Special Report: Light Rail

Hamilton Deserves Better than the Petulant Machinations of a Childish Mayor

Bratina is cherry-picking Rapid Ready in his latest tactic not to support LRT - the very investment that will create the circumstances for Hamilton to achieve its ridership and development goals.

By Ryan McGreal
Published April 25, 2013

So you've probably heard that last night's Council meeting was a debacle. The Spectator and CBC Hamilton have lively reports of the conflicts that boiled over when the subject of Mayor Bob Bratina's recent comments on light rail transit (LRT) came up in a motion by Councillor Brian McHattie.

There was a lot of drama, but we need to peel it back to get at what really went down.

LRT Motion

In explaining his motion, McHattie pointed out that if the City keeps sending mixed messages about its support for LRT, the Province might use that as a reason not to provide the funding. "It's critical in this case, and in all cases, of course, but certainly in this case, with the funding pending, that the Council and the Mayor are aligned on the Council position."

Calling Rapid Ready a "comprehensive" report that integrates the City's transit vision and the years of detailed designed work on the B-Line that the City has done in close cooperation with Metrolinx, McHattie said, "It's critical that we make it very clear what our priority is, and that we ask you, Mr. Mayor, to take that position that the B-Line LRT on King Street, and also advocate for that in your discussions with the Province of Ontario, with Metrolinx."

McHattie also asked that Bratina include the members of the LRT Task Force - Councillors Lloyd Ferguson, Jason Farr and McHattie - be included in discussions the Mayor has with the Province.

Bratina's Response

In his response to McHattie, Bratina stated that he is obliged to represent Council's position as contained in the Rapid Ready report, but then he presented a very particular interpretation of what the report says.

First, he said his understanding of the City's "priority" is that we wanted to prioritize LRT over Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) on the B-Line, not that we wanted to prioritize the B-Line LRT over, say, the A-Line. Then he argued:

This document says that, [reading] "the first key contributor to Rapid Ready to invest in improving transit services and reconfigure the transit network in anticipation [emphasized] of rapid transit." And in this case, put the L back in, light rail, because that's our priority. [reading again] "These early investments would increase ridership, elevate the role of public transit in Hamilton and prepare customers for rapid transit implementation." So, if the priority - if what you mean by priority, is that upon the approval of the funding, that we immediately start building the B-Line rapid transit line, LRT line, I just need a motion from Council to, to do that.

Because what I have presented is, and Bruce McCuaig [Metrolinx VP] and I met several times, I met with him this morning, and it's this document that he refers to, which we approved. And the document does not say the creation of the light rail transit line upon funding approval. It doesn't say that.

In fact, on page 25, it says, just to be clear, because I'm puzzled by this, the use of the word "priority" in terms of this document, it says, [reading] "Just building rapid transit alone will not get Hamilton where it needs to be. Cities that have or are moving towards rapid transit are also making significant increases in base transit service levels in advance of rapid transit. It would not be productive for Hamilton to build light rail while maintaining 30 minute headways on regular transit routes serving LRT." And what that means is, how long you have to wait for the bus that takes you down to the LRT, and therefore makes the service function better.

And it says here, it's on page 25 of the document that we approved unanimously, [reading] "Several Canadian cities have higher per capita ridership without rapid transit, demonstrating an opportunity to increase ridership in the interim [emphasized] prior to LRT implementation in Hamilton." So if you wish me to present to the Minister and to the Premier that once the funding is approved, that construction of the B-Line LRT begin, I'll be happy to. But that's not what I've had to this point.

Are you dizzy yet? The Mayor is playing a childish game of gotcha here. He's managed to twist the Rapid Ready report from a comprehensive process for building LRT into a reason not to move forward.

He said it could take 10-15 years before Hamilton achieves ridership levels that would trigger the next step of building LRT.

Bratina also cited an assessment by Toronto Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong that for municipalities that participate in the Metrolinx Funding Strategy, their residents will have to pay $800 on average per household toward paying for The Big Move. (Note: Bratina at first said $800 per month, but later clarified to mean $800 per year.)


McHattie stayed calm but his exasperation was evident as he continued to press the Mayor on whether he would support the Province providing funding for LRT and the City implementing it, and the Mayor continued to dodge around the question.

Bratina argued that Calgary's rate of transit ridership is double Hamilton's, and we shouldn't build LRT until our ridership has matched Calgary's. (What he didn't note is that Calgary's ridership is as strong as it is precisely because of its LRT system, which the city continues to expand.)

McHattie came back: "I'll take that as a no, that the Mayor of Hamilton will not support the B-Line LRT position on King Street to the Province."

Bratina interrupted then, saying, "I can't accept that," but the Chair gave the floor back to McHattie.

I've asked the question in several different ways, and I'm perhaps a bit frustrated that I didn't get a clear answer whether this position will be supported by the Mayor at the Province. So I heard a number of things. I didn't hear that this position would be supported if we passed this motion in a couple of moments tonight.

Bratina replied:

I absolutely, 100% support the B-Line LRT as directed by Council, as directed through this document [Rapid Ready]. The word "priority" is not in this document. So if you want to add the word "priority", get a motion from Council and explain what "priority" means. And if "priority" means we go to the B-Line as soon as the money becomes, as soon as the Funding Strategy is - I, I don't have that direction, councillor. But if you're asking me if I support it when I speak to governments, all I say to them is, "Here is our thing and it's got a B-Line LRT and that's the one that we have said is going first," and that's it.

After that the questions from councillors began, and they were almost uniform in calling the Mayor out on his shenanigans. But for now I'll leave that as the subject for a future article. I want to keep the focus on Bratina's interpretation of Rapid Ready and what it means for the B-Line LRT.

