Globalization and its Discontents

By Ben Bull
Published October 29, 2008

Ever wondered where Globalization is taking us? A couple of insightful letters in the Toronto Star this week helped me put this in perspective.

Firstly, Sam Markou of Mississauga argued that, because of our transition from a manufacturing economy to a warehouse one, good jobs are gone forever:

There seems to be an overly optimistic view about a future economic recovery some time in the next year or so" he opines, "In the past, there were temporary layoffs and good jobs to return to. The situation this time is quite different. The hundreds of thousands of well-paying jobs that disappeared due to shifts of production and outsourcing are gone forever and will never return.

A letter on Tuesday, in response to this assertion, expanded on the theme:

Politicians seem intent on ignoring the realities of an unfair world economy where competing with foreign workers making a fraction of North American wages is impossible" wrote Richard Wright from Niagara-on-the-Lake, "Rather than being concerned for Canadians' welfare, they concentrate on burgeoning corporate profits gained from practices such as paying a single dollar to have a shirt manufactured elsewhere, and then selling it for $35 in Canada. But Canadians will soon be unable to pay the $35 for the shirt. Without living-wage jobs, there is no discretionary spending and therefore dramatically reduced consumerism and fewer taxes paid to governments.

Discretionary spending? Who's ever heard of that? As my wife says, one look at the prices in Treasure Island Toys or any other ethical goods store and you're straight back on the bus to Wal-Mart.

Mr. Wright goes on to say, "Government will have to reduce services ... Underground economies will take over through necessity."

Sounds bad. But does it have to be this way? Sounding something like an NDP opposition critic, Mr. Wright concludes:

There is no reason Canadians can't manufacture the goods they need, and sell and buy them right here. It was done before. This delivers jobs, wages, spending and taxes. External trade can consist of buying raw materials - not finished goods. The economy can be revived through legislation and initiatives, but the control must be wrested from the hands of multi-nationals. For those who say government is not there for the common good, I ask: Why, then, does it exist?

I saw a news item the other day, looking at where the credit crisis was born. "Rich people were running out of places to put their money," one Analyst said, "so these high yield mortage based investments simply picked up the slack."

Those crazy rich folks and their fancy cars...

It makes you wonder if the world has gone mad. In a global economy where the rich are getting richer, the poor poorer, and nobody in the 'civilized world' seems to make anything anymore, you have to wonder where all this is heading.

My sense is - it's nowhere good.

Ben Bull lives in downtown Toronto. He's been working on a book of short stories for about 10 years now and hopes to be finished tomorrow. He also has a movie blog.


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By Grassroots are the way forward (registered) | Posted October 29, 2008 at 19:25:27

Globalization is a theory that looks good on paper, I know it was part of my curriculum while attending post secondary edcuation in accounting. The reality is that it is a terrible theory which has no place in our world.

One has to look ahead and around them as to what is going on. Business has done a good job at attacking labour, as recently the article posted about the workers who unionized at the Wal-Mart in Quebec. I am amazed at the number of people in Canada who seem to think that they have the right to deny others to fight for living wages and benefits.

To be honest, the whole labour movement must change. I had the opportunity to listen to a group, that advocates for something different. It is a group that has been around for a long time, its ideology is for the workers themselves, from a grassroots intiative, to fight for changes in the workplace. It is the difference between a business unit and one of solidarity. Does the business unit always have the best interests of the worker?

I look and hear and I am not happy about what I see as the future for our children and grandchildren. I see a society where the system is miltarized, security, survellance, no freedom of speech, no freedom to organize, no freedom to speak out and no freedom to fight for justice.

Do we want a society where only the very rich can have access to all and the rest of us are just slaves? I don't and if we do not speak up now, what will happen in the near future. Issues such as SPP, really bother me, as we, the people are not privy to this information.

This is not democratic in any shape or form.

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By g. (anonymous) | Posted October 29, 2008 at 23:52:41

are you saying, mr. bull, that buying toys is not "discretionary spending?"

i kid, no pun intended, but it does seem that around me, everyone wants to live and work in canada, few seem willing to pay the price. nay, few even make the connection between buying local, and their friends and family having decent jobs.

i'm not really too sure what your point was though, that was just my little rant, perhaps you could clarify that part a bit in relation to a thesis that is, upon rereading your post, a little bit muddy.


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By Rusty (registered) - website | Posted October 30, 2008 at 09:29:43

Hi g,

Well, first of all, it’s not a thesis, it’s a blog :) Scribbed down during my coffee break… And, yes, it is a little muddled. I am not making any specific points, just forwarding along some observations I found interesting.

Firstly – that we are evolving quickly into a warehouse economy. Very soon we won’t make any finished goods anymore – what does this mean for our country? What does it mean for those folks who are asked to make our stuff abroad, for low wages?

Secondly – that it doesn’t necessarily have to be this way, that, according to the second letter writer, we CAN make things for ourselves if we wish.

I was brought up with a Thatcherite (read ‘free market’) mindset. I believed that the market should be left to evolve. In the UK (where I grew up), Thatcher sat back while manufacturing jobs went elsewhere. I figured this was OK because the UK could then take over the knowledge based economy, this was all part of the evolution of capitalism… Crappy jobs were done by new immigrants, whose kids went to school and handed over those same crappy jobs to the next wave of new immigrants. 3rd world countries made our shirts and, over time, would pass on those duties to the next 3rd world country down the line, and so on. I reasoned that the free market would just flush all this out and it would somehow make sense in the end. But now, with the credit crunch upon us, we can see that government has more of a role in constructing how our economy should evolve. Perhaps our government should ensure that manufacturing jobs remain within our borders…I think we are all learning a little bit on the fly here – we’ve never been here before.

As for discretionary spending, I meant only to say that many of us don’t practice this because we can’t afford to, or because we’re not informed enough. The buy local movement is emerging now, which is great, but we (I) still get our kids party toys from WalMart, without asking where they’re made. The second letter writer’s point is a good one – if we can’t provide ‘good’ jobs for people then people cannot afford to be discretionary, and we can’t be responsible global citizens.

Underpinning all this is the knowledge that the model of capitalism that we practice today makes the rich richer and the poor poorer, which is a bad thing for everyone. My final comment is simply an observation of, I don’t quite know what all this means or where it’s taking us, but my sense is it’s not anywhere good.

