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Business: Too much of a good thing? What's behind twitter power and the NDP?

It may not be just Quebec which is angry with the Bloc. I wonder if the tide is turning for a new generation? Youth are social-media'ing like crazy and they are rallying around Jack Layton and the NDP.

Say what we will about naive youth, the "real" world, the need to support business, the trend is real, and it is gathering force. Youth are **bleep** at what business has done and is doing in the name of pure profit.

What perhaps they don't get is how business benefits society, how "progress" comes about, how our lives are "better". I am not dismissive of these views, because we need business as a way of rationalizing exchange, creating new ideas and finding ways to implement our dreams.

But the credo of greed under the name of "profit-making" and what such hollow values have done to ordinary people in the name of creating the new, wealthy class as the US has done, has captured the imagination of youth and they're twittering. That should shake old men like Chretien, Perizau and even Mr. Harper, who yesterday clearly indicated which side he is on by stating that even if asbestos is outlawed in Canada, selling the cancer-causing material to countries which did not have such protections in place for their citizens was good for business and he supported it. So much for Mr. Harper's social conscience. So much for Harper's ethical conscience. Today's youth may already have "yesterday's man" in their sites.

This is NOT an anti-business tirade. This is a comment on how business conducts itself in our society, and how, through legislative permissions, it is permitted to do so with impunity. Perhaps once again, youth have their eyes open wider than their parents?

The fortunes of the NDP are changing because once again people are reacting, and, for better or worse, Layton's message has traction. Given the coincidental concern shown by Wall Street and the slightly-receding value of both the TSX and our dollar, business is taking the trend, within a week of the election, seriously. And so they should, not because an NDP government would be a good thing for Canada, (or BC...!), but because business (and we can include business's CEOs), has kicked open the fridge door, drunk all our beer and fatted itself in our living room easy chair without a care for the host.

As my children and the children of those my age (60+) come of age, buy houses, have families, they are observing the behaviour of business as it has treated their parents. Their parents have endured legally stolen pensions through Chapter 11 and CCAA rules, they have lost job futures, they have been forced into bankruptcies, they have endured terrible wages while businesse's leaders have a multi-million dollar swagger and generous tax gifts and bailouts for "Greed INC", (I seem to recall a judge once saying to a company that filed for CCAA that it was about "need, not greed").

What is being quite naturally created in response, is a powerful, certain recipe for the dismissal of the best principles of, and respect for, business and a capitalist society. The concurrent rise of the NDP, who will "speak for ordinary people", is inevitable, because youth know propaganda better than business itself.

Who's really looking forward to the election results?

Business is so focussed on profit-at-all-cost and protecting their turf that it hasn't seen the twitters for the trees.

Don

edited for grammar

Edited by Don Hudson
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Maybe because the "youth" haven't begun to really pay taxes they haven't fully realized the implications on the rest of society having to support the NDP's social programs. All they have to do is look East to Nova Scotia where they elected an NDP government and now have NDP taxes......

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Maybe because the "youth" haven't begun to really pay taxes they haven't fully realized the implications on the rest of society having to support the NDP's social programs. All they have to do is look East to Nova Scotia where they elected an NDP government and now have NDP taxes......

Jumpy;

Now how is any of that related to my comments?

Did you think I was arguing for the NDP as a governing party? If so, read again. This isn't even really about the election.

Sooner or later people take a look at how their lives are being shaped by forces greater than themselves. In the present society, it is corporate Canada and Corporate America which is doing so. And while most people are incredibly tolerant of some of the nastier bits that corporate behaviour has brought all of us, employees especially, are increasingly vocal about the disparities, and youth are watching and rumbling. The NDP is capitalizing on discontent. Jack Layton is a very bright guy, (as are the other two leaders) and the trend is not lost on him. Another minority government is shaping up, but the dynamics may be NDP-led and it won't be entirely because Quebec is fed up with Giles Duceppe and the BLOC's hackneyed message.

