In my quest to try to understand why so many people believe and do things that prevent the rest of us from living in a decent world, it never ceases to amaze me how utterly clueless so many mainstream, well-paid, well-known pundits are. I seem to live under the chronic illusion that if you know how to spell and have a human face that doesn’t drool incessantly, you’re not a complete idiot. But as always, here comes Jonathan Chait to prove me wrong. In this instance, he also offers some tantalizing clues as to the delusions that motivate centrist Democraps to fight tirelessly against the policies that voters actually actually want.
[Bhaskar] Sunkara [editor of Jacobin] argues that the West faces three possible alternatives.
One is nationalist authoritarianism of the sort advanced by Trump, Hungary’s Jobbik Party, France’s National Front, etc. The second is Singapore, an authoritarian technocracy that he calls “the unacknowledged destination of the neoliberal center’s train.” And his third option is “avowedly socialist leaders like Mr. Sanders and Jean-Luc Mélenchon in France.”
Sunkara omits from his choices any liberal mixed economy of the kind that exists in Western Europe and Scandinavia and that American liberals would like to build here.
Does Chait honestly he think that his ultimate end goal is a Scandinavian welfare state while he argues passionately against the $15 minimum wage, universal health care, and anything else that resembles a Scandinavian welfare state? Does he need to convince himself of that so as not to have to recognize that Sunkara is right? Or is it that he’s trying to convince voters that the corporate Democraps actually want what Americans want so that voters keep voting for them…which they don’t, because no one believes them anymore.
The reality is that the only people arguing for a Scandinavian style mixed economy in the USA are Bernard Sanders and his army of berniebros of all genders and colours. Chait’s beloved Obama put a hopey-changey face on exploding inequality, and helped it explode a little more slowly and smoothly than his barbarian horror-movie-clown-festival Republican counterparts. But the Democraps have nothing to offer the increasingly distressed poor and non-professional middle classes except for the hope that maybe one day the technocratic government elites and plutocratic business elites who work together to make sure that all the profit is directly extracted out of their workers’ butts as they work harder and harder for less money in their matrix pods, will reflect the same gender, ethnic and sexual diversity as the rest of the country.
Interesting, and maybe not coincidentally, Chait’s self-deception reflects what so many Democratic primary voters believed when they supported Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders – that both candidates had more or less the same policy goals, except that Hillary had more pragmatism and experience. After all, if Bernie and Hillary are generally the same and the Democratic party is all about Scandinavian socialism, then Bernie is basically a selfish egoist and his angry supporters are just idiotic purists and sexists. If only.
But those particular Trump voters and Clinton primary voters have an excuse for their naivité – they’re ordinary people who pay attention to politics on a casual basis and build their ideas about politicians from a mishmash of misleading corporate media reporting, social media headlines, political advertising and personal and local cultural biases.
I guess nothing should surprise us in a world where 26% or Americans (and 44% of Europeans??) believe the sun revolves around the earth, but isn’t it Chait’s job to know this stuff? Or is it his job to prevent you from knowing this stuff?
“You cannot buy insurance for a pre-existing condition, not as a matter of “market failure”, but as a matter of the definition of insurance. You cannot buy homeowner’s insurance after your house burns down. You cannot buy car insurance after you’ve wrecked the car. You cannot buy life insurance after your spouse dies. That’s not what insurance is. Insurance is the pooling of risk BEFORE something bad happens. That’s what keeps the price down when it is allowed to work properly. Something bad but unlikely is costly (rebuild a house, get cancer treatment), so people pool their risk and pay a small amount up front. The pool then has the funds to pay out to those few unlucky enough to get cancer, wreck their car, or have their house burn down.
I’m going to hit you in the feels even more: mandating that pre-existing conditions be covered by insurance completely breaks this. It is no longer insurance, and unsurprisingly, it makes costs shoot up. Imagine if the government mandated that insurance companies had to sell you a homeowner’s policy, even after your house burned down. Who would buy a policy BEFORE their house burned down? You’d have to be a sucker to do so. The risk pool would collapse, with the only people buying policies being those that needed payouts. But of course there is no money in the pool. So of course to “fix” the market it just destroyed, the government then has to mandate that everyone buy into the system. Individual mandate; sound familiar?”
In other words, any system other than socialized “medicare for all” medicine is either a completely complicated inefficient mess like Obamacare, or else a total catastrophe for anyone who isn’t extremely wealthy or even who is wealthy but who got sick in between insurance policies. Bernie Sanders couldn’t have made a better argument for socialized medicine.
