Do you think your society can function without quality infrastructure - proper roads, a modern rail system, a state of the art electricity grid, schools, hospitals, airports and so on? If you do, you've probably never visited a truly backward country, the sort where electricity is available sporadically, where the roads are as much pothole as pavement, and where already short supplies of safe freshwater bubble to the surface from broken mains to run in streams down to sewers. That's the sort of world you get without adequate infrastructure. I have seen these places and marvelled at their ruin.
That's what made me so damned mad at Steve Harper and his junior partner, Mike Ignatieff, when they joined together in 2009 to foist on our country and our people what was perhaps the worst stimulus/recovery budget imaginable. It was a haphazard, thoughtless, on the fly fiasco. Sure it pumped money into the economy, billions of dollars borrowed by Ottawa on our behalf and pledged to the credit of taxpayers both existing and to come. But it was money squandered when what we needed was money invested.
The billions those two chumps dumped onto the street were akin to dollars thrown into the air above an expectant crowd. Some got a lot, some got a bit and an awful lot of people got nothing. But we made sure that each of them got something - an IOU for all that money plus interest that everyone of them is going to have to repay through their taxes.
And what did we expect them to do with that money? For many it was home improvements - new windows, a bit of landscaping, a water heater or a furnace. There was also the new deck for the cottage, a new dock perhaps. But if you didn't own a home or a cottage or even if you did but didn't have the up front cash to fund the renos, well you were probably out of luck. The race, after all, goes to the richest, no?
And now that all that money is gone, pumped into the economy, when will all those new decks and docks start paying dividends back into the federal treasury? What sort of revenue stream can we project for them over the next ten, twenty, forty years? I suppose I don't need to answer that. When you squander your paycheque in a bar you usually don't have much left over to show for it except, perhaps, the hangover.
But what if the federal fund factory, the parliamentary pig pen, had decided not to chip in for Fred's new deck but to spend that money itself? What if they had decided to do something with that money that would benefit all Canadians in all regions? What if they decided to invest that money into things that would pay dividends for decades to come when the bill for all that spending came due?
Isn't there something in the Bible about three guys and some easy cash, the "Parable of the Talents"? Hey, wait a second! Why don't we ask Steve? He's really into that Bible stuff isn't he? I guess it's been a while since he read Matthew 25:14-30 or maybe that smug slacker dozed off when they went through that parable.
"...throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness,
where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth"
Gee Steve and Mike, I think that "worthless servant" business fits both of you like a glove (but especially you Steve because you're supposed to know better). We're the master, you took our money borrowed by pledging our credit, and, instead of investing it, you pissed it all away. Unlike the worthless servant in the Bible, you didn't even bury it in the ground for safekeeping. You just squandered it. Weeping and gnashing of teeth in the darkness somehow doesn't seem quite enough for your kind - but it's a good start.
No, we need a change of servants, sooner rather than later. We still need government stimulus spending and, if what's looming on the horizon in California, Illinois, Arizona and Washington plus most of Europe is any indication, we're in for a bumpy ride for years to come. We're all going to take a kicking but I figure that the countries that come through this the best will be those who used the opportunity of the global doldrums to reinvest in their infrastructure, to position their nations to be capable of landing on their feet when that opportunity returns.