Neo-liberalism and the ongoing economic assault on ordinary Canadians

January 31st, 2012

Published on rabble.ca, by Murray Dobbin, January 30, 2012.

Two recent stories out of Ottawa underline the ongoing political and economic assault on ordinary Canadians. More Canadians are now working for low wages than at any time in decades, continuing a trend that began in the early 1990s, and Stephen Harper has announced major changes to retirement benefits – including delaying Old Age Security(OAS) eligibility to age 67. What kind of society beggars those of its citizens who worked all their lives and now want to retire in dignity while privileging the rich and super-rich by slashing their income taxes and allowing them to transfer their wealth to their children untouched? … //  

… There is a solution to this ideological insanity, but don’t hold your breath for any Canadian government, federal or provincial, to implement it any time soon. If private capital refuses to invest because its policy preferences have snuffed out demand then governments must do two things. First, they must reverse labour flexibility policies and return the social safety net to at least its previous state. This goes beyond providing dignity for ordinary Canadians. For tens of thousands of small and medium businesses it actually means more money being spent in their stores.

Secondly, if the private sector refuses to invest the money they have accumulated (with the help of government policies) then this is the time to massively increase public investment. This cannot simply be temporary stimulus but a permanent policy shift back towards a coherent and creative – and high wage – industrial policy that directs the economy rather than assuming allocation of capital can only be done by the market.

Public investment must also bring back some dignity to working people in the form of child care, home care, pharmacare and accessible post-secondary education — all measures that would also enhance the economy.

Public investment could also begin address the crisis of over-production by gradually exploring a long-term de-growth strategy (including a different kind of growth) which addresses climate change and the rapid depletion of resources that scientists tell us is threatening the planet. Only by radically reducing the role of private capital can such an outcome even be imagined. (full long text).

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