It is corporate business, (as opposed to small business) that needs to take a long look at itself, and of course it won't because power intoxicates and intoxication blinds.

Don

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Maybe because the "youth" haven't begun to really pay taxes they haven't fully realized the implications on the rest of society having to support the NDP's social programs. All they have to do is look East to Nova Scotia where they elected an NDP government and now have NDP taxes......

No, no,no. The present NS government had nothing to do with the tax increase except having to impose it. The tases are what they are because 'Honest John' Buchanan, and "Skippy" MacDonalds Conservaticive governments spent my kids legacy trying to buy their way back in to power. The NDP just said that somebody has to pay the bill and unfortunately that is us. Big surprise, huh?

The Fed Cons have done the same thing. Huge surplus to hude dept in 5 easy years. Npw they're saying less tax (esp for business) without reducing service? Come on, now. It's the same ol' same ol'

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There's a lot wrong with our form of democracy, the vote of 'youth' is one.

In that regard, I for one disagree with the current theme through which the individual is granted the 'Right' to place a 'vote' that allows him to put his hand in my pocket!

Perhaps it's time to consider a new requirement; the 'voter' must be a 'taxpayer' within the realm of the applicable election (municipal, provincial, federal)?

Corporations have been granted the same Rights as the 'Natural Man'. That's were the trouble with corporate responsibility begins.

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;)

Johnny Rico: Mr. Rasczak, I want to join the Federal Service and become a citizen. But my Dad thinks I should go to college and remain a civilian as he has. What should I do?

Jean Rasczak: Figuring things out for yourself is practically the only freedom anyone really has nowadays. Use that freedom.

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Sorry son. I know you're old enough to join the army and give your life for your country, but you're not yet a taxpayer so we can't let you vote.

Yeah, right. closedeyes.gif

Right on, J.O.

Okay...anyone remember Vietnam and Alice's Restaurant...this is the original version, but the story doesn't seem to have changed much since 1967... Don

edited to correct link

Edited by Don Hudson
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It's possible we're merely at one of those inflection points where one force in society has pushed as hard as it can and others are starting to push back. If so, it would be more comforting if it were happening in the US. Charles Blow claims to see it happening, but I can't see it - yet.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/30/opinion/30blow.html?hp

Dagger, thank you for the link to the NYTimes, Charles Blow article. It is excellent.

FWIW, I think a "Donald Trump" couldn't actually exist in Canada. He'd be laughed at too hard and otherwise not taken seriously. He wouldn't have a constituency to feed his brand of ridiculous silliness. Canadians know he is a media clown. But we have an election on, and I am sensing things.

I think you're right; it won't happen in the US. On the other hand I believe Canadians tend to be more thoughtful about the political process, and they listen, and I see it, in microcosm, occurring in Canada.

Perhaps Canadian's credulity comes with a price and that price is a fundamental expectation of honesty. Even if that honesty is disappointed most times, it has a tough shell, but the price has been extracted a number of times. I think this coming Monday hints at one of those extractions. Americans are too credulous, period. Neither their government nor their corporations have earned the right to be ignored and trusted.

Reaganomics and Thatcheromics was a ruse from the start, but it wasn't intended that way. I've read enough of Maggie's troubles in more balanced books on Neoliberalism, making the case that she was trying to break Britain away from economic strangleholds of the unions where the balance of power was in opposite hands. Interesting take, and one which requires some thought.

Reagan's firing of the Air Traffic Controllers signalled his simple approach to complex economic and political forces beyond his comprehension. Thatcher was earnest and a brilliant thinker, with whom I disagree; Reagan was just an actor who let others write his lines and actions but the effects were the same; Corporate America wrote the script, and, through the Supreme Court are, as in Canada, continuing to do so, and the result is an unprecedented, unelected power elite which governs the country, and political parties are essentially fronts for such power.

Young people are beginning to look for the source of the smell.

At one time, government and the judicial system was supposed to represent ordinary people. Now that is a tired, cynical civics lesson for anyone with eyes and the ability to think.

