What nobody is talking about

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Doug
What nobody is talking about

Some good points from Jeffrey Simpson about issues that are coming up but which no political party really wants to talk about for fear of having to make some sort of decision that might turn voters off. He gives a list of them including the impact of an aging population, the future of health care, the lack of an energy policy, what foreign policy looks like if it's not just me-tooing the Americans, productivity/competitiveness, immigration policy, and the lack of progress on aboriginal issues.

 

There has to be others too - I'd suggest racism. While just about everyone in politics is willing to condemn blatant acts of racism everyone is much less willing and/or able to discuss the existence and results of the more systemic kind of racism that sees black and aboriginal kids do more poorly than others.

 

I'd have to say this one is the big thing-we-don't-want-to-touch specifically on the left:

These include words such as “productivity” and “competitiveness” that countries such as Sweden and Finland and Denmark worry about and act upon all the time, as opposed to Canada, where the mere mention of the words, let alone what might be done about them, strikes fear and terror into political hearts.

 

George Victor

I would hope, Doug, that the question of climate change will at some point drive us to consider our economic future in terms of that battle, rather than trying to play catch-up to someone else.  That's a broken reed, surely? And it's one that the Cons can't sidestep forever. It is the glaring contradictiion in their economic platform...and one that we "on the left" strangely continue to ignore at moments like this. 

Henry Simpson is writing for a journal important to business people, and so has placed "political hearts" at the head of the line of hearts being struck by "fear and terror." We are not supposed to search for state-initiated  solutions to questions of economy and environment at the same time...certainly not at a time when Steve is extirpating the last traces of state-tainted economic activity.

Sean in Ottawa

Simpson is right. There are many topics we won't discuss-- as I said in an other thread part of this is the lack of confidence of the opposition. Simpson may want to discuss these issues because he is right wing -- I have already heard what he wants to say about healthcare. But the problem is if everyone leaves the field we stagnate and if we leave the field to people like Simpson, we already know where they will take us.

On the question of the need to discuss those things I have to agree with him even if I cannot agree with the line of discussion he would presume to follow.

Jacob Richter

Doug wrote:
I'd have to say this one is the big thing-we-don't-want-to-touch specifically on the left:

These include words such as “productivity” and “competitiveness” that countries such as Sweden and Finland and Denmark worry about and act upon all the time, as opposed to Canada, where the mere mention of the words, let alone what might be done about them, strikes fear and terror into political hearts.

While he's a right-wing hack, I acknowledge there are economic issues from a worker's standpoint that aren't being addressed.  I have discussed full employment and cooperative approaches on this board in the recent past, to name a couple of those issues.

George Victor

Of course those issues must be faced. Henry states the truth. 

But, chaps, if we see it just as some competitive race, not an invitation for structural change involving the state, what do you think Steve will propose, except the winning formula that goes back to Ronnie Raygun?  And how are you going to counter it as persons of the left?  Tax the corporation? Anything else that might overcome the problem of competition and the mounting parallel fiscal problems of today (which make up much of Henry's list, how to pay for thins)  let alone the future?

Doug underlined productivity and competitiveness. In the past, that has meant calls for improved educational opportunity and bigtime R& D. and lower taxes to spur innovation. Seen any of that lately in the Great Unread's slavish pursuit of lower taxes? Its continuing pursuit of lower taxes? That's not ot just "some sort of decision that might turn voters off." Everything turns them off, if they have to pay for it.

Where did Henry put forward solutions himself that would not turn off a dumbed down citizenry that see themselves only as "consumers and taxpayers"? 

N.Beltov N.Beltov's picture

The big issue for the left in regard to productivity/competitiveness is that for around 4 decades now, productivity of workers has gone up but the share of income of workers has gone down. More productive, less relative income. That's from data from the USA (I'm presuming that Canada is much the same). The rich are getting richer and class divides are widening. And this during a period when working people have been under unrelenting attack from corporations and their yes-men in government.