Hope this clarifies it a little. Feel free to refute (or agree!) with any of my points.



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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted October 31, 2008 at 03:15:31

I completely agree that globalization is a horrible idea.

Imagine, allowing people in poor countries the opportunity to be lifted out of poverty by giving them a job. How dare they want to share in our prosperity.

Meanwhile, some of our low skilled citizens are losing high paying jobs, simply because they are no longer protected by tariffs that favour domestic consumption.

Never mind that import tariffs increase the cost of imports to Canadian consumers, we must make sure that low skilled workers are artificially protected by the government.

To do otherwise, would mean that low skilled workers might actually have to do more than just show up for work. In fact, they might actually have to develop skills that create value for society.

Perhaps we should take it a step further and all go back to producing everything for ourselves. We could all become our own doctor, farmer, plumber, electrician, cook.

Never mind the fact that trade allows more wealth to be created due to specialization and division of labour, what matters is protecting industries of yesterday.

We all know that if Henry Ford hadn't been so damned aggressive in his pursuit of helping people get around, the buggy whip makers would still have a job.

Alternatively, average income Canadians could begin shouldering a higher percentage of the tax burden.

In previous decades, when marginal tax rates were higher, tax collections from the rich were lower. This forced average people to pull more of the load than they do today.

Since the universe rewards people who give to others, I believe the loss of good paying jobs for average Canadians can be tied directly to the decrease in their contributions to the government coffers.

If anyone doesn't believe in the power of giving to others, I ask them to try it out. I bet as soon as you do, you will recognize that the universe always rewards good works and generosity.

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By Richard Wright (anonymous) | Posted October 31, 2008 at 15:16:38

In response to one of A. Smith's points of sending jobs to third world countries to lift them out of poverty, while it sounds good, that's not the reality. Simply look at the Nikes' sweat jobs that Oprah eventually disowned. Or Kathy Lee's discovery that her clothing lines were created essentially by child slave labour. Please obtain the well-researched documentary "The Corporation" and see some other examples of how workers producing North American goods labour in parts of China and third world countries with poor wages, no benefits, few rights and, in some cases, dangerous working conditions. (China of course is no longer a third world country having the world's largest army, is slated to be the biggest economy in the world by 2026, and recently conducted its third manned space flight.) So shipping jobs to China isn't altruistic, believe me.

Corporations did make noises initially about off-shoring jobs as a means of giving a helping hand to third world nations. Unfortunately, it was more about cheap labour delivering staggering profits, no workers' rights to deal with, few (if any) environmental laws and a disposable work force.

While I may sound like a critic for the NDP at times, I feel there is little difference between any of the parties today. They all lie like rugs, are more concerned about obtaining power and access to the public trough than representing citizens, and are narcissistic, myopic and out of touch with their citizenry and the problems we face. I simply seek the fairness that used to exist before greed became the new God. In fact, I worked for one of the biggest corporations in the world for decades but it was a benevolent corporation at the time. It had the fairest programs, was generous to its employees and genuinely (through example-after-example) showed it cared about our welfare. We had company-developed and enshrined rights and God help the manager who contravened them. We were encouraged to volunteer in our communities; it shared some of its wealth with worthy causes, and supported the arts and community outreach programs. It earned amazing loyalty from its employees, we fell over each other to bring our ideas and innovations to the company and when the going got tough, our pride in our company meant we were there for it. When I say it was large, we had approximately 400,000 people worldwide. When fairness is practiced and prosperity is shared, the "Corporation," whether it be a multi-national or local, is an excellent venue and everyone does well. When it shares its prosperity only with its CEOs, execs and shareholders there is trouble ahead.

One other point, if I may. There can be no continuing collective prosperity in a country where jobs are converted to part-time, there are no benefits paid, no opportunity for advancement, and no access to credit. For instance, part-time workers cannot get mortgages for houses, bank loans for cars or other credit. They are simply preyed upon by money lenders (pay-day loans) and others charging obscene interest rates and can rarely rise above their povert. When someone has to work at two or three jobs with the inherent travel involved, there is no time to volunteer in the community, properly raise children and look after elderly family members. Exhaustion is the rule and depression is often a symptom that rears its head. So part-time is not the way to go. And consider Harper bleating there were 107,000 jobs created within the last few months. He didn't mention that 90 percent were part-time. Imagine the inevitability of this - an entire workforce of part-time workers who can't buy houses or big ticket items.

There is nothing wrong with protectionism since it is protecting citizens. We had a higher standard of living before free trade was ushered in by Mr. Mulroney when he wasn't busy accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars from questionable sources. And the mother lode of free trade, "Globalization" has always been more about exploitation and obscene profits for the rich than it has been about helping workers in third world countries. At least that's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Richard Wright
Niagara on the Lake, ON

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted October 31, 2008 at 17:42:49

Richard, China's per capita income is approximately $2900 US, while Canada's is $37,400, even after the recent drop in our currency.

China also has more concentrated wealth than Canada does, which means that hundreds of millions of Chinese citizens still earn less than $1000 US a year.

For these people, having the opportunity to have a job, even if it is a bad job by Canadian standards is better than working on the farm.

Furthermore, I believe that trade promotes economic interdependence.

Where some may see this as a bad thing, it probably cuts down on the risk of blowing each other up. When nations rely on one another for the health of their economies, it makes sense to try and get along.

If the question is how to bring back good paying jobs for the average worker, I think one must look to the past. Like I said in my previous post, people tend to get out of life what they put in.

Therefore, if average Canadians want greater opportunities, they must first pay the price. One way to do this is to pay more in taxes. Why would anyone voluntarily pay more in taxes? Because by doing so, you plant the seed for wealth coming back to you.

Call it karma, or reaping what you sow, the laws of the universe do not budge on this point. If you want to get more out of life, you must first pay the price. Therefore, if the average Canadian wants a return to better times, they must contribute like they used to.

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By Grassroots are the way forward (registered) | Posted October 31, 2008 at 18:52:11

Richard Wright: I agree with you. Globalization is a crock, it is meant to bring all workers down tothe lowest level, as we are seeing here after many years. With the growth in the temp industry, manyworkers are earning low wages, have no access to benefits, they are denied stat holiday and even overtime. One must also look at Health and Safety issues and even meal breaks, as legislated law is being broken. Te Ministry of labour fails to enforce its own laws.