You can't see it yet because the media hasn't caught up with the people. Media's ranks have been slowly gutted over the decades of skilled, observant, intelligent writers and left desolate of thoughtful, independent opinions by the effects of concentrated ownership (Canwest, Time-Warner) and syndication. A writer for any media outlet knows full well what sells and what may cost one his or her job. There is always risk in honesty.

My point is, small as though it may seem, what youth are picking up on is what has happened to their parents at the hands of corporatism. Whether that is significant or a blip will be known, perhaps as early as Monday. In fact someone observed that the greatest turn would a thin Layton minority with Harper visiting Ignatieff. Unlikely, but the mere fact that it was thought out loud, and not just from one source, should trouble some comfortable minds.

Corporate power should not have the same rights as ordinary citizens but lobbyists with far more power than "the people" will never permit change.

But our speculative economy demands that corporations push stock prices as high as possible because so many long-term investment schemes such as pension plans rely on such lotteries as the stock market. The NYTimes is right in stating that "it's losing traction". People are amazingly tolerant of obvious wrong-doing and greed and even shake their fist in actually championing of those who get away with stuff. No longer, because it is their own futures, as it always was, that are in jeopardy with no pensions, lousy pay, inability to buy a house, all of which, to barely succeed, require both partners to work leaving the replacement of society's workers to hired sitters.

That's the reality for many young families and that, anyone can see. While it won't be nearly as newsworthy, there are the seeds for a small 'r' revolution in the twittering thumbs - it's small enough to fizzle, but it's there. There are a number of triggers that could turn it into a capital 'R'. Mitchell's "The Speculation Economy" discusses some of this.

I think the NYTimes article is well worth reading. In the world's wealthiest economy, it is shameful to see how good fortune is squandered.

Don

edited parceque toujours, toujours l'équilibre

Edited by Don Hudson
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I read this on a flight the other day and think it id relevent to this conversation. At what point to people push back?

Of the 1%, by the 1%, for the 1%

Thanks, Chock.

Joseph Stiglitz is routinely dismissed in the US and other business communities which are threatened by his views. But business can't argue with a growing sense of inequality and loss of hope because traditional societal channels for change and improvement have been closing for almost two decades now; a case in point is the dramatic loss of union membership. Business's key strategy there, (which they began in the thirties with the National Manufacturer's Association spending millions on anti-union, anti-worker propaganda campaigns), is to atomize the workforce and keep them from organizing their views. We see the results of that strategy in poverty, in lost income and lost futures as pensions are destroyed and workers are left to their own devices.

Somewhere in the article the author states, "Economists are not sure how to fully explain the growing inequality in America." Well, they aren't very good economists then. I have no training or courses in economics and I've been writing about these trends for about nineteen years now, (I began in 1992). In fact it took more effort to ignore this story than it does to comprehend it, but comrehending it means being carrying unpopular views and we all know how belonging and avoiding flak is important...

Under the heading of getting what we deserve and getting used to the new rules, is this what was contemplated? I don't think so. Whether corporate America and corporate Canada are aware or not, the tide is turning, brought about by the usual human failings which accompany absolute power.

Thanks again for the link.

Don

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Interesting how the topic is coming up at this time.

When Don Hudson and I were starting threads about this years ago, we were beaten like a government mule over our views.

What goes around, comes around.

Iceman

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Interesting how the topic is coming up at this time.

When Don Hudson and I were starting threads about this years ago, we were beaten like a government mule over our views.

What goes around, comes around.

Iceman

Iceman - yes, I recall very well; I was called "anti-American", a socialist and probably thought of as a "marxist", (whatever that is), and, while at all times politely engaged by those who disagreed with my views on the value of appropriate employee representation such as unions against the economic corporatist state that was emerging in the '70s, essentially the message was buried in heady economic times and otherwise ignored.

