Monday, June 29, 2015

Excuse Me Mr. Mulcair, But What in the Hell are Middle Class Values?

I grew up in a family of the working poor, spending a good portion of my childhood in public housing.

My dad did his best to provide for his seven children, but money was tight, and we lived from payday to payday.

He supplemented his income by doing a bit of gardening for a couple of wealthy clients.  We never owned a car, so he would carry his little push mower on the bus.

One summer he decided to try something different. He made arrangements with a man who owned a bit of property close by, to lease a plot of land where he could plant a garden.  The idea was that he would grow vegetables and sell them in the neighborhood.

In lieu of rent, the landowner would receive a portion of the harvested crops.

My dad could grow anything anywhere, and the garden flourished, but when he sent us out to sell the produce, we found that while many people would love to buy, they simply did not have the money.

I would come home and say that Mrs. ---- 's husband didn't get paid until Friday, and she might buy something then.

Knowing what it meant to have to wait several days for much needed wages, my dad would take the vegetables to Mrs. ---- and give them to her, saying that he had pulled too many and didn't want them rotting and would she please take them off his hands. This soon became the norm and that garden kept many families going that summer.

He never made much money.  In fact, he probably lost, but what his children gained from this, was the knowledge that some things are worth more.  My dad already knew that.

Another memory from my childhood, took place when I was about eight.  My dad had received a cheque in the mail for $1.36; a rebate from an over payment on something.  He endorsed the cheque and sent me to the corner store to cash it and buy bread and milk.  Don't laugh.  At the time both items were nineteen cents each.

Anyway, the clerk at the store misread the figure and put the change in the envelope that my dad provided, from $13.60.

When I got home and he realized what had happened, he took out the appropriate amount and made me take the rest back, worried that the poor girl would lose her job for being short in the till.

In the latest NDP ad, Thomas Mulcair states that he was "raised with middle class values".  What in the hell does that mean?  The middle class refers only to an economic group, so if he means that he was raised to understand that money was important and that the "values" pertained to how much they had, then say that.

But if he means that only his class had values, while the rest of us did not, there is a problem.

Your true value comes from the kinds of things you value and not the size of your paycheque.

If he had said this in passing, I would have thought it a Freudian slip, but it's in an election ad.  "Raised on middle class" values sound more like something Republicans would say, assuming that if you're poor you're just lazy, and if you're affluent you've worked hard to get there.

All parties are courting the middle Class this election and with good reason.  When we had a strong middle Class we all prospered.

I recently thought about the families in that community, and with a few exceptions, at least one parent worked.  They might have gone through periods of being laid off and would have to tap into social programs, but only temporarily.  What kept them going was the determination to ensure that their children had a better life.  I know, or at least know of, many of those children, and indeed they do.

They became members of the middle class, but not because they worked harder than their parents, but because there were more opportunities available to them, primarily because we had strong unions.  Not everyone belonged to a union, however, those union wages kept the economy going, creating a snowball effect.

Then in the 1980s, things began to change.  Conservatives and Libertarians tried to convince us that if they implemented policies that made the rich richer, and large corporations stronger, there would be a trickle down affect, that could make us all rich.  It didn't happen.

Corporations started outsourcing jobs and hoarding their money, or using it to drive smaller companies out of business.  The corporate welfare state was born.

And the  wealthy took the position that the masses only wanted to take THEIR money and since they could afford to buy politicians to protect THEIR interests, all of those hard working people were hung out to dry.

Any hope of upward mobility was dwindling.  For many, you only worked to survive.

In an eleventh hour attempt to rectify the folly, politicians are trying to correct the mistakes made by people like Margaret Thatcher in Britain, Ronald Reagan in the U.S. and Brian Mulroney in Canada, but it's an uphill battle.  Those at the top don't want to part with their stockpiles unless it's to prevent the need to do so.

Mulcair only states that he will strengthen the middle class, but since he also promises not to raise taxes on the wealthy, or the corporate sector, it's anyone's guess how he'll do it.   He also does not have a great track record when it comes to unions.

Stephen Harper boasts that his tax policies have helped families, but like Mulcair's "middle class", they are an exclusive group, with gold plated halos.

Money Sense's Mark Brown recently did a breakdown of the tax policies of the Liberals and Conservatives and Stephen Harper's plan only starts to look better once your income hits $192,000.  That's almost $70.000 more than the top range of the upper middle class, so clearly they are not his priority.

Harper does boast of the increases to his Universal Child benefits, but since they're taxable, few in the middle class will gain anything.

Strengthening this important sector is a step in the right direction, but assuming that they have more non-financial value than the rest of the population, is absurd.

You can be middle class and steal, lie or cheat.  You can commit adultery, have substance abuse problems or even commit murder.  You can vote Liberal, Communist, NDP, Conservative, et al, or not vote at all.

And you can have strong core values whether you make $15,000 a year or $15,000,000.

I know this because I was raised with my parents' values and they, Mr Mulcair, HAD CLASS!

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Unearthed Job Application Stephen Harper 2005

The latest Conservative attack ad to discredit Justin Trudeau is childish at best with a strong scent of desperation.

It's a mock meeting discussing Trudeau's resume as he applies for the job of Prime Minister.

However, going back to 2005, when Stephen Harper himself was applying for the job, what were his credentials?

He quit most things he started.  He was a staffer for Brian Mulroney but quit when Mulroney refused to address cancelling Employment Insurance, or at least making it more difficult to obtain.

He was a Reform Party Member of Parliament but quit when things weren't going his way.

He ran the National Citizens Coalition, a corporate advocacy group initially created to end Public Healthcare in Canada.  He quit that to run for leader of the Reform Party/Canadian Alliance/Canadian Reform Alliance Party (CRAP)/Conservative Party of Canada (They had an identity crisis).

He won that race but when he lost the 2004 election .... he quit.  With a lot of misguided persuasion he got back on the horse, but in 2005 he was hardly Prime Minister material, though he did know how to cheat to win an election, a skill he has only gotten better at.

So what if we put ourselves in that room, with that group, as they determine whether or not Stephen Harper was right for the job.

"Let's talk about Stephen"

"I hope he's not as bad as his hair"

"What does he know about balancing a budget"

"He did study economics so would know that if you grow the economy, the budget will balance itself.  No economist would argue on that point, so let's move on. "

"What does he say about keeping us safe?"

"Well he has been on a celebrity Fox News tour telling anyone who'd listen that we should join George Bush in Iraq."

"That's crazy talk.  Iraq was not involved in the attack on the World Trade Centre.  Besides, even if they defeat Al-Qaeda as they suggest, there will always be another group, perhaps worse, ready to take their place.  Canadians have spoken clearly.  No Iraq War!"

"If his aim is to simply go where the United States goes, what kind of leader will he be?  Sounds more like a follower to me. "

"So what are his priorities, other than making war?"

"He wants to put a stop to same-sex marriage"

"Like that's our biggest problem."


"I've read a copy of his speech to the Reform Party Assembly that earned him a round of applause.  In it he wanted to cancel EI, Old Age Security and Canada Pension"

"Yes.  A lot of seniors left the Reform Party after that.  He's not worth the risk.  Our seniors need those safety nets, as do our workers."

"And don't forget that he sued Canadians because he wanted corporations to determine the outcome of elections."

"I'm not saying some day, but I'm saying forever.  This man is not right for this country.

"Who does his hair?  I suppose if he got the job he'd hire a hairdresser. But can't he afford one now?"

"Stephen Harper.  He's just not right for Canada."