Edited to add: the editors over at Monthly Review have provided reams of evidence to substantiate this claim but perhaps, for those interested, more recent data might be more instructive ...

Rick Wolff wrote:
For their harder, faster, and thus 6.4 per cent more productive labor, those still employed saw their money wages rise by only 0.2 percent from the first to the second quarter of 2009. When the BLS took into account the rising prices workers had to pay, their real wages (the goods and services they could actually buy) fell by 1.1 per cent. Taken together, these numbers show that employers got a huge increase in output from each employee, while what they paid to their employees imposed on them a decrease in the goods and services they could afford.

The whole article can be found over here: The Reality Behind Economic Recovery.

It took a while, but following the 1929 capitalist stock market crash and subsequent economic depression, large social movements developed in opposition to the social atrocities of the day. From those movements we gained, in the "developed" countries, many of the social policies that the right and their ideological henchmen have been so enthusiasically attacking the last few decades (under the umbrella of neo-liberalism).

Such movements will develop but they will need all the help they can get. And those who preach surrender, or idolatry of those ideologies that brought us to the current impasse,  can drop dead. Once those movements develop such people will become irrelevant.

Fidel

Doug wrote:
I'd have to say this one is the big thing-we-don't-want-to-touch specifically on the left:

These include words such as “productivity” and “competitiveness” that countries such as Sweden and Finland and Denmark worry about and act upon ...

I've mentioned it about a quadrillion times. The NDP demands more investment in people, education, r&d and infrastructure. Spending on R&d by private sector sources in Canada is abysmal compared to real countries. And social democrats in Nordic countries have stressed importance of r&d spending and social spending for many years. Most developed countries' standard of living depends on productivity and new innovation. Canada exports a lot of fossil fuels and energy, timber, mineral wealth etc. Since 2005 our economy reverted back to hewer and drawer status.  

N.Beltov N.Beltov's picture

In your rush to emulate the Nordic countries I do hope that you stop long enough to notice where the gains from productivity are actually going. We don't live in a homogenous society in which the fairy tale of "a rising tide lifts all boats" is actually true.

Sven Sven's picture

N.Beltov wrote:

Rick Wolff wrote:
For their harder, faster, and thus 6.4 per cent more productive labor...

I'm not so sure that (i.e., "harder, faster" work) is the primary driver of increased productivity.  Technology (and the practical, labor-saving tools it provides for workers) is the primary driver of increased labor productivity.

N.Beltov N.Beltov's picture

Aside from the issue of "to whom do the benefits go?" (which is what I was drawing Fidel's attention to) there's a whole list, right?

 

- increasing the length of the working day

-increasing the intensity of the work (say, by giving the same amount of work to fewer workers)

 

Marx called these increases in the absolute and relative surplus-value in his magnum opus (Capital - vol 1).There's a great deal in that book on this subject.

It is also critical to point out what sort of technological change is being introduced. When the aim of the introduction of new technology is, mainly, to displace workers and replace them by machines, then it's somewhat misleading to describe current tech change as "labour-saving tools" and such. The "labour saving" going on is the ability of the employer to save himself having to pay the "labourers", who are ever fewer in number for ever rising levels of productivity.

But perhaps you knew that.

Edited to add: It's certainly true that capitalism as a socio-economic system has been characterized by endless revolutionizing the means of production, tech change if you like, connected with producing ever cheaper products with which to dominate the markets and generate profits and accumulate more capital. One could even say that that is what capitalism is about. Read your Marx, especially volume 1, and you might be surprised by the author's rather keen observations on this subject.

Doug

Quote:
The NDP demands more investment in people, education, r&d and infrastructure. Spending on R&d by private sector sources in Canada is abysmal compared to real countries. And social democrats in Nordic countries have stressed importance of r&d spending and social spending for many years.

 

How often does anyone representing the NDP talk about that in a coherent way? I can't recall it happening any time recently. Possibly it gets ignored by the media but then that's an obstacle to be overcome.