Redistributionist politics are a powerful antidote against racist demagoguery:
Yesterday in the UK election almost half of the people who just two years ago voted for UKIP, a staunch anti-immigrant, and econmically right wing party, switched to Labour led by Jeremy Corbyn, a staunch socialist who campaigned on a massive reinvestment in social services and infrastructure, free tuition, tax increases on the top 5%, nationalization of railways and postal service, who refused to say he would use nuclear weapons under any circumstances and who explicitly refused to commit to reducing immigration post-Brexit, instead promising to prevent the importation of cheap labour to undercut british wages.
This despite the fact that he was incessantly pilloried by the right wing press as an IRA and Hamas-loving imbecile during an election campaign wherein two terrorist attacks were perpetrated on British civilians.
Take heed Democraps and assorted corporate liberals of the world.
English lesson for American journalists and editors:
The word “diverse” doesn’t mean Black or Latino or “non-white.” It means “various” or “different kinds”.
You don’t have a “diverse” background if your family is Mexican from the same village for 500 years, or Han Chinese for 10,000 years. A sheet-white guy whose dad is from Denmark and Mom is from Bosnia has a more diverse background than Black person whose ancestors have been from the same tribe of Sudanese herders since biblical times.
A 99% African-American neighbourhood is not a “very diverse” neighbourhood anymore than a 99% white one is. An ethnically diverse neighbourhood is one with many different kinds of people in it, not just one kind of person that’s different from you.
A person can have a diverse set of skills, a diverse set of interests, a diverse work history, or a diverse background. A “diverse person” is an oxymoron (unless you’re talking about some deep sci-fi converging parallel universe schnizz).
A diverse set of English language writers from Shakespeare to Kool Keith have had a talent for inventing and cleverly re-purposing words, but you guys just sound like illiterate idiots.
I can’t stop listening to this over and over and over. I discovered this at Casa del Popolo when one of the bartenders left their song “ice cream sandwiches” and “july first” on loop for twenty minutes before diligently leaving the building for like 45 minutes. I tried to look up the lyrics “I don’t give a rat’s ass, I don’t give a rat’s ass, I don’t give a rat’s ass” on the internet surveillance superhighway, but found nothing. Turns out it’s because they don’t exist – they’re a montreal band, and their cassette only EP (cassette?? wtf is wrong with the kids these days – don’t they know what 5 1/4″ floppy disks are?) hadn’t even been released yet.
Well it’s out now, and if you aren’t driving a 1986 Chevrolet Camelotte with a tape deck in it and have no way to listen to this magnetic masterpiece, you can find it onlines legally here.
From the sound of it these are some young quebecois ladies who despite only having learned how to play their instruments a few months ago (according to this interview), have nonetheless figured out how to write, squeeze, pluck and thump some highly entertaining songs, while chewing on valiums together and singing them in unison in english with sultry laid back french accents never exerting more vocal energy than it takes to mumble and occasionally sounding like they have dollarama “sexy” halloween dracula teeth taking up space in their mouths.
The fact that the guitarist sometimes flubs her notes, and the drummer and bassist are invariably sloppy doesn’t detract from the music in the slightest. It’s all just part of the ultra laid back xanax buzz festival charm. And no, they don’t sound like the Shaggs. I have no idea what to compare it to. It’s like the Dead Milkmen but mellow hip females instead or angry nerdboner boys.
Nevermind the Ramones and their œuvre of three chord masterpieces. The guitarist in this band doesn’t even waste her time with any fucking chords at all. If the guitar ever plays two notes at once, it’s usually on separate tracks, except on “Sac-à-douche” where she does play two notes at once a few times on the main riff. Out of five songs on this tape there are no less than three zero-chord masterpieces – as in three of the songs are marvelous, one is just excellent and the other is an instrumental so who cares.
And just because they’re ladies doesn’t mean they don’t come equiped with the giant scrotes that it takes to include an instrumental track on there despite barely knowing how to play those instruments – though frankly, that’s the only track that I don’t really care about.
Lots of dinky riffs, and clean sounds (production is really perfect on this record) and entertaining lyrics:
I don’t want to tell you
I shouldn’t have to tell you
I don’t want to tell you
I shouldn’t have to tell you
Bring me dinner
Bring me dinner
She’s a joke
She’s a waste of time
She’s a joke
She’s a waste of time
What the hell is that about? Who knows, but I love it. And that’s my least favourite song.