LRT Priority in Rapid Ready

Rapid Ready includes the following clear statements of priority:

The establishment of Metrolinx and the development of The Big Move has allowed for the advancement of a regional transit network, including the identification of rapid transit in Hamilton as a priority.


Modernized public transportation (including LRT) is a key, corporate strategic priority that supports the concept of community building and economic development while enhancing connections to the Greater Toronto Hamilton Area (GTHA) through improved transportation networks and linkages to the planned GO Transit expansions at James Street North and Confederation stations.


In addition, LRT supports the City's Strategic Priority of becoming A Prosperous & Healthy Community and enhancing Hamilton's image, economy and well-being by demonstrating that Hamilton is a great place to live, work, play and learn.


Hamilton's B-Line is identified as a "Top 15 Priority Project" in the Metrolinx Transportation Plan, "The Big Move." Metrolinx completed a Benefits Case Analysis (BCA) demonstrating full LRT (starting with the B-Line) as the option that would generate the highest benefits for Hamilton and also be capable of accommodating the long-term travel demand growth in the corridor.

It is simply disingenuous to pretend puzzlement over what Rapid Ready says about making B-Line LRT a priority - the entire document is dedicated to the goal of implementing B-Line LRT.

At the meeting, City Manager Chris Murray was asked to clarify the intent and meaning of Rapid Ready. Councillor Brenda Johnson asked whether McHattie's motion to call the B-Line Hamilton's priority project conflicts with what Council already approved in Rapid Ready.

Murray's reply is long but I want to quote it in full so there's no question about what he said (emphasis added):

I think the point that's been made - and if I can, just indulge me just a little here to a little bit of context, and I'll get right specifically to your question - the reason why we wrote that report, first of all, we've been focused on the B-Line for some time. Many years, in fact, and investing heavily into the design of it with the understanding that we'd be moving ahead with that project subject to the Province agreeing to the funding as per the comments made earlier on 100 percent funding.

So that's been where we've been focused from a, certainly, from a staff perspective, and from the direction I think we got back in 2011, in the fall of 2011. One of the things that struck us was that it certainly, if the province chose to defer the building of the B-Line, there were other matters that we believe needed to be addressed here in Hamilton. But no question in our mind, we were worried that it was going to be potentially an all-or-nothing situation, so we requested and received direction from you to go away and come back with a report, which is what we've done.

What we've given you is a report that has a wide range of transit investments that we believe should be made in Hamilton at the end of the day. There isn't anything there that we would say is unimportant. So in terms of where we've been all along, we've been focused all along on the B-Line and advancing the detail of that B-Line so the Province can make a decision on the B-Line. Okay?

But clearly Rapid Ready has added to that a number of other investments that, should they choose, should the Province choose to defer the B-Line to some later date, we are still there with our hand in the air saying, wait a minute, there are other things you should be investing here in Hamilton. That is it.

So that's the sum total motivation for the report and all of its options. And so to suggest to clarify at this point that you want to make clear, if there's any uncertainty around the priority of the B-Line, you are saying that the B-Line continues to be our focus. You are saying, I think, by this motion, that you want the Province to make a decision on the B-Line first - that subject to that, if they choose to advance the B-Line, then by all means do that. If you choose, for whatever reason, Province, to defer the B-Line to some other, we are still there with our hand in the air saying, do not pass us by. There are a bunch of other investments that we believe you should be making here.

That's, in essence, the motivation behind the report and that's what we think the report does for you. It puts the ball certainly in the Province's court to make a decision. We've done our homework, we are ahead of everyone else. You know, we think investing in transit, LRT specifically, in the City of Hamilton is something fundamental to our growth, and that, you know, it's really at the end of the day up to the Province to make a decision about what it is it wants to invest here in Hamilton.

But clearly we've been focused on the B-Line, and by you saying tonight you wish they make the first decision on the B-Line and investment, and if they choose to for whatever reason defer it, then we're saying we're still there wanting to see the other investments made as well.

The Objective is the B-Line

The Rapid Ready report is absolutely clear, as City Manager Chris Murray explained again last night: the objective is B-Line LRT. The report explains the steps the City needs to take to make the B-Line happen.

A project as big and complex as a 13 km LRT line has lots of challenges and necessary steps, and failure in any of those steps puts the project at risk. That's why it's crucial for such a project to have a political champion, someone who can steer it past the hurdles and see it to completion. I'll quote again from the McMaster Institute of Transportation and Logistics (MITL) LRT study:

A political champion can help to realize success by marshaling resources, building coalitions, and resolving disputes. Coordinating institutions, streamlining processes, and minimizing red tape are seen as crucial in implementing TOD projects and are dependent on strong political leadership.

But Bratina is abundantly not a political champion for LRT. As he has said on multiple occasions, he is a champion of all-day GO train service, of "keeping Hamilton affordable" (as he told CHML radio host Bill Kelly in July 2011), and of "careful use of taxpayers' money" (as he told the Spectator editorial board in December 2011).

When he said this past February that he will champion LRT now, he simply didn't mean it.

Whatever inscrutable, temperamental and mercurial process leads Bratina to support one idea and oppose another, it's painfully clear that he is opposed to the B-Line LRT and will continue to undermine it at every opportunity.

When he reads Rapid Ready, he cares only about finding reasons not to built the B-Line, so that's what he sees in the report. When the report says we need to boost ridership and optimize routing to ensure LRT success, a champion would steer policy so that happens. Bratina, by contrast, holds this up as a reason not to proceed.

Bratina is cherry-picking Rapid Ready in his latest tactic not to support LRT - the very investment that will create the circumstances for Hamilton to achieve its ridership and development goals.

Hamilton needs and deserves better than the petulant machinations of a childish Mayor.

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Ryan writes a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. He also maintains a personal website, has been known to share passing thoughts on Twitter and Facebook, and posts the occasional cat photo on Instagram.


