Monday, January 26, 2009

Budget Rant

I haven't put up a good old rant in a while so hang on kiddies, it's gonna be a bumpy ride.

Tomorrow's budget promises to offer more spending than Imelda Marcos on a shopping junket on Rodeo Drive. Over 34 BILLION in government money that does not exist yet is to be earmarked to begin being pumped into the public trough. The sound of the hogs coming to root will be deafening. If this plan goes forward our government will burn through 100 BILLION dollars that do not exist yet (that's how much of the national debt we paid off in the last decade) by the year 2013.

And why?

Because Jack (The Sky Is Falling) Layton says that we are in "the worst financial crisis since the 1930's"? Because Michael Ignatieff "sort of" agrees with him? Not so fast Jack & Mike. Unemployment was higher in the 1980's recession than it is right now. Today Canadian unemployment stands at just over 7% and it was 27% in 1932. It is today a far, far cry from every third person out of work as in the Great Depression. Also in the 1930's the numbers didn't include students or most women. We are enjoying far, far higher employment today as a percentage of our total population than at just about any other time in our history.

Now I agree that the manufacturing sector in southern Ontario is having a bad time, relative to recent years, but let's be honest for a minute here. Manufacturing jobs have been bleeding away from the industrialized western world for more than two decades and frankly, if the businesses in southern Ontario didn't recognize this and make some plans to diversify then this would have happened sooner or later. So it's sooner.

I have been reading the top auto magazines for 30 years and the editors and pundits of the auto industry have been literally begging and pleading with the Detroit so-called "Big Three" to "wake up and smell the coffee" for most of that time. I was in the parking lot at Safeway today and I parked my Impala between a Toyota Tundra and a Toyota Camry. That problem didn't happen to the auto industry last year. It's been coming for quite a while, and while I believe government can help workers with the transition, propping up an industry as obtuse and inflexible as the North American auto manufacturers makes about as much sense as holding a beer drinking contest to promote sobriety. As an interesting aside, there are now more people employed in Great Britain in automotive design, manufacturing, supply and distribution than when British Leyland owned everything. Foreign ownership made the industry BETTER there, not worse.

Back to our "bail-out" budget. The Bank of Canada just announced that they are predicting that the recession we are in will end as soon as September. That's just 9 months from now. And we have no chartered banks in any sort of situation that could be considered even mildly problematic. Our banks could probably loan other banks money right now. And we don't have mortgage companies that are sucking up dollars faster than a fat kid with a Slurpee on a hot August afternoon. American mortgage giant Freddie Mac just announced that "about 30 BILLION more dollars" would keep them afloat for a while longer. There is no such silliness going on north of the 49th parallel.

What IS going on up here is the fact that we are the highest taxed nation in the G7. We are in the top 10 world wide and we work about half the year before we start getting to the money we can spend on ourselves and others can use to create wealth, jobs and a vibrant economy. The truth is that the money we need to spend our way out of this recession doesn't have to come from the Canadian Government's Mastercard - all they have to do is leave it in your pocket and mine. All the government has to do is get it's taxation jackboot off the throat of small and medium businesses - who employ the vast majority of Canadians and who generate most of our true wealth. But nooooo.... The lobbies of the multinationals, the unions and the special interest groups will suck up the cash and determine where the wealth goes before the entrepreneurs even get a chance to make their case.

In Canada the modus operendi of our Federal Government is to take as much money from the people as they can and "redistribute" it through programs. Inefficient, wasteful and bureaucratic. But hey, we vote these guys and gals in and then they believe they can do what they want, or worse they try to figure out what we want and do what we want - sort of.

Now I KNOW you are smart. A person is smart. But people are dumb, panicky and stupid (Thanks Agent K). And what we need right now is for an adult to walk into the room and get everybody to settle down. Unfortunately for us, the adults are hiding out in the staff room and they've barricaded the door. And we are panicking because we are being told to - not because our situation is as bad as is being touted.

Now will the new budget and the wrangling over it wreck Canada? Probably not, at least not right away. We have so much and we are so wealthy that it's going to take a lot of mismanagement and waste to truly run our country onto the rocks, but the feds are giving it their best shot. No, I think what will happen will be what so often happens. We will miss the opportunity to be great. We will miss the opportunity to break out and leave the hurting USA and other economies who hitched their wagons to that misbegotten star in our economic dust. We will once again win the silver or the bronze or at least make the top 10. And the most frustrating thing about that will be that for the vast majority of us that will be "good enough".

We could be "The Next BIG Thing", but we'll settle for being "the next best thing".


BTW - I'm not the only one who thinks deficit spending is a bad idea for Canada.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


OK. He's now officially the 44th president of the USA. The first black American president. And I must admit he is also the most eloquent and engaging political public speaker I have heard in my lifetime. He's saying all of the right things. I pray he and his administration will also do the right things. And like many of my fellow Flatlanders, I sincerely hope his influence will rub off on our leaders here north of the 49th parallel.

But, I will still contend that salvation will not ultimately come to us from either 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue or 24 Sussex Drive, or the UN or from any human agency.

Yet, I am hopeful that the new American president will be a leader who will exert his influence for the common good of our world. And to that end I will say, and pray, "Godspeed, President Obama."