The other three songs meanwhile are just burned into my consciousness. I hear them whether my headphones are playing or not. One of them “Calabria 2014” is a cover of “Calabria 2007” which was apparently a hit back in the day, when I was already too old to give a shit. One is called “Sac-à-douche” (you wont find that translated in an French-English dictionary, but you can figure it out) and the other one is about not getting ice cream sandwiches and beer.
OK, I’ve had enough writing this, I need to go back to listening to it.
My two step recommendation:
Step 1: go buy a 1986 buick for $200 so you can have a tape player
Step 2: go buy the Moss Lime tape for $7. It’s worth it.
Oh yeah and they’re playing a show this Wednesday, Nov. 4th which is probably months after you’re reading this, so maybe you want to skip the buick and opt for one of those back to the future Pontiacs instead.
John Zorn is slowing down somewhat in his old age, having only released 14 albums so far this year. While fresh young pups struggle to put out an album every year or two, and big megasaurs like U2 have to push and crouch and huff and puff to squeeze and clip one out every 5-7 years, Zorn is busy spraying out a new one every three weeks or so.
Contrary to what you’d expect from hyper-prolific, living-legend avant-garde wiseasses, most of these albums are actually pretty fucking good. This one on the other hand, is really, really fucking good. His weird cheesemaster phase where he’s making more and more palatable and conventional music (which started way back in 2001 with “The Gift” and which I tend not to be super fond of), is really starting to bear some sweet-ass fruit.
In general, instrumental rock music and rock/jazz fusion bores me to death. My attitude towards that stuff is basically “if you need to masturbate, do it in private in your bathroom. Doing it inside of my ears is just fucking rude. Sing me a song or tell me a story. Make yourself useful.”
But despite this being straight up rock format, drums, guitar and bass and playing surfy metal tunes with no lyrics, the looseness and virtuosity of the musicians make this a wonderful listen worth coming back to over and over.
I don’t know what’s written by Zorn and what’s improvised by the band (the band is Abraxas and zorn doesn’t play), but either way this is rock music made and played by actual virtuoso musicians, who have both the skill end energy to breathe life into the music. You don’t need words, the music is the words.
Well, why the hell are wasting your time reading this? Get this record and rock the fuck out.
In 1995 Jean Chrétien’s Liberals faced a “debt crisis” so severe, that the Goldman Sachs economist whom the Ministry of Finance hired to assess the situation, concluded that it didn’t really exist.The Goldman-Sachs report, which suggested that our annual budget deficit could be entirely eliminated by stimulating employment, was ignored. Instead, Finance Minister Paul Martin decided to slash government spending to levels not seen since 1951, leaving a gaping 40% hole in healthcare and education transfers.By the end of 1997, the “deficit dragon” had been slain, and the government was running the first of what would turn out to be a decade of budget surpluses.
Canada breathed a sigh of relief.Now that the debt catastrophe was averted, we could start repairing our cherished social programs.According to the Liberals’ 1997 electoral platform, 50% of each surplus would go to repairing social programs, and the other half would be divided up between paying off our national debt, and funding a series of corporate and income tax cuts which almost nobody asked for. In the end, only 10% was used to restore social spending, while a full 60% was thrown away as tax cuts, thereby insuring that the programs could never be properly rebuilt.
Not surprisingly, after 15 years of continual tax cuts and chronic starvation of social programs, social spending is now at its lowest level since the 1940s.The federal corporate tax rate went from 28% in 2000 to 15% this year.Canada’s top 200 corporations now make 50% more in profit than they did in 2000, yet they pay 20% less net dollars in taxes.Tuition has been ballooning, while our public healthcare system, the pride of the nation until the mid 1990’s, has since been fraught with obscene waiting times, and chronically overworked staff.
Even though real GDP per capita (the standard measure of a nation’s wealth) has doubled since the 1960’s, we can no longer afford the social programs that seemed to wor so well nicely until the mid 1990’s.
Thus, when the Québec university students went on strike en masse in reaction to an 82% tuition increase, it struck a chord.After 15 years of having our concerns and priorities ignored by every provincial and federal government, someone was finally saying “enough”.
