm just starting to think this problem through, and groping for ideas. Well, advance thinking only takes you so far; in my business, you had better be very prepared for the rude shocks that reality regularly and roughly gives any kind of theory. Because it always does.
In essence, I have to explain to a heavy duty equipment mechanic or industrial electrician from say Arkansas or Texas, and his or her family, how to function on a day to day basis in Canada, and even kind of feel like you belong a bit, and feel good enough about it to stick around. This is a non-trivial problem.
At a minimum, I can explain how the joy of dual income tax return filing works from personal experience. The short version? It truly deeply suxorz.
(Hey Tim, you want to suggest a good long-term growth inherently open-source project for unemployed coders? Howabout a basic wage-earner type tax return program that can take your basic data and interface with multiple jurisdiction tax authorities simultaneously?)