Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Duncan Cameron highlights the choice between austerity and prosperity facing the governments of both Canada and the U.S.:
The economic realities faced by working people in both Canada and the United States need to be addressed. Talk about putting the fiscal house in order is code for taking money away from working people. It does not preclude giving grossly indecent fiscal advantages to corporations.
The debate about the fiscal cliff is important because it helps focus attention on how government policy can have negative or positive effects on quality of life, and living standards.

Getting agreement on the link between spending increases and prosperity would be an improvement over falsehoods put about in Canada and the U.S. about how austerity is necessary to reduce deficits. It is not, and will not. All austerity does is reduce the standard of living of citizens.
 - But David Macdonald worries that the Cons have already made their choice - and that they'll use an economy that's weaker than (oh-so-loudly) advertised as an excuse to make matters all the worse for Canadians. And Thomas Walkom's hope that Jim Flaherty might be merely wrong rather than outright crazy doesn't seem particularly reassuring - particularly keeping in mind that his government's response to the 2008 crash was to push austerity from day one until political calculations intervened.

- Michael Geist explains how the Cons' copyright legislation will affect content creators and users.

- And Andrew Nikiforuk discusses the risks the Cons are pushing on Canada through an investment-protection racket with China.

- Finally, Paul Adams points out the significance of California voters simultaneously voting to raise their own taxes, and giving state Democrats the supermajority they need to have room to maneuver. But I'd think the even more telling sign that tax protest messages may have run their course is that even with an explicit tax increase on their ballot, California voters turned out in relatively low numbers - meaning that anti-taxers weren't able to motivate citizens to vote against it.


  1. While I'm agin' the agreement with China, Nikiforuk's article seems more like US-oriented anti-China propaganda than serious commentary on the trade deal. Quoting %$*! Francis Fukuyama?! Give me a break.
    The basic slant here seems to be "Free markets good! Free trade good! China evil, non-free-marketeers in capitalist clothing, therefore trade with China (only) bad!" I disagree. It isn't China that's the problem, it's so-called "free trade" that's the problem; the EU deal, for instance, is also a terrible one, and we'd be better off dropping out of NAFTA for that matter.
    It is interesting that on China, a good bit of the Conservative base has broken lockstep and gotten upset because "Communist China" (even though they haven't been Communist for some time).

    1. A fair point. But I'd argue the overriding problem is that we fail to raise the same concerns about "free market" actors generally that Nikiforuk raises about China's SOEs in particular - and the sooner we can agree that there are real lines to be drawn as to whether democracy should ever take precedence over investment flows, the easier it is to discuss the factors which influence where the line should be drawn.

  2. Anonymous6:41 p.m.

    I would like to get your opinion on this.

    1. At the outset, I'm more concerned with Don Davies' take on the NDP's historical position than with its willingness to consider agreements on their merits - and indeed I've made the case in the past that trade agreements can be a plus if they serve to promote rather than undermine social values. (And it's a sure sign that a government has its priorities wrong if it's obsessing over investment and trade to the exclusion of those values at home and abroad.)

      That said, the more important point is that I don't think real counterexamples are going to put the slightest dent in the Cons' spin. Which means that the NDP should be playing up the abuses the Cons are encouraging by entering into deals with questionable regimes, not worrying about preparing a defence to the false "anti-trade" label.

    2. Anonymous1:30 p.m.


      An article like that appeared...perhaps a month ago. Greg shared it on this website, though the bookmark eludes me. We all took turns commenting on it.

      In the previous case, readers may remember my advice about separating quotations from NDP officials from the conjecture of the author. That past article was an op-ed masquerading as a report.

      In this case, we have a more professional article. The quotations are given more prominence, and the authors conjecture is kept to a minimum.

      In both cases, the point is clear. The NDP favours a merit-based trade policy. Details matter. Negotiations matter. Fairness, above all, matters.

      The current political & journalistic class is unable to comprehend such an approach. They have internalized an economics that resembles "numerology". This leads to a faith-based approach to trade. It disregards the national interest & assumes "net benefit" before any study is conducted.

      The NDP is currently attempting an outreach to this hopeless bunch. IMO, your confusion should give them pause (my reply to Greg will explain).

      Dan Tan

    3. Anonymous2:40 p.m.


      You are correct about Davies.

      That specific comment ("our position in the past...") was too cute. It will be read as an arrogant disregard for the veterans of the party.

      IMO, this media strategy is a bit too cute. It is causing confusion among the ranks, and is not successful in its targeting.

      These articles seem to be part of an outreach campaign initiated by the NDP. Given the medium & manner of presentation, they are clearly attempting to communicate with the Liberal constituency in this country. Unfortunately, it is an appeal to the upper - rather than lower ranks of that party.

      The lower ranks still remember Pierre Trudeau's economic nationalism fondly. The upper ranks have long tried to suppress this inclination in their foot soldiers, but it lingers. They require no grovelling or apology, they only require steady performance & confidence.

      As I explained to Anonymous, the upper ranks are beyond redemption. They exist in protected "soviets" that are the medical, legal, academic and public relations industries. They have been spared the ravages of wage suppression, out-sourcing, and union-busting. As a result, they hold a romanticized view of all trade agreements...their actual effects be damned.

      There is nothing to be gained by appealing to these residents of Sodom and Gomorrah. They would only yawn as they read Davies' appeal to national interest, study, & fairness.

      As it stands, the current effort only seems to be successful in insulting & confusing members of the NDP. Brian Topp's campaign was successful in planting seeds of doubt about Mulcair's intentions. If Davies continues with that particular line, he will ensure that Mulcair enters the next election as Mitt Romney - a man unable to inspire his own troops.

      Dan Tan

    4. On this one I agree with Mr. Tan 100%.