Monday, November 17, 2014

Will We Get It Right This Time? Do We Dare Get It Wrong?

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. 


Hugh said...

Governments seem to be hoping for economic growth going forward. The debt-saturated economy demands infinite growth. There is no more growth.

The Mound of Sound said...

That was certainly the message from the G20 summit, Hugh. The leading economies that drive the global economy are locked into the notion of perpetual, exponential growth.

The essence of any addiction is dependency. We are already dependent - utterly dependent - on consuming the planet's resources at 1.5 times their replenishment rate. We're pumping and mining and clear cutting and bottom trawling the planet's reserves to make good our unsustainable shortfall. That overage is increasing annually. Yet that is the spine of 21st century capitalism. Ignore the inconsistencies, disregard the contradictions, distract your attention from the warning lights. That is the thinking pattern of every addict, every Skid Row junkie.

Anonymous said...

In 2007/2008 the worl fundementally change, nver to go back.
We have run out of credit.
Time to talk of making do with less.

Scotian said...

I've never disagreed with you regarding Ignatief, the only thing I could ever say in his favour was that he was far better than Harper, not exactly a high threshold there. I can understand your issue with the Libs over that entire exercise in idiocy known as the Ignatief project. I think though Trudeau is something quite different, and one advantage of his coming in the way he did and running the leadership campaign he did was that he owes far less favours to the traditional old guard and old thinking. Now, whether he will be able to follow through on all this presuming he becomes PM only time can tell, but I do think that comparing him and the respective Lib party of Ignatief and Trudeau is not just apples and oranges but apples and prunes.

To your wider point about a possible economic collapse occurring globally soon, if it does we will see just how flawed the Harper economy and fiscal realities truly are. It will not be pretty.

I honestly blame Ignatief just somewhat less than I do Layton for enabling the rise and dominance of Harper to power over the past 8 years. The way he came into the Lib party expecting to just walk into the leadership and the divisions he created doing so, and then worse continued to fight for under Dion causing Dion to have to fight his own party as well as the other parties (and even then Dion was holding his own until Mike Duffy changed the game in that last week) made matters worse. But the truly insulting thing was when he finally got what he wanted while the worst economic negative event in decades happens he utterly fails to take any political advantage of it by presenting an alternative to the Harper approach but goes off to finish writing a book?!? That right there showed why he was never a good fit for the job, and the only excuse for supporting him last time out was that he was not Harper.

I understand why you walked away from the Libs after that, and why May appeals to you so, and I do not disagree with you on your substance regarding neoliberalism and such, but I cannot at this time do anything but go for what I see as the most likely way to remove Harper from the PMO, and that is Trudeau and the Libs. This time more than any since the fall of Martin the Libs are clearly poised to do so, and for me that has to be job one, for it is impossible to start fixing the damage until we can first see it, and I truly believe that what we can see is like the tip of an iceberg to what is actually under the cone of secrecy that is the Harper regime.

Ben Burd said...

for what I see as the most likely way to remove Harper from the PMO, and that is Trudeau and the Libs.

And how much Harperlaw is he going to repeal. Very little I suspect so then all we have done is change faces!!!

Anonymous said...

Name calling & idealism will get us nowhere.
Both right & left wing politics rely upon GROWTH to finance their supporters.
Until we can decide to do with LESS we are doomed.

Scotian said...

Ben Burd:

I suspect there will be more just cosmetic changes, so it remains to be seen which on of our "suspicions" is correct. Just by watching how Trudeau is building up a team to run a real cabinet based government gives me more than a little hope on that front. The days of Lib Tory same old story went the way of the dodo when Harper created the CPC.

Will it be as much a change as hard core progressives want, I rather doubt it, but then most Canadians are no more hard core progressives than they are conservatives, we really are a fairly middle of the road mushy centrist population despite what the last decade has been like, and to not recognize that has always been a major reason for the frustration of Dippers.

