Monday, May 09, 2011

Shifting Blame

I suspect that the 24% of Canadians who gave Stephen Harper his majority don't read Paul Krugman. But, as Mr. Harper and his acolytes rest smugly in their certitude that corporate tax cuts create jobs, the rest of us should read Krugman's column in this morning's New York Times. He writes that the so called wise men of economic policy are blaming the public for the financial meltdown:

The idea is that we got into this mess because voters wanted something for nothing, and weak-minded politicians catered to the electorate’s foolishness. So this seems like a good time to point out that this blame-the-public view isn’t just self-serving, it’s dead wrong.

The fact is that what we’re experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. The policies that got us into this mess weren’t responses to public demand. They were, with few exceptions, policies championed by small groups of influential people — in many cases, the same people now lecturing the rest of us on the need to get serious. And by trying to shift the blame to the general populace, elites are ducking some much-needed reflection on their own catastrophic mistakes.

Mr. Harper's entire campaign was about getting serious. To make matters worse, the opposition parties bought his framing of the issue. It was all about who was more serious about the deficit. They all claimed that they would eliminate it by 2015. Even more preposterous was the Prime Minister's taking credit for the wise economic decisions of his predecessors. He not only shifted blame -- away from the people who got us into this mess; he also shifted responsibility for Canada's good economic fortune to himself and his "steady hand." In short, he created a fable and Canadians bought it.

Those fables are the problem, writes Krugman. They perpetuate a state of ignorance, because:

by making up stories about our current predicament that absolve the people who put us there, we cut off any chance to learn from the crisis. We need to place the blame where it belongs, to chasten our policy elites. Otherwise, they’ll do even more damage in the years ahead.

Convinced that Stephen Harper is a reliable messenger, Canadians have done precisely the opposite.


Larry Gambone said...

"Canadians" didn't buy it. 39.7% of voters equaling 24% of the population bought it. All in all, the Cons had a magnificent 2% swing in votes - hardly an endorsement. Only our insane FPTP system allows these loons to govern.

Owen Gray said...

I agree, Larry, that it's insane to grant such power to "these loons" based on the approval of 24% of the voting population.

On the other hand, I think you can argue that the Conservative pitch, which holds that politics is just tiresome "bickering," is a conscious attempt to suppress votes.

Those who buy that argument have drunk the Kool-Aid.