Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Time To Jettison Failed Ideas

On our 100th birthday, Michael Valpy writes that "we fell in love with ourselves." But, on our 150th birthday, our mood has changed:

A recent exploration by polling firm EKOS Research reports that the importance of many long-time salient symbols of our sense of nationhood is dramatically eroding.

Canadians report that the significance to their national identity of the beaver, the maple leaf, the flag, “O Canada,” hockey — yes, hockey — the Grey Cup, Parliament Hill, cultural diversity, tolerance, official bilingualism, Canada Day, Remembrance Day and the RCMP have all declined.

For the first time since EKOS began asking the question in the 1990s, the number of Canadians who think the country is admitting too many immigrants who are not white has passed the 40 per cent mark — meaning we’re not only souring on so many traditional national symbols we appear to be becoming more racist.

The racism has always been there. But these days, it's more blatant. Nevertheless, we have come to terms with our French heritage. Frank Graves believes that, "what’s been established is a new healthy d├ętente where Quebecers are able to pursue their own thing and there’s a nice civic nationalism where we agree on things.”

Still, there has been a souring of the public mood, which Graves attributes to four phenomena:

  • Increased pluralism.
  • Confusion left behind by the previous government’s effort to reorder some of our symbols — the emphasis on military history, for example; the de-emphasis on the Charter.
  • A pessimistic sense among ordinary Canadians that progress is ending, inequality is rising and waving the flag won’t help.
  • Dark clouds over mainly Conservative voters who constitute 25 to 30 per cent of the electorate and are much more economically fearful, allergic to immigration and globalization, mistrustful of elites and nostalgic for white privilege than the rest of their fellow citizens. Sixty per cent tell EKOS they would have voted for Donald Trump as U.S. president compared to three per cent of Liberal supporters. We’re increasingly two Canadas (or three or four) with a vanishing middle ground.

We are living in the wake of neo-liberalism -- which has left a sour taste wherever it has been adopted. It's time to jettison failed ideas.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Millions Of Americans Are Cheering

The American Senate's version of Trumpcare is a nasty piece of work. And Republicans are doing everything they can to keep their fellow citizens in the dark. Robert Reich writes:

America’s wealthiest taxpayers (earning more than $200,000 a year, $250,000 for couples) would get a tax cut totaling $346bn over 10 years, representing what they save from no longer financing healthcare for lower-income Americans.

That’s not all. The bill would save an additional $400bn on Medicaid, which Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan, and Donald Trump are intent on shrinking in order to cut even more taxes for the wealthy and for big corporations.

If enacted, it would be the largest single transfer of wealth to the rich from the middle class and poor in American history.

But the legislation is structured to hide those facts:

The Senate bill appears to retain the Affordable Care Act’s subsidies for poorer Americans. But starting in 2020, the subsidies would no longer be available for many of the working poor who now receive them, nor for anyone who’s not eligible for Medicaid.

Another illusion: the bill seems to keep the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion. But the expansion is phased out, starting in 2021.

The core of the bill – where its biggest savings come from – is a huge reduction in Medicaid, America’s healthcare program for the poor, elderly and disabled.

This, too, is disguised. States would receive an amount of money per Medicaid recipient that appears to grow as healthcare costs rise.

But starting in 2025, the payments would be based on how fast costs rise in the economy as a whole.
Yet medical costs are rising faster than overall costs. They’ll almost surely continue to do so – as America’s elderly population grows, and as new medical devices, technologies, and drugs prolong life.
Which means that after 2025, Medicaid coverage will shrink.

Like their president, the Republicans are fundamentally dishonest and morally bankrupt. And millions of Americans are cheering them on.

 Image: Quartz

Sunday, June 25, 2017

It's Not Easy

In the era of Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbin, Tim Harper writes that the NDP is going to have to take a hard left turn. The template for their platform already exists in British Columbia:

If one wants to see what the federal New Democrats will likely put on the table for voters in 2019, the template is in British Columbia.

