Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Lack of Leadership

There really is no serious leadership in the political system today, at least at the highest levels. In Canada and the US conservatives are using recent economic problems to obtain tax cuts, an idea with which they have become obsessed; an economic move that will, in the long run, further complicate the basic problems that Capitalism is now suffering. Meanwhile conservatives, in their public discourse, are simply ignoring the fact that it was their policies that got us into this mess in the first place. The government of British Columbia passed a ‘balanced budget’ law a few years ago when they had convinced people that such a profoundly stupid idea was economically responsible, and now that have been forced to rescind the law in special session of the legislature. (Rather embarrassing if you ask me)But the past obsessions of Conservatives with tax cuts and deregulation has suffered a devastating and obvious discrediting; the only ones who don’t seem to realize it is, of course, conservatives. However, little leadership is being demonstrated on the other side of the political aisle. When the depressions and economic problems of the late 19th and early 20th century hit, it led to the progressive movement and major reforms to the economy including the move toward anti-trust laws. In the 1930s Roosevelt oversaw more significant changes to how capitalism functions with the creation of the welfare state. But today? There is really little or no talk of any serious changes or reforms to how capitalism works. We are going to build a few new bridges and fix some roads, but little else. Governments in a number of countries have made major investments in some capitalism enterprises like banks or insurance companies, and this even lead to a cover of Newsweek magazine that reads “We are all Socialists Now.” But this is obviously laughable. Governments have done nothing serious to overcome the problems that have now manifest themselves in the economy. Infrastructure spending will have little long-term effect on how the economy works. Politicians are just hoping to ride out the storm and stay afloat. Instead of bailing out banks governments should have taken that money and created National banks which could give low-interest,  loans with thirty-year terms to people seeking mortgages, as well as loans for small-businesses, thus by-passing some of the most blatant negative effects of market fluctuation on average people. Furthermore, the recent credit crisis has put so-called public-private partnerships in question. (See Mike Old’s article in this month’s HEU Guardian http://www.heu.org/~DOCUMENTS/Guardian/OWM/GuardWinter08_WEB_1.pdf) But governments are loath to give up policies that have gone so far to benefit their corporate friends in recent decades. Essentially, in the past thirty years or so, Governments have systematically designed economies in a way to divert money from average tax payers to large powerful corporations (much of it in the military sector). This has led to greater discrepancies between rich and poor, the gradual impoverishment of the middle-class, and outrageous profits that have mostly benefited the rich. Besides paying lip-service to the issue of Wall Street bonuses, these issues are not really on the radar of mainstream political discourse. But capitalism will crumble before their very eyes and until there is some genuine leadership, average people will pay the worst part of the price for this decay. 

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