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George Victor
New Democrats tend to forget the neo-cons' agenda of 30-some years.

?

George Victor

Some people here seem to believe that Canadian governments, provincial and federal, don’t have to be concerned with fiscal responsibility. The suggestion is that that is only a conservative pre-occupation, even though the history of NDP government in Canada since 1941 has been one of just such concerns. In fact, if Tommy Douglas had not demonstrated such responsibility beginning in 1941, he would not have survived the battle for public medicine in Saskatchewan 20 years later and then Canada-wide.

Gary Doer is doing it in Manitoba today, and the New Democrats of Northern Ontario continue a fiscally responsible tradition that seems to be appreciated by voters there - including those caught up in or threatened by massive layoffs in the forest industry.

The posters here who equate that position with the neo-cons are somehow able to forget that the agenda of the supply-sider and emerging neo-con since the Iron Lady consorted with Ronnie Raygun is the DESTRUCTION of government services. The Globe and Mail’s European correspondent, Doug Saunders, pointed out at election time that Harper went to the U.K years ago to see how this had been developed with the privatization of services such as municipal utilities, water and energy. The thrust of Saunders’ article was - you’re a bit late, PM. Folks over there are in revolt over the resulting chaos and pricing for services.

But the PM is a persistent fella. He must be dismayed at the prospect of a democrat victory, return to fiscal responsibility in the U.S. and the sequestering of the grand project of privatization of everything. The mantra of “lower taxes” promised by the cons is no longer working and is no longer as effective in Canada as deficits threaten (although obviously he wants to reduce services to the marginalized of this country).

But it should be obvious, even to those who shun the business pages , that Bush has come damned close to making it nearly impossible for people to solve their social welfare crisis in the U.S. without calling for private intervention (and see the situation in Ontario re hospitals, long-term-care institutions, etc.). Bush almost got away with reducing the peoples’ 401k savings (our RRSP equivalent) to a matter of individual speculation on the market. It’s going to be nip and tuck down there - and perhaps up here as well as we reach the dregs of oil and gas wells, major mineral deposits, and devastated forests.

What I don’t understand is the tendency of seemingly rational people on this board to taunt social democrats who aren’t ready to surrender the concept of fiscally responsible government to the wingy right in this political atmosphere. No suggestions forthcoming on how to hold them at bay in the democratic process and in the face of corporate media bias. Just verbal taunts approximating a pathetic schoolroom atmosphere.

I have corresponded with Doug Saunders encouraging him to tell us more about the more mature, responsible, educated and socially aware and their doings in Europe. Hopefully the vastly superior intellects hereabouts will give more attention to events over there, stop ridiculing efforts to turn back the menace, here and in the U.S. Saturday editions are best.

genstrike

We really need to distinguish between fiscally conservative, fiscally responsible and balanced budgets.

Fiscally conservative means slashing social programs and cutting taxes for the rich. Not a good idea.

Balanced budgets means focusing on not running a deficit. In a recession, that isn't a good idea either.

Fiscally responsible means trying to balance budgets in the long term, and not piss away money on stupid things like wars and corporate tax cuts.

Unfortunately, people tend to conflate these three things (and on the provincial level, the level of equalization you get), and thus we have either the right owning these concepts or the left adopting some of the substance of the right in order to be more "fiscally responsible", cutting or refusing to increase social spending, tax cuts for the rich, etc. You used the example of Gary Doer, I would also add the federal NDP talking up balanced budgets during an election campaign at what is likely the start of a recession.

George Victor

Do you think they will outdo the others in that regard as a recession develops? Can you see New Democrats proposing lower taxes for the rich?

Why/why not? (since you indulge in a very refined and somewhat diverting - even mystifying - interpretation of the minutae of fiscal responsibility).

[ 28 October 2008: Message edited by: George Victor ]

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

George, first let me compliment you on actually being able to write in an intelligible fashion. You should do this more often.