It will pledge real electoral change.

It will work toward Indigenous decolonization and real reconciliation, not the symbolic reconciliation so far favoured by Trudeau.

It will take a much tougher line on pipelines and climate change.

It will aggressively tax the rich and impose tough levies on real estate speculators.

It will pledge to overturn economic inequality and pledge solutions to precarious employment, rejecting Finance Minister Bill’s Morneau acceptance of it as a fait accompli.

There will no longer be talk of balanced budgets. There will be no more kid gloves with corporate taxes. They will likely push to lower the voting age to 16.

But, at the moment, nobody is paying attention to the Dippers' leadership race. And, across the country, several provincial parties have worries of their own:

New Democrats in British Columbia have no time to focus on this race. They are on the cusp of government in an ongoing political drama on the West Coast.

That saga is also drawing all the attention of Alberta New Democrats who are consumed with what an NDP-Green alliance in B.C. will do about a major pipeline expansion that has federal approval.

Manitoba New Democrats are focused on choosing Ojibwa Wab Kinew, a rapper, broadcaster and author, as its next leader.

These days, it's not easy being Orange. 

Image: Maclean's

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Who Knows?

When Donald Trump ascended to the presidency, many worried that Europe would follow his lead and be drowned by a wave of right wing populism. Tony Burman writes that what many feared hasn't happened:

Here in Germany, Angela Merkel has an 11-point polling lead in her campaign to win a fourth term as chancellor. Her party currently stands at 36 per cent; far down the list is Germany’s far-right party at only nine per cent. In neighbouring France, newly elected President Emmanuel Macron — Merkel’s new best friend — has just led his party to an overwhelming majority in France’s National Assembly.

Perhaps foreshadowing Germany’s vote in September, Europe’s far-right parties have fared poorly in recent elections in Austria, the Netherlands, Britain and, most recently, France. In addition, economic growth throughout much of Europe is expanding faster than projected.

The Europeans have been down that road before. And they don't want to go there again:

Polls suggest that Trump’s disruptive presidency has horrified most Europeans and has made them more likely to vote for leaders whom they see as moderate.

This has meant an apparent changing-of-the-guard in terms of the traditional leadership of the western alliance. A deepening relationship between Germany and France — between Merkel and Macron — will have serious implications. Instead of Trump, these European leaders will increasingly be seen as the most credible standard bearers of the world’s liberal and democratic order.

And, in the wake of Theresa May's defeat, some are suggesting that Britons might want to seriously re-think their decision to head for the exits:

As negotiations began over the details of the proposed “divorce,” European Council president Donald Tusk suggested that it’s not too late for Britain to change its mind and remain within the European Union. Quoting lyrics from a John Lennon song, Tusk said: “You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.”

But his remarks likely fit into the same category as that other bit of breathtaking Brexit news this week.

When the Queen opened the new session of the U.K. parliament on Wednesday, she wore a hat decorated with an arc of papal blue flowers each with a yellow disc at its centre, and this created a storm on Twitter.
In the words of the right-wing Daily Mail newspaper, her hat looked “suspiciously like” the European Union flag, prompting the BBC to quote another Twitter posting: “Nice to see queenie dressed as the EU flag.”

Who knows how this story will end? 

Image: New York Times

Friday, June 23, 2017

Perhaps They're Right

The Republican Party has dropped all its pretences. With Donald Trump in the White House, they no longer have to pretend that their mission is to protect the little guy. Their mission is to advance the interests of the wealthy. The health care bill that the Senate released yesterday offers incontrovertible proof of that. Paul Krugman writes:

The substance is terrible: tens of millions of people will experience financial distress if this passes, and tens if not hundreds of thousands will die premature deaths, all for the sake of tax cuts for a handful of wealthy people. What’s even more amazing is that Republicans are making almost no effort to justify this massive upward redistribution of income. They’re doing it because they can, because they believe that the tribalism of their voters is strong enough that they will continue to support politicians who are ruining their lives.