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By Clyde_Cope (registered) | Posted April 25, 2013 at 14:25:34

I wish we could impeach the Mayor and get this embarrasment out of the council. He seems incapable of carrying forth the wishes of council and in extension the wishes of the citizens of Hamilton.

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By election (anonymous) | Posted April 25, 2013 at 21:05:16 in reply to Comment 88187

We didn't have a chance to impeach L Di Ianni. We did have a chance to defeat him twice in mayoral elections and very soundly in a federal election where he lost worse than the average Liberal vote in the rest of Ontario--tho' Lar on his gift blog from the waterfalls man tortuously 'defended' himself. Election, folks

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By Conrad664 (registered) | Posted April 25, 2013 at 14:51:34

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By anon (anonymous) | Posted April 26, 2013 at 02:29:10 in reply to Comment 88188

dude, are you unschooled, illiterate, challanged or loaded

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By Shelley (anonymous) | Posted April 29, 2013 at 02:46:58 in reply to Comment 88209

Perhaps it is you who is illiterate? Challenged is spelled with an "e". And sentences begin with a capital and end with punctuation. But you would know that since you are so "schooled".

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By Conrad664 (registered) | Posted April 25, 2013 at 14:54:14 in reply to Comment 88188

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By -Hammer- (registered) | Posted April 26, 2013 at 17:44:13 in reply to Comment 88189

I think Clark's comments make sense in a perfect bureaucratic world where nothing but what is written matters.

However this isn't the case. What goes on in the media and how politicians react to it and the public's perception of it is a major element of politics and the political process, because if it's not at the very least acknowledged, you don't get relected.

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By GrapeApe (registered) | Posted April 25, 2013 at 15:56:10 in reply to Comment 88189

I think both McHattie and Clark had good points. It's unfortunate (understatement) that it any of it was necessary. Merulla was right -- it's only become an issue because of Bratina's statements, particularly the "ultimatum" presented by Wynne. Either the Spec is wrong or the Mayor is wrong and given that neither is backing off of their position then someone is wrong, and it appear someone is lying. The wild thing is no one is taking it further.

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By -Hammer- (registered) | Posted April 26, 2013 at 15:46:18 in reply to Comment 88194

I think no one is taking it further because Bratina knows the more he fights it, the dumber he looks and the Spec isn't fighting it because they've stated they are standing behind their editor, they know they are right and don't want to appear that they are gunning for Bratina specfically because they don't support him politically.

Bratina's doing a good enough of job by himself committing political suicide, he doesn't need the Spec to help him.

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By more bullying (anonymous) | Posted April 25, 2013 at 15:53:47

Bratina went over to Chris Murray after his answer and said something threatening to him. I guess Bob the Bully didn't like getting schooled by his own city manager. The days of Bob and Chris chumming it up on the Bill Kelly show seem to be over.

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By j (registered) | Posted April 25, 2013 at 15:55:38

the debate gets heated around the 2:30:00 mark in case anyone is watching

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By robert Bouskill (anonymous) | Posted April 25, 2013 at 20:34:58

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted April 26, 2013 at 11:39:27 in reply to Comment 88197

It's quieter, more comfortable and faster than a bus. It's much cheaper to operate per passenger. It's much better at attracting people out of their cars, which improves personal health as well as air quality. It is much better at attracting new private investment that increases the productivity of existing public infrastructure around the line and boosts the city's net tax assessments. It helps the downtown core to serve again as an economic engine for the region that generates innovation and creates new jobs. It provides Hamilton with broader choices for living arrangements than today's buffet of suburban, single-family houses, which attracts more people to move their homes and businesses here.

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By -Hammer- (registered) | Posted April 26, 2013 at 02:35:12 in reply to Comment 88197

To answer your question, get you there faster, more reliably and cheaper then the existing 5 bus lines we have servicing King St. assuming that the initial startup costs are covered by the province.

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By -Hammer- (registered) | Posted April 26, 2013 at 16:14:07 in reply to Comment 88210

Just to add, as good an idea the LRT project is, there is no way the City of Hamilton can go it alone on this project.

Regardless if you agree or disagree with the stadium development, is around a quarter of the cost of an LRT B Line and it put a substainial strain on the city's finances. I know there are many who is disagree with me on this one, but the benefits of an LRT do not justify the costs of a city having to service an $80,000,000 loan, which effectively would become another infrastrucutre cost, which we all accept is currently out of control in Hamilton.

If the Province or Feds aren't willing to shoulder the lions share of this development, it's not something we should be considering at this time. Just my two cents, like I said I'm sure many may disagree with me on this one.

Comment edited by -Hammer- on 2013-04-26 16:15:16

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By highwater (registered) | Posted April 26, 2013 at 16:50:10 in reply to Comment 88228

I agree that the upper levels of government should be shouldering the lion's share of the costs. This is precisely why Bratina's one man anti-LRT campaign is so dangerous. Any appearance of hesitancy on our part could put that funding in jeopardy, and I'm sure Bratina knows it.

I'd just like to add that, while LRT may cost 4 times more than the stadium (are you sure that's correct? Sounds like a bargain to me!), it's spin off benefits will be an order of magnitude higher than those of the stadium. Frankly it would still be worth the investment IMO, but it's an investment we most certainly should not have to make on our own.

Comment edited by highwater on 2013-04-26 16:56:28

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By -Hammer- (registered) | Posted April 26, 2013 at 17:27:50 in reply to Comment 88230

The Pan AM stadium is comming in at a total price tag of $145.7 million (I initially though $200 but I appear to be mistaken) although a great deal of cost overuns are apparently worked into the number (although I doubt we'll be seeing a dime back from it).