N.Beltov N.Beltov's picture

That subject is related to the historic "branch plant" characteristic of Canadian corporate structure. They do the R & D in the country where the head office is.

But this also reflects a willingness of federal regimes in Canada, both Tory and Liberal, to go along with some version of "relative advantage" or some such economic gobble-de-gook, as a justification for what Fidel called our status as "hewers of wood and drawers of water".

One way the NDP could talk coherently about this subject is to rediscover all kinds of lost futures of industries that do not, but might have, exist in Canada today. And to talk about industries that can be publicly developed - whcih would require putting fresh content into the idea of public ownership and rescuing the concept from the oblivion to which it's been sent.

 

Fidel

[url=http://thetyee.ca/Opinion/2009/12/28/NoCorporateInvesting/]Canada's Corporations Aren't Investing in You[/url] And we should stop paying them to salt away profits in offshore investments and jobs elsewhere

 

Mel Hurtig says the reason Canada doesn't sink out of sight on charts listing countries by r&d spending is because of public/government funding invested in same. R&D investments in r&d are way down. And as N.Beltov mentions above, what incentive to our absentee foreign-based corporate landlords have for investing in Canada? More than half of our manufacturing sector is majority foreign-owned and controlled and mostly by Americans. No other rich country has allowed a third as much foreign ownership in its manufacturing sector, which is still considered a vital part of every rich country's economy. Manufacturing will continue on and hopefully with greener production technologies becoming the way. Canada has all kinds of energy and cheap hydro-electric power with which to be the backbone for driving new and green manufacturing industries. But we are tied to this neoliberal trade deal - NAFTA - and the corporate US economy commands a large share of our annual energy production. it's as if previous governments deliberately sabotaged Canada's ability to create a prosperous first world economy for Canadians and anyone who might want to emigrate from over-populated countries taxing the environment in Asia and beyond to live and work here in Canada. Ryerson Poly study on emigration patterns to and from Canada says we have the equivalent of an entire eleventh province of ex-pats living in other countries. We've driven away many clever and well educated people who took out citizenship in our country and moved away for various reasons, and with many of them citing a lack of opportunity in Canada. They love our wide open spaces and fresh air. They just can't find decent jobs in their fields of education and experience here for whatever reasons. And there are reasons and not many reflect well on our past and current federal governments.

N.Beltov N.Beltov's picture

gah. Green capitalism is still capitalism, Fidel. It's just different wrapping; the viola player on the Titanic gets a better fitting case to place his instrument in after he plays "Nearer, my God, to thee". It's still Davey Jones' locker for the poor, brave bastard.

Mel Hurtig is good to read but I'm not convinced he's up on Canadian capitalism like he should be. Canadian capitalists and firms have all sorts of investments, especially in places like the Carribbean, Central and South America, while all these foreign companies run their branch plants (the ones they haven't closed) here. Ditto for the educational arguments; you'd be wary to notice who it is that's making those arguments and for what reasons.

Cheers.

George Victor

Your Tyee link gives this sort of detail, Fidel:

"Corporate profits are also going into the stock market. Recession? You wouldn't know from the Toronto Stock Exchange, whose share value has risen by more than 50 per cent since hitting bottom in March."

 

And of course, if the corporations do not provide incentive for investment, they simply are left without investors. This is the huge difference in all sectors of the market between the current investment climate and that of half a century back. There is no loyalty any more. People leave investments to their gurus - for better or for worse - and the big pension funds make or break companies.

 

Harold Myerson, editor at large of American Prospect says this week that "A report from the International Labour Organization published last week shows where the money went" since , beginning with the Reagan years, "the percentage of corporate profits retained for new investment dropped sharply."

 

The money since then has gone to "shareholder dividends, disproportionately benefitting the wealthy. In the prosperity years of 1946 to 1979, dividends constituted 23 per cent of profits. From 1980 to 2008, they constituted 46 per cent.

 

Any idea where your pension funds, savings generally, are invested?