The Republican mission has been the same for a long time. But they used to sugar coat their rhetoric with bromides about the common good. No more:

In the past, laws that would take from the poor and working class while giving to the rich came with excuses. Tax cuts, their sponsors declared, would unleash market dynamism and make everyone more prosperous. Deregulation would increase efficiency and lower prices. It was all voodoo; the promises never came true. But at least there was some pretence of working for the common good.

Now we have none of this. This bill does nothing to reduce health care costs. It does nothing to improve the functioning of health insurance markets – in fact, it will send them into death spirals by reducing subsidies and eliminating the individual mandate. There is nothing at all in the bill that will make health care more affordable for those currently having trouble paying for it. And it will gradually squeeze Medicaid, eventually destroying any possibility of insurance for millions.

Never mind that the bill betrays the very people who put them in office. The Republicans believe their base is stupid enough to keep voting for them. Perhaps they're right.

Image: salon.com

Thursday, June 22, 2017

No Vacancy

Donald Trump is coming to Canada next May to attend the G7 Conference. He should not be invited to extend his stay or to come back. Bob Hepburn writes:

Over the years, American presidents have visited Canada numerous times. Barack Obama came twice, first in 2009 for a working visit to Ottawa and then in 2010 when he was in Toronto and Huntsville for the G8 and G20 summits. George W. Bush visited four times and Bill Clinton came five times, including a 2005 state visit during which he addressed Parliament.

But Trump is a special exception:

But none of those presidents were as irresponsible, hostile, arrogant and ignorant as Trump, a man who has done more to unleash the racist, bigoted undertone of America than any U.S. leader in any of our lifetimes.

At the same time, Trump is working hard to hurt Canada by withdrawing from the Paris climate accord, picking fights with Canada over trade issues ranging from renegotiating NAFTA to imposing punitive tariffs on our exports and disparaging our defence spending.

Also, Trump displays open signs of Islamophobia, trying to bar refugees and visitors from seven mainly Muslim countries and tweeting almost instantly his disgust with Muslim terrorists for attacks in England and France, but remaining silent when a white man killed Muslims at a Quebec City mosque earlier this year or when a white man drove a van into a peaceful Muslim crowd outside a mosque this week in London.

There will be protests wherever Trump goes. As a landlord, he knows what it means when a No Vacancy sign goes up in the window.

Image: Huffington Post

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Mulroney's Take On Trump

The old saw about politics making strange bedfellows remains as true as ever. Consider the alliance between Justin Trudeau and Brian Mulroney. Tim Harper writes:

Certainly in the past, Liberal prime ministers have turned to former Liberal prime ministers for wise counsel and Conservatives have done likewise, even though Stephen Harper once issued a government-wide edict that Mulroney was persona non grata because of what was finally found to be Mulroney’s inappropriate dealing with discredited former arms industry lobbyist Karlheinz Schreiber.

Mulroney has always kept in touch with Justin. In the hothouse of Montreal social circles, it could not be otherwise. And he saw the younger Trudeau's potential years ago. Trudeau, for his part, saw Mulroney's connections with Trump as invaluable:

Enter informal advisor Mulroney, who says he was approached by a Trudeau team which had put “all its eggs in Hillary (Clinton’s) basket and woke up the next morning and realized they knew no one on the other side.”

Mulroney said the Trudeau government was not alone in the centre-left expecting a Clinton win and “wanted it to happen in the worst way.”

And Trump is not keeping Mulroney awake at night:

He says, there is no reason for Canadians to be worried about Trump.

“No, why should we worry?” he asks.

I suggested the man was capable of tweeting the world into a war.

From Mulroney: “Don’t take the bait!

“That’s just Donald being Donald. He’s unorthodox and unusual, yes, but that’s why the American people voted for him."

Time will tell if Mulroney's take on Trump is accurate. 

Image: The Toronto Star