Right and Far Right "experts" disguise the true state of the Canadian economy, suggesting the "fix" needed is an attack on the people and support only for the wealthy banks and industrialists. C.D. Howe Institute president William Robson uses "Right Speak" to make their case.
Capitalist Rant and Denial: The C.D. Howe Institute
Press and media are full of “expert” comment – from spokespeople of the Right and the Far Right. The absence of anyone left of centre in the press is so total, it is unnoticed by many. Panels of “experts” on the media, however, boldly employ Liberals and New Democrats – sometimes. Nevertheless, no serious critic of Capitalism is allowed space or time. Those who believe Capitalism has failed and must be replaced (and there are many) are – for the press and media – nonexistent.
Canadians are buried in an avalanche of falsehood, hokey analysis, and misrepresentation presented by “experts” on the Right.
It is as if the recent deaths of eight snowmobilers in Sparwood, B.C. should be considered part of a successful outing because three of the eleven men who set out returned alive. In the hands of William Robson, President, the C.D. Howe Institute, that would most likely be how the Sparwood story would be told.
It would be told with “Right Speak” - a way of writing out the most important aspects of a matter as if they don’t exist. That’s what Stephen Harper did in the middle of the Stock Market crash when – to avoid talking about the economic emergency – he casually suggested it was a good time to buy stocks.
Right Speak avoids the idea of fairness at all costs and without speaking plainly (in fact, taking care not to do so) it suggests all support, all assistance, all favourable treatment should be directed to one group – the wealthy of the banks and industry.
William Robson is a Stephen Harper clone, except being in a (still) democratic Parliament, Harper had his idiot economics (if only temporarily) squashed under the heel of the parliamentary majority. No such luck with William Robson. His rant and denial go unchecked. (Globe and Mail, Dec 30 08 A11)
What are the objects of Robson’s attack? Payments to the unemployed whose huge savings in Employment Insurance funds have been filched by government. Let the unemployed starve.
He attacks Japan’s “massive infrastructure programs” after the crash there in the 1990s. None of the Right will grant what a Japanese expert has reported: the Japanese strategy kept wages being paid, employment levels up, and a relatively contented population. But who cares about that? For CEOs didn’t get multi-million dollar bonuses. The Japanese program, for Robson, failed.
And – of course – Robson attacks the Straw Man he creates and calls John Maynard Keynes. To begin, if something like the plan Keynes put forward in 1944-45 for an international bank and world trade had been created, the crash we are living in would very likely never have happened. But the people William Robson approves of, mostly in the U.S.A., put their boots through the Keynes plan so that the U.S. could dominate and, incidentally, create the mess we are in.
So what does a far-Right William Robson capitalist write about the present situation? He writes nonsense. Pure nonsense.
He employs the loaded Right Speak “if”. If people believe government expenditures will hurt them, they will refuse to spend. If…if…if. Then he reports that the U.S. (Franklin Roosevelt’s) government spent more in the 1930s than in 1929 before the Crash, without significant effect. So? Using Right Speak to hide his huge contradiction, he tells us that what broke the log-jam was “the imperative of war finance”. That’s a great phrase – to hide meaning behind.
What, in fact, was “the imperative of war finance”? It was government spending on a scale never tried in the 1930s. It was, quite simply, the U.S. pumping enormous amounts into infrastructure, industry, and armaments. It was what we might call “economic stimulus” – which William Robson is dead against.
I remember sitting on a B.C. coastal wharf with two recent Canadian war veterans in 1950. “You go to university”, one of them said. “Explain this to us. On August 15, 1939, we couldn’t get a job anywhere, not for fifty cents a day. We had shabby clothes, and little to eat. No hope. Then on September 15, 1939,” a month later,” he went on, “we were hired at thirty dollars a month, given new clothes, and free room and board, all of us. Now”, he said, “how come we couldn’t get those things on August 15, 1939? Only after war was declared all those things became immediately available. How could that happen? You go to university. You answer that?”
What the Roosevelt government tried in the Depression and what “the imperative of war finance” effected William Robson calls “manic government spending … more red ink”. Is it manic to renew highways, to expand rail services, to develop ports, to construct decent low income housing, to build third level industries that manufacture Canadian raw materials instead of shipping them out raw, to train medical personnel and develop health care facilities?
Robson starts out with The Reactionary Myth (shared by Stephen Harper). To look after people is wasted welfare. He continues with the Parrot-call of the Right: government spending and participation in the economy, he writes, “will stifle innovation and promising industries of tomorrow.” Is there proof for that allegation? None whatever. Not a shred. In fact the opposite is true.
After the end on the Second World War, there existed highly successful industries created by Canadian government that arose out of innovative ideas and entrepreneurship. They weren’t created by private “free” enterprise. Private corporations, however, lusted after them, and, in time, government allowed them to take over the people-owned industries. In fact, government ownership in the economy increased innovation.
What is needed right now, for instance, is a federal/provincial pharmaceuticals industry – a way of lowering medical costs, opening innovation, and pouring money into governments’ general revenues. Many wholly private, shameless industries in operation now desperately need competition from people-owned operations.
The key strategy of Right Speak is the care it takes never to admit that the people are part of the significant economy. Where the people are mentioned, they exist as a labour problem to be cut down to size, or wasters of government revenue through pensions and employment insurance, or people unwilling to deliver their savings into the hands of William Robson and his friends (to invest as they have so successfully done recently). Right Speak, through Robson, urges policy “that evenhandedly rewards work, investment, and innovation” (meaning “that rewards the Capitalist Class” for dragging the country and the world into economic chaos.)
As a Stephen Harper clone, William Robson does a marvelous sleight-of-hand trick when he deals directly (?) with the present Crash (using, of course, Right Speak). Look, he says, at Canada now. Look how from 1992 to 2007 Canada paid off debt (partly by stealing Unemployment Insurance funds) and “with accommodative monetary policy” [meaning removal of regulation and removal of oversight from the activities of the economic crooks] the Gross Domestic Product expanded wonderfully. And then?
And then William Robson stops. No mention of dirty money. No mention of stolen EI funds. No mention of mortgage madness. No mention of stock market and private corporate greed gone mad. No mention of what ended the marvelous “expansion”. Robson just stops.
Well, what happened Willliam? His only bridge to his next argument is that the “abrupt end of that boom has prompted a desperate search for fixes”. He doesn’t say why the boom ended or why “fixes” are needed. Strange.
But he has a “fix” – we might call it the Robson Fix. It goes like this. Do nothing by government. Do nothing for the people. Think nothing of the structure of the larger economy and necessary infrastructure. Instead, let Canada’s Central Bank (the Bank of Canada) make money available to the people who got us into this mess. Pay them “evenhandedly”, the people who have brought chaos down on Canadians and their economic system, give them the money they want and everything will be fine.
Then CEOs of rotten private corporations can then pay themselves multi-millions in annual bonuses. What could be better? Doing that will make a grand boom and – guess what? It will make an even worse bust to follow.
Maybe that’s what will have to happen. Maybe we have to have a few more busts. Maybe the very worst will happen in 2009-10, worse than anyone expects (if so that will be “normal”). Then, maybe, the Rant of the Right and its flow of Denial will be erased as a whole new politics is created that knows what Capitalism is and pushes it (manacled) into a small, dark, distant corner (beside William Robson and the C. D. Howe Institute).