The natives are restless. There's a powerful anger simmering among the masses echoing a great and persistent discontent. Like the motto of that TV show, "winter is coming."
Just for a lark I went through the post captions on ProgBlog going back several days. Not a lot of happy campers there. Even the banishment of Beelzebub no longer is enough to lift spirits. The Selfie Sprite's wings are beginning to falter.
It's not hard to understand. There aren't may rays of sunshine these days. Most things seem to be trending in the wrong direction.
Now we've got a finance minister, some guy named Morneau, telling the kids that their job security is going to be a lot like the Arctic sea ice - vanishing and then gone. "Sorry kids, but you're fucked. Thanks for playing." Then, like Pilate, he washes his hands of their plight.
The rise of Canada's "precariat" is a lot like the rise of inequality in that it's engineered, legislated. Nobel laureate economist, Joe Stiglitz, demonstrates that inequality is neither merit nor market-based. It's legislated. It's the inevitable side effect of government policy. not necessarily intended but not unforeseeable either. If you're not familiar with it, check out his woefully under read book, "The Price of Inequality."
Precarity is both hammer and anvil. Those who fall into it are crushed between the two scourges of employment insecurity and financial insecurity. They live paycheque to paycheque, a lot of them chasing two or more jobs to make ends meet.
Morneau's announcement is a capitulation, a brazen dereliction of duty. He didn't say, "This is a nightmare for our kids. We have to deal with this." No, the Trudeau government's response is a simple, "Sorry kids, you're fucked."
Which brings me back to Osawatomie, Kansas in the summer of 1910 when Roosevelt delivered his Square Deal speech. A good part of that speech dealt with the struggle between labour and capital. He observed that a good worker was an asset to the employer but, more importantly, an asset to his family, to his community and, ultimately, to his nation. The wellbeing of the worker was the foundation of democratic governance. The duty of a democratic government was to regulate the constant struggle between labour and capital in accordance with Lincoln's declaration that, of the two, labour must be "by far the superior" of capital.
It strikes me that doesn't sound anything like what came out of the mouth of that guy, Morneau. Just what kind of a country does he think we will have when this precariat becomes the new normal? Let's face facts. The name "Liberal" has no meaning. This is a government in the "movement conservative" model. Laissez-faire leaches, the whores of neoliberalism.
If this government doesn't make bile rise in your throat, consider these passages scavenged from this blog and beginning with a 2012 piece on remarks by Noam Chomsky:
"In 2005, Citigroup came out with a brochure for investors called “Plutonomy: Buying Luxury, Explaining Global Imbalances.” It urged investors to put money into a “plutonomy index.” The brochure says, “The World is dividing into two blocs -- the Plutonomy and the rest.”
"Plutonomy refers to the rich, those who buy luxury goods and so on, and that’s where the action is. They claimed that their plutonomy index was way outperforming the stock market. As for the rest, we set them adrift. We don’t really care about them. We don’t really need them. They have to be around to provide a powerful state, which will protect us and bail us out when we get into trouble, but other than that they essentially have no function. These days they’re sometimes called the “precariat” -- people who live a precarious existence at the periphery of society. Only it’s not the periphery anymore. It’s becoming a very substantial part of society in the United States and indeed elsewhere. And this is considered a good thing.
"So, for example, Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan, at the time when he was still “Saint Alan” -- hailed by the economics profession as one of the greatest economists of all time (this was before the crash for which he was substantially responsible) -- was testifying to Congress in the Clinton years, and he explained the wonders of the great economy that he was supervising. He said a lot of its success was based substantially on what he called “growing worker insecurity.” If working people are insecure, if they’re part of the precariat, living precarious existences, they’re not going to make demands, they’re not going to try to get better wages, they won’t get improved benefits. We can kick ’em out, if we don’t need ’em. And that’s what’s called a “healthy” economy, technically speaking. And he was highly praised for this, greatly admired."
"As for the rest, we set them adrift." That sounds exactly like what Morneau was saying. And notice what Chomsky was divining from Greenspan's remarks? Capital has now learned how powerfully it can monetize precarity. Not forever perhaps, but for long enough. You can read the complete Chomsky piece here.
In June, 2015, Brian Stewart did a piece on a UN report on the rise of the global precariat.
Another scary fact the study unearths is how many people these days have stable work contracts of any kind. That's barely one in four of the globe's workforce.
The overwhelming majority of people on the planet struggle with temporary work, informal or illegal jobs, long spells of unemployment and unpaid family work.
In other words, most are caught in a disadvantageous spiral where exploitation is a real risk.
Global financial officials are worried to the point they've again started using the term "hysteresis," borrowed from physics, to warn that long-established unemployment is becoming "structural" and therefore harder to correct, as the jobless lose skills and companies grow addicted to cheaper, temporary labour.
"The GDP per capita keeps going up. The problem is that we're not sharing the wealth at all equitably," says Wayne Lewchuk of McMaster University who researches precarious employment. "In many ways we've gone back to a 1920s mentality."
The Twenties did not have an encouraging outcome, as we know.
Still, looking at these striking global trends in joblessness and precarious work, as well as at the soaring refugee numbers and widening inequality, it's difficult to get around the nagging feeling that this century's forward movement has stalled and is on slippery ground.
The critical point is that, as Morneau throws our kids to the unregulated wolves of the market place and into the precariat, this has knock-on effects of an even greater magnitude. You throw in the towel, as this Liberal government has so shamefully done, and this malignancy becomes truly structural, an integral part of your economy. As that happens, it is accompanied by a structural shift in governance, the gradual and quiet end of democracy making way for the inevitable rise of plutocracy.
Morneau is signalling Trudeau's refusal to defend Canada's democracy and the wellbeing of our society. Plain and simple. I'll end with a few remarks I wrote just before our 2015 election:
If you want to get up off those tracks, you had better do it soon. What do you really know about the Trans-Pacific Partnership, TPP? Personally I don't know that much about it but I know someone who does, Nobel laureate economist Joseph Stiglitz, and he's written a dandy warning for all of us in The New York Times.
Read his warning. Then read his book, "The Price of Inequality." Learn what we're up against, what awaits us and our kids, and who is really responsible for making servitude our reality. Then, when you've had your fill, go to your stooge of choice - Tommy Boy or Junior - and ask them how they're going to undo this national headache before it becomes a full blown and permanent migraine.
If they won't act, don't vote for them. If you do, don't complain about what you've got coming.