Of course, as you know, I disagree with you. I am one of the seemingly rational babblers who taunt social democrats for calling themselves fiscally responsible because they have swallowed the C.D. Howe Institute propaganda about the evils of deficit financing.

The implication that “responsibility” in government is measured in large part by how well it balances its books has nothing to do with progressive ideology of any kind. The fact that the neo-cons, who originated the hue and cry over deficit financing as a way to justify cutting back on social services or privatizing them altogether, have themselves run deficits only proves that they are hypocrites.

Social democrats who aspire to showing the neo-cons how to follow their own advice more faithfully are grabbing the wrong end of the stick. The equation of [b]deficit = fiscal irresponsibility[/b] is the mantra of those who want smaller government, lower taxes, and PPPs; these are not traditionally high on the social democratic agenda.

The fact that the media holds special reverence for balanced budgets is no reason for the NDP to do so. The media also thinks the war in Afghanistan is a good idea – should the NDP go along with that one too?

Once you nail the fiscal-responsibility banner to your mast you limit the power and flexibility of the government to respond to the needs of the population and the vagaries of the economy. You blunt your own credibility when, as a government (it could happen) you are obliged to borrow money in order to meet a pressing social need. Worst of all, the critique of social policy tends to become reduced to a matter of bean-counting rather than focusing on the substance of the policies themselves.

Linda McQuaig exploded the myth of “fiscal responsibility” 13 years ago in her book [i]Shooting the Hippo: Death by Deficit and Other Canadian Myths[/i]. I just opened my copy at random and found this on page 39:

quote:

Perhaps, then, the public’s support for jobs over deficit reduction isn’t just the product of ignorance or short-sightedness. Perhaps it reflects the ability of ordinary people to see through the deficit rhetoric, and appreciate that their interests may be different from those who are so keenly proposing deficit reduction. Dalton Camp, a former top-level Conservative adviser who appears to have become cynical of elites since leaving politics, put it this way: “There is a growing suspicion in the land – among common folk – that much of this public keening about how much ‘they’ owe, and the clever inflation thereof, is meant to soften public opinion in advance of the assault being prepared against Canadian social policy.”

I commend this book to all who would climb aboard the “fiscal responsibility” bandwagon.

George Victor

quote:


George, first let me compliment you on actually being able to write in an intelligible fashion. You should do this more often.


First a compliment on my proper use of quotations and now my writing ability. I'm giddy with excitement.

I wish that I could be as complimentary about your reading abilities (or is it my writing again? [img]smile.gif" border="0[/img]

quote:

The implication that “responsibility” in government is measured in large part by how well it balances its books has nothing to do with progressive ideology of any kind. The fact that the neo-cons, who originated the hue and cry over deficit financing as a way to justify cutting back on social services or privatizing them altogether, have themselves run deficits only proves that they are hypocrites.


If you read it again, starting from the top, you'll see that they have not just wanted to justify cutting back or privatize, but that the deficits can make it even more difficult to escape their agenda (see Bush's 8-year agenda). This is the long-time fear of "the left" - at least, that element of the left that does not resort to texts that pre-date concern for the condusing factors of overpopulation and climate change.

-----------------------------------
quote

What I don’t understand is the tendency of seemingly rational people on this board to taunt social democrats who aren’t ready to surrender the concept of fiscally responsible government to the wingy right in this political atmosphere. No suggestions forthcoming on how to hold them at bay in the democratic process and in the face of corporate media bias. Just verbal taunts approximating a pathetic schoolroom atmosphere.

----------------------------------------------

And, of course, my second posting doesn't suggest that I subscribe to balanced budgets in the face of social need. Any suggestion otherwise is nonsense. Try and keep the argument in context...the neo-cons' grand design.

Love to hear updated versions of the old tracts that take current realities into account.

