I have never listened to another word from her and avoid her columns. If she told me the earth was round, I would have to rethink my position. But was her remark the result of lazy journalism, or was she, like most Canadians, simply brainwashed by the millions and millions of dollars in taxpayer funded advertising?
Who knows, but she was dead wrong. Next to Stephen Harper, Flaherty is the most overrated politician in the country. But with our money he has created a corporate branding. In the same way that we think of Nike as the company promoting fitness and athletic prowess, or Allstate as the all knowing father who keeps us safe in their hands, the Conservatives have successfully branded themselves as good fiscal managers, even when the facts show the opposite to be true.
But so long as we don't have to see the sweatshops where Nike shoes are made, or the people left high and dry by Allstate, we will continue to buy into the illusions.
Journalist and author Matt Taibbi has two excellent pieces in Rolling Stone magazine, one a year old and the other written just this week: Wall Street's Bailout Hustle and Why Isn't Wall Street in Jail?
I read them both last night and was astounded at how similar the stories are to what is taking place in Canada. In fact, many of the names are directly linked to our current government, the most prominent being Goldman Sachs.
So why is no one in the mainstream media doing an in depth piece on Jim Flaherty? Some have started writing about the sub-prime mortgage mess he's created, and the fact that he "secretly" bailed out our banks to the tune of $125 billion, but what he has actually done with Canadian finances could be a six-part miniseries, in the horror genre.
It's absolutely frightening.
"Goldman Sachs and other big banks aren't just pocketing the trillions we gave them to rescue the economy — they're re-creating the conditions for another crash" - Matt Taibbi (1)In his piece Why Isn't Wall Street in Jail, Taibbi is incredulous that despite the so-called economic crisis being the result of unlawful and unethical behaviour, no one went to jail. Except of course Bernie Madoff, whose Ponzi scheme wasn't even really part of the the Wall Street highway robbery.
Nobody goes to jail. This is the mantra of the financial-crisis era, one that saw virtually every major bank and financial company on Wall Street embroiled in obscene criminal scandals that impoverished millions and collectively destroyed hundreds of billions, in fact, trillions of dollars of the world's wealth — and nobody went to jail. Nobody, that is, except Bernie Madoff, a flamboyant and pathological celebrity con artist, whose victims happened to be other rich and famous people.But what the folks on Wall Street did was rob from ordinary citizens, and yet no one went to jail. Apparently theft is legal if you really didn't need the money you stole. Madoff is now going public, claiming that the banks and hedge fund managers were in on his scheme, because they could have blown the whistle, but were making far too much money to risk losing a good thing.
And while all of the major U.S. banks were guilty of fraud, Goldman Sachs' activity was unique, because: "Goldman Sachs failed to tell clients how it put together the born-to-lose toxic mortgage deals it was selling."
I've written of this before so won't go into again, but I do want to draw attention to Jim Flaherty's unique relationship with GS and why this matters to Canadians.
Goldman Sachs and the Theft of Seniors Hard Earned Assets
By now, many of us are aware of the treachery of Stephen Harper and his promise not to tax income trusts. But what went on behind the scenes of this fiasco would probably make Bernie Madoff blush.
It started with the hiring of Mark Carney as a financial advisor. Carney, while a brilliant financier, was a long-time Goldman Sachs employee, who knew how to play the game.
Carney managed to convince Canada's finance department to close a tax loophole that allowed huge companies to boost their profits by converting themselves into tax-free income trusts — a practice that he claimed was "draining billions from government coffers". (2) He had first pitched the idea to Paul Martin, but a brilliant financier himself, Martin rejected the notion.
But Carney managed to persuade Conservative finance minister Jim Flaherty of its merits, and when the Tories made their surprise reversal in 2006, senior citizens, a core Tory constituency, were furious about the hit on their portfolios. (2)The story was sold to Canadians as saving us money, and that the only victims were rich corporations. But the opposite was true. Rich corporations cashed in on the scheme to the tune of 35 billion dollars and the only victims were ordinary citizens, mostly seniors, many of whom lost everything.
What Carney did was rather clever. He found a way to exempt Goldman Sachs from the tax, and make a fortune off the unsuspecting Canadian taxpayer. Because when income trusts took a hit on the market, GS bought them up at the deflated prices. Carney then wrote the tax in such a way that 'private' investors would be exempt from the new rules, so GS simply made their new acquisitions 'private'. All others are subject to a 31.5% tax. (2)
And what about those savings we were supposed to enjoy? More smoke and mirrors. It has cost the Canadian taxpayer $1.2 billion in potential revenue, to solve an alleged tax leakage problem of $500 million. (3) Carney was rewarded with an appointment to the Bank of Canada, and Flaherty is constantly being rewarded with quotes from Carney that help to keep up the facade of him being a good financial manager.
He was a personal injuries lawyer for gawd sake, who almost bankrupted Ontario.
Meanwhile, those Canadian seniors are still without their hard earned assets. Only the already extremely wealthy, mostly Americans, saw any benefit.
And as we listen to the Conservatives blather about being tough on crime, as Matt Taibbi says:
Criminal justice, as it pertains to the Goldmans of the world, is not adversarial combat, with cops and crooks duking it out in interrogation rooms and courthouses. Instead, it's a cocktail party between friends and colleagues who from month to month and year to year are constantly switching sides and trading hats.What other decisions of Flaherty's came from Goldman Sachs, via their Canadian representative? How many others have struck it rich off the backs of the Canadian taxpayer?
Stick around, because this is only the first in a series about Jim Flaherty. The story that the Canadian media is afraid to speak of, preferring to become aiders and abettors in our victimization.
And to Chantel Hebert and others who believe that Jim Flaherty is underrated, do your homework. You're going to look awful stupid when the you know what hits the fan. And it will.
1. Wall Street's Bailout Hustle, By Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone, February 17, 2010
2. Canada’s Merchant Banker: Is the recession really over? A profile of Bank of Canada governor Mark Carney, By John Lorinc, Walrus Magazine, Jul/Aug 2009
3. Mark Carney exempted Goldman Sachs from Flaherty’s income trust tax, CANADIAN ASSOCIATION OF INCOME TRUST INVESTORS, May 11, 2010
4. Still More Goldman Sachs Tentacles, Wall Street Selector, February 13, 2011
5. Why Isn't Wall Street in Jail? By: Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone, February 16, 2011