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Feb
10

Bailing Out

Corporations in the world today are a peculiar beast. Depending how you look at them, they are either engines of progress and dispensers of opportunity or they are engines of destruction, bent on using up everything everywhere to produce more profit for more shareholders. The corporation has played a very large part, both in the civil society that we have created in Canada and in the mess that we have made of the natural world.
Governments today in the “developed” countries are mainly democratic, mainly secular and mainly controlled by the nations corporations. Some countries have made a valiant effort to stem the tide of corporatism, or fascism as it is more properly called. Others haven’t. In fact, our neighbour to the south seems to have embraced it to the point that even blatant criminality is acceptable, as long as you have buddies in power and lots of money. Canada, on the surface, is one of the good guys. By denying corporations and unions the opportunity to “invest” in candidates or parties, we have left the financing of government up to a small government stipend to the parties based on their vote tallies from the previous election and 75% tax deductible contributions from private citizens.
Historically, the deal between government and corporations (look at actual history, not at what they would like you to believe) has been that whenever they can governments will assist corporations with the privatizing of profit and the externalizing of costs. This manifests in many ways; lack of regulation (DFO inaction on the Athabasca comes to mind), legislation targeted at destroying competition (driving small farmers to ruin with restrictions on selling meat and milk), cutting taxes, borrowing to stimulate the economy when criminality runs out of control and doing its best to get out of the way when a corporation runs over a citizen (Percy Smeiser comes to mind). As they say, politics is economics by other means, and warfare is politics by other means. And we have a very instructive example in Iraq of a “corporate war” in action.
So why even have corporations if they are such a blight on the planet, society and the body politic? Simply because there is no other vehicle on the planet that can harness greed and envy so effectively to make profit. The unspoken social contract at the time was that the public purse would pay for the creation and maintenance of the infrastructure (roads, railways, communications, food systems, public buildings, educational institutions, health care for citizens, education for citizens, etc. etc.) at huge public cost and ongoing liability. And as the externalities always need someone to pay for them, the public purse usually ends up picking up the tab for decades of environmental degradation and toxic waste as well. In the beginnings of industrialization, this made a bit of sense as society had very little infrastructure and really did not have a lot to offer a corporation in exchange for the investment of their capital and the creation of jobs for the citizenry. The corporate end of the bargain was to pay their taxes and be good corporate citizens and reinvest their profits in the country. Imagine yourself as the CEO of Research In Motion and you want to open a new research laboratory. What is going to influence your decision more? A minimal tax policy or access to a highly trained workforce and all of that incredibly expensive infrastructure? The Conservatives want you to believe it to be the tax policy. Apparently they think we are all idiots.

Morality is an informal public system applying to all rational persons, governing behavior that affects others, and has the lessening of evil or harm as its goal.

This is perhaps the broadest interpretation of the concept “morality” that I have come across. No subjectivity, no loopholes, just a nice clear definition that everyone can agree on. Assuming we are dealing with rational persons (politicians and CEOs), performing behaviours that affect others (incurring public debt in the name of taxpayers and destroying the environment for profit), can anyone show me how this behaviour lessens harm or evil?
So in light of the problem of infrastructure, the constant pressure from corporations to lessen their share of it and the government’s perfect willingness to let them off the hook for it, what is a poor taxpayer to do? And why, exactly, did I bring morality into this in the first place?
Because of the children. No government and no generation of voters in the history of this country can dodge this moral bullet. I argue simply that it is immoral to stick our children with the consequences of our actions, financial, environmental or otherwise.

Prosperity is not achieved at the expense of the future. If it were, we would be experiencing the greatest boom that $558 billion dollars could buy.

Prosperity is achieved when all of the players in a society ante up and are prepared to pay their way. That is life. That is life without corporate welfare. That is the free market, the one with no government bailout when you make a mistake. To even speak of further tax cuts for corporations or individuals for that matter while we blithely add another billion here and another billion there to our national debt is flatly immoral.

Our politicians and the corporations that we allow to do business here need to be reminded that this is still a society of human beings. We benefit as people from the arrangement the way it is. If we didn’t, we would change it and as we see in other countries around the world, that is not always a neat and tidy process. By letting the corporations get away with not paying their fair share, by subsidizing their operations, by tipping the playing field in favour of the large at the expense of the small, by serving up all of the benefits and none of the obligations, government is playing fast and loose with the underpinnings of our society, usually in the name of flawed ideology or simply to stay in power.

We need to start paying off the national debt. As one taxpayer, one Canadian, I do not care how much borrowing more would benefit me, how much profit it would add to my investments or how big of a tax cut I would get, the fact of the matter is that every single one of those things would be at the expense of my children.

We are the generation who can choose to make a difference. – Brock Evans

It is time to choose.

Greed and envy and their ugly stepchildren, growth and profit are no way to run a society for the benefit of human beings. At best, necessary evils but we cannot allow them to rule our lives any longer.

As it ever was…

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