Friday, January 28, 2011

The New Canada: Socialism for the Rich and Capitalism for the Poor

Robert Kennedy Jr., son of the late Senator Robert Kennedy and nephew of JFK, has suggested that America is now a land of “socialism for the rich and brutal capitalism for the poor”.

And he is not alone in that assessment, as it is now shared by many progressives and critical thinkers, giving it a proper place as part of a larger political-economic argument.

Income disparity is on every one's lips these days, though American pundits believe the affliction is unique to the United States. Paul Krugman, as I mentioned before, blamed it's origin on Ronald Reagan and claims it has only happened once before outside of the U.S., in Britain, under Margaret Thatcher.

I've written to Krugman to let him know that he might want to start paying attention to Canada, because we have now replicated the Reagan/Thatcher government for the wealthy. And we are also now in a situation where a small minority hold the bulk of the wealth, while the rest of our population has stagnated, or fallen so far behind their only hope is to win a lottery.

And while Jim Flaherty and the gang are on a taxpayer funded tour, to sell Canadians on the notion that we should give the wealthy even more money, it's time to take a step back, scratch our heads and think. If their statements don't make sense to you, it's because they don't make sense.

The concept of Socialism for the rich and capitalism for the poor, which we can shorten to So Rich/ So Poor, is based on capitalist societies, whose policies assure that more resources flow to the rich than to the poor. This is done with transfer payments, as we've seen with the tar sands and the enormous amounts of our money that the Harper government has funnelled to them. It is also done with relieving them of their duty to pay their fair share of taxes.

And it is a capitalist state that bestows favorable treatment to corporations by the government, who adopt a wink and a nod approach to protecting the environment, by eliminating "red tape".

But perhaps the most compelling attribute of the So Rich/So Poor political thought, is the "privatization of profits and socialization of losses." When the economic crisis first hit, who got all the money? Wall Street and Bay Street gambled and lost, but still walked out of the casino with their silk shirt on their back.

It reminds me of a joke I heard from an ex-gambler, who said that he cleaned up in Vegas. "I travelled to Vegas in a $20,000 car and came home in a $100,000 bus."

We were all crammed into that bus, while the wealthy refused to part with even one of their Mercedes. And we are being told that we will have to tighten our belts even more, while the rich are at the back door with their hands out, and getting them stuffed with our money (their pockets won't hold anymore)

And this notion of "corporate welfare" and financial corruption, is not new. In 1834 Andrew Jackson said:
"I too have been a close observer of the doings of the Bank of the United States. I have had men watching you for a long time and I am convinced that you have used the funds of the bank to speculate in the breadstuffs of the country. When you won, you divided the profits amongst you, and when you lost, you charged it to the Bank. ... You are a den of vipers and thieves."
"Vipers and thieves", and our government is providing not only the getaway car but the safe house. It's time to get this country back for the middle class, because when the middle class dominated, social programs were brought to the table. And that's because the middle class has a heart and a soul, two things carved out of the corporate sector and neoconservative politicians.

I am not anti-capitalism and I believe in a healthy business structure. But gluttony is not healthy. It's time the rest of us were thrown a few crumbs.

And that's not socialism. It's democracy.


  1. Beautifully succinct and well crafted. Thanks Emily!

  2. I first remember the phrase as " What we are being offered here is Socialism for the rich and Capitalism for the poor" spoken by a Canadian MP (whose name I have since forgotten) during the Free Trade debates under the Mulroney government in the mid Eighties. Some people saw this thing coming and spoke up but I guess the majority weren't listening. The next election was fought on the Jobs, Jobs,Jobs! mantra to which Mulroney's reply was the self evident "Business creates jobs!" Corporations (and corporatism) gained the upper hand. the jobs went South and the first wave of "the homeless" appeared on the streets It was the same MP who described the Lottery as "a tax on stupidity; if you're stupid enough to think that you might win then the Government will be happy to take your money"

  3. Harper’s Neoconservatism: This entire movement is a crock.

    It is not a religious movement or a moral movement.

    It is a corporate movement.


  4. "Vipers and thieves" - I love that, Emily, but "socialism for the rich, capitalism for the poor" breaks my heart.
    I totally agree with the previous comment about the lottery. Government-sponsored gambling. I remember when it was illegal for Canadians to buy tickets in the Irish Sweepstakes because Canada didn't "believe in gambling"! We've gone from one extreme to the other, with governments raking in the benefits and handing them out to the rich.