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‘All for ourselves and nothing for other people’: The takeover of economics by neoliberalism


Image: Adbusters/flickr

All for ourselves, and nothing for other people, seems, in every age of the world, to have been the vile maxim of the masters of mankind.

— Adam Smith, Wealth of Nations

In these days of economic stagnation, misery and insecurity, housing bubbles and the growing precariate, it seems appropriate to speculate on what Shakespeare might have written today were he penning a modern rewrite ofHenry VI. In declaring, “first let’s kill all the lawyers,” his character was voicing support for Jack Cade, whose revolutionary vision cast lawyers as paper-shuffling parasites ruining the lives of the common people. In the past 25 years that ignoble role has been usurped by economists. I liked them better when economics was called the dismal science — now the profession is simply a self-satisfied apologia for the plunder of society’s wealth by the greedy and ruthless 1% — the “masters of mankind.”

Priests of neoliberalism

Economics is no longer a science, if it ever was. It is a religion whose priests bend every effort to make the dogma of neoliberalism impervious to its disastrous outcomes. If it were a science the facts would long ago have prevailed and they would have denounced the ideology from the rooftops.

But, no, instead we get articles on a weekly basis about Canadians’ staggering debt load and the only attempt at explanation is so-called “human nature” — i.e. “Gee, people just don’t seem to be worrying — they’re ignoring the warnings.” Then there’s the ingenious concept of “recency bias” developed by someone in the field of  “behavioural finance” (who knew?). Recency bias means, according to the Globe’s Rob Carrick, “People are looking at recent events and projecting them into the future indefinitely.”

That’s it? That’s the best the economics profession can come up with to explain Canadians’ indebtedness catastrophe? It’s all about human behaviour, written in stone, so I guess we might as well just sit back and observe the meltdown in the comfort of our economist’s middle-class lifestyle.
But of course that’s the very thing they should be examining — people’s determination to live the middle-class life style that our entire culture is based on and which the sophisticated marketing machine tells us we must have — or we are losers. They need to explore this classic bait-and-switch: manipulate people to buy stuff and then suppress their incomes so they can’t.

Carrick’s article detailed just how serious the problem is — repeating numbers that have been quoted numerous times: over 700,000 people would be financially stressed if interest rates rose by even a quarter of one per cent. One million would face that circumstance if they rose by one per cent. The Canadian Payroll Association regularly tracks people’s financial stress and its recent survey revealed 48 per cent of people said “[i]t would be tough to meet their financial obligations if their paycheque was delayed even by a week. Almost one-quarter doubted they could come up with $2,000 for an emergency expense in the next month.”

Continue reading ‘All for ourselves and nothing for other people’: The takeover of economics by neoliberalism

‘Evicted’ probes the multiple dimensions of the housing crisis


Illuminating a grave yet solvable human crisis


Once bursting with well-paying jobs in the brewing and manufacturing industries, Milwaukee, Wisconsin is now the second-poorest city in America. Over 170,000 people, including 41 per cent of the city’s African-American and 32 per cent of the city’s Hispanic residents, are living in poverty.

Between 2009 and 2011, one in eight Milwaukee residents were forced from their homes by eviction or foreclosure. Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City tells their stories. Written by Matthew Desmond, now a Harvard sociologist, the book follows eight families, Black and white, who struggle to keep a roof over their heads.

The reader meets Arleen and her two boys, Jori and Jafaris, after their rented house is condemned as “unfit for human habitation” by the city. After several short stays in apartments across the inner city, she finds a duplex unit for $550 a month, 88 per cent of her welfare cheque. Desmond introduces us to other Black Milwaukeeans, mostly women, in similar straits, and recounts the stories of a smaller number of poor white residents facing eviction: people like Scott, a young nurse who lost his license when he was overtaken by his drug addiction.

Continue reading ‘Evicted’ probes the multiple dimensions of the housing crisis

Just say no to term limits! They’re fundamentally undemocratic and that’s why the right likes them

David J. Climenhaga | October 19 2016 |

rooseveltAs recent events clearly illuminate, our American cousins really ought to reconsider the 22nd Amendment to their Constitution. Surely by now the rest of the world heartily agrees.

“If only, if only the Obamas could be our President and First Lady for the next 4 or 8 years,” someone named Nan Socolow commented under Frank Bruni’s column last Saturday in the New York Times.