The destruction of "ordinary life" which has made it necessary for both parents to work just to contemplate purchases of shelter, food, clothing and education, not to mention some form of retirement so that retired/old people are independent and self-sustaining (instead of what's almost certainly coming - in the name of the drive for profit, which is millions of retired employees with NO pension becoming wards of the state).

The most confusing and mysterious response however, didn't come from those who supported these trends in corporatism, (as opposed to "business"), - the harshest responses came from those who would benefit most from such understandings - union members. Most responders signaled their distaste and even hatred for "unions", citing incompetency, graft, corruption and the usual images of "union goons" brought on by Hollywood such as "On the Waterfront". I had recommended one or two books to counter this view but I doubt if even one person ever sought out the titles let alone read the books. After all, why read something with which one disagrees and "knows" is "wrong"? One book above all others was, "Taking the Risk Out of Democracy" by Alex Carey, an Australian with a keen perception and excellent sense of history, from who's work I read the information about the National Association of Manufacturers overt propaganda campaign against unions, workers rights and the legitimacy of corporations to extract as much productivity from employees as possible with minimal cost, and dispense with them once done at the end of their individual careers. In fact, this treatment is now built into the thinking done in most boardrooms and is legitimized and sustained in corporate law, (one of the most lucrative law careers one can have).

Another book which provides some balance, (and I am NOT anti-business, I am against unelected private "governments" which dictate to an elected government just how things will be and how social policy is to be conducted!), is "The Speculation Economy" by Lawrence E. Mitchell.

Corporatists hate such literature because it reveals the underlying reasons why ordinary people are angry. It is okay for a population to be angry so long as they don't understand why and therefore can't target their anger and those who built such a system, (under the heading of neoliberalism...a term I've been writing about for a decade) can carry on with impunity.

To be sure, we are all "better off" than those ordinary people who lived in the nineteenth century - no question. But that is not justification to continue the present destruction under the tired and incorrect belief that "trickle-down" works. It was a lie when President Reagan said it and it is proven a lie today.

During CCAA filings, employees were told incessantly to "get used to it", and "the market dictates what you're worth". But how does one get used to the sight of multi-million dollar CEOs, multi-billion-dollar bank, auto and oil company profits and outsourcing while enduring a trillion-dollar economy in which ordinary families cannot earn enough to house, feed, clothe, educate their children and plan for their future?

The usual phrases, "get used to it" and "the market dictates what you're worth" and "more productivity for less cost" are all code for "employees are liabilities, not assets, and your wages, benefits and cost of retirement is going to be transferred from the loss column to the profit column".

It takes about thirty years, or one generation, for a socio-economic trend to begin and work its way through society. The Keynesian Welfare State, (which has nothing to do with "welfare" but everything to do with a non-corporatist economy) resulted in a "get-America-working again" post-War policy. To be sure, there were mistakes and failures, but the nature of such failures was within the model. The speculation economy which began in the late nineteenth century lay dormant. In 1970 President Nixon took the US off the gold standard and dismantled Bretton-Woods, releasing, through a slow de-regulation and privatization of corporate power the latent forces built up after WWII. Bill Clinton, under pressure from the very banks Bush later bailed out in 2008/9, dismantled Glass-Steagall, permitting banks to engage in speculative behaviours which permitted the S&L crisis and the sub-prime disaster which resulted in the latest of many economic crashes in 2008.

One doesn't "get used" to such treatment. After a while, one simply rebels and makes unseen forces visible.

None of this was desired by ordinary people, it doesn't benefit ordinary people but instead harms them, while, by designation, the top 1% get incredibly rich, and as Stiglitz points out, (hopefully to a broadening audience who are fed up), that Frederic Bastiat was right, (an interesting character in his own right), who wrote, "When plunder becomes a way of life for a group of men, they create for themselves, in the course of time, a legal system that authorizes it, and a moral code that glorifies it.”

– Political economist Frederic Bastiat, The Law [1850]

Power begets power begets revolutions. Our children will be old before institutionalized greed as a political economy changes such that hope for relative wealth is not merely an ambition, ensconced under the rule of law, for 1% of the population.