We ended up having to put in $45 million, which nearly emptied the future fund. It's nice that despite the location debate (which I hope doesn't reopen as a result of this post) we are getting a new stadium for a faction of the cost. That being said, even financing that small fraction some would say strained our finanaces.

So a fifth or sixth is probably closer to the mark, or a sixteenth if you consider how much we put in for the stadium, which makes things far, far worse. I'm to understand the LRT is estimated at $800 million for a B-Line, so needless to say if the city tried to do it itself, it would be a recipe for disaster.

Comment edited by -Hammer- on 2013-04-26 17:33:02

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted April 26, 2013 at 17:38:57 in reply to Comment 88231

The most sensible way to evaluate an investment is by considering both costs and benefits. The cost of the LRT line is 5-6 times higher than the stadium, but the net benefits are higher still (especially, it must be said, since the stadium ended up in a suboptimal location).

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By -Hammer- (registered) | Posted April 26, 2013 at 17:37:02 in reply to Comment 88231

Another concern that should be raised, is how is the Province going to pay it's Lion's share? Certainly when a municipality gets to dip into high level coffers, it's a benefit for that city, as the whole of the province shares the burden, and Hamilton's LRT is a small burden compared to what Toronto and Missisauga are looking for.

That still being said, our Province is in a lot of debt right now, where are they comming up with the money? Sure they can raise it a lot easier with the larger tax base and crown corps, but this is a concern that Ontario is going to have to deal with soon. I get that infrastructure upgrading in the best way for a province and country can attract investment, but at what point to the debt levels reach a point where getting that under control becomes the priority?

That however, I think is a debate for another more provincial based website.

Comment edited by -Hammer- on 2013-04-26 17:37:14

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted April 26, 2013 at 17:41:36 in reply to Comment 88233

where are they coming up with the money?

That's what the whole Metrolinx Investment Strategy process is about. They're going to present it in June.

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By -Hammer- (registered) | Posted April 26, 2013 at 19:41:51 in reply to Comment 88235

I was more stating it in a broader sense, I know Metrolinx is looking for new revenue options, some of which I can get behind, others not so much.

The post is more in regards to the provincial government has posted record debt levels, so at what point do the new major development projects stop and the focus becomes bringing that debt down. This same question I would pose to other projects the province has considered that I outright oppose like the mid peninsula highway.

Comment edited by -Hammer- on 2013-04-26 19:46:31

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By AnjoMan (registered) | Posted April 26, 2013 at 22:09:21 in reply to Comment 88239

I would say it depends on which you think is more crippling to our provincial economy: debt, or congestion? Congestion is a huge problem that costs us a lot of money and negatively affects people's jobs and lives in many intangible ways. Can we afford to not do something about it? I'm not so sure.

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By -Hammer- (registered) | Posted April 27, 2013 at 03:26:56 in reply to Comment 88244

That's just it though. Hamilton doesn't have a Congestion problem. I mean, how many posts on this website have been made in regards to how non congested and car centrist Hamilton is? Congestion isn't (arguably) effecting Hamilton's economy negatively. You can even argue the lack of Congestion is hurting Hamilton's economy more, but that's another argument.

LRT works for Hamilton because it reduces public transit infrastructure costs and makes it a more appealing method of travel.

Expanding GO and getting cars off the QEW money pit on the other hand would likely do a lot more for the province as far as eliminating congestion. Hence my preference to see that project completed first, and because it's also a far cheaper (what should be) quicker development to make.

Comment edited by -Hammer- on 2013-04-27 03:32:43

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted April 27, 2013 at 03:43:07 in reply to Comment 88255

All-day GO is going to be finished first, and I doubt there's anyone around here who would oppose it. The Mayor keeps presenting LRT and all-day GO in some sort of either-or conflict, but that's a phony alternative.

The main reason we don't have congestion in the lower city is that a) we have a road network with a vast capacity to carry automobiles, and b) that same road network, in combination with other structural and regulatory issues, is depressing the economic and social viability of the lower city.

In short, that lack of congestion on our streets is really a symptom of the lack of vitality in our lower city, which is itself exacerbated by the street configuration.

LRT, coupled with changes to the Zoning By-Law to encourage development, will do a few things at once:

  • It will make lower city properties a lot more valuable;
  • It will attract more people and more activities; and
  • It will increase the density and variety of land use.

(These things will all increase the productivity and net tax assessments related to lower city infrastructure.)

Simultaneously the LRT transit service will serve to mitigate the congestion that these changes will produce.

Comment edited by administrator Ryan on 2013-04-27 03:43:36

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By -Hammer- (registered) | Posted April 27, 2013 at 04:13:52 in reply to Comment 88256

Were on the same page here Ryan, and I doubt GO is going to be opposed, I'm more worried about it being quietly swept under the table, due to politics. I can't see how after funding was approved in 2008 it is taking seven years to build a single GO platform. Not a full station, that's going to take another two, a platform, but that's beside the point. I should probably clarify, as I may have not chosen the right set of words in regards to first. I feel it is a higher priority project and I certainly want to see completed sooner rather then later, but it's not in conflict with LRT in anyway, it's merely a project I feel has been unduly delayed and should have been completed some three years ago.

The rest of the post is dead on, although structure is a little vague. I would say the lack of physical higher density residential structures (modern or otherwise) and lack of any structure at all in the overwhelming number of parking lots is the largest factor.

Comment edited by -Hammer- on 2013-04-27 04:19:27

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By -Hammer- (registered) | Posted May 01, 2013 at 17:39:03 in reply to Comment 88257

MOTION, oh glorious motion!


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By Mal (anonymous) | Posted April 27, 2013 at 18:04:24 in reply to Comment 88257

More train service for Lakeshore West, Stouffville and Richmond Hill

TORONTO, Dec. 20, 2012 /CNW/ - Starting Jan. 5, GO Transit is adding more service and adjusting schedules to serve passengers better.