I’m sure Socolow speaks for millions of Americans, and perhaps tens or even hundreds of millions of citizens of the world, as they bleakly contemplate the two most likely winners among the politicians now running to replace the current U.S. president, the aforementioned Barack Obama.

Only Conrad Black, bloviating from his rapidly crumbling pedestal at the National Post, seems reassured by the character of both the principal candidates for the job, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Black’s views on a variety of topics are well known, so that in itself should probably be taken a warning flag. However, je digresse …

Just to be perfectly clear, as Richard Nixon used to say, I’m talking about the Twenty-second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. For Canadian gun nuts about to work yourselves into a full-blown swivet about that, it’s the Second Amendment you care about. Just sayin.’ The 22nd is the one that limits U.S. presidents to two four-year terms in office.

Notwithstanding the worries expressed by Thomas Jefferson — second president of the United States and admittedly a fellow whose advice is worthy of at least second glance — that allowing presidents to serve more than two terms would open the door to chief magistrates remaining in office for life (he had in mind the sort who would be monarchs) there is no evidence in American history through Civil War, Great Depression or World War his fears were justified.

Continue reading Just say no to term limits! They’re fundamentally undemocratic and that’s why the right likes them

Austerity Needed to Provide CAD$100 Billion in Tax Cuts to Corporations & Higher Income Individuals


Pro-austerity organization finds austerity increases inequality

Screen Shot 2016-06-01 at 10.02.13 AM

In the June issue of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) publication Finance and Development, Jonathan D. Ostry, Deputy Head of the IMF Research Department, and two co-authors examine two main tenets of the neoliberal doctrine, and find them wanting.

Does it make sense to pay down debt? When the evidence is assessed it turns out this fiscal consolidation — code language for austerity — increases inequality.

According to its proponents (those named in the article are Jean-Claude Trichet the former Governor of the European Central Bank, and Alberto Alesina a Harvard economist lionized by the Fraser Institute) austerity is supposed to promote growth. The IMF team shows the inequality increases that result from austerity feed back into slower growth.

Pro-austerity measures, such as cuts to public services, hurt more than reduced debt payments help. This would not be news, except that it is the very pro-austerity IMF that is saying austerity has undesirable consequences.

When Paul Martin and Jean Chrétien brought in their 1995 austerity budget it increased inequality, homelessness, health-care wait times, and resulted in post-secondary tuition hikes.

Continue reading Austerity Needed to Provide CAD$100 Billion in Tax Cuts to Corporations & Higher Income Individuals

How to privatize a public education system

Lizanne Foster | April 25, 2016 |


When there’s news every day of yet another school district budget shortfall and yet another school being closed, it’s difficult to see what has really been happening to public education in British Columbia for almost two decades now. But within the seeming chaos there is a clear pattern that emerges. It’s a pattern that can be clearly seen in many countries around the world as corporations turn their profit-hungry eyes toward the $5.5 trillion that is being spent on education worldwide.

Over a century ago public education was a radical idea in Britain. It was considered an utter waste of taxpayer’s money and was strongly resisted by many politicians. Nevertheless, arguments about public education being a public good won the day.

The big idea was that public education would provide an equal playing field for all society’s children. Children from poor homes could work their way up the social ladder through a free education and this in turn would ensure that the state would benefit from having a well-educated workforce and citizenry. Sounds all very democratic, doesn’t it?

Fast forward to the 1970s and a new idea began to spread from a group of economists at the Chicago School of Economics. One of them, Milton Friedman, wrote a seminal paper suggesting that public education be privatized. For most people in North America this was an outrageous idea akin to suggesting that we should sell motherhood. Because of the resistance to privatization of public education, it had to be sold to the public in a way that is subtle, is slick, is soft.

How to privatize a public education system

You will need the help of politicians. This is easy to obtain since they are always looking for donations for their election campaigns. Spending a few million will reap rewards ten times over. Once you have politicians on board, direct them thus:


Erode the collaborative and co-operative foundations of public education by introducing competition between schools. As an example, in B.C. the Fraser Institute began to rank schools in 1998 in a way that completely ignored multiple variables that made each school unique but that made sense to a public used to hockey team rankings.


