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November 13, 2014 - No. 95

Harper's Fall Economic Update Is an Attack on the People and Their Society

Harper's Finance Minister Joe Oliver delivered the annual fall economic update on November 12 to a group of businesspeople in Toronto. The real news was not what Oliver said, which had already been widely predicted and reported, but what he did not say. He did not say anything remotely connected with the problems Canadians face. He did not say anything remotely connected with the problems the economy faces.

Oliver repeated the Harper refrain that the global economy "remains fragile" and the country must "stay the course" to ensure prosperity. This in itself is a contradiction and makes no sense. If the economy "remains fragile," why would the government "stay the course"; why not fix the fragility?

Of course, the issue is more complicated because the Harper dictatorship wants Canadians to believe they live in a "Wild West" outside any society or socialized economy, a wilderness of unknowable untamed markets, beyond the realm of economic science. The neo-liberals do not want the people to imagine themselves empowered and in control of their society and economy with the institutions and authority capable of dealing with the problems as they present themselves.

For the Harperites, the problems the people and economy face are irrelevant. The real problem for the neo-liberals is too much government spending on social programs, and too much taxation and regulations on those who own the competing untamed parts of the economy, which in spite of their "fragility" and problems, the government must "stay the course."

Harper frames his opposition to government spending on social programs, as a fight for a balanced budget. With this notion or precondition of balance held high, Oliver touts the victory of yet another $500 million in lower program spending, bringing the total down to a record low for the country.

The cutting of social programs, sale of public assets, and privatization of public services, along with the lowest level of federal claims (taxation) as a percentage of the value Canadian workers produce, have resulted in a surplus of $1.9-billion in next spring's federal budget. Break out the champagne! Incoherence has conquered consciousness. Balance has not only been won but surpassed. Life will be good and secured, bathed in the magical elixir "balance."

In the minds of the neo-liberals, the declaration of a balanced budget next year should guarantee the Harper government's re-election. It means nothing to them that a budget of fewer social programs and public services, and lower government claims on the value produced within the economy, does not solve a single problem the people face, or change a "fragile economy" into a healthy vibrant strong prosperous one, functioning in harmony with all its diverse parts. The "fragile economy" has over a million workers officially unemployed with Canada's youth the hardest hit.

Harper's propaganda campaign seems to please the owners of monopoly capital for the moment but even they are becoming restless with the phony austerity agenda and have begun to whisper the merits of deficit financing. After all, dropping bombs on Iraq is expensive. The endless war on terror is likewise expensive with all those spies, agents and mercenaries running around. Not only that, monopoly capital wants to control and profit from the entire service sector and be given free infrastructure and grants for investing just like Ford, Honda and other monopolies. According to finance capital, every aspect of public services should be contracted out to them including even policing, prisons, spying and war. All this pressure for public funds to pay the rich and wage wars of aggression may require a change from the mania for balance to deficit financing. Besides, putting money into safe government debt during these "fragile" times is always pleasing to the rich.

Oliver used the occasion of the fall update to attack the Liberal and NDP leaders. He told those in attendance that cutting social programs and reducing the federal government's claim on the value workers produce is Conservative Party policy and Trudeau and Mulcair oppose it. In soliciting votes and campaign money from the businesspeople, Oliver equated opposition to Harper's neo-liberal austerity agenda as, "Taking money out of the pockets of middle-class and lower-income Canadians," which, "does not sound like a winning platform to me." Many Canadians find offensive and a sign of corruption that the government uses its duty to report the country's finances, as a bully pulpit for self-serving cheap electioneering.

Harper says government spending on social programs and public services takes money out of the pockets of Canadians. This is the fend for yourself refrain of the rich who refuse to recognize that in today's world, people are born to society and have rights by virtue of being human. The modern economy needs managing on behalf of all the people and not just a privileged few and their private interests who brandish their ownership of social productive property as a weapon against the people and society. The modern economy is incredibly integrated and socialized. To harness its collective power and not squander it with unemployment and low capacity utilization, the economy needs the close attention, cooperation and expertise of the workers directly involved in all sectors. On the contrary, Harper's retrogressive line throws mud on those Canadians who want to solve problems. However, those Canadians are beginning to awaken to the reality that Harper and other neo-liberals are blocking them from gaining the political and economic empowerment and control necessary to solve problems, renew the country and economy, and set them on a pro-social direction.

The people are not content to have the Harperites speak drivel and then expect everyone to nod their heads in agreement. The mass media in particular bring shame on themselves for not questioning the Harper nonsense and demanding answers and action to deal with the very real problems Canadians know exist because they, their relatives, workmates, neighbours and small business face those problems every day.

Harper employs the old trick of conjuring up a premise or agenda and demanding all respond to what he says. The people are not allowed to fashion their own premise or agenda. They are not allowed to think for themselves and deal with the world as it presents itself. Instead, they are expected to respond to Harper's preset agenda, which in this case is a government budget with revenue and expenditures of his doing, which have an irrational aim of balance. What problem does a balanced budget solve aside from the issue of being balanced?

No broad discussion is permitted as to what makes up the content of expenditures and revenue. The method of collecting revenue is set as taxation, which is now mostly individual with personal income tax at an all time high of 7.1 per cent of GDP. This side of the equation is not to be questioned. But why in a socialized economy are the claims of government not made at the point of production of goods and services, from the value that workers produce and reproduce? Why should the claims of workers on the value they produce and service they provide, their wages, benefits and pensions, become the main source of government revenue?

From the expenditure side, the social and economic problems are ignored and buried under a barrage of propaganda that expenditures must be equal to or less than revenue and revenue claimed directly from the big monopolies must be less and less.

Even the gaping wound of permanent unemployment is made one of treating the symptom from available revenue from employment insurance premiums. The EI account has a $3.8-billion surplus and growing; yet the unemployed suffer greater difficulties in claiming EI and in addition, nothing is done to solve the cause of the problem, as the Harperites simply shout to "stay the course."

Canadians are expected to wait for Statistics Canada's monthly labour report and "ooh and aah" over jobs gained or lost while the root problem of unemployment is never resolved. Harper goes on and on about balance and cutting social programs but no one including the media talk about the enormous loss of value from 6.5 per cent of workers not working, especially the damage to the country's precious youth and the stupendous loss of value from the capacity of means of production not fully utilized or even closed for self-serving private interests, such as steel and coke making at U.S. Steel's Hamilton Works.

The update announces a revenue surplus for next year and the entire country is supposed to jump for joy and pat the Harperites on the back and re-elect them for a job well done. Well, Canadians are well past such infantile responses. They want the economic and social problems of the economy and society tackled, not ignored and buried under deceitful propaganda. The people demand a pro-social agenda of their own making not a preset one concocted to serve the privileged few and attack society, which a fawning mass media mindlessly applaud.

Stop the attacks on the people and their society!

Stop paying the rich! Increase investments in social programs!

Organize and fight for a pro-social agenda and new direction for the country and economy!

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