Stouffville and Richmond Hill GO line passengers will have an earlier train option in the afternoon; Lakeshore West passengers will have more train trip options during rush hours, particularly those travelling out of Aldershot GO Station; and some existing trips along the Lakeshore and Barrie GO lines will be more comfortable with 320 additional seats per trip thanks to the addition of 16 rail cars.

Some of this new train service will have an impact on GO Bus service as connections will be adjusted and some trips will be replaced by the new GO Train trips. Since GO assesses service on a consistent basis, some regular GO Bus service will be adjusted and increased according to demand.


I'll be interested to see how the blink-and-you'll-miss-it bit about GO train service replacing or reducing GO bus service is invoked once Lakeshore West rail service is running every half-hour, 7 days a week.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted April 27, 2013 at 00:50:30 in reply to Comment 88244

A recent column by Paul Krugman puts what he calls "debt hysteria" into context:

The main reason our economic recovery has been so weak is that, spooked by fear-mongering over debt, we’ve been doing exactly what basic macroeconomics says you shouldn’t do — cutting government spending in the face of a depressed economy.

It’s hard to overstate how self-destructive this policy is. Indeed, the shadow of long-term unemployment means that austerity policies are counterproductive even in purely fiscal terms. Workers, after all, are taxpayers too; if our debt obsession exiles millions of Americans from productive employment, it will cut into future revenues and raise future deficits.

Our exaggerated fear of debt is, in short, creating a slow-motion catastrophe. It’s ruining many lives, and at the same time making us poorer and weaker in every way. And the longer we persist in this folly, the greater the damage will be.

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By Kiely (registered) | Posted April 29, 2013 at 15:35:05 in reply to Comment 88249

Debt and deficit are shackles on us all. We can't just keep spending and spending. Do we need to invest in our infrastructure? Yes. Can we simply spend and spend with no concern for our debt and deficit? No way. Krugman is a fool:

To fight this recession the Fed needs…soaring household spending to offset moribund business investment. [So] Alan Greenspan needs to create a housing bubble to replace the Nasdaq bubble. - Paul Krugman

Krugman is an advocate of debt for growth's sake and worry about the consequences later. A bit surprising this forum would support his views. He is a dangerous fool if you listen to him... Krugman, please.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted April 29, 2013 at 21:41:09 in reply to Comment 88273

>> Debt and deficit are shackles on us all.

When the government(s) spends a dollar, it adds a dollar of income to the private sector. When the government taxes a dollar, it reduces the savings of Canadians by a dollar.

When governments run deficits, they add more dollars to Canada's private sector than they take away.
Conversely, when governments run surpluses, they lower the savings of Canadians.

Between 1991-93, when the welfare roles took off and deficits grew larger, Canadian households saved $134.4 billion.

Since 1993, when Paul Martin started the war on public debt, households have saved a total of -$344.8 billion.

Between 1991-93, households saved an average of $44.8B/yr. Since 1993, they have borrowed an average of 21.2B/yr. The era of small deficits and smaller government spending has been paid for by record household debt.

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By Kiely (registered) | Posted April 30, 2013 at 18:26:06 in reply to Comment 88276

The era of growth is the issue, not the era of small deficits. Debt is necessary to generate growth doesn't matter who is paying the bill (in the end we're still on the hook for government debt) so whether household or government the economy needs debt to be created. Since our governments have become less inclined to bear the debt but we still need growth they have successfully shifted a good chunk of the debt creation to households through various policy and marketing initiatives, often in cahoots with banks and business. You have pointed this out many times on this forum, it is a tree you obviously love to admire while walking in the forest.

As household or individual debt I can choose to contribute to that increasing debt and subsequent economic growth or not, (i.e., I can choose to live within my means). My beliefs tell me that is a choice I want to make, that is an individual choice and if you want to accumulate large quantities of household debt, fine; but collectively we must be more responsible because we're not just spending our money. In the end what you get for all this debt is uncontrolled and unsustainable economic growth, which when you boil it down basically amounts to the rich getting richer and the environment more polluted in our economy. I do not believe unlimited growth and its ramifications can simply continue. So I do not accept the justification for much of our debt either.

The concept of unlimited economic growth is a contradiction and you can prove anything from a contradiction A Smith, and that's exactly what economists like Krugman do.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted April 29, 2013 at 21:43:31 in reply to Comment 88276

Since 1993 should read "Since 1996".

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted April 29, 2013 at 16:23:47 in reply to Comment 88273

You're attacking a strawman. Read the essay you selectively quoted from, and it becomes clear he was saying he thought this was what Greenspan was going to try - and he wasn't happy or optimistic about it.

The administration needs a recovery because, with deficits exploding, the only way it can justify that tax cut is by pretending that it was just what the economy needed. Mr. Greenspan needs one to avoid awkward questions about his own role in creating the stock market bubble.

Neither the dot.com bust nor the Great Recession were caused by overspending. They were made possible by poor financial regulation on the part of government leaders who believed as an article of faith that financial markets don't need to be regulated.

Overspending didn't get us into this mess, and underspending isn't going to get us out of it. In fact, countries that have reined in public spending more aggressively have had worse recoveries. Countries that committed most fully to austerity are effectively in Depression economies today.

Edit to add - there was a good article in The Atlantic last week on the Reinhart & Rogoff fiasco, in which their much-cited paper supporting the idea that high deficits and debts lead to slow growth was disproved by a graduate student.

It turns out that the paper combined bad methodology with an actual Excel formula error to lend credence to the ideologically comforting but empirically groundless idea that countries with stagnant economies and low interest rates should try to cut spending. As the article concludes:

people are remembering that there's a denominator in the debt-to-GDP ratio.

