Wednesday, December 02, 2020

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Steven Lewis writes about the Sask Party government's catastrophic refusal to act on the evidence that Saskatchewan needs to sharply curb the spread of COVID-19. Julia Peterson reports on the Saskatchewan doctors making it clear that we can't afford to let up over the holiday season. And Murray Mandryk notes that a throne speech focused on platform baubles and outdated talking points fell far short of meeting an increasingly dire current reality - though it should hardly come as a surprise that someone anointed by the media for re-election while campaigning on a theme of "no lockdowns!" has concluded he can get away with trading lives for corporate favour.

- Thiemo Fetzer and Thomas Graeber study (PDF) the damage done by a lack of contact tracing - even as any effort to test and trace falls apart across the prairie provinces. And Lucas Edmond discusses how Brian Pallister's austerity and corporatism in the midst of a pandemic is killing Manitobans. 

- Andre Picard rightly asks why we're seeing another wave of outbreaks in long-term care homes after having the opportunity to learn from the mistakes of the spring. And Madeleine Ritts writes about the crisis of privatized, for-profit health care in Ontario.

- Finally, David Wastell reports on a push by economists to stop the media from reporting on the economy in terms of false analogies to household finances and credit card debts. And Alex Himelfarb highlights how spending during a pandemic and recovery period is absolutely necessary to build for what comes next:

For several months, as Canada’s governments were first taking on the pandemic and the economic shocks emanating from it, we witnessed something of a fiscal truce. Gone were the calls for restrained spending, small government, balanced budgets. Across the political spectrum governments were spending borrowed money. And across the political spectrum, observers of government—including many who had been lambasting the federal government for its pre-pandemic deficits and its lack of plan to get to balance—were for this brief moment welcoming or at least tolerating active government, deficit spending and increases to the public debt. 


Predictably, the deficit hawks have started to hover. Most headlines following the fiscal snapshot asked just how worried we should be about deficits and debt—and many pundits concluded plenty worried. “No way to put a shine on this,” said one; “Dire” said others; “Time to start winding down” said a few. And, following the age-old principles of “Misery loves company” and “What’s better than a race to the bottom?” some are calling for cuts to the public service and public service wages. Let the market do its thing as soon as possible, they’re saying, and start scaling government back down again. 


Disagreements about deficits and debt reflect more than differences among economists (of which there are aplenty); they highlight deeper ideological disagreements about what kind of country we want and the role of government in getting there. It’s important, then, to sort through the politics of deficits and debt. We need to explode the myths that have for decades stunted our political imagination, making us doubt whether we can afford what needs doing and convincing us that austerity, cutting spending and reining in government, is our only option. Austerity means squeezing essential services such as healthcare, education and welfare and foregoing or delaying public investment when all the evidence tells us that this is exactly the wrong way to go. 


We can expect—in fact we ought to have—serious debates about the shape of the post-pandemic recovery, about the future we want, about the role of government in building that future. We have an opportunity to learn from this pandemic, to address the inequities and cracks it revealed, to better prepare for the next crises. Important proposals for a feminist response, a “green new deal” and renewal consistent with reconciliation and Indigenous rights and racial justice show us what our future could be. We cannot afford to have those debates short-circuited by paranoia over deficits and debt. 

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