I PARTICIPATED IN THE BIGGEST CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE IN CANADIAN HISTORY, AND ALL I GOT WAS THIS LOUSY T-SHIRT
Sadly, despite months of massive nighty demos with tens of thousands out every night at their peak, despite hundreds of thousands out on May 22, June 22 and July 22 despite thousands out every night for weeks during the spontaneous and festive neighbourhood casserole protests, despite solidarity demonstrations all across Canada, in New York, Paris and even in Iceland, public sympathy for the protesters among Quebecers is a sad35%, down from 43% last month.Even worse, support for a continued tuition freeze or free tuition adds up to a meagre 24%. 72% of Quebecers think that tuition should be either raise according to the governments plan, or at least indexed to inflation.
These polls reflect a very weak PR frame that the students are trapped in:The province and the country are having budget problems, our healthcare system is falling apart and we’re raising the retirement age, we just can’t afford it.Students need to be responsible and realistic and accept their “fair share” of sacrifices like everyone else.
WANTED: NEW STRATEGY
This is a narrative which can be reversed with a little strategic thinking.
The student movement in Québec has always been about the principle of a state for its citizens rather than about $1625, and the students are finally starting to act like it. The narrow focus on tuition hikes and bill 78 has now expanded to supporting and associating with other causes in opposition to “neoliberalism“ : like Algonquin natives fighting logging companies, unions fighting their corporate and government bosses, environmental causes, etc.CLASSE is currently on a tour of Québec, and Ontario, meeting students and members of neighbourhood assemblies from across the province, to learn about their priorities and concerns and to help them organize. Meanwhile CLASSE’s new manifesto is all about participatory democracy, “combative syndicalism” shared public services, and our shared environment.July’s monthly massive demo was called “Dehors les néoliberaux” (“Out With the Neoliberals”).
While this is definitely a step in the right direction, this strategy has a couple of serious flaws which I’d like to propose some E-Z solutions to:
BIG PROBLEM #1: neo-whut?
Unless you’re a radical leftist poli-sci student, you are more likely to get hit by lightning than to know what “neoliberalism” is.Even university professors don’t know what neoliberalism is.Unless your strategy involves mass hypnotism, getting your target audience’s eyes to glaze over every time you present your core message is just bad PR.
BIG PROBLEM #2:to most people, winning a war against Satan and Darth Vader seems easier than overthrowing contemporary capitalism and replacing it with participatory democracy.
As the predominant political/economic system in the world, neoliberalism is such a far reaching and overwhelming phenomenon that idea of having to defeat it makes one want to curl up and die rather get out into the streets or the voting booth. Participatory democracy is an exciting idea, which needs more attention, but in the 200 or so years from now until it becomes a reality, we need some achievable short term goals.
SOLUTION #1:pick an unpopular, reversible policy which undermines all social programs, and attack it to death.
Unlike nebulous neoliberalism, irresponsible and idiotic tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy which make social programs impossible to afford, are both easy to understand, unpopular, and reversible.
In 2007, Charest flushed $950 million per year in tax cuts down la toilette nationale, against the will 70% of Québecers.This year, in the name of budget balancing and fiscal responsibility, the Liberals announced $160 million in cuts to Montreal’s already struggling hospitals, $265 million per year in tuition increases, and have phased in a $200 per person “health contribution”.It’s not very hard to connect these dots, and students should do so at every opportunity.
TUITION HIKES IN QUÉBEC HAVE FEDERAL ROOTS AND FEDERAL SOLUTIONS
Huge tax cuts and social spending cuts at the federal level (discussed above) are also important to highlight because they equal budget cuts and fee hikes at the provincial level.Even if Amir Khadir becomes Premier of Québec in five years with a full Assemblée Nationale of 125 social-democratic Québec Solidaire MNA’s, he’ll be hard pressed not to crank up tuition, health care and daycare fees as the Harper’s plan for further reducing healthcare transfers goes into effect and puts the squeeze on provincial budgets across the country.
Further, highlighting that this is a national as well as a provincial problem sets the stage for the rest of the country to start kicking, and feeds great talking points to sister movements. In Ontario, free tuition would cost $170 per household.Meanwhile Liberal premier Dalton McGuinty just tossed the equivalent of $500 per household in corporate tax cuts out the window of the CN tower. Inspired by Québec, students in Ontario are contemplating a strike, and support for striking among students across Canada is at 62%. We have already seen impressive solidarity protests across the country; linking the Québec tuition increases to federal tax cuts, the state of public healthcare and rising tuition across the country could help turn those solidarity protests into genuine national ones.