Comment edited by administrator Ryan on 2013-04-29 17:33:22

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By Kiely (registered) | Posted April 30, 2013 at 18:06:51 in reply to Comment 88274

Debt and deficits a strawman? Hardly. Krugman? He may in fact be used by the media for strawman creation, I’ll give you that.

Krugman is a Kenysian who flunks out on his chosen economic theory. Keynes did not believe governments could simply accumulate debt forever. That is just nonsense, you can't, I can't, and our governments can't Ryan. The current economic reality in Europe is proving that.

Someone someday has to pay it all back or you end up with sizeable portions of revenues just servicing debt. Currently in Canada just our federal debt obligation is ~$30 Billion a year, that money has to come from somewhere, it doesn't just grow on trees and the more debt you have that is more money from revenues transferred to debt payment that could be used for, much better purposes... Like LRT.

Sensible and timely investment by government is of course needed to be competitive, to create jobs, maybe even to buoy the economy in tough times (if you prescribe to that thinking) but we have been racking up public-debt irresponsibly and almost non-stop for decades while decreasing the revenue sources available to service the debt. That can't continue, no matter what a lying-turd like Krugman has to say about it.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted May 01, 2013 at 14:09:46 in reply to Comment 88288

>> Someone someday has to pay it all back or you end up with sizeable portions of revenues just servicing debt.

Higher public debt service costs = More interest income for savers.

>> that money has to come from somewhere, it doesn't just grow on trees

These days, money is created by keystroke.

>> more debt you have that is more money from revenues transferred to debt payment that could be used for, much better purposes... Like LRT.

Public debt service costs = Pool of private capital available to build condos, coffee shops.

>> we have been racking up public-debt irresponsibly and almost non-stop for decades

Current debt service costs (all levels of government): 3.59%/GDP

Last time it was this low: 1974

Average debt service costs 1982-2000: 8.47%/GDP

>> That can't continue

Technically, it can. As long as you control you're own banking system, which Canada does, there is no limit to how much debt the government can issue.

Of course, if the government wastes money and depletes productive capacity, inflation can be a real concern.

However, in our own history, when public debt has gone up, inflation rates actually tend to fall.

1982: Infl-12%, Fed Debt-30%
1986: I-4.25%, FD-53%

1990: I-5.3%, FD-57%
1995: I-1.0%, FD-71%

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted April 30, 2013 at 19:20:46 in reply to Comment 88288

You need to stop reifying the debt. It's is just a number. No, seriously - it really is just a number, an artifact of how we account for the circulation of fiat-backed IOUs through the economy.

Those triplets of zeros may be impressive or awe-inspiring or frightening, but the debt number only takes on actual meaning in relation to other numbers, like GDP.

The ratio of debt to GDP is certainly worth considering, but countries don't reduce their debt ratios by paying down their debts. They reduce their ratios by growing their GDP faster than their debt. Canada reduced its debt ratio from over 100% in 1945 to just 16% in 1973 by doing just that: growing the economy faster than the debt.

Canada's debt ratio drifted upward during the stagflation of the 1970s and high interest rates of the 1980s until peaking in the early 1990s, after which it drifted down again over the next couple of decades.

Even through Canada famously made payments against its debt under finance minister Paul Martin, most of the reduction in our debt ratio came as a result of strong economic growth, low interest rates and balanced budgets.

All things being equal, a lower debt ratio is better than a higher one, though there does not appear to be any empirical evidence that a given number is 'too high'. In any case, when we're in a serious recession all things are not equal, and the real, terrible human misery caused by austerity grossly exceeds whatever ideological discomfort emanates from an arbitrarily high debt/GDP ratio.

With real interest rates as low as they are, it is lunacy of the first order to cut public spending and restrict investment in the modern, sustainable civic infrastructure we need to build a platform on which the next wave of growth can be based.

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By -Hammer- (registered) | Posted May 01, 2013 at 20:44:29 in reply to Comment 88290

I will agree with Ryan, as he's right about GDP growth being generally the more historically effective method of killing debt.

A question I would raise though...in an era where we want more environmental stability and protection against the unsustainable development/industrial complex do we really want to be attempting to explode our GDP to recoup our debt?

Espcially considering how little exsisting government oversight in the private sector exsists right now and how many of the brownfields in Hamilton exsist because of the previously unchecked economic growth of those times.

Comment edited by -Hammer- on 2013-05-01 21:31:37

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By -Hammer- (registered) | Posted April 27, 2013 at 03:24:14 in reply to Comment 88249

I agree, but there is a difference between cutting existing services and maintaining existing services and not introducing new ones.

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By Shempatolla (registered) - website | Posted April 26, 2013 at 01:02:09 in reply to Comment 88197

An LRT train operating on its own traffic light system and right of way will move you across the city much much faster than a conventional bus. It is not subject to traffic jams, stalled vehicles (with the exception of an very rare breakdown ON the tracks. It has a higher passenger capacity than a bus and because of the dedicated station stops along the route will stop less frequently than a bus and make more efficient use of its time on track.

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By AnjoMan (registered) | Posted April 25, 2013 at 21:46:27 in reply to Comment 88197

Which king st. bus should I take?

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By Kevin (registered) | Posted April 25, 2013 at 21:55:25

Great job, Ryan.

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By Bob (registered) | Posted April 25, 2013 at 22:20:40


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By AlHuizenga (registered) | Posted April 25, 2013 at 23:24:12

Brad Clark is a bit of a Grumpy Gus, isn't he.

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By think first (anonymous) | Posted April 26, 2013 at 06:30:56

given his chronic pain from arthritis, i am surprised by his clarity of thought and attention to detail

watch carefully and you will see the scowls are grimaces from pain and yet he never complains

i'll take grumpy over stupid any day

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By DrAwesomesauce (registered) | Posted April 26, 2013 at 10:08:37

Wow! I thought Farr was gonna leap out of his seat and have a go at the mayor. That would have been great TV.