Fidel

George Victor wrote:
Any idea where your pension funds, savings generally, are invested?

It's a vicious cycle with Canadian pension funds invested in the US. But none of our own oligarchs or pension funds have gained controlling share interest in any major sector of the US economy. Meanwhile. somewhere more than 35 key sectors of the Canadian economy are majority foreign-owned and controlled, and mostly by rich Americans. Hurtig says pension funds and Canadian investors have complained that there are too few investment opportunities in Canada, and yet it's the pension funds and Canadian banks who are investing in the US and abroad and even financing about two-thirds of US takeovers of Canadian crowns and valuable Canadian assets since 1985. So its no wonder they can't find things Canadian to invest in.

And so why complain about the lack of productivity or innovation and productivity in Canada's economy in general if we're going to be of the same attitude? Our's is a branch plant economy. We make very little for our own consumption and export other than energy and raw materials. Why complain if since FTA and NAFTA that our absentee corporate landlords have no incentive to invest in Canadian r&d or declare the profits made in Canada if there are tricks like transfer pricing to slide around paying Canadian taxes? It's resource colonialism and a signed contract with our stooges stating that we won't ever make so much as Benjamin Disraeli's hairpin, or whatever it was he said British colonies should never be allowed to manufacture.

Why complain about Copenhagen when George Monbiot says Canada is a corrupt petro-state as a result of so much US foreign ownership and control of our economy since FTA and NAFTA? I voted against the corrupt free trade deals and those parties who brought them on us. I can honestly say that I declared my opposition to what was to come after the 89 and 93 federal elections in this Northern Puerto Rico. I use my one day of protest every four years the best possible way by voting for the NDP, the effective opposition to the ongoing rape and pillage of Canada's fossil fuel reserves and the environment through a neoliberal economic regime emanating from Ottawa over the last two decades. We might as well say that it didn't matter that some army marched into Czechoslovakia and Poland if they are all fascists anyway. Because since that time there were reasons for maintaining national sovereign borders and preserving all of the rights to sovereign decision making that go along with central and democratically elected governments. Canada has become a very unique experiment in the neoliberal agenda at a time when the rest of the world is counting on us to help curb corporate America of its voraceous appetite for cheap Canadian fossil fuels. It does matter.

Why complain or so much as cast a vote for the NDP in protest to it all if we can blame it on a single word, capitalism? The mathematical odds for our obsolete electoral system says all lefties should vote strategically for one political party promising fair elections that would make a united left possible. And right now the NDP supports reform toward a Venezuelan style revolutionary MMP electoral system. We should all heed Marx and work together to win the battle for democracy.

N.Beltov N.Beltov's picture

Carl Rogers, who once wrote a book with the interesting title of On Becoming A Person, wrote the following:

 

Don't be an ammunition wagon. Be a rifle!

 

Look it up, Fidel. Ponder. 'Nuff said.

 

RevolutionPlease RevolutionPlease's picture

KissI don't get to say thanks to N. Beltov often either.  Thanks for helping us learn.  Us lurkers read people. 

RevolutionPlease RevolutionPlease's picture

I like it.

Fidel

N.Beltov wrote:
Carl Rogers, who once wrote a book with the interesting title of On Becoming A Person, wrote the following:

Don't be an ammunition wagon. Be a rifle!

Look it up, Fidel. Ponder. 'Nuff said.

What did Carl have to say about Canada's Liberal and Tory governments alike selling the environment to Exxon-Imperial and other supranationals with neoliberal trade deals?

N.Beltov N.Beltov's picture

Rogers pleaded for people to make arguments like sniper bullets, instead of like shotguns. Your arguments are plenty good, Fidel, it's just that they're sometimes just like shotgun blasts instead of like sniper fire. BLAM! Am I making myself clear?

It's friendly advice in any case. You're perfectly welcome to ignore me.

Fidel

Ah! Another COD player with a preference for headshots eh? So would you be major König or Vasily Zaytsev? I don't think I could stay still that long without sneezing or flinching.

