Last Friday, Jeffrey Simpson -- in The Globe and Mail -- marvelled at how nominally conservative governments have managed to survive the Great Recession pretty much unscathed. They have accomplished this, he wrote, "not because they are conservatives but rather because they are pursuing leftish policies." In Canada, Simpson noted, "Mr. Harper is sitting pretty, largely because, he, like other conservatives, has done very non-conservative things."
There are some -- believing that John Maynard Keynes was right all along -- who give thanks for the elasticity of conservative principles. But Goldman Sachs' and J.P. Morgan-Chase's announcements last week that they intend to distribute billions of dollars in bonuses to their employees (some of whom almost brought those houses down) remind us all that the prime directive of conservatives is: the first shall always come first.
Nearly eighty years ago, Franklin Roosevelt warned his countrymen that "The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little." And Katrina Vanden Heuvel reminded readers of The Nation last week that "The public face of the response to The Great Depression was the WPA."
Unemployment in Canada stands at 8.4%. Yet Mr. Harper has only extended employment benefits to a small number of the longest employed workers, who are -- Tom Walkom noted earlier -- mainly auto workers residing in ridings which the Conservatives see as critical in the next election. And while employment hovers at close to 10% in the United States, Rolfe Winkler, in a recent column, concludes that "Main Street still owns much of the risk while Wall Street gets all of the profit."
And those who owe their salvation to government bailouts have walked away with not even a blush. Roosevelt was accused of betraying his class. But today government policy treats these folks as an endangered species. The ordinary folks who have been stuck with the check are the endangered species.