Open letter to Dalton McGuinty: No more social policy by banker, please

May 14, 2012

Dear Mr Premier and Finance Minister:

Headline:  Province Appoints Royal Bank President, Gordon Nixon, to head new Council on Jobs and Prosperity.

Political cartoon of bankers eating at a troughIt is so discouraging to hear of the appointment of yet another banker to help us figure out how to make our economy work better. As if bankers and the rest of us have a common understanding of what jobs and prosperity are all about.

For me, a well-working economy prioritises the well-being and needs of Ontarians, all Ontarians, putting in place measures that redistribute the wealth created in this province on the assumption that all of us contribute to the wealth of the few.  Surely, surely, despite our dubious claims as a country that we did not do bank bail-outs, the fact is bankers have different priorities than I do, than the vast majority of the people in this province.  Our charter banks are making billions in profits with every quarter; that constitutes well-being for bankers.  For me, it means unnecessary gouging, empire-building, while poor people in this province remain shackled by low rates of public support.  Some people are deserving, it would seem; some not.  Some get brass plaques and buildings named after them, philanthropists with our money; others get the brass coinage of OW or ODSP or minimum wage.

Why not draw for advice on those organisations and people who are offering cogent critiques of inequity in this province rather than hiring those responsible for policies of inequity?  (Actually, permit me to amend that:  inequity, like poverty, is a political choice; with their wealth our élites are persuasive of those out to win and maintain office; it’s that simple.  Hmmmm… So, I guess that means that a political leader has to set aside the risk of offending the deepest pockets in order to benefit the 99% [too many of whom do not vote or have no pockets] over the 1%.  Risky business.) The social location of bankers is not the same as mine or the rest of the 99.9% of this province.  It makes a difference.  We should not expect that the fabulously wealthy whose job is vacuuming up for themselves and their corporation as much lucre as possible are simply able to get the daily reality and needs of the 99%, never mind those who make up the bottom two or three deciles in this province.

We all know that some people are on your speed-dial and some are not.  It’s those who are not who need to be heard; the voices of those who want ever-increasing profit-maximisation for their shareholders are already drowning out all other voices, while their servant-governments, this one included, continue to promulgate the fairy tale of trickle down.  Reagan lives!  Give them more and more and, fingers crossed, see if any trickles down; or, perhaps more accurately, see if anyone notices that it doesn’t, was never meant to. Banks and corporations are not in the business of creating jobs; their single loyalty is to their shareholders, their sole job and ‘social responsibility’ profit-maximisation (which may be through massive job cuts).  The role of government is to rein in and redistribute the results of corporate capacity to make profits and to commodify and charge market-bearing prices on everything – not to kowtow to them and assume this Friedmanian ethic is good for us.

Rich-poor gapYou attach the label of ‘NDP’ to the surtax on our wealthiest, a modest proposal if there ever were one (seen as outrageous only by those banking on short-term memory loss, forgetting our history and the MTRs in place when our country and our province enjoyed its greatest period of prosperity), blaming rather than crediting the NDP for its vision of equity for this province.  And now you hire another banker when we have not yet absorbed or been fully informed of the costs to us of the Drummond report.  We can likely assume that this banker will do the same as the last one (having been provided by corporate-servant-government with a mandate to debilitate the grasping middle class and freeze the poor while excluding income generation through a return to fair taxation of the wealthiest amongst us).  No thank you.

My idea of prosperity is achieved through polices that take us ever closer to – not further away from – a Gini co-efficient of 0.  For the last 30 years, our governments have taken us ever further from that ideal of equity.  Hiring another banker inspires NO confidence that you have heard this message.  Look at the data on economic health and social well-being:  what countries are at the top?  Equity AND productivity:  who knew? The Nordics.  Let’s be Nordics, not sycophantic minus-Americans.

I would recommend to you that Finance – all Ministries – be required to read closely and ponder carefully the findings and recommendations of Wilkinson and Pickett in The Spirit Level:  Why Equality is better for everyone.  And then to act accordingly, and with courage, using all the tools in your respective toolboxes.  Best economics book out there, along with The Persistence of Poverty: Why the Economics of the Well-Off Can’t Help the Poor by Charles Karelis.

That’s the province we want.  That’s the Canada we want.  No more rule-of-banker-corporations.  Occupy justice.  That would be good, good for all.


Lee McKenna


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