YES, WE ACTUALLY CAN, FOR REAL!
Reversing tax cuts to pay for social programs is popular and doable.For instance, returning federal corporate taxes to the 2008 level of 19.5% has 73% support, and was part of Jack Layton’s 2011 NDP campaign platform.The NDP currently are ahead in national polls. If we elect them, and keep the pressure on, they might actually deliver on this promise, and we might have functioning social programs again. For realz.
Surprisingly, 64% of people are willing to raise their own taxes to improve healthcare and other social services.Shockingly, even 58% of Conservative voters feel this way!No one likes paying more taxes, but if they’re specifically used for social programs, people don’t mind so much, especially if the social programs actually function. That’s why people in Scandinavia of all income brackets don’t mind paying such high income taxes. This is a winning issue.
SOLUTION #2: Doctors and healthcare workers are fighting the same enemy as you: get them articulate your message so that the media actually reports it.
Students aren’t very popular right now, and reporters and columnists tend to treat them with a kind of disdain and contempt that makes one wonder if they weren’t beat up every day by university students when they were kids.Doctors and nurses however are extremely popular, and as we saw on May 22nd when hundreds of lawyers protested against bill 78, reporters treat professionals with respect and actually pay attention to what they have to say.
Fortunately for the students, the health care system is falling apart for the same reasons that tuition is rising.After 15 years of neglect, 54% of Canadians now want the option of buying private healthcare – however, that’s mostly because the Liberals and Conservatives have managed to kill any hope that the government will fix it – given the option,94% of Canadians would prefer that healthcare be fixed via government spending.Healthcare has the popularity, and students have the energy and the ability to mass mobilize. A joint effort is a natural fit.
A PRACTICAL SUGGESTION: AN EFFECTIVE PR EVENT
Given all of the above, imagine big festive casserole demonstrations with musicians and percussion ensembles, featuring doctors, nurses and students, protesting together against cuts to social programs and against the tax cuts that make it impossible to fund them.Imagine doctor-spokespersons citing all the above statistics and more to reporters who actually report them. The message will get out.The readers and viewers will understand it.The currently unpopular student cause will be associated with the extremely popular cause of improving healthcare.The narrative of selfish and irresponsible students will be turned into a narrative of selfish corporations and irresponsible governments.If the polls turn around the NDP might actually step up and start supporting the students. The debate will begin.Healthcare workers and students in other province will be encouraged to do the same. Our students here in Québec might actually even win.
LET’S DO IT!
I have been personally trying to organize exactly such a protest for about a month now, with the goal of having the first event in Labour Day (Sept 3rd). If you have any contacts in CLASSE, FEUQ, FECQ, FIQ, SECHUM, Canadian Doctors for Medicare, or other relevant organizations, or if you have experience organizing such events and have some suggestions or advice, then by all means, get in touch with me!
Students and healthcare workers have everything to gain, and nothing to lose by getting together. Let’s make it happen now, before it’s too late.
The Cult of Impotence by Linda McQuaig (1998) p3-4, 96-98,
 Neoliberalism basically means corporate globalization, i.e. Financial deregulation, free trade without core environmental or labour standards, low taxes, high tuition, minimal social programs, private health care, lots of new jails to put all the uneducated, unemployed, disaffected people in. Gay people and minorities can have full civil rights, and if they’re rich they can even enjoy them. A neoliberal government’s role is mainly to protect property and make life easier for business in various ways.
For the majority of Canadians and Québecois who don’t support the protesters in Québec, the morality of the situation is obvious: the province, like the rest of the country, is strapped for money right now and simply can’t afford to keep subsidizing tuition at the current rate. Our health care system is falling apart, the retirement age is rising, social programs and benefits are being cut left and right, and our cash starved universities need to increasingly rely on harassing alumni and begging rich people in order to barely keep up with the latest equipment and to maintain their facilities.
And while everyone else is sharing the pain, the self-centered, entitled students of Québec, who have been enjoying the lowest tuition in all of North America (frozen since 1995), simply refuse to pitch in and pay their fair share in the form of a $1625 a year increase that would still leave them with the second cheapest tuition on the continent after Newfoundland.
“Life is a grind,” as my young, anti-protester friend said to me on the street recently. Rising fees and deteriorating services are a law of nature. “You can’t just expect to get things for free!”