Calling it a change of faces I find risks being a bit disingenuous, I do see more substantive difference than that between the two parties, let alone the styles and beliefs of the two leaders. So I think I'll stick with my original POV thank you, because my first concern is getting rid of Harper and the damage he is doing, my second is finally being able to see what the REAL damage is, and then trying to figure out how to start fixing all that damage. Keep in mind how much Harper has focused on being the anti-Liberal and destroying all they created, you think they once back in power would just leave all that alone? That is another reason why I think your "suspicion" is questionable in the end.

Purple library guy said...

Scotian, it doesn't really matter whether one sees what Canadians are (inherently?) like. Canadians can be wrong. If you have a different perception of the truth, in politics it is your duty to try to persuade them of reality. While there is room for styles of persuasion that are incremental and not antagonistic, if your position is far from the current beliefs of the average citizen there's only so much you can do without moving into the territory of outright deceit. Implicitly your comment suggests that's the territory Dippers should be inhabiting.

Basically, the major reason for the frustration of the Dippers is that Canadians have mistaken ideas about many things. Attempts to pretend they don't know different, or worse yet jettison factual knowledge and actually make themselves believe they see some of the Emperor's invisible clothes, have been worse problems for the NDP than frustration.

As to who's the best chance of getting rid of Harper, if the polls are remotely to be believed we don't actually need to worry about vote-splitting or whatnot. They can both get rid of Harper just fine; at current support levels even if the non-Conservative vote split precisely evenly the Cons wouldn't be in government next time.

Scotian said...


Ah, the perennial Dipper argument, Canadians/voters can be wrong to explain why they consistently fail at the federal level, as opposed to accepting the reality of the Canadian voting demographic as defined by actual voting results over decades now.

BTW, I just double checked and neither of my comments had anything to do with the NDP, except for one sentence about how I blamed Ignatief slightly less than Layton for the rise of Harper, yet you take me to task for something I do not see your basis for claiming in this thread. I find that confusing (I am not saying what you said doesn't necessarily apply to things I've said elsewhere, but here, not so much).

I will though note that under Mulcair in particular the operational style of the NDP has increasingly become similar to the Harper mode, the way the NDP has acted during this harassment issue has been an unfortunate example of this in action. The ratcheting up of the partisanship, the outing of the MPs and the party involved all came from the Dipper side, the outing to Trudeau of the second NDP MP who clearly did not want this going anywhere (as opposed to the one who went to Trudeau, there is no way in the real world that can be taken as anything other than a formal complaint, he is not just an MP, he is the leader of the party against whom she is making serious allegations against two of his MPs, as said leader he has a moral and legal duty to protect his party by acting as much as he has any moral duty to the victims, and Mulcair damn well knows that as well as anyone despite his holier than thou act on this file) by the first NDP MP being lost in the Dipper outrage machine. Why isn't she taking any flak for outing her fellow victim against her will, hmmmm?

Such conduct does not help the perception of the NDP as being more and more about nothing but politics first, which has been an increasing problem since the rise of Layton. As to your problem about the misperception of Canadians, welcome to politics, a world that has ALWAYS been at least as much about perception as reality/fact/truth, I've never been all that happy about it either, but I accept reality as it is, not as I would have it be, and that goes back to the point about the Dippers not grasping the reality of the electorate instead continuously arguing that they represent the real majority/plurality, when the truth is they don't.

As to your final claim about the polls showing both sides can equally get rid of Harper, well, judging by the results in pretty much every byelection since the election of Trudeau to the Lib leadership it appears the anti-Harper vote is coalescing around Trudeau and the Libs, not the NDP so ironically enough your argument about reality and perception brings your own perception into question. As to your other claim about the even split, again, not so sure that is true if the split is even between the two sides (which the polls clearly do not show happening nor have for a long time now), you could be correct, or you could be enabling another Harper majority, that kind of risk is too high to take.

Remember PLG Lib Tory same old story was true with Lib/PCPC, not Lib/CPC, and the "perception" among Dippers that claim it is true shows just how wrong Canadian Dippers can and are.