Friday, 24 December 2010

Bah Humbug to The Productivity Gap Scrooges

No matter who you are and what you do, you should be able to enjoy the next week or so in North America. With a rare four day weekend thanks to the timing of the stat holidays, and plentiful feasts being spread out everywhere, I encourage you to imbibe some PC eggnog spiked with rum, ($3 compared to Neilson's 88 cent crap in a carton - totally worth it!) and remind yourself why you like all the important people in your life so much by being around them during that time. That, in any case, is what I'm going to be doing; I look very much forward to it, and leave you here with Lacking Credential's last posting of 2010.

Before signing off to do some much needed re-calibrating and maintenance on myself as well as on the blog, I would like to thank you personally whether you check in here regularly, irregularly, or for the first time. The blog has recently celebrated its one year anniversary, and my hope is to improve it and expand my audience in 2011. One of the ways I intend on doing that is making it more unique with "citizen letters" rather than opinion pieces. Details to follow.

For now, merry Christmas and happy New Year, and here is "Bah Humbug to the Productivity Gap scrooges!” a set of holiday musings.

I have found it difficult this year more than any other, to reconcile messages I have received from the media about the state of the nation and the economy, and the usual messages we hear the most at this time of year. You know the ones about “how lucky we are and the importance of helping those less fortunate."

It is true that in Canada it is impossible to witness such unusually consistent abundance across our land from coast to coast without realizing that one is indeed fortunate. Despite some damning statistics and daily doses bad news, there are some points we can observe about the environment in which we live in this country that indicate it is extremely opulent, and for this you can be thankful.

These include, but are not limited to

-There is nobody starving to death
-Poor and sometimes malnourished people still find large amounts of money to pay to rich and profitable corporation s (Nike, RIM, McDonalds, Apple, Rogers, Bell, to name a few)
-Homelessness is restricted to perhaps 1-3% of the population (no official statistics released and issue accepted and generally avoided by public opinion), mostly young-middle aged white and native males with addiction and/or mental health issues . I f they did not already suffer from these when they first become homeless they were surely driven there over time from living in that constant state of upheaval, because who wouldn't be.
-In fact, the majority of people are willing to part with most of their money , so that must mean they feel confident that they will be able to benefit from unending flows of liquidity and prosperity for the future. There is only a small part of the population that does not hand over the majority of their monthly income to the various cartels, but for this the majority are afforded a standard of living ranging from basic needs to relative comfort
- There are rich areas booming and new affluent areas are sprouting up from coast to coast all the time.
- There is near-universal , when official and unofficial sources are combined, income distribution, through government entitlements, food banks, and the goodwill of the populace with extra to give
-Still today in this country , there is an incomparable (except by Russia) reserve of virgin forest, water, and natural resources.

So, in spite of what I often complain about here , in spite of the doom and gloom, we are not doing too bad as a nation state all things considered. I mean, growing up here and being from here could be seen as an advantageous situation to have been born into. There are very few who will deny that the state of affaires I have described is roughly accurate description of why we would be fortunate in the days before Xmas 2010.

Yet in the past week I have come across two reports, which I have a feeling were ignored for the most part by a population absorbed in the "hustle and bustle" of the holiday season, despite being on the front page of two mainstream newspapers. The two reports depict issues that Canada is suffering from, that require immediate and urgent redressment. Why did they not represent earth-shaking revelations? The first one is undeniable and the second is a matter of opinion. The solutions for both will be impractical to put into place because of lack of political will, complacency, and abstraction. For it is very difficult for a country to "pull together" in the face of "adversity" as we have seen recently and will no doubt continue to see.

The first report was from a blue ribbon panel and released in the star last week. Surprise, surprise, in spite of the wealth and abundance I have described in my bullet points, more people than ever in our prosperous nation would be getting "left behind". Meaning, welfare and social services are over-extended from increased usage and reduced capacity, food bank usage is at an all time high, housing is in a permanent state of "crisis" as it has been for decades, waiting lists years long across Ontario. The report doesn't tell you anything you don't already know, but it portrays the situation as being so critical that it, well, made it to the front page.

People are more sensitive and receptive to problems outlined in the report at this time of year, and all would agree that the conclusions in the report are unfortunate and shameful. But the response from politicians will only differ cosmetically, if they lowered themselves to responding at all which they most likely won’t. The right will say that the poverty is a result of the Liberals' free spending economic policies which made us poorer and they will reduce inequalities by "letting people keep more money in their pockets" (reducing government revenues - to address poverty - wtf?) and the Liberals will say it is past Conservative fiscal irresponsibility and favourtism towards the rich and big business which has created income disparity and class cleavages they have insufficient resources to address ( even though they are in the pocket of bug business themselves )

And the funny thing is both sides of full of crap because they both find money for whatever they want. It's all about priorities, right? Like my mom always says. We are told all year that spending to reduce poverty/provide basic needs is far off because of the "challenging environment" yet conservative and liberal politicians alike continue to collect lifetime gold plated pensions and don't have the least amount of shame placing themselves under this noble banner of serving the public. Like former Hydro One CEO Eleanor Clitheroe applying to increase her pension to 437,000$ but having it denied and stuck at 300 some odd K. Billions for six figure pensions, subsidies and bailouts, and maintaining the most expensive network of roads in the world (because of changing temperatures and salt) are all "untouchable" but we cannot afford the relatively modest sum that would be required to ensure no homelessness and an acceptable level of dignity for poor people.