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New Study: TPP Will Cost U.S. 448,000 Jobs

Published January 21, 2016 at Global Development and Environment Institute at Tufts University

Trading Down: Unemployment, Inequality and Other Risks of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement

by Jeronim Capaldo and Alex Izurieta with Jomo Kwame Sundaram
GDAE Working Paper 16-01
January 2016

Download the Working Paper

Download the Executive Summary

Proponents of the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement (TPP), the trade and investment treaty recently agreed by the United States and eleven Pacific Rim nations, emphasize the prospective economic benefits, with economic growth increasing due to rising trade and investment. Widely cited projections suggest GDP gains for all countries after ten years, varying from less than half a percentage point in the United States to 13 percent in Vietnam.

In this GDAE Working Paper, the authors employ a more realistic model that incorporates effects on employment excluded from prior TPP modeling. They find that benefits for economic growth are more limited, and they are negative in some countries such as the United States. More importantly, they find that TPP would lead to losses in employment and increases in inequality. This is true particularly for the United States, where GDP is projected to fall slightly, employment would decline, and inequality is projected to increase as labor’s share of income falls.

Continue reading New Study: TPP Will Cost U.S. 448,000 Jobs

Finnish child care is a world beater. So why do some critics still say universal care hurts kids?

BY MAIJU PAANANEN | SEPTEMBER 30, 2015, published at Rabble in Canada

Image: Flickr/Ian D. Keating

Child care has become a key issue in Election 2015. To support the public interest and political debate, the Childcare Resource and Research Unit’s blog, Child Care Now, will be published each week between August 12 and October 19. This is the seventh entry in the series. Read the first part here.

As an early childhood researcher newly arrived from Finland, the current Canadian debate about universal childcare has been somewhat baffling. In Finland, universal early childhood education and childcare (ECEC) means that if a child’s parents want her/him to attend, the municipality in which they live is obliged to provide them with a place irrespective of the parents’ work/life situation. Childcare is heavily publicly funded, with a maximum monthly parent fee equivalent to a few hundred Canadian dollars per month. Fees, which are based on parent income and family size, cover approximately 14 per cent of the total cost of ECEC. In international comparisons, the quality is considered quite high.

Continue reading Finnish child care is a world beater. So why do some critics still say universal care hurts kids?

Manitoba Conservatives open the door to privatization

by Molly McCracken, published June 17, 2015 at

Photo from Flickr

Social service schemes announced this week by the Manitoba Progressive Conservatives to encourage private child care and introduce Social Impact Bonds soften the ground towards privatization. The assumption is that the private sector knows best how to fund and deliver public services. This is false — publicly delivered services are more efficient, accountable and in the long-term public interest.

In “Tories say they would boost private daycare,” Conservative family services critic and MLA Ian Wishart says, “We’d like to leave the money with the parents and perhaps provide more opportunities for licensed privates” (Winnipeg Free Press, June 5, 2015). Manitoba has 12,000 children on the wait list for child-care spaces. In order to create enough spaces to meet the demand, capital grants are needed to build or expand centres and operating grants are needed to make them affordable to parents. New or expanded child-care centres need qualified staff trained at publicly funded institutions. Investments of this magnitude are not going to come from the private sector.

Furthermore, to turn the development of the child-care sector over to private market would result in higher parent fees to finance capital expansion and operations for those operators who would not be able to realize economies of scale. Operators pass these costs on to consumers. A focus on developing more spaces through the private market would create child care for those parents who are able to afford higher costs, leaving middle-class and moderate-income parents to scramble over remaining non-profit spaces with regulated fees.

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Canada: End of home mail delivery to be challenged in Federal Court

by Ella Bedard, published October 16, 2014

Photo: flickr/Michael

The plan to end home delivery of mail violates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

That’s the argument behind a legal challenge against the Federal Government by the Canadian Union of Postal workers (CUPW), seniors’ groups, and organizations for people with disabilities.

The coalition intends to file a case with the Federal Court of Canada under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. They also argue that the decision to end door-to-door delivery is beyond the Crown Corporation’s authority and should be made by the Parliament of Canada.

“This is a decision which will affect people across Canadians, particularly seniors and people with disabilities,” said John Anderson of the Centre for Canadian Policy Alternatives. “Canada post has done this without any real consultation.”

The Canada Post charter was up for public review this year, but the review has yet to occur.

“We need a national debate on this issue, but we haven’t had that debate,” said Anderson, who has written about postal banking as an option for Canada Post.

In December 2013, Canada Post CEO Deepak Chopra announced that the crown corporation would be ending door-to-door delivery for five million Canadians, incurring a loss of at least 8,000 jobs as well as an increase in service costs. This would make Canada the only G8 country without home delivery.

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