It is appalling the conditions that many worers across the globe must workin, yet here we have A Smith, promoting and waving a banner, that this is good. I know that if A Smith had to work in such conditions he would be whining big time, as I as sure that he feels he is entitled to living wages, benefits, pensions and every other entitlement.

A Smith, you do not speak for the peopleacross the globe and why don't you put your money where your mouth is and go work in one of these sweatshops. Heck, you do not even speak for the people here in Canada, those workers that are struggling.

Hey A Smith, whatever kind of work you do, we can demand that you only earn .10 cents an hour. What a maroon!!!!

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted October 31, 2008 at 23:21:58

Grassroots, instead of whining about how the majority of people in the world are being screwed over by the few, ask yourself why this might be happening.

We live in a world where money flows to those who contribute something to society. It may not seem fair to you, but that is how the world works.

Furthermore, trying to solve income disparity simply by taking more from the rich and giving it to the poor has never worked.

All that happens when this is attempted, is that inflation takes away what the government tries to give. This was the case when the US gov't recently handed out rebate checks to people who don't pay income tax.

As theses checks went out, goods purchased disproportionately by poor people went up in tandem, offsetting any positive benefit the free money was supposed to have.

I guarantee you that if the US government sends out more checks to undeserving people, you will once again see an increase in basic staples like food and gas.

This is simply a matter of balance and since governments are not immune to universal laws of nature, the result will always be the same.

So keep whining about how hard done by people are, but keep in mind that it's their own fault. They rely too much on handouts and don't contribute enough to society.

If they start thinking of others first, they will start to see their own lot in life improve.

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By Grassroots are the way forward (registered) | Posted November 01, 2008 at 08:14:29

A Smith: You and I are on different planes, so to speak. I do think of others but you do not.

You never answered the question about paying you .10 cents an hour or having to work in the deplorable conditions that many in this world have to. But then since it is not you, then it is ok, right.

As an activist in the community, I see many people who give back in many ways which is more then what you do. Many in our community are trying to empower the people to stand up and fight back against people like you, who stigmatized those who may be struggling through job loss, sickness, disablity or those that are retired living with only CPP and OAS.

You are the one who has nothing to contribute to society, except your boorish, overrated life. The laws of nature are that if the people are pushed to far, well then they start to fight back, this has happened time and again throughout history.

Again, please tell us what your job is, did you inherit money? People are people and not numbers, so just because the number crunchers can manipulate numbers to match their goal, does not make it right.

Anyways, as I do tune in to what is going on in the US, I see more of the affluent, who have got their hands out, then those that struggle. In my mind it is time to take the affluent down a few notches, those who are the elistist, who have nothing but greed on their agenda. Anyways, there are a lot of things going on down south, that mainstream news is not telling and one can find on alternative news, I wonder why that is?

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted November 01, 2008 at 14:58:18

Grassroots, I don't work for $.10 an hour because I don't have to.

Life dealt me the hand I was given and I am taking advantage of the resources at my disposal. I try not to screw people over in my dealings with them, but I feel no need to move to Asia and suffer needlessly.

Do you understand why many people in the world earn low wages (relative to the West)? It is because they're not very productive. They simply do not have the tools yet that would allow a business to offer them more.

In effect, the Canadian worker today is riding on the coattails of our forefathers work. Their investment in building up capital has allowed us to leverage those tools to be extremely productive.

It is this higher level of productivity that also explains our higher wages.

Over time, the same thing will take place in other parts of the world, assuming that corporations are allowed to invest in these countries.

That is why trade is so valuable, because it gives workers more and better tools. More advanced tools lead to higher worker productivity, which in turn drives up wages.

If you goal is to stop foreign investment in developing countries, how do you expect the people to get the tools that would make them more productive.

As to your assertion that you are helping society because you are fighting for worker's rights, what the hell does that mean? What rights are you fighting for, the right to have government force companies to pay wages that don't reflect the skills that workers bring to the table.

Why not just focus your attention on actually producing something that consumers value, like a new restaurant, or a new technology that lowers the cost of driving a car, or a new drug that extends people's lives, etc.

All you are doing is trying to do is take from people who contribute to society and give it to those who do not.

I am all for helping those who want to get ahead, but we all can't start at the top.

However, for those who want to get rich (whether that means money, family, health, etc), all one has to do is stay focused on your goals and don't stop until you get there. Most people either tend to give up on their goals when they don't immediately get them, or they just assume they aren't smart enough to get them in the first place.

In my life, I have found that persistence trumps talent and that all things are given to those who stay focused and don't quit. No one is excepted from this principle, so it is only the fault of the individual if they don't get what they desire. Just don't give up on your goals.

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By Richard Wright (anonymous) | Posted November 01, 2008 at 16:31:06

Wow! Thanks to all for the comments; the debate seems to have boiled down to the rights of the "haves" and the "have-nots." The haves seem to feel they should have more and more and more and...well you get the picture. No "wealth spreading" here you commie pinkos...(Just kidding)

I may ramble a bit but the point I'd like to make is that money does not "flow" to the most deserving or necessarily to the "contributors. It flows to those who exercise cronyism, exploit the public purse, manipulate shareholders, raid public companies for personal profit, and ooze into positions of power through less than stellar practices that seem to work best in the shadows.

Mr. Smith, when you state that money flows to those who contribute something to society, I find that pretty amusing. (In fact, my wife came into my study to ask what was so funny.) Particularly, it doesn't add up if you are talking the "large" dollars. That was a reality of yesteryear. That was the Henry Fords and the Edisons and even the "Stronachs." etc. Today money seems to mainly flow to the manipulators, the connivers and the cheats. Or those who make money off other people's money.

If you look at the financial sector, they seem to really rake it in. But what do they "contribute?" Seriously. They don't grow a carrot. Hammer a nail in a house. Or milk a cow. They simply fee you to death as they lend out your money. (I happened to be at a party of bankers where one gentleman railed against Ticketmaster who had the nerve to charge him a fee for merely procuring his tickets. He couldn't understand what they were doing to charge him such a fee. Ahem! Banking? Fees? I saw the irony...he didn't.)

So money flows to those who contribute? I must get new glasses.