[ 28 October 2008: Message edited by: George Victor ]

thorin_bane

I am just tired of the left being tarred with the feathers of not being responsible with the books. While the right can destroy the fabric of canada.(oh great PM PM is talking about how great it is to not go into deficit because we live in a global market. Yes the great free market!)By destroying our social safety net the aforementioned paul martin was responsible for cuts to corporations to the tune of 100 billion dollars! All the while cutting support to the working class.

Business never picked up the difference as they insisted would happen either. Then you have the cons blowing more billions on warmaking(with liberal consent) and more tax cuts(again with liberal consent).Plus said con spending is never on anything built in Canada not even items we are world renown at making. All the while the EI bulges at 60 Billion and anyone that has lost their job because of the bad policy these two asshole parties have enacted still can't get access to what is in essence their own money.

EI wise it will again be one of those shock doctrine opportunities to privatize EI because all they needed was a bad recession(of their making nonetheless) to say "look obviously you would do a better job with YOUR money than the government" "We want to allow you to use YOUR MONEY to how you feel it would serve you best."
Again make government as useless and ineffective as possible to get rid of any regulation despite the banking/petro/auto bailouts. Remember government is only good if it benefits corporation and not the people who elect government.

My dad had a great suggestion the other day, but I had to let him down because NAFTA chapter 11 would again be used against us. Our paper suggested(opinions not the editorials) that if a product was produced in Canada no GST would apply, if in ontario PST would not apply. While a great idea to promote buying from ourselves. WTO would call it a trade tariff and NAFTA chapter 11 would seal it's doom. But a good suggestion anyways. The money lost form the gov coffers could be recovered from the hopefully well paying manufacturing jobs(and businesses) that would follow. The strange thing is many states do these kind of things. In hockey the candiens pay more taxes than almost all the american hockey teams, as their municipalities don't charge them any taxes to locate to their cities.
Edit for readability.

[ 28 October 2008: Message edited by: thorin_bane ]

jas

I agree with M Spector, and I also think genstrike's distinctions are useful. Obviously each party considers itself to be fiscally responsible. Obviously each party has its own version of what that means.

The concept of balanced budgets, likewise, is relative. What the left needs to continue working on is exposing the false ownership by the right over those terms, and redefining them in the Canadian context. Public ownership of public utilities. Public spending where it's needed by citizens and taxpayers, not by outside interests. Public revenues re-invested into social infrastructure. I think the Manitoba NDP, despite being accused of being indistinguishable from Liberals, has the right formula for today's political climate. They're obviously doing more than a few things right, because they're the ones in power. I hope it continues, despite naysayers from either side of the spectrum. It's better to work with what we've got than to constantly criticize things for what they aren't.

vaudree

Slaying a deficit by slashing funding to social programs is a bit like paying off your credit cards sooner without cutting back on your social life by moving in with mom and dad - and letting them pay for food and board and laundry and buy your clothes and make your car payments.

Tommy Douglas was left with a government almost in financial ruin by the previous Conservative administration and, not only turned it around, but did so in a way that improved the lives of regular families.

Roy Romanow was left with a government on the brink of bankruptcy by the previous Conservative administration.

Note that the Dion Liberals ran their campaign like the McGuinty Liberals in making all the financial promises of the Conservatives and half the financial promises of the NDP - and when there wasn't enough money for both (like Hamptom kept telling him during the debate), Dalton kept Eves promises.

At least the NDP promised that you would have something to show for your money.

Bookish Agrarian

My comment from another thread

Try paying your rent, mortgage or grocery bills without being fiscally responsible. All fiscal responsibility means is that you set a budget and you live within your means. That is most decidedly not neo-liberal, right wing or conservative, in fact as Flarhety has proven twice now, they do the opposite.