On the other side of the perverse logic coin, comes a different kind of slap on the wrist for Canada. A more bizarre one,
especially considering the time of year, coming out of the big business-big idea -think tank camp. I'm talking about my favourite patriotic capitalist lobby group, the Conference Board of Canada, and another professional MBA logic shill, the cryptically named Ontario Institute for Competitiveness and Prosperity. If you read this link or this one , you'll see the beef of these two organizations is that, in this land of enormous amounts of hoarded wealth, wasted human capital, and pilfered resources, is that we are not "productive" enough. We lack the "ambition" and "innovative mentality" necessary to become "global leaders". Worse, this "complacent attitude" makes us each $7,000 poorer than our American counterpart to the south. To hear these people tell it, our country is practically third world, for no other reason than it is full of lazy losers.

The best part is, like the banks in economic discussions before them, they place the responsibility to change this squarely on the shoulders of an entity that has no shape, size, unity or leadership. The "private sector". Government has done all it can, they say by cutting taxes, cutting corporate taxes, and harmonizing taxes, and now it is this mysterious, elusive "private sector" that must act decisively to "fuel growth and recovery". What a moronic copout. Who do they mean? Sheet metal fabrication plants? Convenience stores? Meat packing warehouses? Ikea? British-Isle inspired pub chains with overpriced deep fryer fare? See how idiotic it suddenly sounds when you try to browbeat these kinds of businesses into "stimulating the economy", ”hiring workers" and "spurning growth"? But they certainly are all part of the private sector.

It is once again ironic to note that the right derives much of its popularity and credibility from attacking "elites" as "ivory tower" and "out of touch". Yet here the emperor is revealed to have no clothes. Private sector enterprises run their businesses according to what their current business needs and cash flow requirements are and get little help from anybody. Ask any small business owners how they like dealing with various levels of bureaucracy of government "committed to helping small businesses". Do you think before Joe the mechanic goes to open his garage or Chan goes to open his fruit stand this morning that they are really going to change anything their doing because of the pronouncements of some stuffed suit giving them shit for not being "innovative" or having any "global ambition"? No, because you couldn't make more elite, out of touch, meaningless, esoteric statements if you tried.

What we need to be wary of at this and at all times of year are business lobbyists inoculating us with myths, like that we are worse off than the Americans because we are poor, complacent losers. Who tell us we earn 7K less a year because we are lazy, and because we place no value on education. Well, America only has one real education system and it is reserved for the elite who can afford to pay 50K a year plus to attend it. The rest of their education is a "pretend" education system that the "elite" don't take seriously and doesn't allow you to qualify for the 1% club that controls the capital and the gears of the economy and reaps most of the largesse of U.S. Corporate Profits, half of which are made outside its borders. America is on the way down precisely because there is no "middle class", another abstract term whose notion provides a bedrock that makes people feel secure, anymore to fall back on.

Innovation, the competitive think tank guy rightly states, is not the blackberry. The blackberry is an invention. Innovation is questioning the way things work in an organization and pushing to make things better, more logical, and more efficient. Well, I'm going to be a good innovator and question the metrics used to arrive at the figures used by the Con Board and Competitive Institute.

The "7k gap" is being measured by the rudimentary metric of GDP, the sum total of all the economic output of the nation divided by each citizen. It works out roughly to the average salary. Canada's is 38k and the U.S.' is 45k. What GDP fails to take into account is concentration of wealth; if there are 11 people living in country A and 10 make $10,000 a year and 1 makes 10 times as much, $100,000, country A's GDP clears 18k, giving the illusion that the 10 workers are worth almost twice what they are economically.

So if these people really want this country to be like America (and from the past 5, 10, 15, 25 years, I believe we can surmise that it is definitely already trending this way) where 20% control 80% of the wealth and 1% controls something like 35%, and they are pushing for this greed and exploitation (for what other forces could result in situation?) precisely at this time of year , I am telling them, as an innovative minded person, that it is not a good idea, it is not the route we want to go down, and if we know what is good for us we will not take them seriously.

That is my Christmas message. I hope it echoes many themes I have sought to explore on this blog. Our country is exceptional if only we knew how to keep things in perspective and administer it and its resources carefully and responsibly. That we think we can do whatever we want but are subservient to cartels who trick us, through the mainstream media, into thinking what is good for them is good for all of us. And that "the economy" that every leader drones on endlessly about like its going to save us actually leaves most of the world outside looking in, and with its pathological nature, is on its way to sending billions more to these ranks, until the day we are able to see things what they are, get back to what is real, and realize we are in control of our own destiny even when we feel powerless.

All the best for 2011. I hope to see you here then.

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