Let's look at the recent 700 billion (or was it a trillion) dollar bailout in the US that was supposed to free up lending capital? It came directly from the pockets of American taxpayers and "flowed" to those who had screwed up royally as they made millions in commissions on loans that never should have been made. They contributed all their own pockets. Now, according to Lou Dobbs on CNN, the US bailout money is being used to pay bonuses to execs who haven't really contributed a whole lot other than create that mess. It's being used by people like AIG to fund corporate jet rides and expensive parties for its execs. AIG admitted how it all "looked bad" when its executive elite were caught drinking the best wines, eating the best foods and going on a hunting party compliments of their corporation that was deep in the red. The "party' for a few of them, cost $86,000. Good use of American tax payers' money. I think it was another bank PLC or PNC who used some of its bailout billions to "acquire" another bank. So again, an example of the elite manipulating government so they could profit off the backs of taxpayers.

Money flows to those who contribute? Let's see, John Roth of Nortel who was selling his stock because he knew the company was tanking but publically calling for employees and others to buy more? Money did flow to him for the "value" he created? More than $200 million? What did he do to earn that type of money other than lead the company to disaster? And lie, cheat and steal. He'll be in court for years but, unfortunately, Canada doesn't punish members of the Canadian Establishment.

Garth Drabinsky and Martin Gottlieb who stole (allegedly) more than 130 million dollars from their own company's shareholders. Once they sold the company to a US firm the books revealed immense fraud and they were indicted in the USA but refused to go down to Chicago for their trial. They are classed as fleeing felons in the US and at trial here in Canada. They stand at trial and accuse all their employees of having perpetrated the fraud when their employees had nothing to gain from it and the dynamic duo had everything to gain. And they did illegally pocket mucho dinero. Certainly some good came of their entrepreneurship - revitalized theatres, excellent shows but in the end, as they say, power corrupts.

Conrad Black - need I say more? A bully who was a crook from his time at Upper Canada where he was caught stealing exam answers and selling them to other students. Certainly he was a master manipulator but he didn't work his way from the ground up - he inherited millions. He talked the Argus widows (old ladies) into handing him voting control of their shares to allow him a power seat. His sense of entitlement led him to use shareholder-owned companies as his personal bank accounts. Boy, he really himself. (I hear he offered to donate his $4500 towel warmer to the homeless but they had nowhere to plug it in so he kept it.)

There are more manipulators in Canada such as the two BC mortgage company entrepreneurs who cheated people out of more than $200 million with their pyramid mortgage schemes. Martin Wirick is one name to look up. Biller and Slobogian two others. And others and others. Money sure does flow to those who "contribute" alright.

In the USA Tyco, Worldcom, Enron etc. etc. etc. Money "flowed" to their execs. And there were dozens more of the privileged who were found to be lying and cheating to get their money and ruining the lives of their shareholders in the process. These aren't victimless crimes. Old people invest too for their retirements.

As for "paying taxes," they are viewed as two bad words by the rich. For instance, Paul Martin's Canadian Steamships Line is registered off-shore so he doesn't have to pay Canadian taxes. Frank Stronac lives in Switzerland now to avoid paying taxes. Yes, money sure does flow to those who contribute to society. The rich are known to pay less taxes (proportionally) than the middle class.

It is widely acknowledged that CEOs routinely staff boards of directors with their friends who vote them huge compensation. They take bonuses from their companies even when they are losing money big time. (More contributions flowing to those even when they don't create value...) Just try to count the billions of dollars in executive compensation paid out to undeserving people who claim sole responsibility when things go right for the company...and are suddenly "out of touch with the numbers" (a quote from Nortel CEO John Roth) when things go wrong. Typical BS.

Yes money flows to those who contribute to society. Ball players for instance. Hockey players - another good example. Basketball players. Meanwhile I remember seeing a Canadian doctor on TV saying he had to sell his house out of economic necessity.

Let's look for a moment at those really big earners in society who save lives and stand between us and disease, disaster and danger. Nurses, doctors, policemen, firemen, paramedics. We know they all live in mansions since money must have flowed to them, right? Well my wife was an ER nurse for 23 years and waded through blood, cleaned up bodily discharges, picked up body parts, got smashed in the face by addicts, puked on by drunks, and time-after-time recognized when someone was in real medical trouble and saved his or her life through her intervention. When she got sick because she likely picked up a virus during her work and had to have a liver transplant, our Canadian health system saved her life. (God bless Canada.) My in-laws are all nurses, paramedics, cops and firemen. And you know what? Most are struggling to make ends meet. Money didn't flow to them. Of course, it could be said they didn't "contribute" enough. Right, sir?

As for stating that the average Canadian earns $37,000 a year versus the Chinese, I'll bet the Chinese don't have to pay $200,000 for a house, $30,000 for a car or $35 for a shirt so that money can "flow" to those who are so deserving because they are excellent "exploiters." With all due respect Mr. Smith and absolutely no malice, I again submit to you that exporting jobs isn't altruism; it's based on exploitation and enhanced profit, not a dirty word at all. Profit is good and necessary. But when you think only of profit and shareholders and not your employees or even your customers, there's gonna be trouble in River City.

Also, averages are sometimes misleading. Having worked as a statistician for a time, I can say that if you have two people, one making $1,000,000 a year and another making $1 a year, on average they each make $500,000.50 per year. I think the Canadian average salary you state simply doesn't reflect reality unless you consider that most of the big money is being "earned" by fewer and fewer people. I think I read somewhere...yes I did indeedy, that the middle class is vanishing. Hmmm...wonder why that might be.

Unfortunately, again I have to cite personal experience. My daughter with three years of university(completing the fourth year on-line) makes $14 an hour part-time and can't find a full-time job. My niece with five years university works for $12 an hour and can't get a job teaching. My nephew who took police training at college for three years can't get a job on the police force because there are visible minority quotas to fill. My son cannot find a job that will give him more than 24 hours of work a week since if they did they'd have to class him as full-time and pay bemefits.

Companies exploit our own people by hiring two or three part-timers to fill a signle job thus avoiding a committment to the employee, paying benefits or insurance etc. The people I know want to "contribute" but they can barely make a living. Maybe cause jobs are being exported. Or, in some cases it's because our Canadian companies have been bought up by American firms and the jobs sent else where. Two years ago a US firm bought Cangro here in Niagara. This year they closed it putting hundreds out of work; they will buy their fruit from China so our farmers had to rip out their clingstone peach trees, a 100 year industry dead. That was manipulative. They killed their competition in advance by buying it and then closing it to support their strategic decision to buy from China.