Sometimes things happen and you have to borrow money (a deficit) because the furnace gave out in February, or you are faced with a major recession, or what have you. Fiscal responsibility is not slashing tax income that would hamper your ability to deal with your needs. Equally being progressive does not mean creating debt that can't be paid responsibly without major slashes in spending or huge tax increases for average people to pay it off.

genstrike

quote:


Originally posted by jas:
[b]I think the Manitoba NDP, despite being accused of being indistinguishable from Liberals, has the right formula for today's political climate. They're obviously doing more than a few things right, because they're the ones in power. I hope it continues, despite naysayers from either side of the spectrum. It's better to work with what we've got than to constantly criticize things for what they aren't.[/b]

As a person from Manitoba (and I suppose a "naysayer" from the left), I have to question this a little bit. I think it comes down to whether we are talking about social change or winning elections. The Manitoba NDP has developed an almost foolproof method of winning elections, but not so much for achieving major or even minor social change. Personally, I think the social change is a much better way to judge them because it takes into account how people are affected. For most people, things like access to healthcare, education, poverty, war, women's rights, LGBT rights, etc. matter a lot more than which party is in power. If you think winning elections is the thing that matters most, the best New Democrat in Ontario is still Bob Rae.

I think we still need to work with what we have when possible, but never lose our critical edge, especially when "what we have" isn't getting the things we need done.

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

quote:


Originally posted by Bookish Agrarian:
[b]Try paying your rent, mortgage or grocery bills without being fiscally responsible. All fiscal responsibility means is that you set a budget and you live within your means. That is most decidedly not neo-liberal, right wing or conservative, in fact as Flarhety has proven twice now, they do the opposite.[/b]

On the contrary, this is exactly the same argument the neo-cons use to justify a "responsible" attitude to government spending, even if they don't walk the a talk.

And of course it's based on a complete fallacy - the analogy with a family living on a budget. If families never carried a deficit only the rich would own houses or automobiles or go to university.

George Victor

quote:


My comment from another thread
Try paying your rent, mortgage or grocery bills without being fiscally responsible. All fiscal responsibility means is that you set a budget and you live within your means. That is most decidedly not neo-liberal, right wing or conservative, in fact as Flarhety has proven twice now, they do the opposite.

Sometimes things happen and you have to borrow money (a deficit) because the furnace gave out in February, or you are faced with a major recession, or what have you. Fiscal responsibility is not slashing tax income that would hamper your ability to deal with your needs. Equally being progressive does not mean creating debt that can't be paid responsibly without major slashes in spending or huge tax increases for average people to pay it off.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------


I read that, BA, with real appreciation for the fact that it comes out of real world situations -the reality facing voters when they consider the political offerings out there, the appeals for their allegiance.

But is my writing still vague? Is my suggestion that the neo-cons have been trying to destroy all "state intervention" since Thatcher (except for military and some bureaucratic functions in aid of trade liberalization) paranoia on my part? Should it not be a consideration for foot soldiers and strategists alike, an unstated menace that must be fought in the (even if soiled) trenches of elections.

[ 28 October 2008: Message edited by: George Victor ]

Malcolm Malcolm's picture

quote:


Originally posted by vaudree:
[b]

Tommy Douglas was left with a government almost in financial ruin by the previous Conservative administration

[/b]


Gardiner and Petterson would be very concerned to be told they were Conservatives. In fact, the people that left saskatchewan awash in red ink for Douglas to clean up were Liberals.

There are times when borrowing (deficit budgeting) makes sense. However, in general, such borrowing should only go towards infrastructure investment. Further, it should be seen as a short term measure, in extremis.

The principle fault with deficit financing (excpet in limited circumstances) is that it constitutes a transfer of wealth from the general population to the wealthiest classes. There is nothing progressive about contributing to bank profits.

There is also a political cost to talking about deficits. Fair or not, the NDP has been tagged with the massive incompetence of that buffoon Bob Rae, and most Canadians wonder if we have the smarts to manage a lemondae stand. Open musing about deficit financing feeds into that suspicion because, in most of the country, we don't have the political capital to counter it.