So, I wonder if we're going to hear exactly what his worship said to the City Manager. Weird, wild stuff.

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By Mark-Alan Whittle (anonymous) | Posted April 26, 2013 at 13:24:40

After reading the Rapid Ready report, it is painfully obvious we will need to spend at least $10 million a year to improve ridership to the point we will be able to build and run a 14Km LRT route. The B-Line express bus service is the only route that breaks even, if not generate a small profit. The A-Line from the park-and-ride at the Airport to the Waterfront is also getting improved ridership, as it hooks in with the Go Station. The HSR has been run by the same person for decades, perhaps the HSR need new leadership.

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By Robert D (anonymous) | Posted April 27, 2013 at 22:18:04 in reply to Comment 88218

The HSR has fewer bus-hours currently than it did in the 80s.

With the way costs have increased, I don't blame people for not wanting to pay more for less services.

All other cities have improved their transit, and seen increased ridership as a result. Hamilton cuts its services, and then wonders why no one takes the bus...

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By AnjoMan (registered) | Posted April 26, 2013 at 22:16:21 in reply to Comment 88218

That might be a little unfair, since the HSR doesn't necessarily get to decide how much funding it gets and can't necessarily set it's user fees with much freedom. The reality is that we should have been giving them the extra $10 million over the last few decades already.

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By Voice of Fire (anonymous) | Posted April 26, 2013 at 14:03:44

Comments with a score below -5 are hidden by default.

You can change or disable this comment score threshold by registering an RTH user account.

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By CaptainKirk (anonymous) | Posted April 26, 2013 at 21:15:07 in reply to Comment 88221

Don't know where these assumptions pop up from. There are plenty of successful examples of effective planning and implementation of LRTs and associated land use that our planners are fully aware of.

It's easier for a city like Hamilton to learn from these because we are so far behind. We're still stuck in the 60s mentality of planning streets and transportation. I cannot for the life of me understand why some want to get left further behind as all other surrounding municipalities continue to move ahead.

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By -Hammer- (registered) | Posted April 26, 2013 at 20:22:19 in reply to Comment 88221

No, I'm pretty sure the idea is to reduce the number of busses servicing the Main/King line (of which we have five routes effectively) and maybe reorganize one or two so that they sweep specfic neighbourhoods that these lines used to service (I think Delaware is one) in a north/south direction with the LRT nodes as a prominent stop.

Basically instead of servicing several, long, spaghetti like bus routes, have the busses go through shorter, straighter routes to get people to the faster LRT.

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By Mal (anonymous) | Posted April 27, 2013 at 18:47:41 in reply to Comment 88240

Increased bus connectivity and frequency to the trunk line would be the ideal (and, arguably, logical) outcome, but it's not one that was prescribed in the Rapid Ready report:

"With implementation of LRT, an increase between $2.9 million (no increased ridership and 6.5 minute LRT headway) and $3.5 million (assumes an 8% city-wide increase in ridership and a four-minute LRT headway) in the transit portion of the City operating budget levy can be expected. There may be a need for some reduction in service frequency to fully utilize the available train capacity. This scenario also assumes the LRT system would be operated by the City of Hamilton and *eighteen buses would be removed from service.*"

Not sure how this would impact users west of McMaster. Presumably they'd need to preserve part of the 5 family (ie 5B, 5C, 52, 52A) in a modified form in order to maintain west-end local service. Otherwise they're stranding some of the very users who helped plump up the B-Line ridership numbers and complicating LRT adoption.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted April 26, 2013 at 19:04:11 in reply to Comment 88221

Um, you know that the Province is running the funding for the LRT, right? Which means that either way "we" will be paying for it. Those congestion fees or sales taxes or gas taxes or whatever are going to happen no matter what Hamilton builds.

Even if you think there are better ways to spend a billion than a B-line LRT, nobody asked you that. What the province is saying is "we'll spend a billion on an LRT here in Hamilton or somewhere else".

Asked that way, who the heck turns it down?

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By -Hammer- (registered) | Posted April 26, 2013 at 20:29:26 in reply to Comment 88238

I will say this, and it is a point Brad Clark raised.

It's certainly within the Provinces power to mandate that a municipality pay for it via thier own taxes, or to put in a munipical specfic gas tax/parking levy for a specfic peice of infrastructure in that city.

That being said, I doubt they would. An across the board tax makes them more revenue and they can point to specfic projects in several cities to address the need for increased taxation across the board. The possibility is there though.

Comment edited by -Hammer- on 2013-04-26 20:30:10

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By Rimshot (anonymous) | Posted April 26, 2013 at 15:23:46

You know you've got a situation when Morelli worries about reining him in.



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By Amy Gringhuis (anonymous) | Posted April 26, 2013 at 15:32:07

Great article! This is more thorough than anything reported in conventional media, so well done! Any advice on what the average citizen can do to hold the Mayor accountable to doing his job? If we're stuck with Bratina until the next election, what can we do to avoid our council from wasting time and money attempting to undo the damage and confusion he continues to stir up unnecessarily? Would it help to write e-mails to council? Anything else? I'm tired of sitting by and watching these schoolyard antics and want to do something--I'm sure I'm not the only one.

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By -Hammer- (registered) | Posted April 26, 2013 at 23:39:55 in reply to Comment 88224

Yes and no, there's certainly many more facts given that Ryan has posted the video right from the debate in question, you can't really get much fresher from the source then that without being there.

However, the rest of the article certainly carries a very spartan tone (if only evidenced by the headline) compared to the more calm reporting in the local media such as Andrew Dreschel's more calm evisceration of Bratina.