Or John Deere? Or dozens of others. (Beware Chinese canned fruit as it will likely soon feature that wonderful additive - melamine - or maybe lead? Or maybe asbestos? Whatever works...)

Perhaps you've heard of the "hollowing out" of Canadian companies? For instance, we no longer own CN Rail, The Hudson Bay Company, Tim Hortons. There are no Canadian steel companies, nickle companies or even (major) beer companies. More "whining" on our parts I guess.

Personally, I feel it's up to the Chinese government to look after their own people. Surely their government should stop buying arms in favour of looking after citizens? Or is Canada supposed to save everybody? be real. The largest army in the world and a few years ago we sent them $150,000,000 in foreign aid? Give yourself a shake. Perhaps if we didn't spoonfeed them our jobs they'd get on the ball?

If, as you seem to prefer, we ship all our jobs over there, it won't make a dent in their poverty anyhow but there is going to be a whole lot more people living on the street here. So how can we stop whining and "contribute" if we don't have jobs?

To digress, don't you think we should first look after our thousands of homeless who are out on the street because our Ontario government decided to close Lakeshore Psychiatric Hospital and "dump them" into Parkdale. I guess they don't "contribute" so they don't count. I always thought a society is defined by how it treats its most vulnerable? Guess I was wrong. We should take lessons from China - that bastion of democracy and fairness? Gee...who pirates Canadian and American products? Who steals technology? Who is sending poisoned food and products to North America? Kiddees toys with lead? China. Pet Food wheat gluten that's killed our pets? China. Lead on kids toys? China. Asbestos in baby bibs? China. (No doubt it was a safety feature in case the babies took up smoking early.)

Mr. Smith, perhaps I have taken you too literally when you say that money flows to those who contribute. Of course, it does to a degree. You work, you get paid. My point on that is that the effort and the rewards are largely out of synch. Take a good hard look at who makes the most money and how they made it. If, for example, we were to look at the top earners in Canada or the USA, we'd largely see people who sit on their asses and manipulate events and people.

Hey let's have some fun and look at a high-profile "earner" who has contributed so much. Look at "W". He bankrupt three companies his father gave him. So, the American elite, to give him some money of his own, arranged for him to buy into a Texas sports team - The Texas Rangers. Not worth much unless it had a venue. So they went after public money to built a stadium. While a complicated deal, it was also crooked; Bush was "led" to the ulitimate sale of the team whose value increased through public money being spent. He made $14.9 million. The rich taking care of their own - again using public money.

Here's a few quotes by that famous (ha) author Richard Wright.

"If corporate decision making is shipped out of the country, the decisions made won't be in the best interests of the country."

"As wealth (earned or not) generates power, the decisions made by those in power will favour the wealthy."

"The elite have seized control of government and will work tirelessly to assure that fewer and fewer people will receive more and more."

"If you lined up all the economist in the world, you'd have a lot of economists." (Not sure if this one is mine or I read it.)

I assume Mr. Smith that you would not be voting for Obama if you were eligible to vote in the US election. I think that we are seeing, for the first time in a long time, true democracy in action. I have to laugh at McCain accusing Obama of having "bought" the election since this is typically what the Republicans do with their huge contributions from corporations and special interest groups such as government lobbyists.

In this case, regular people contributed to get rid of a regime that has just about bankrupt the country and killed so many poor American boys. Of course, Haliburton stock has doubled so I guess that's okay.

As previously mentioned, I believe that people should work for their money but they have to be afforded equal opportunity. When companies ship jobs overseas because it's cheaper and they'll make so much MORE PROFIT, that's their perogative. Unfortunately, its hard to even boycott overseas products. Example, someone I know worked in a tourist department store where they received sweaters with the label - Made-in-China - on them. The supplier apologized profusely and asked that the items be returned and they would put the Made-in-Canada label on them. Oh, how was this justified? The label IS made in Canada. Pretty soon it may be the only thing.

Happy Halloweenie Mr. Smith. Check your candy - for melamine.

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By Grassroots are the way forward (registered) | Posted November 01, 2008 at 16:31:15

A Smith writes: It is this higher level of productivity that also explains our higher wages.

What a bunch of BS. It was those workers who stood up, to fight for better wages, benefits, pensions. The capitalists do not want to concede and in fact brought in their enforcers to deter them. You better read up on your labour history.

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By Richard Wright (anonymous) | Posted November 01, 2008 at 17:20:40

First let me apologise for my last blog. Too long...too many points...

But, I do declare, I may have found the Rosetta Stone of my argument that shipping jobs overseas isn't about sharing the properity but rather about exploiting the third world and its lack of workers' rights, fairness, environmental controls, lack of health/insurance costs. Mr. Smith, (sorry...not picking on you, merely exploring your argument...) if China has an average wage of $2900 per capita and Canada has an average wage of $37,400 (which I find strange and please don't quote Statistics Canada or the Canada Food Guide since both have been repeatedly compromised for political purposes...) WHY NOT INSIST THESE CHINESE WORKERS BE PAID $37,400 PER YEAR BY OUR SUPPLIERS? In fact, we can refuse to buy their goods unless there workers are paid a truly fair salary. That way we can share the wealth and prosperity and advance their standard of living. Truly an idea whose time has come? What do you think?

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By morg (anonymous) | Posted November 01, 2008 at 20:51:18

"We live in a world where money flows to those who contribute something to society. It may not seem fair to you, but that is how the world works."
This is a Joke, right.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted November 01, 2008 at 20:53:00

Richard, why do sports teams pay athletes millions of dollars, while nurses earn relatively little in comparison? It's because it makes economic sense to do this.

If you own a sports team, you have only a few employees, but these employees generate hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue.

Television allows each athlete to reach millions of people every night.

Nurses on the other hand, can't treat millions of people simultaneously and therefore are limited in their earnings potential.

That is also why companies can not pay workers in China the same wage rate they can do in Canada. Chinese workers simply do not produce enough economic value.

Think about Google for a moment. Google created a great search algorithm that made life easier for people. However, without the power to reach billions of people over the internet, their company would still be operating out of a garage.