This begs an important question:
Why is it that in a country whose wealth has more than doubled since the Medical Care Act first established universal public health care in 1966, we no longer seem to be able to afford the social programs (including low tuition) that worked so well into the mid 1990’s?
Doubled in wealth? Watchoutalkinboutwillis?
Seeing that most of us work more hours and have more debt than we did in the 60’s, 70’s or 80’s, we might not feel wealthier, but according to standard economic measures, Canada’s wealth, relative to population has indeed doubled since then.
The wealth of a society is most often measured in terms of GDP per capita. As defined by the OECD website, “GDP per capita measures economic activity or income per person and is one of the core indicators of economic performance as well as a rough measure of average living standards or economic well-being.”
As you can see from Statistics Canada’s inflation adjusted graph below, our GDP per capita is about 260% what it was in 1960 and 160% of what it was in 1980.
Similarly, the value of the stock market has also about doubled since 1980. According to this Financial Post survey of Canadian “Stocks through the ages,” the TSX was at about 2000 in 1980, whereas now, even with the recent downturn, it’s almost at 12,000 (down from almost 15,000 before the downturn) . Adjusted for inflation, that’s double what it was.
In the same period, labour productivity, which means the amount of wealth workers create per hour (typically measured in real GDP per hour worked) has also been rising continually, up about 70% since 1980 (adjusted for inflation).
Tuition increases? Crumbling health care system? Where’s my public dental care program? Where’s my 20 hour workweek? Where’s my publicly funded purple Cadillac with solid gold fenders? Why aren’t we providing students with a place to live, free daycare and regular meals like they do in Norway (at the onerous cost of $70 per semester) so that students can actually pay attention to their studies instead of wasting 20 hours a week at part-time jobs, the way 40% of Québec students now do, to the detriment of their grades (and to the detriment of their competence as our future professionals)?
Why is it that more than twice as many university students now work while studying, than did in the late 70’s, when our GDP per capita was half of what it is now? Why do they have to work twice as many hours as they did back then? Half of them live on less than $12,200 a year, and half of those on less than $7,400. These are the “overwhelmingly middle to upper-middle class” Québec students, few who of whom “will ever have to stint on mochaccinos, or work with their hands,” as one overpaid and under-informed bag of transcribed gas recently described them.
Again, WTF? Why is this happening?
Is it because an aging population and the rapidly rising costs of health care technology have put a strain on costs and revenues in ways that weren’t envisioned when our social programs were created? That’s certainly a factor, yet other countries with much more generous welfare states have been adapting with their services, free tuition, and robust economies intact.
So what’s our problem?
Our problem is that for the last 20+ years, instead of adapting our welfare state to the globalized economy and to our changing demographic realities, successive federal and provincial governments have chosen to engage in a reckless orgy of corporate tax cuts, effectively condemning our social programs to a slow death by starvation. Our personal income taxes and sales taxes simply can’t fill the gaping hole in the budget. As a result, we can no longer afford to even maintain, nevermind improve healthcare, education or any of the other programs which make Canada such a nice place to live.
Worse, when we run budget surpluses, instead of using the money to repair our deteriorating health care system, or to re-fund our universities, Liberal and Conservative governments alike, use the surpluses as an excuse for more tax cuts, insuring that our programs will get worse and worse; slowly enough so that we don’t take to the streets, but surely enough that we will be resigned to accept that the only solution is more privatization and tuition increases.
In 1960 the federal corporate tax rate was 41% (see p11 of source document). In 2000 it was 28% (p14). Successive liberal and conservative governments have steadily hacked it down to the 2012 Harper budget low of 15%. In the early 1960’s, corporate income taxes made up 20% of federal tax revenues; by 2008‐2009, their share had fallen to 12.6% (p14). As mentioned above it continues to fall with every budget.
A CCPA study of the biggest Canadian publicly traded corporations found that while they made 50% more profits in 2009 than they did in 2000, they paid out 20% less in taxes to the federal and provincial governments than they had in 2000. To be clear we’re talking net amount paid, not percentage of income; so if you’re the Burpsi Cola Corporation and you made $1000 of profit in 2000 and you paid $100 in taxes, by 2009 you were making $1500 and paying only $80 in taxes. On the whole, corporations now pay out $18 billion less now in taxes than they did in 2000 even though profits are way up as discussed earlier.
