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Canadian marchers push back against Trump; politicians get on his train

Photo: Martha Plaine

Karl Nerenberg is your reporter on the Hill. Please consider supporting his work with a monthly donation Support Karl on Patreon today for as little as $1 per month!

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Last week, the scowling man, south of the border, who quite decisively lost the popular vote but nonetheless snookered a victory in his country's Electoral College, said:

"For too long, a small group in our nation's capital has reaped the rewards of government while the people have borne the cost."

And then he added:

"The forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer."

If those words sound like they come from a speech someone might have made during the Occupy Movement, rest assured they do not.

And in case the laid-off blue-collar workers of Erie County, Pennsylvania or Macomb County, Michigan thought the new president was talking about them, Donald Trump made clear on Monday exactly who he thinks has been forgotten all these years.

The new man in the White House held a meeting with a group of corporate CEOs, including the heads of Ford, Dow Chemical, Johnson & Johnson, Lockheed Martin and U.S. Steel, in which he promised to cut the corporate tax rate in half and reduce regulations by 75 per cent.

And so, if you were wondering who Trump's forgotten people are, now you know. They are the 1% -- or, more accurately, the 0.01%.

Among the regulations Trump will scrap are some that protect the air the 99% breathes and the water it drinks. And that includes the millions of 99% voters who supported him.

The enduring mythology of capitalism

On this score, Kevin O'Leary, and, to be fair, a number of other Conservative leadership candidates, such as Maxime Bernier, are completely in step with the new U.S. president.

They all believe government is a drain on the productive private sector and that just about any rules or laws that circumscribe businesses are redundant and harmful.

Now, there are some regulations they do happen to like. Take, for instance, the ancient "regulation" that says hungry people may not walk into a retail outlet, put a few Trump steaks into their coat pockets, and leave without paying.

Trump and his Canadian imitators do not propose getting rid of that rule.

They are happy to have courts, police, prisons and other public sector institutions which serve their interests.

That is what is hypocritical and nearly ridiculous about right-of-centre politicians' tiresome carping about government intrusion into citizens' businesses and lives.

Without a vigilant and vigorous public sector, business owners would neither be able to safely conduct their businesses nor comfortably live their lives.

Not only do they need a legal and penal system to protect them and their private property, their businesses need high-quality public infrastructure and educated workers. All of that is paid out of the public purse.

One of the most enduring myths of capitalism is that it came about spontaneously, maybe even miraculously, much as a powerful mythic guy-in-the-sky is said to have formed the first human, Adam, out of a lump of mud.

According to this myth, those who would tax and regulate profit and property are parasites on the productive engine of the free market.

As a matter of historic fact, however, the state, the public sector, preceded the capitalist economy.

It was the public sector's ports, roads, police, civil laws to enforce contracts, currency to allow exchange of goods and investments, system of weights and measures, and, ultimately, schools and hospitals, that made a flourishing private sector possible.

Without the framework, protection and support provided by public institutions, Adam Smith's invisible hand would be groping about in the dark, grasping at air.

Where's the pushback in Canada?

Those who believe there are such things as public goods, and such a value as the public interest, should not forget this simple fact.

However truculently out of touch with facts it might be, the rhetoric of unbridled free marketeers tends to be corrosive and to undermine common sense and rationality.

Today, the Canadian federal government is earnestly and furiously looking for ways to communicate and connect with the new regime south of the border. We will appeal to the new U.S. president as the quintessential businessman, says one senior cabinet minister.

For their part, Conservatives, and not only Kevin O'Leary, urge Canadians to enthusiastically get on the Trump train. We should scrap environmental laws, slash taxes, and ditch government regulations, they say.

Somebody has to stand up against the Trump tide from the other side. But so far, while there have been many voices in the streets, we have not heard much, if any, pushback from the parliamentary precinct. 

Karl Nerenberg is your reporter on the Hill. Please consider supporting his work with a monthly donation Support Karl on Patreon today for as little as $1 per month!

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