Therefore, if you want to help workers earn a better wage, adopt policies that lead to more capital appreciation.

In previous decades the Federal government spent over 1% of GDP on things like roads, ports, airports and other infrastructure that helped business to expand. Today we only spend .32% of GDP.

By shifting away from investing to consumption, we have also slowed down the rate at which wages rise. Everything good comes at a cost, so the cost of producing better jobs will require more of our tax dollars be spent on things that last, not just consumables like our government does today.

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By Grassroots are the way forward (registered) | Posted November 01, 2008 at 22:43:55

Richard Wright: Thank for posting, your words flowed so gracefully. A Smith is so blind, that he cannot see the forest for the trees. I feel for your family members as they struggle to find work that will allow to earn a living wage, to have access to benefits, the ability to save for a rainy day or even retirement. A Smith has no idea of our social safety net for those that lose jobs, as work is not easy to find and once your EI benefits run out, well one is left to live on $560.00 per month as a single person on Ontario Works. One cannot even afford market rent on this amount and many find themselves homeless and lose the $560.00. Ontario Works, in conjunction with many of the not for profits, those places where one thinks they would get help, are forced into workfare programs, which push people into precarious work situations, where employment violations go on daily, where they could lose their job because they report a health and safety violation, to be on the never ending poverty cycle. Also under workfare, a person is not covered by employment standards, which allows for people to be push into work that they do not even get paid for, and if one refuses, well then they are just cut off.

Interestingly enough, I watched Bowling For Columbine tonight and one thing that the movie did focus on one mother who was forced off of welfare, to work at two jobs, in which this person was bussed several hours away and still could not afford her rent for her family. It is very telling that Lockheed-Martin, one of the weapons manufacturers is the driving force behind this ideology. It was also telling that one of America's music icons, whose business was one of the jobs where this mother worked got a tax break.

What value does a weapons manfacturer offer society, not much in my mind. What value is this music icon offering to his fellow citizens, when people are working for starvation wages, so that he can live in a mansion and close his eyes to the suffering.

It is also telling if your read Mr Howard's editorial the other day in the spec, that a local elected official, Paul MIller was kicked of the legislature because he dared to speak up for his constituents. Also in his editorial he mentioned that Andrea Howarth, continued to send the message for the people who struggle in Hamilton, yet it seems that our Minister of Social Services has used threatening words, to have others, like the grandparents of ROCK, to be cut off.

People need to be paying attention to these things, as it does tells us what these, the elites really think of the people, those in the middle class who are now under attack, the working poor, those that struggle whether they are injuried and cannot work , if they are sick, if they are unemployed and cannot find work, the many seniors who do not have pensions and struggle on the meagre amounts of CPP and OAS.

A Smith, needs to take some of his angst and direct at the forces to be, those, the business elite, the very rich, who are consolidating their power. It is very sad that he spends much time blaming those who do not make the policies such as NAFTA, free trade, which have led to to decrease of workers rights, the growth of the temp industry, the lowering of wages, the lack of benefits, the growth of the poverty industry and the growing number of people in this country that live in poverty.

Unless, he is one of top 1% earners, he is cutting his own throat, he just does not see it yet, but he will, if the tide does not change.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted November 02, 2008 at 14:02:15

My numbers regarding government spending on fixed investment were not accurate.

Last year total government spending on fixed capital was 3% of GDP. In previous decades, when GDP growth was greater than today, this number was closer to 4.5%.

In recent decades, government spending on basic research has also decreased and has been replaced by greater near term consumption.

This shift to immediate gratification has slowed the growth in the economy, which in turn has slowed real wage growth for workers.

Grassroots, my argument against handouts is not born out of anger against those who are poor. I understand that everybody deserves the right to be treated decently and have opportunities for success.

I don't however, the best way to do this is by taking money from the rich. In fact, I would argue the opposite is true.

In 1977, the top 20% of US taxpayers contributed 68% of income tax revenue. , while the bottom 60% paid 13%. In 1995, after marginal rates had been cut, the top 20% paid 77%, while the bottom 60% paid 7%. The top 1% saw their share climb from 20 to 29% over this same time period.

I believe that by shifting the tax burden ever more to the very rich, it creates hardship for the average person. Things in this world work to balance each other out, so reward must be balanced by work/contribution.

Allowing the rich to do more of the contributing, ensures that they will get most of the rewards.

Therefore, if you want to bring the rich down a few pegs, the best way to do this is to lighten their tax burden by contributing more yourself. Think of it as "killing with kindness".

I know myself, that if I am angry with someone, and they are are nice to me, it saps my will to want to get back at them. Their kindness makes me want to help them instead.

I believe the same technique should be used by those who are angry at the rich in our society. Rather than fighting against them in anger, turn the other cheek and try to help them, yes, try to help the rich.

It sounds completely nonsensical, but much of life is like that, just think about George W Bush becoming President of the United States.

Anyways, whatever you are doing know isn't working and in fact things are getting worse. The gap between the rich and the poor continues to grow, so why not try something different. If it doesn't work, then feel free to tell me I am full of s%#$.

Just stop attacking your enemies and start helping them instead. A very smart person gave us this message many years ago and I know that if you try it you will see that it works perfectly.

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By Richard Wright (anonymous) | Posted November 03, 2008 at 04:06:44

Grassroots, thanks for your kind words. I feel that you speak from experience having witnessed (it seems) extreme need and, to a degree, hopelessness, possibly in your work. This means you can identify with those poor souls who find themselves in an endless cycle of poverty. What so many of us forget is that when one is mired down in these circumstances, without some tangible help, it's hard to claw our way out. This brings frustration, leading to anger etc. As they say: when you are up to your ass in alligators, it's hard to remember that your primary purpose there is to drain the swamp.

I do agree with Mr. Smith, however, that having a dream and pursuing it is the way to go but it's much harder these days when one starts at ground zero. Still, spirit and a can-do attitude have yielded spectacular results. I grew up in a northern wilderness and came out of there knowing how to hunt and fish, but rarely having seen TV or radio. I could blow a can out of the air with a rifle (not a shotgun) but couldn't even dance. But I loved reading and fell in love with writing. It took me ten years in a corporation (five years at night school to get my journalism) before I was finally taken into their communications department where, over time, I became editor of four corporate magazines. On the side, I wound up writing 30 TV shows and eventually 22 radio plays - all which aired here, the USA (a few) and in Germany. I had a love and therefore a focus. When I left the corp I continued writing various material large companies need. Meanwhile I finally completed a first novel which is now being trimmed at the request of an agent since it is of epic proportions. I did work 12-hour days for most of my younger life but it was worth it. Having a goal, I pursued it and studied journalism as much for the inspiration and enthusiasm it generated as for what it taught me. I pray you have such a goal and achieve it.

