Kory Teneycke, a certified bellwether of Canada's ideological right, took what was once called a conniption fit on TV recently. He's the guy, as a Harper mainstay, who said Justin Trudeau would succeed in his first leadership debate in 2015, if he remembered to put on his pants. Since then, and before, he's gone from strength to strength. (Including, BTW, employing me on SunTV fitfully as a counterpoint, while that thing was still breathing.)
Conniption fits are often marked by sputtering. Kory appeared on CBC last week he and others like him are ubiquitous there as part of a brilliant strategy by CBC brass to conceal their own deep Marxism -- and gasped, "It can't go on this way," about the activist spending policies of all Canada's governments in combat with the virus.
From these words I deduce that what he really meant is, "It can go on this way." That's his real fear. In other words, this might mean the end of 40 years of effortless domination by neoliberal economic ideology.
We know governments are the worst to handle the economy, he said, they get everything wrong. Viva, private sector! No examples or arguments, just sputter. In rebuttal I offer three letters and a number: LTC and 2008.
The long-term care catastrophe is directly related to the plunge into takeovers by private capital enabled by Teneycke heroes, like Mike Harris as Ontario premier, who now leads the biggest elder care corporation. The crash of '08 was the triumph of a financial sector "unleashed." One of the few catastrophes of recent decades the private sector can't be blamed for is COVID-19. I think.
This insane (and worse, they imply, unnatural) public spending is actually going rather well. The emergency fund, CERB, which will now be extended, has, says the Globe's David Parkinson, replaced almost dollar for dollar, money lost to the economy by layoffs of low-paid and gig workers -- who in turn will spend nearly all of it, thus replacing lost demand. It sounds almost competent.
Contrast this with the U.S., where Republicans are holding off on extending their measly relief funds in order to see, says Mitch McConnell, how it's going. In other words, let's starve these poor buggers further to force them back to work as part of the Trump re-election strategy despite their mingy reluctance to die.
Meanwhile, Stephen Harper reclaimed his earmarked spot in the Wall Street Journal with, "After coronavirus, government will have to shrink again." More prayer, really, than analysis. There's blatant fear -- it'll leave an "unholy mess" -- followed by recital of the catechism: "If they fail to practice mild austerity … a brutal kind will be thrust on them."
And all say, Amen. You can almost hear him sucking his thumb while craning toward a better tomorrow of cutting those bennies. He's the Mitch McConnell of the north.
Harper reveals the true dark night of his soul by taking precious space to attack Modern Monetary Theory (MMT): it's "nonsensical," dammit. Nobody cites MMT in mainstream discourse. The accepted strategy is: ignore them. He'd only do it in a panic, if he feared, deep down, that they may be right -- you really can spend with few limits or penalties -- and OMG, people might start noticing.
Andrew Coyne, re-ensconced at the Globe after years of self-exile, has a different tilt, though in his case conniptions are a recurring feature. He takes umbrage (I think that's a rare correct usage) at the funding bill for business (LEEFF), which imposes limits on stuff like CEO pay, tax avoidance and climate crimes. None of that's any "business" (sic) of government, he says. They should cough up the money or don't, as they did in '08. Since when do they have the right to tell private actors what to do? Er, all the time?
While it's satisfying to see these folks gnaw on their extremities, I want to reassure them there's no chance Canada will be going full MMT, even to fix rectifiable injustices like poverty or Indigenous rights. FDR himself wasn't able to mobilize the entire U.S. economy to defeat the Depression. He only did that when full-scale war erupted, and COVID-19 is no world war. Oh, wait a minute ...>
Rick Salutin writes about current affairs and politics. This column was first published in the Toronto Star.
Image: London Summit/Flickr
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