Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Stephen Harper's Perfect Crisis

“Pulling their children from ‘union-run’ schools should be a viable option for all parents.” Stephen Harper
I just started reading Naomi Klein's book The Shock Doctrine and from the introduction, it sets the stage for what a Harper majority might look like.

She begins by discussing Katrina and the horrible devastation the storm caused. But in the midst of the chaos, were the smiling faces of the neoconservative interlopers. They failed to see the human misery, but instead saw an opportunity for profit. Levelled land on which to build a free market empire.
The news racing around the shelter that day was that Richard Baker, a prominent Republican Congressman from this city, had told a group of lobbyists, "We finally cleaned up public housing in New Orleans. We couldn't do it, but God did." Joseph Canizaro, one of New Orleans' wealthiest developers, had just expressed a similar sentiment: "I think we have a clean sheet to start again. And with that clean sheet we have some very big opportunities." All that week the Louisiana State Legislature in Baton Rouge had been crawling with corporate lobbyists helping to lock in those big opportunities: lower taxes, fewer regulations, cheaper workers and a "smaller, safer city"—which in practice meant plans to level the public housing projects and replace them with condos. Hearing all the talk of "fresh starts" and "clean sheets," you could almost forget the toxic stew of rubble, chemical outflows and human remains just a few miles down the highway. (1)
Leading the charge for God's chosen people, the corporatists, was the late Milton Friedman, a man who has played an integral role in the neoconservative/neoliberal/free market movement.

And he began in an area near and dear to his heart. Privatizing eduction.
One of those who saw opportunity in the floodwaters of New Orleans was Milton Friedman, grand guru of the movement for unfettered capitalism and the man credited with writing the rulebook for the contemporary, hyper-mobile global economy. Ninety-three years old and in failing health, "Uncle Miltie," as he was known to his followers, nonetheless found the strength to write an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal three months after the levees broke. "Most New Orleans schools are in ruins," Friedman observed, "as are the homes of the children who have attended them. The children are now scattered all over the country. This is a tragedy. It is also an opportunity to radically reform the educational system."

Friedman's radical idea was that instead of spending a portion of the billions of dollars in reconstruction money on rebuilding and improving New Orleans' existing public school system, the government should provide families with vouchers, which they could spend at private institutions, many run at a profit, that would be subidized by the state. It was crucial, Friedman wrote, that this fundamental change not be a stopgap but rather "a permanent reform." (1)
Friedman had been a regular speaker at the Fraser Institute and has been following Canada's own right-wing revolution.

And Canada's right-wing revolution, includes the desire to 'radically reform the educational system'.

The Reform Party had public education in their cross hairs:
The Reformers gathered in Saskatoon saved perhaps the loudest cheers, whistles, and applause for [founding member William] Gairdner's last shot: 'And my favourite proposal, by the way, is returning choice to education by privatizing every school in the country'. (2)
When Jim Flaherty was finance minister in Ontario, he did "Uncle Miltie" proud. From the National Review:
We don't often look to Canada for inspiring leadership. But Jim Flaherty — the finance minister of Ontario, its largest and wealthiest province — is poised to make his constituency a model of smaller government and respect for individual freedom.

Flaherty is running to succeed premier Mike Harris at the helm of Ontario's governing Progressive Conservative party in the party's leadership election on March 23. His full-bodied, conservative platform of tax cuts, privatization, and school choice has set the agenda for the contest ... Flaherty first caught the attention of grassroots conservatives with his unexpected announcement in last year's budget of a $3,500 ($2,300 USD) per-child tax credit for parents who send their children to independent schools. The measure, according to Laura Swartley of the Milton and Rose D. Friedman Foundation for School Choice, is the most generous education tax credit in North America. It alone has won Flaherty the support of social conservatives and minority religious groups. (3)
The quote at the top of the page from Stephen Harper, was in response to Flaherty's private school subsidy. (Hill Times, 2001)

In his 2007 federal budget, he provided "bursaries" for elementary school students.
The Harper government is giving a tax break to families who send their kids to elite private schools, raising the ire of public education advocates. Under a little-noticed measure in last month's budget, scholarships and bursaries to attend elementary and secondary school will now be fully tax exempt. Finance officials estimate the new exemption will mean "significant tax savings" for about 1,000 students – or, by extension, their parents.

Officials insisted that the exemption applies to scholarships for either public or private schools. But they couldn't supply any examples of public schools – which are funded from the public purse and don't charge tuition fees – awarding scholarships or bursaries.
Entering into his majority, Harper has his Katrina; the "global economic crisis", and a record deficit and debt.

His clean sheet that will provide those very big opportunities that Friedman envisioned. And with Mike Harris lap dog, Tim Hudak, poised to become premier in Ontario, and former student of Tom Flanagan, Danielle Smith in Alberta, it will create the perfect storm.

Education, however, will only be one area, where taxpayer money will build, and the corporate sector will profit.

In New Orleans they laid off all 4,700 unionized teachers, with only a handful hired back, but at greatly reduced wages. And the savings of course were not given back to the taxpayers but into the pockets of the already wealthy.

Milton Friedman is giddy in his grave.


Milton Friedman and the Chilean Experiment

Milton Friedman and the Destruction of Argentina

Milton Friedman, the Southern Cone and "Authoritarian Democracy"

Raul Prebisch and Developmentalism


1. The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, By Naomi Klein, Vintage Canada, 2007, ISBN: 978-0-676-97801-8, Pg. 4-7

2. Preston Manning and the Reform Party, By Murray Dobbin, Goodread Biographies/Formac Publishing, 1992, ISBN: 0-88780-161-7, pg. 165-166

3. Looking North: Election time in Canada, By David Curtin, March 18, 2002


  1. Your best work ever...masterpiece

  2. Emily, the Katrina school disaster is only the beginning of the horror. Brace yourself for the rest of the book.

  3. I thought she might be starting off slowly. Neoconservatism is so damn ugly.

  4. Like looking at a carcass swarming with maggots....