Mr. Smith, your economic theories sound great in practice but pragmatically speaking, they simply aren't sustainable. When society finds itself with aristocrats (or aristo-fat-cats) ruling (financially in our case) as though by Divine Right, it eventually comes to naught. Ask any Roman. Or French King. Or Russian nobleman. I think that when one realizes that there are more peasants than elite, and the peasants get angry, change is just around the corner. As for the ball player versus the nurse, being an author, I understand about reaching masses.

However, I hope you enjoy good health forever, but should you not, I have to caution you that you won't find many ball or hockey players or investment bankers helping you in a hospital. And you know what? At that time you'll discover who really plays an important role in our life cycle.

As for not paying the Chinese more because they aren't worth it - productivity wise - why not keep the jobs here where we must (at $37,400 a year) be more productive. Anyhow, it's really not about productivity. In my work, I write for corps and I have written notices of plant closings...for the most productive plants in a corporation. It was just more advantageous (economically) to centralize operations. So, these workers were told that if they were productive, it meant job security. They brought their ideas, their tangible innovations and their process improvements forward to where they became the best. The plant received innovation awards, productivity awards and "best of breed" awards. And then head office essentially said, we can save a few dollars by centralizing. Screw them. And the plant closed. Sure a short-term buyout was there. But for forty and fifty year old men and women, they were never going to get a job anywhere near their previous salary. So, if economics are the new God, and people are just treated as "human resources" (a demeaning term if I ever heard one) I think...change is just around the *corner.

PS: Sorry for the typos as I am sure they are there. As I learned a long time ago, you can't edit your own stuff. Have fun everybody - life is too short.

*Around the corner may be +20 years...or not.

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By Rusty (registered) - website | Posted November 03, 2008 at 16:19:53

Richard, I noticed this morning that you seem to have scored two letters in the Star in less than 2 weeks:

Nicely done!

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By Richard Wright (anonymous) | Posted November 03, 2008 at 17:40:32

Hey Rusty...thanks for noticing. I had stopped writing for a time but did send in two in two weeks and was fortunate that they thought they were worthy of publishing. Meanwhile, we all soldier on, aching and complaining. I pretty much subscribe to Mark Twain's theory: Common sense ain't very common. Not saying that I make sense all the time. Simply that I operate on the premise that if you take an infitinite number of monkeys and an infinite number of typewriters...(You see...I get all my "wisdom" off little carved wooden signs and T-shirts...) Have a good one...

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted November 03, 2008 at 19:40:09

Richard, economics is not the new God, however, by studying how the economy works, one can begin to understand why bad things happen.

What my research has shown me, is that human actions always produce effects that counter balance the intended consequences of the original action.

For example, when people call for higher tax rates on the rich, they do so because they believe the rich are not paying their fair share.

However, as tax rates have fallen from 91% in the fifties, to the current 35%, the burden of paying taxes has shifted ever more to the rich. In effect, by being nicer to the rich, the government ends up getting more money from the rich.

However, now that the rich pay a greater share of social program costs, they also tend to get a higher share of the rewards. Better jobs, more wealth and all because they have taken on a greater share of the tax burden.

The funny things is , by raising tax rates on the rich, average people do end up helping their own economic well being. However, it's just not for the reasons they think.

By raising taxes on the rich, it shifts the tax burden back down towards the average earner. Therefore, by taking on more economic hardship, the average person also gets rewarded with better paying jobs.

Therefore, as to how this relates to free trade, perhaps I spoke to early. If raising taxes on imports ends up shifting the tax burden back down towards the average person, then that probably will help create better jobs, just not for the reasons most people think.

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By Grassroots are the way forward (registered) | Posted November 03, 2008 at 23:13:25

Richard Wright: Yes I have experienced the system and part of the experience is in the decrease of workers rights across the board and the lack of protection afforded to workers by employment standards and other federal laws.

Sometimes I think what was the purposed of putting in all those hours of post secondary education, slaving away at minimum wage as a single mother, in hopes of a better life, when the system itself has created a system which denies workers their rights.

The system itself will bounce people from level to level, from federal, provincial and municipal, each level pointing the finger at the other, and well the individual is left floundering. Sometimes, it leaves me wondering, what to do these people actually get paid to do. Help or hinder?????

To give an actual experience, get a temp job, lose the temp job due to workplace bullying, an issue that is not covered by Health and safety, the bully has a right to abuse you whether it is physical or mental, forget human rights, not unless your belong to a union, the temp company will not give you anymore assignments nor an explanation as to what one has actually done wrong. You request your record of employment , several times in order to access EI benefits, temp company refuses, after five months, out of money, can't get EI, because you cannot get ROE. Go to welfare, welfare tells you, you must file for EI, you explain I can't because I cannot get ROE. On direction from welfare go to EI, and ask them to get it on my behave, as the law states the an ROE must be issues within two weeks of the last day worked. You fill out a form and twice the form is returned to you, as the feds, say, you did not try hard enough to get it yourself. In the meantime, you are entitled to 499.00 from welfare, rent is $630.00. You send a nasty letter to CEO of temp company, and finally, one gets ROE. Now the person can file for EI, but there is a catch, you see, once EI kicks in, they clawback the welfare, which leaves you with approxiamtely $80.00 for the month to live on. This is while, you are job searching everday, faithfully, with no luck.

People go on about those that struggle but most do not really know what is like. As the song goes, "you can knock me down, but I get up again", I do not know, it is very hard to face the prospect of homelessness for the first time in your life, due to circumstances beyond one's control.

This is only one story, there are so many others.

I watched a film on the stelco strke of 1946, I was amazed at the sense of community, we have lost that sense in many ways. Really look at the policies of Workfare and Elect to Work, the policy is akin to the mentality of the workhouses. If only the truth could be told.

It is better to empower the people, then to wait for a "handout" from the system. Think Winnipeg General Strike 1919, much of what you get today, is because of those that fought many years ago.

