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Saturday, July 11, 2020
Connecting Our Communities

Appetite grows to challenge political and economic status quo

Much of what’s being labelled as socialism in the U.S. as contenders jockey for the Democratic party leadership is just run-of-the-mill politics here. The likes of single-payer health care are not contentious here, notwithstanding attempts, real or imagined, to introduce two-tier medicine via privatization.

Though Republicans in the U.S. attempt to use the word as a pejorative, socialism is actually garnering more support, especially among younger Americans. Though ignorance and blind partisanship still reign supreme, more people are becoming aware that the system is rigged against them, economically and politically – the corruption is in many ways worse than some of the most odious totalitarian states on the planet.

Take, for instance, the issue of Trump’s one “success” since taking office: massive tax cuts. It was clear to anyone even partially awake that the benefits went to corporations and the wealthy, with average taxpayers eventually facing increases and yet more hardships due to the large increases in the debt and deficits. Among those who believed the lies, there’s a growing recognition they were gamed, however: tax filings are already showing millions of Americans will see smaller tax refunds this year, the result of changes to withholdings that saw a few dollars added to workers’ paycheques throughout the year that went unnoticed. People are noticing now, and there’s a backlash.

Building on the Bernie Sanders campaign for the 2016 elections, Democratic contenders are speaking openly about higher taxes on corporations and the wealthy, electoral reform (the U.S. system is rife with gerrymandering and voter suppression) and a better social safety net.

The potential of a leftward shift in the U.S. is intriguing.

Many of the topics discussed in the States are already commonplace here – universal health care, affordable schooling, even election finance controls, all be they nowhere near enough – but Canadians aren’t having the kind of conversation about equality and oligarchs that have emerged from the Democratic race. The election of Justin Trudeau here was to have delivered a change in the political culture, but the party went ahead and signed the harmful trade deals, nixed electoral reform and appears to give only lip service to the falling standard of living experienced by most Canadians, despite the ongoing rhetoric about supporting the middle class.

The talk of an oligarchy, of politics run by the moneyed class, is novel in the mainstream, though the U.S. media is doing everything it can to marginalize the message, especially as it applies to financial regulation and removing money from politics. Still, that message resonates with many, particularly young people. Plenty of people haven’t forgotten the 2008 meltdown, the Occupy movement and the downturn that continues today, the product of decades of decline.

More and more of us see the intertwined political and financial systems working against the common good.

Simply put, there is a growing dissatisfaction with corporate capitalism. Much of the change of tone comes with the realization that the current system is failing the majority.

The goal is essentially reinventing democracy. Well, really, restoring democracy to its original intent: widespread and decentralized decision-making in the public good rather than the top down, hierarchical structure prevalent today.

Despite the efforts of those in power, including the politicians they own and the corporate media, too, there’s more attention being paid to our worsening plight, encouraging 99 per cent of the population to take action against the greed and corruption of the other one per cent.

Increasingly, there’s an awareness of the self-interest involved in those making public policy. Politicians have been both promoting and pandering to that attitude. In the U.S., Donald Trump was clearly lying about every populist promise he made, and we’re a long way from the sunny ways Trudeau campaigned on four years ago.

Ideally, it’s dawning on people on both sides of the border that they’re being conned.

It’s telling that democratic socialism is a topic of conversation in the U.S. Canada already has a more progressive system, but is not immune to oligarchies (think of the lack of accountability of the big banks and telecoms), corruption and attempts to bypass democracy.

While the social safety net is larger here, at least for now, Canada, like the U.S. and much of the rest of the world, could certainly use a wakeup call that the current economic system isn’t sustainable.

If enough people are showing their disapproval and/or signalling what they’d really like to see in Washington, the policies of those considered outsiders will eventually make their way into the platforms of Democrats and Republicans. The goal of those politicians is to gain power, after all. They’ll do whatever it is they think they have to do in order to win. Today, that’s typically done unethically through big money, lobbying, scare tactics and disingenuous calls to patriotism, religion and similar touchstones.

Change is very much needed in the harmful economic system, where the solution is to reduce or eliminate what is referred to as the phantom economy – much of the financial sector – which produces nothing but has grown from an adjunct of the real economy of goods and services to the largest part of our economy. Critics also advocate local, people-centric economies, a human scale we can understand. It’s an idea that dovetails with what environmental groups have been saying for years about buying locally produced goods, for instance.

Until recently, criticisms levelled by advocates of change were routinely dismissed as socialist or utopian dreaming. Today, to a certain extent, we’re all socialists, as witnessed by governments bailing out many sectors of the economy post-2008.

Given that the economy is in flux, and that the status quo has been failing us for decades, now is certainly to time to make changes. Or at least to ask questions and have a discussion about following a better path – we know there are better ideas out there, and profiteering oligarchs, making gains on the backs of the middle class, are proof that what’s being done today will only harm us.

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