Don

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Hi Don

Maybe the 'Orange Crush' is Canada's way of transitioning in a more gentle manner, however, I do see an American version of what is happening in the Middle East happening, and soon.

One only has to look to what happened in Wisconsin. The embers of discontent are glowing.

What will be the ill wind that fans them into flame?

Iceman

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Hi Don

Maybe the 'Orange Crush' is Canada's way of transitioning in a more gentle manner, however, I do see an American version of what is happening in the Middle East happening, and soon.

One only has to look to what happened in Wisconsin. The embers of discontent are glowing.

What will be the ill wind that fans them into flame?

Iceman

Iceman;

Well, I'm not sure "Orange Crush" is a solution - the solution can't come from one political party or another, but from a change in the way business is done here, and especially in the US. The focus is on pure profit, and all the rest are either collateral benefits or collateral damage, depending upon who's ox is being gored.

The damage is endemic, not economic or political. Society is not about "people", it is about things like "maximizing", and "efficiency", and "quantification", terms which have nothing to do with people and their lives, many of which even in two of the richest nations on earth, are lived in quiet desparation. We are not our "brother's keeper", but we should be custodians of a system which permits independence and sufficiency, both of which are original conservative values but which have been bastardized into "technique".

The solutions isn't "more unions" or higher wages. While this looks like it, I don't think this is "anti-union" action but an action by a State government in extreme financial distress as a result of actions which brought about October 2008. In its present condition, the state treasury likely wouldn't survive the kinds of demands made. It is too late - the State can't manufacture money that isn't coming in. The time for such "fairness", if that's the word, was years ago, but long-term thinking and planning is not possible when planning must keep an eye on the whims of a speculative economy where the next crash may be around the corner, quite possibly unanticipated and unannounced.

Fair wages comes from seeing value in employees' input and conribution. But wages are seen as drags on profit and shareholder value and employees are the first place corporations go to, to transfer money or promises or value.

I don't blame the workers in Wisconsin and in a way I don't blame the legislators either although their methods and their goal are unconscionable. They, like Washington, are patching a sinking ship with putty and tape.

By any other name, the Wisconsin legislators are governing "Ireland", "Greece", "Spain". The time to deal with this is long time passed and the pain from what they, Washington and a de-regulated banking and corporate environment have done and not done must be gone through. If they are lucky and have the courage, they can do what New Zealand did to rescue themselves decades ago and what Canada has, up until the Harper government, done to keep such forces in check. They are the canaries in the mine for the US. They have nowhere to look but the processes and decisions outlined above and in books which state the issues far better than I can.

It is absolutely shameful and disconcerting to contemplate China and India, which the US has fed with their debt and their trade imbalance, waiting in the wings to occupy the likely economic and power vacuum.

Don

Edited by Don Hudson
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Great stuff Don. You've given us (or at least those who have an open mind) something to think about. Maybe recent history and being victimized by investors who valued money more than people has changed my vision, but I have a much different perspective now than I had a year ago. I understand that money makes the economy run, but there needs to be a balance between the rights of the investor and the rights of the people whose labour makes those investor richer. It's not right that they get so rich without even having to lift a finger.

Edited by J.O.
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Hi Don,

You've made some great points and I really enjoy reading your contributions (even if I don't always agree with everything you say!).

For the first time in my life, I'm seriously considering voting for the NDP instead of the Cons. It isn't because I've changed (at least I don't think I have), but I've found lately that none of the Canadian parties really have my interests in mind, so I'll go with the lesser of the three evils.

Many of my 30-something friends feel the same way. We just can't relate to these parties and we're growing increasingly unsatisfied. I can't quite describe it, but it feels like people my age are finding their voice and they're not afraid to use it. I think we've been emboldened by the usage-based-billing and US-style copyright issues that saw massive resistance from generation Y. The thought of a conservative majority scares the hell out of us because they won't have to listen to us any more. They'll turn to their lobbyists and check-in with us again in four years.

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