As Journal de Montréal writer Léo-Paul Lauzon noted in his May 22nd blog, in 1963 corporations paid 55% of all taxes in Canada compared to 18% in 2011. Similarly, corporations paid 38% of taxes in Québec in 1963, down to a shameful 11% last year.
Corporate vs Individual Share of Taxes in Canada and Québec in 1963 vs 2011
Not surprisingly, while corporate tax revenues keep spinning clockwise down our toilets along with the money we use to pay for social programs, average tuition in Canada keeps rising to compensate:
Statistics Canada: Average tuition fees for full-time undergraduate university students
Source: statscan and CAUBO via rabble.ca
Note that it’s not a fact of life that everything magically gets worse and worse with time. Tuition was actually going down (first tuition chart, top curve, which is inflation adjusted), back in the 70’s and 80’s, when Canadians actually expected something from life besides a downward grind.
This is what we’ve come to: whereas free tuition in Ontario, the highest tuition province in the country, would only cost each Ontarian $170 a year, each Ontarian is instead going to give away $500 a year to corporations in the form of new tax cuts – tax cuts which cost ten times more in lost revenue than what they generate in business investment.
In addition, while falling corporate taxes have been shifting the tax burden onto our personal income taxes, various changes in our tax system (such as heavier reliance on sales taxes) have further shifted the burden of paying for civilization away from the highest income earners, and onto poor and middle-income schlubs who need to borrow more money and work more hours while going to school and have more nervous breakdown so that we can work harder for longer hours and earn more profits for our entitled, whiny, corporate aristocracy.
As you hopefully already know, wealthy countries normally have what is called progressive taxation, which means that the more money you earn, the higher percentage of your income you pay in taxes. That’s how our own income tax system is set up. However, once you factor in all the other taxes like sales tax, property taxes, payroll taxes, inheritance taxes, etc, taxation starts to drop at the top 5% level. Between 1990 and 2005, the tax rates for the top 1% of income earners dropped four percentage points, while tax rates for the bottom 10% increased by more than five percentage points. By now total rates of taxes paid are 30.7% at the bottom of the income spectrum to 36.5% in the middle and back down to 30.5% for the top 1% of families. (p11). In other words, the top 1% have an overall lower tax rate than the poorest Canadians.
This is one of the reasons why most of you don’t feel twice as wealthy as you did in the 1980’s – our country as a whole is, but you’re not – most of the gains have been swallowed up by our wealthiest citizens. The other reason is the exploding cost of living in a Canadian city.
Naturally, the worse services get, the more people resent paying taxes for garbage dysfunctional social programs, particularly the wealthiest people who pay most of the taxes, and who can afford to buy functional private services. Corporations and their media bullhorns egg on this tax resentment because it spills over into more public tolerance for corporate tax cuts. Thus, our personal income taxes have also eroded over time so that we now pay $38 billion less in income taxes than we did in 2000, when our population was smaller.
Make no mistake, these were not inevitable changes, forced upon our governments by the realities of “globalization”. As Linda McQuaig documented in The Cult of Impotence: the Myth of Powerlessness in the Global Economy, in the mid 1990’s, under intense high school style peer pressure from the cool kids in the financial sector and the corporate bullhorn media, our hopelessly spineless and out of touch government deliberately decided to restructure our country and slowly destroy our social programs under the guise of saving us from a wildly exaggerated debt crisis. Even a study by Goldman-Sachs commissioned at the time by the federal government (and then quickly hidden from the public and the press) had concluded that Canada did not have a serious debt problem, did not need to cut social services, and could have easily eliminated its deficit by reducing unemployment instead (see McQuaig p97).
The proof is in the pudding. I remember breathing a huge sigh of relief in 1997, when the Liberals announced that the annual deficit was eliminated and the government was running surpluses. Finally, our health care and education systems would be restored to their former states. I then remember the complete shock and disbelief I felt when Paul Martin decided not to restore full funding to health care or education, but to waste the surpluses on … you guessed it: more tax cuts. Tax cuts which guaranteed that those services would never be properly funded again. I remember reading the newspapers and feeling like I was living in Orwell’s 1984; unanimous praise for the tax cuts and said nothing about the fact that the Chrétien government had initially told us that they were slashing our programs in order to save them once the deficit had been tackled.
And there you have it. That’s the hidden context of the Québec tuition struggle and of the continuing deterioration of Canada’s social programs. The students’ struggle is indeed our struggle too.
