David Cameron is adding his voice to the chorus warning that we're nearing the brink of another global economic meltdown. The British prime minister, whose failed austerity programmes have done so much to bring Britain low, penned a lament for The Guardian following the G20 summit.
Cameron generously pats himself on the back and proclaims that what Britain needs now is more Cameron than ever.
As I met world leaders at the G20 in Brisbane, the problems were plain to see. The eurozone is teetering on the brink of a possible third recession, with high unemployment, falling growth and the real risk of falling prices too. Emerging markets, which were the driver of growth in the early stages of the recovery, are now slowing down. Despite the progress in Bali, global trade talks have stalled while the epidemic of Ebola, conflict in the Middle East and Russia’s illegal actions in Ukraine are all adding a dangerous backdrop of instability and uncertainty.
Cameron's op-ed is blatant electioneering. That said, what if he and all the other voices are right? What if we are heading for another global economic collapse? What if?
A bit of risk assessment would seem in order. Remember Harper's completely disingenuous excuse about how "no one could see it coming" to explain his inability to see the Great Recession of 2008 until it had already overwhelmed us? Harper, being a chronic lying shitsack, was of course wrong. Plenty saw it coming. People like Krugman ("The Great Unraveling", 2005), Stiglitz and Nouriel Roubini saw it coming but Harper likes his economics at the undergrad level where ideology reigns unchallenged.
So what is Harper doing to ensure that he 'sees it coming' this time around? What is he doing to position Canada to meet another seismic hit to the economy? Apparently nothing. His focus is on persuading Canadian voters that he's balanced the budget and set Canada on a path to perpetual budget surpluses forever and ever, amen. Harper wants his base to believe that you can cut taxes, defund government and yet magically leave the country economically robust enough to weather whatever the future throws at us. That's the sort of thing that appeals to the stupid, the gullible or those with 'faith based' minds adept at magical thinking.
Canada got through 2008 relatively unscathed but it was thanks to the prudent fiscal policies of previous Liberal governments who handed Harper a government in surplus and a hefty 'rainy day' cash reserve. Harper immediately set out to defund the government, slashing the GST, and setting Canada's banking industry on the path to emulating America's madness. Fortunately the Great Recession arrived before Harper could leave us totally exposed - as he has this time.
Harper not only failed to foresee the Great Recession and prepare Canada to meet it, he absolutely bungled the recovery. Iggy's Liberals also did their full share to fail Canada. Remember Steve & Mike's "Pinata Budget"? By December, 2010, then parliamentary budget officer, Kevin Page, delivered a damning assessment, concluding that the Conservative/Liberal budget had utterly failed to produce the jobs that sort of stimulus spending could have created.
I have never forgiven the Liberals for Ignatieff. When the recession sent Canada reeling and Harper had to prorogue Parliament, Ignatieff did nothing to answer the country's call. Instead he treated the extended Christmas break as an opportunity to finish a book on his maternal family's history. If he wasn't such a goddamned dilettante, Iggy could have forged a shadow, stimulus budget proposal and then pounced on Harper, forcing Harper to either adopt the Liberal budget or face the voters with their competing visions. Instead Ignatieff returned empty handed save for an obscure book no one could be bothered to read.
Would Trudeau the Lesser do any better than Iggy if Canada was, yet again, caught by surprise by another global recession? Or would he place the country in the same mess as his party did in 2008/2009? A big part of the answer is whether the Liberal Party remains lashed to the lunatic ideology of neoliberalism that is wracking the world economy again. Because the past six years have taught us that the responses to these calamitous meltdowns will not be found in any neoliberal playbook.