That all being said, Bratina deserves every bit of it, and I wholly agree with the conclusions of both articles.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted April 27, 2013 at 00:33:15 in reply to Comment 88247

A lot of things went on during the meeting, and I'm working on another article that will be a detailed look at the various exchanges that took place. This piece focused specifically on what Rapid Ready means and how the Mayor is trying to spin and distort it to serve his agenda of undermining the B-Line LRT.

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By Clyde_Cope (registered) | Posted April 27, 2013 at 13:38:06 in reply to Comment 88248

Ryan - will be looking forward to your next article - unfortunately Bratina got elected as a personality with no platform and we are paying the price for such foolishness. I do hope that council trims his sails and requires him to have other members of council negotiate the LRT on behalf of the city, bypassing Bratina.

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By SCRAP (anonymous) | Posted April 26, 2013 at 22:57:55

IN my view the last great Mayor was Sam Lawrecne, a man who stood by his princples. The workd ahs changed since his time.

I am surprrised that the many fall for the claptrap, the BS, we are constantly given.

Come on people, rise up!

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By apple (anonymous) | Posted April 27, 2013 at 01:54:55

" First, he said his understanding of the City's "priority" is that we wanted to prioritize LRT over Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) on the B-Line, not that we wanted to prioritize the B-Line LRT over, say, the A-Line."

The mayor wants to prioritize the A-line, James St. I don't know why, as it wouldn't have the ridership of the B-line. Maybe just to undermine LRT altogether. Odd.

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By conspiracyguy (anonymous) | Posted April 27, 2013 at 02:40:58

Just a thought - but Bob has had a real hate-on for James since most didn't support him in the election. I could see the move to prioritize the A-line as a way to disrupt the upward and positive build taking place there. Supercrawl would have to be moved temporarily while construction takes place. Some businesses would close due to lack of traffic. Building owners sell at a cheaper price to developers after losing money due to empty storefronts and aggravated apt. renters. Just a thought.

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By -Hammer- (registered) | Posted April 27, 2013 at 03:19:13 in reply to Comment 88251

I think your name does you credit. I think if you want to screw a neighbourhood, putting a substantial transportation investment that many who live there and frequent have been calling upon isn't the way to go about it.

Comment edited by -Hammer- on 2013-04-27 03:19:34

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By Funny (anonymous) | Posted April 27, 2013 at 19:23:14

Fujny that Sam Merulla called the Brat a bully. Does Sam know what a bully is? Here is a bully http://www.thehamiltonian.net/2012/06/clr-merulla-on-hamilton-waterfront.html

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By Steel City Rising Agsinst Poverty (anonymous) | Posted April 28, 2013 at 02:52:23

Well, interesting cmments from the hoard. The problem is greater then what is discuseed here, you know idfficult questions and answers.

I like that issues are brought forward and discussed and the opportunity to see others vies on things.

Who stands behind the mayor, who is ti, the inner sanctum? We must as a community rethink things, however, given all things we are battling a uphill battle.

Can we break through all the PR?

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By me,me and me (anonymous) | Posted April 28, 2013 at 12:44:21

Comments with a score below -5 are hidden by default.

You can change or disable this comment score threshold by registering an RTH user account.

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By z jones (registered) | Posted April 28, 2013 at 16:01:39 in reply to Comment 88267

Wait what? Which lie is that?

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted April 30, 2013 at 21:40:45

The following is a good discussion of the limits of the "hard money" approach to debt. Essentially, governments issuing their own floating currency do not need to take the view that money has "intrinsic" objective value, unlike individual households and businesses:


"Governments, and in particular ones that issue a non-convertible, floating exchange-rate currency, have greater influence in determining the value and quantity of money when public spending is applied to maintaining and increasing overall social wealth. MMT theorists point out that monetarily sovereign governments are not constrained in issuing currency and can, if necessary, afford any goods and services sold in their currency. While currency-issuing governments cannot in their spending ignore international perceptions of the value of their currency, they can at any time spend money to support the national interest, though nations with economies in which many critical goods are produced abroad are most vulnerable to depreciation of the exchange rate of their currency in these situations and therefore to economically damaging inflation."

(MMT stands for Modern Monetary Theory, the theory of fiat money http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Modern_Mone...

It is also a good idea to represent Krugman's ideas accurately (he is not claiming governments should always run up debts!). Here is how he recently summarized his argument: http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/04...

  1. The economy isn’t like an individual family that earns a certain amount and spends some other amount, with no relationship between the two. My spending is your income and your spending is my income. If we both slash spending, both of our incomes fall.

  2. We are now in a situation in which many people have cut spending, either because they chose to or because their creditors forced them to, while relatively few people are willing to spend more. The result is depressed incomes and a depressed economy, with millions of willing workers unable to find jobs.

  3. Things aren’t always this way, but when they are, the government is not in competition with the private sector. Government purchases don’t use resources that would otherwise be producing private goods, they put unemployed resources to work. Government borrowing doesn’t crowd out private borrowing, it puts idle funds to work. As a result, now is a time when the government should be spending more, not less. If we ignore this insight and cut government spending instead, the economy will shrink and unemployment will rise. In fact, even private spending will shrink, because of falling incomes.

  4. This view of our problems has made correct predictions over the past four years, while alternative views have gotten it all wrong. Budget deficits haven’t led to soaring interest rates (and the Fed’s “money-printing” hasn’t led to inflation); austerity policies have greatly deepened economic slumps almost everywhere they have been tried.

  5. Yes, the government must pay its bills in the long run. But spending cuts and/or tax increases should wait until the economy is no longer depressed, and the private sector is willing to spend enough to produce full employment.

Comment edited by kevlahan on 2013-04-30 21:55:20

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By Noted (anonymous) | Posted June 21, 2013 at 09:56:54



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