 

My father was in a Canadian tank batallion with Montgomery's eighth, and so I'm prolly the tank type as well. Should leave the sniping to the sharp shooters like yourself.

Jacob Richter

N. Beltov, did I e-mail you my work already?  Another issue not discussed is a shorter workweek or workday (without loss of pay or benefits) as at least a national policy, but this is not meant to counter unemployment, to have more leisure time, or to "go green."  That chapter in Capital on the working day implores workers to defer reading the intro chapters (and avoid the bourgeois pundit shit about the "unreadability" of the work as a whole) and dive right into this chapter and other later ones.

remind remind's picture

Quote:
productivity of workers has gone up but the share of income of workers has gone down

 

Can be readily seen in the Bc forest industry where they drive the workers to produce more sq footage per shift, where the workers get nadda for doing so,  except they forgo management harrassment, and then they get laid off....

Canfor is now shutting down IN Quesnel, but  is opening up Mackenzie again to another shift.. I guess so they can write off the  Quesnel mill's equipment for  few years too, while shipping that communities wood directly to China...

 

N.Beltov N.Beltov's picture

Well, this thread was started by pointing out that there were plenty of important issues not being addressed. What issues could act as a catalyst to mobilize people in a leftward direction? I think that's the way we need to evaluate that list of issues.

neo-liberalism has taken huge shots to the head (to continue the sniper metaphor) with those allegedly smart business people now needing huge bailouts from the state. Weren't they supposed to be the really good managers? If they can't run their hamburger stands, then why should their ideology guide the rest of society? Why should the state be like a business if business just digs a big hole in the ground?

So there's an opening for the good guys.

 

RosaL

remind wrote:

 ii do not believe small business and corporate greed and folly can be compared....

 

I do. They operate on the same principles. The only difference is that one is big and one is small and their effects differ correspondingly. 

remind remind's picture

I have other issues with neoliberalism and its failures, however, I do not believe small business and corporate greed and folly can be compared as being the same....

 

having said that, I believe society in its entirety can function on a egalitarian reality.....but we are a long way from a ideological majority who can see the truth of this...

remind remind's picture

i know that I am viewing this  from a personal bias position, but I do not believe small business people are out to rule the world.

 

perhaps it is my lack of Marxist beliefs, but i do not get why some hate 'business' and think  a state run reality is better..

 

 

Fidel

Neoliberal ideology is about propping up big business and devouring small and medium sized businesses to feed the beast, especially with agriculture. Neoliberal trade deals are really about securing private property rights for supranationals and marauding capital.

RosaL

remind wrote:

i know that I am viewing this  from a personal bias position, but I do not believe small business people are out to rule the world.

 

perhaps it is my lack of Marxist beliefs, but i do not get why some hate 'business' and think  a state run reality is better..

Yes, it probably is your lack of marxist beliefs Wink It's not really about people's motives - it's about the way things work. The "state-run" thing is a capitalist canard. The better reality is real democracy. 

N.Beltov N.Beltov's picture

The point, remind, is that the leading lights of capitalism - not small business people but captains of industry - have led our society directly into the current economic malaise. Their neo-liberal ideology, which is piggy backed by the entire capitalist crowd, has DEMONSTRABLY failed. Why should the state be run along the lines they recommend?

The antidote to their failure is an alternative to polluting public institutions with their approach and ideology. Hence the necessity to look at restoring the public in public institutions, with, for example, economic democracy.

Some of us just call that a socialist approach. qed.

janfromthebruce

I'm with remind. My local community shop owners are my neighbours, friends and help to sustain my community. They make enough profit to live on and are what we call the middle class. Sorry but I don't want to shop in the govt owned store. It is as much of an interest to the shop owners to have a sustainable community as it is to me.

Fidel

What about Sweden and Norway and Denmark? How many homeless do they have?

janfromthebruce

oh, and local farmers are also small business owners too, the family farm.

Fidel

Ya those small farmers won big time with NAFTA.