George Victor

quote:


There is also a political cost to talking about deficits. Fair or not, the NDP has been tagged with the massive incompetence of that buffoon Bob Rae, and most Canadians wonder if we have the smarts to manage a lemondae stand. Open musing about deficit financing feeds into that suspicion because, in most of the country, we don't have the political capital to counter it.


If Saskatchewan and Manitoba did not have to rely on the Asper media their populations would know that New Democrats stand for fiscal responsibility.

But this thread began by suggesting that the new-cons have had it their way in gradually eliminating the nasty "state" from business life since Thatcher's time. And we need reminding that that agenda is ALWAYS on the mind of those ideologues, and that in the U.S.they have been allowed to carry it forward to the point of bankrupting a public and making it impossible to escape privatization of public agencies - as occurred in the U.K.

My point that that could not take place today over there in the face of the failure of privatization, must be kept afloat in a discussion that slides back into chatter about the merits of a social democratic balanced budget.

"Steve" doesn't give a tinker's damn about our agonizing. He went to the U.K. years ago, liked what he saw and returned to Canada determined to replicate it. Doug Saunders of the Globe reported this some days ago, and wondered at the PM's dogged determination in the face of global failure.

We must make sure, politically, that we don't present the bastard with an easy "tax and spend" target. (Rae didn't, by the way. You have been reading the Asper press.)

Doug

quote:


Originally posted by M. Spector:
[b]
And of course it's based on a complete fallacy - the analogy with a family living on a budget. If families never carried a deficit only the rich would own houses or automobiles or go to university.[/b]

Families can (and should) borrow to gain assets that are useful and that increase in value. They shouldn't borrow (at least not for an extended period) to get things that don't increase in value or that don't improve their ability to earn, especially the day-to-day expenses. It's similar for governments. Borrowing for something that will produce a return later is acceptable, borrowing for current operating expenses isn't so good.

The trouble for government is that a lot of public spending isn't clearly one or the other - it has both a consumption and a capital aspect. Education is a good example: staff salaries - consumption; the future value of what students learn enable them to do - capital. So trying to adhere to that principle will always be tricky, but I still think it's a good idea.

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

quote:


Originally posted by Doug:
[b]Families can (and should) borrow to gain assets that are useful and that increase in value. They shouldn't borrow (at least not for an extended period) to get things that don't increase in value or that don't improve their ability to earn, especially the day-to-day expenses. It's similar for governments. Borrowing for something that will produce a return later is acceptable, borrowing for current operating expenses isn't so good.[/b]

Again, this is the neo-con line: that government should be run like a business. Everything should be a profit centre; you only borrow money in order to make money.

None of this has any regard for the actual needs of the people in hard times. What you and the business world call "Current operating expenses" are actually funds that millions of people depend on in order to survive. Any government that would refuse to borrow to meet those expenses should be thrown out on its ear.

Fidel

quote:


Originally posted by M. Spector:
[b]

Linda McQuaig exploded the myth of “fiscal responsibility” 13 years ago in her book [i]Shooting the Hippo: Death by Deficit and Other Canadian Myths[/i]. I just opened my copy at random and found this on page 39: I commend this book to all who would climb aboard the “fiscal responsibility” bandwagon.[/b]


I've read Linda McQuaig's books, and she lambastes the Liberals quite often for the neoliberal agenda. They creamed the economy in the 90's in order to "balance the budget", and all other options for balancing federal budgets were basically ignored by the Liberals. AG Denis Desautels warned the Liberals several times that they were cooking federal accounting books in the process. Liberals began producing surpluses in 1998, and instead of plowing it back into social programs which they stole from with their terrible federal budget of 1995, they used it to pay for billions of dollars in tax cuts to rich friends of the party. There is a big difference between NDP fiscal responsibility and that of our old line party fiscal Frankensteins. Our Whigs and Tories are in a class by themselves when it comes to following neoliberal voodoo.

[ 29 October 2008: Message edited by: Fidel ]