Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Stolen Utopia – The Real Cost of Neoliberalism

Back in 1970 there was a low or non-existent government deficit and all the social reforms such as health care, pensions and unemployment insurance existed. We had the 40 hour week, paid vacations and statutory holidays. Indeed, we were better off back then, since UI has been savagely cut back and ,many other programs and services wrecked or terminated. All of this was done on a 1970 economy, but the economy today is 2-3 times larger, and we are told that cut backs must happen because “we can't afford it.” How is it we could afford reforms in 1970 but not now with a much larger economy? Do you smell a rat? I do.

The secret of how we have gotten screwed boils down to two different, but connected, issues:
The first is that the mega-rich and their corporations are not paying the same tax rate as back then. The govt has slashed taxes to its pampered puppet masters, and if that isn't enough, these same spoiled brats have taken up tax fraud in a big way, pretending their money is made in Bermuda or the Caymans. The govt, of course, has done nothing to stop this racket. The greed creeps are simply no longer willing to pay for that long list of government granted privileges that made them ricos in the first place. By this I mean privileges such as the corporation as fictitious person, limited liability, patents, corporate welfare and the magic money machine called a bank charter.
The second has to do with the Bank of Canada. Back in 1970 it still did what it was originally designed to do – lend money to the govt. at no interest, instead of borrowing from financial markets at high interest. (This was in large measure how Canada managed to pay off the massive cost of WW2 and build all that infrastructure in the 1950s and '60s without incurring a crippling debt.) The high interest charged since then by private lenders to Canadian governments has effectively crippled these institutions. The connection I referred to earlier? The private financing of government debt replacing the BofC was a gift to the banks and other financial corporations, i.e., the richest members of our society.
With 2-3X the economy, the BofC doing its rightful jobs, and the wealthy paying at least part of their way, we should be stacking up massive government surpluses. Or, that wealth could have been converted into reforms that in our present stage of degradation would seem pipe dreams. Guaranteed Annual Income? Easy! Retirement at 55? Why not? Four day work week? Let's do it. Free university tuition, free public transit? No sweat. This is the real crime of the neo-liberal counter-revolution - depriving us of a virtual social democratic utopia.


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