Monday, March 08, 2010

A Justification for Selfishness

The Conservatives' proposed budget -- which was the highlight of last week's return of Parliament  -- was a remarkable document, for several reasons. But it was most remarkable for its optimistic projections of economic growth. 

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty claimed that the economists he consulted assured him that Canada would experience "moderate growth" for the next five years. But one should remember that, the last time he consulted economists, none of them (according to Mr Flaherty) forecast the recession -- which arrived, full blown, shortly after the Conservatives were elected.

As the above clip demonstrates, Mr. Flaherty has a talent for denial -- as does his boss, the Prime Minister. After all, it was Mr. Harper who claimed during the election campaign that "The country will not go into recession next year and will lead the G7 countries." And it was Mr. Flaherty who promised that "We will not run a deficit." Yet, this week, the Finance Minister boldly asserted that -- while the country is now in hock to the tune of $55.9 billion -- it is not facing a structural deficit, despite what Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page claims; and, therefore, there is no need to raise taxes.

Except the budget does raise taxes -- by increasing Employment Insurance premiums an additional fifteen cents on every $100 of insurable earnings. This tax increase is broad based. It hits everyone who brings home a pay cheque. But, as he raised taxes on every working Canadian, Mr. Flaherty reduced taxes on corporations yet again. When the Conservatives came to power, the corporate tax rate was 22.12%; they reduced it to 19.5% two years ago, then to 18% last year. The government plans to further reduce the rate to 15% by 2012. "We are staying the course," Mr. Flaherty bragged,  "to having the lowest corporate income tax rate in the G7 (group of nations) by 2012."

We are just beginning to emerge from the wreckage of the economic policies of the last thirty years. Those policies brought us to the edge of another Great Depression; and this government continues to believe that more of the same is the way to prosperity. Girded with that certitude, the Finance Minister boarded a government jet and flew off to southwestern Ontario to sell his plan. The cost of the flight was just under $9000. It would have cost just over $800 to fly commercially; but we were told that Mr. Flaherty's schedule required that he fly on government aircraft.

The latest budget lays bare this government's priorities. And it proves that John Kenneth Galbraith was right when he wrote, "The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness."


ck said...

why even spring 800$ for commercial flight? From Ottawa to london, I say take a train for much cheaper.

What's the hurry to rush off to Timmy's anyway?

ck said...

"The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness."

Exactly! Glad to see someone tell it like it is, regarding today's neo-cons, and then I get called all kinds of names I won't repeat here, but published on my site simply to further illustrate my point I made in today's post, otherwise, I would never have published it. Ouf! The Truth does hurt. Funny I always thought the truth shall set you free.

One thing that gets them all excited is when I call them on being greedy and twisting themselves into pretzels for trying to convince others that their greed will somehow do good for mankind.

Owen Gray said...

Modern conservatism is more theology than philosophy. And it is wrapped in good intentions. They, you may recall, pave the road to hell.

Zero said...

The Conservatives are not the only party ever to have cut corporate taxes while raising taxes for individual Canadians. In the late 90's, Liberal governments introduced the HST to Maritime Canada. This July, Ontario Grits will do the same, raising individual taxes with its HST so that corporate taxes may be cut.
True, Mr. Flaherty's use of a government Challenger jet to fly from Ottawa to London was a selfish act - worse, in these hard times, it was a piggish thing. Stockwell Day's "say something-say anything" defense of it two days ago was transparently weak. As part of the defense, he claimed that the Liberals, while in power, had used the Challengers more than the Conservatives.
However, while Mr. Day's use of the "you're another" fallacy, failed to justify anything, it did reveal a problem which may be as old as mankind itself: "power corrupts".
Mr. Day probably was not lying about the Liberals' use of the Challengers because the truth is too easy to check. It's likely that at least in this respect the Liberals in power behaved as piggishly as the Conservatives in power.
Unless you're willing to extend your charge of selfishness beyond the Conservatives, recognizing that sometimes corruption wears no political stripes, you're arguing a partial, selective truth.

Owen Gray said...

The late Rene Levesque -- whose political ambitions I did not share -- once referred to the Liberal Party as "the biggest whore house in the world." As a former member of that party, I always thought he was speaking from experience.

Moreover, I've not been impressed with the Liberals under either Mr. Dion or Mr. Ignatieff. Still, it strikes me that the Conservative impulse to reduce the size of government -- particularly in the present circumstances -- is both foolish and hypocritical.

To criticize one party is not to defend the other. What the Liberals need is a credible alternative. Let's hope -- for the sake of the country -- that the upcoming party conference produces one.