I hear OPSEU contract runs out in December, yes of course they will get their raises but at what cost? It is very frustrating when those who are afforded the most protection, fail to stand up for other workers.

There comes a time when all workers have to stand for each other.

I made a banner for my local Labour Day parade, Temp Workers Rights/Action, visibility, to let the people know it is out there.

Small ideas cna grow into big ones, just a dream right!!!!!!

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted November 04, 2008 at 01:24:08

Grassroots, why is it that you turn to government to make your life better?

You keep telling us that the government is controlled by elites who are only out to help the rich, so it seems illogical to look to these same people for help.

Perhaps that is part of your problem, you don't know whether you should be angry or nice to the people you speak with.

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By better (anonymous) | Posted November 04, 2008 at 08:07:29

"why is it that you turn to government to make your life better?" This is what you don't get Smith: the government is US. When we turn to the government to do something for us we're saying WE want to do it for ourselves collectively because it works better that way. Things like an army, each person can't have there own army (except maybe Bjork), it just makes more sense for us to put some of our money into a pool and pay for it out of that. Our government is the way we use to help each other when we need it, but you seem to think the best way to help people is to leave them to drown, well maybe you like living in a community (so called) where people don't help each other but most people would rather live in a community which looks after people who need it and which does things collectively when it's smarter to do things that way.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted November 04, 2008 at 22:38:59

Better, if the government is us, then everything the government does represents the will of the people.

If the government is us, then there should be no disagreement as to what the government should spend our money on.

If the government is us, why is it that most people distrust the people who run it?

I suggest that government is not us, but rather an entity that dupes people into believing that they can get something for nothing.

I personally enjoy paying taxes to the government. I know that the more I pay, the more opportunities I will be given. I understand that by making life harder on myself, it will pay dividends in the future.

Therefore, if you really want to start helping the poor, I suggest you drop the "rich are evil, poor are saintly" campaign and realize that the universe can't be fooled.

Whatever the government forcibly takes from a person who EARNS a dollar, will be given back to that person in greater opportunities.

Whoever lives off the proceeds of government theft, will pay the price of having fewer opportunities.

Everything balances out, so why not harness the power of this balance to create opportunities for yourself. All it takes is faith. Send the government a big fat check and watch your life prosper. Sounds crazy, but if you try it, it will work.

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By Grassroots are the way forward (registered) | Posted November 05, 2008 at 01:02:41

A Smith: The illusion is that we are the government but in reality, we are not. There is no way that you can convince me otherwise.

You are the one that believes in the system, not me, I can see the truth, why is it that you cannot?????

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted November 05, 2008 at 22:51:12

Grassroots, what?

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By Richard Wright (anonymous) | Posted November 06, 2008 at 14:06:41

OBAMA! Well, we must all be heartened to see this very good man elected President of the USA. I'll go out on a limb and say I think we are looking at greatness if the forces of darkness (big money)don't prevail. I must say he reminds me of JFK when he speaks. Now he needs the time to correct the mess that the Republicans and their de-regulation and other "conservativce" initiatives created.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted November 07, 2008 at 01:11:17

Richard, are you serious?

Politicians take money from people by the threat of force and you feel that makes them a force for good.

Meanwhile, corporations ASK people for their money and that makes them evil.

Using that logic, we should start locking up people who give to charity and build statues for thieves.

All politicians do is take other people's money and move it around, not exactly that difficult.

If I took your money and gave it to one of my supporters, I would go to jail. What is the difference?

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By Richard Wright (anonymous) | Posted November 08, 2008 at 20:12:35

Mr. Smith, I give up with you. Your conservative/republican reps just took $700 billion dollars from people and gave it to the people on Wall Street who led the US into the mess. It is now being used (some of it) to pay them bonuses to their execs. Others are using it for making acquisitions...not opening the credit purse. But these Republicans also failed to install the necessary caveats to stop this beahviour. You seem to feel that business and the rich are blameless for the current economic problems when the rest of the world knows it is their greed and their insatiable hunger for more than has led to the economic meltdown. That's why President Obama is using the term: "Spread the Wealth," something obviously totally at odds with your beliefs. Bush gave tax breaks to the wealthy. Has that worked? If you can't sgree that it hasn't, you must be living on another planet. You can't have a country where a financial aristocracy just gets more and more. It doesn't work. That's what is there now.
In Canada to a lesser degree but the greed of Bay Street is just proportionately smaller than Wall Street. As Michael Douglas said in Wall Street (The Movie): Greed is good. So enjoy your greed, sir.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted November 08, 2008 at 20:38:23

Richard, the rest of the world is wrong.

Greedy business people did not cause the economic downturn in the US, it was government spending on social programs that brought it on.

In fact I would argue that giving handouts to Wall Street actually helped the average person on the street. Take a look at the price of oil and gas. Ever since they announced the bailout, it has dropped significantly.

This is effectively a tax cut for every person at the bottom of the economic ladder.

However, because you only look at the initial action by government, you fail to see the secondary effects it produces.

In this case, the unintended consequences of trying to help the business community, actually results in positive effects for the general public.

Failure to understand secondary effects is understandable, but is not helpful. You must learn to look beyond the obvious headlines and actually look at results that actions produce.

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By Richard Wright (anonymous) | Posted November 16, 2008 at 13:16:28

Mr. Smith - Giving a $700 billion bailout to the American banks contributed to the drop in the price of oil? Huh? Isn't that a bit of a reach? As an aside, to illustrate that the disingenuousness and greed continues on Wall Street, consider that two of the American financial organizations have taken $13 BILLION of those taxpayer dollars and set them aside for executive compensation as reported by CNN. Repeatedly you have stated that by giving money to the rich, good things come to those less well off. Boy, I guess the poor in the USA are just sitting back now waiting for the windfall that you seem to think will be generated. Actually I suspect you don't really believe what you are writing but having a grand ole time yanking our chains.

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By Z Jones (registered) | Posted November 17, 2008 at 09:49:17

Smith: "In fact I would argue that giving handouts to Wall Street actually helped the average person on the street. Take a look at the price of oil and gas. Ever since they announced the bailout, it has dropped significantly." Nope, sorry but the price of oil and gas started falling long before the bailout was announced, it actually spiked again in late September/early October when the bailout was approved.

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