If you’ve ever wondered what it would take to make all those obnoxious right-wing ideologues shut up, you finally have your answer: a pandemic.
Notice their silence. During the horrifying spread of the coronavirus, there has been barely a peep from the likes of the Conference Board of Canada, various chambers of commerce and boards of trade, the Newfoundland and Labrador Employers’ Council, and the usual suspects.
No whining about increased government spending. No dire pronouncements about the evils of public debt. No lectures about how the free market solves everything if it is allowed to, well, operate freely.
What a bunch of hypocrites.
The federal government is spending billions to try to limit the economic devastation.
(Memo to the prime minister: a tax deferral is not “relief,” it is merely a postponement. It still leaves the taxpayer with a debt.)
About 500,000 Canadians applied for employment insurance last week. During the same week in 2019, about 27,000 people applied for EI.
The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (see above: usual suspects) said the number of applicants for EI this week could reach one million, and asked the federal government to give money to businesses to avoid mass layoffs.
This goes beyond hypocrisy.
Here is a better option: the government could take money from those who have lots of it, and give it to those who have hardly any.
Aside from its health aspects, the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed how incredibly unjust the economic system has become.
In almost an instant, hundreds of thousands of people face the prospect of not being able to pay their rent or mortgage, of not being able to pay bills, of running out of money to buy groceries.
In this social and moral crisis, the best the federal government can come up with is easing EI rules, and creating EI-like assistance programs to enable people to obtain benefits.
Did Prime Minister Justin Trudeau decree that landlords are forbidden to evict tenants during the pandemic?
Did he announce that banks must cease all debt and mortgage collection during the pandemic?
Not as of this writing. Don’t hold your breath. (Editor’s note: please, use that phrase sparingly, given what the coronavirus does to people.)
What the pandemic has taught us — more accurately, what it has taught those who didn’t already know — is that “the economy” is an artificial construct. It is man-made. It is an ideology, not an unchangeable fact of nature, like gravity or dog poop.
Consider it proof that when politicians and captains of industry spout on about “the economy,” they are merely reciting their ideology.
Prior to the pandemic, it was apparently OK with Trudeau and the federal government when people were evicted or lost their homes. No government intervention then.
It was OK with premiers across the country that most grocery store cashiers earned barely a livable wage. During the pandemic, supermarket cashiers have suddenly become essential workers.
Ponder the irony. Consider it proof that when politicians and captains of industry spout on about “the economy,” they are merely reciting their ideology.
They may say, “The economy can’t support it,” but what they mean is, “You don’t deserve a livable wage.”
(By the way, grocery store cashiers are allowed to accept tips. Just sayin’.)
The preposterous situation of supermarket cashiers having to work while millions of other workers are ordered to stay home prompted some food corporations to announce a $2-per-hour raise for these now-essential workers.
The raise is temporary, of course. Can’t have cashiers crashing the economy after the pandemic ends. (Editor’s note: maybe cut back the sarcasm, and get to the point.)
Nobody is talking about the rich, the super-rich and the ultra-rich.
The COVID-19 pandemic is the perfect time to finally make the rich pay. They’ve got millions — billions — stuffed under mattresses in their mansions, and just a fraction of their wealth could alleviate job losses, evictions and repossessions.
By the way, where is Trudeau’s government getting the billions they’re tossing to the peasants? Not borrowing it, surely, and thus increasing the national debt?
Why are the usual suspects so silent on this? Probably because the obvious alternative — and a solution to the coming economic catastrophe — is a forced redistribution of cash the likes of which we’ve never seen.
Brian Jones is a desk editor at The Telegram. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.