Strange that I’ve heard scraggly Québecois students who make $8,000 a year and don’t yet have university degrees talk about some of these issues, but I haven’t read anything about it from all the well-educated and well paid columnists in the National Post, the Gazette, the Journal de Montreal, La Presse, MacLean’s or The Globe and Mail. Kudos to Le Devoir, the more intellectual Québec daily which has been bewailing Canada’s neoliberal (undemocratic, corporate and investor-led) turn since the very beginning.
So pay your fair share you lazy, selfish, entitled, self-serving, spoiled, entitled, rich, terrorist, Satan worshipping, entitled, parasitic Québecois students! Work 30 hours a week (as 18% of them already do) while going to school full-time instead of 20! Borrow more money so that your future corporate employers can make 50% more profit off of the skills you acquired from the education that they no longer want to contribute to! And why should they? They know that higher education is now a necessity and that you’ll get yourself into $24,000 of debt or more to get one because most of you have no other choice. Accept that life is a grind, and that it only gets worse over time, unless you’re upper-middle class, wealthy, or a corporation! Give up and roll over dead like the rest of us!
High five Rest-of-Canada for telling Québecers how foolish we are! Chest-bump to the corporate owned media and to your opinion columnists who are about as well-informed and curious about the world they live in as a drunk in a movie theater yelling at the screen right before throwing up. Extra special thanks to you for encouraging us to project our anger at our deterioratingstandard of living onto those lazy French barbarians instead of onto the job creating, magnificent corporations that hire you to transcribe your thoughtless and hypocritical belches in printed form.
The good news in all of this is that according to a poll by Environics Research commissioned by the Broadbent institute, the public is firmly against all of this. According to the survey, 64% of Canadians, including a majority of wealthy Canadians, are willing to pay more in taxes to protect our social programs. Things have gotten so bad that even 58% of Conservative voters feel the same way. 73% want to return the federal corporate tax rate to its 2008 level of 20%, which was part of Jack Layton’s 2011 campaign platform. 83% want to increase taxes on the wealthiest.
Meanwhile a recent Ekos poll finds that 60% of Canadians would vote for a party that would raise taxes on the rich vs. one that pledged not to raise taxes at all. Given the strain on provincial budgets, the federal government is having trouble convincing the provinces to reduce their corporate tax rates any further than they already have to reach Stephen Harper’s goal of a 25% combined federal/provincial rate. Not surprisingly, the NDP is currently surging in the polls, and would form a minority government were an election held today.
In other words, a large majority of Canadians already support the cause of the Québec protesters.They just don’t realize it yet. The media has been preventing them from seeing the context, painting the students rather than corporate Canada as the whiny entitled babies who are burdening the rest of us by not paying thier fair share. The student unions have also remained too focused on tuition in Québec and the Loi 78, and have not done enough to link their struggle to the struggles of the rest of the country.
Fortunately, that’s already starting to change. As I’ve been noticing every night at 8pm, the nightly casserole protests that are happening in neighbourhoods (and even suburbs!) across the province are mostly made up of adults in their 30’s, 40’s and 50’s and their little kids (vs the massive student protests that start at parc Émilie-Gamelin every night). Meanwhile a little bit of context is starting to appear amidst the sea of rabid anti-civilization hysteria in the op-ed pages. Inspired by our assertiveness, and by the fact that 62% of students across the country say they would join a similar strike in their own provinces, student unions in Ontario are preparing to strike as well.
It’s time for us to get onto our facebooks and tweeters and emails and facetimes and skypes and let our friends and relatives who aren’t aware of the context of the tuition hikes know why all of this is happening, and why they should join in if they care about their health care and their retirement and their education. It’s time for CLASSE and FEUQ and FECQ to ramp up their demands and broaden their base of support by insisting on a small raise in the corporate tax rate; not only to help fund universities but also to hire more doctors to alleviate the severe GP shortage and hospital waiting times. It’s time to re-open the debate about globalization and the welfare state which was aborted in Canada in the mid-90’s by our hysterical and hypocritical pundit and political classes
Realize that millions of other Canadians feel the way you do, and that as Québec’s government is about to demonstrate, governments do give in to popular pressure, even ones as out of touch as those of Charest and Harper.
And while you’re at it, don’t forget to protest the garbage corporate mouthpiece media who’ve been encouraging you to vent your legitimate frustrations onto the people who are standing up for their rights so that you don’t join them in protecting your own