Comment 26857

By geoff's two cents (anonymous) | Posted October 06, 2008 at 09:00:12

"If you cannot see what has been going on, then I feel sorry for you. But then maybe you are part of the problem and not part of the solution."

Not terribly diplomatic, are you? Blog sites like this one are forums for constructive debate; they're usually not meant to be places where people have to agree - in fact, disagreement is encouraged. Your "if you don't agree with every aspect of my post, you're obviously blind" attitude won't likely help you convince anybody that you have anything worthwhile to say. I'd recommend a more respectful approach, particularly when others such as myself actually voice their agreement with much of what you say, and merely ask for clarification and/or commentary on other parts.

I agree that we're seeing a crisis in the welfare state, and hope for the sake of my future and my children's that the storm can we weathered without resorting to 19th century levels of class disparity and mass poverty. If my brother with Down syndrome had been born to a poorer family, moreover, I'm not sure how the poor guy would be dealing with the massive cutbacks in funding to people with disabilities (this is what happened in BC a few years ago, at any rate).

The mobility of companies across the globe has had somewhat mixed results. I'd add to your take on the issue above the fact that what we call "exploitation" people in these other countries most often call "opportunity."

I'd also add that the "government" is not some universal, monolithic entity in space and time - It changes after every election. At these junctures, citizens have the opportunity to voice their discontent at current policies.

NAFTA has also had mixed results - the softwood lumber and mad cow conundrums are examples of how the system does not always work the way it should when a more powerful economic partner is involved.

All-out protectionism hasn't worked that well either though. The branch plant economy is a legacy in large part of protectionist Canadian economic policies from the late nineteenth century forward. Subsidized agriculture in France, another way of isolating workers from the world economy, has resulted in a vast overproduction of goods - funded by the taxpayer, to boot. For the most preeminent example of a protectionist, isolationist state, see North Korea.

I've done some temping myself, and saw the experience primarily as an opportunity - It was great to have a short term job without having to jump through the usual hoops. I wasn't too embittered at the prospect of losing my holiday pay because of this. I agree that the temp model is becoming as prominent as it is, but doesn't it also act as a spur for people to acquire more useful skills, so as to eventually be their own bosses or accede to a job that takes better care of their employees?

As for workfare, it's a controversial issue. Given that the money ultimately comes from taxpayers, many of whom work quite hard for it, I'm not sure they'd take too kindly to knowing that citizens could collect welfare for as long as they like, no questions asked. I'm sure there are a lot of people out there who cannot work for some legitimate reason, and who have had great difficulty getting government help with this. In my own experience, I know a fellow who has been collecting welfare for some time due to a leg injury - It's not that severe though, and he squanders his assistance money on beer and cigarettes, and he's gained an enormous amount of weight from a bad diet. He's effectively using the system. I like him personally, but have never quite got used to the idea that it's partly my tax dollars that are supporting this (together with the company he worked for, who is also, I believe, funding his absence from work).

On one hand, you can't leave people who aren't working to rot - on the other, you can't give them carte blanche, or many among them will use the system as much as possible to their own advantage. This is one fellow who is definitely "part of the problem and not part of the solution," as you put it.

I agree that CEOs are generally making too much, across the board. McMaster is a case in point. There was some commentary in the Economist awhile back to the effect that CEO pay should be tied to a large extent to what shareholders believe he or she is worth.

I still say that an aging population is presenting multiple problems for our aging welfare-state model. You haven't yet disproven this point of mine. More people are retiring now and needing hospital care (because of their advanced age) than ever before, and this puts strain on government as well as private pension coffers. The model was always somewhat shortsighted, of course, and didn't account for the fact that boomers would be having less children who would have to shoulder a disproportion of the welfare/pension burden. It also did not account for the fact that boomers would develop a sense of profound entitlement because of the resources available to them, and would therefore take less measures to safeguard their retirement standard of living on their own.

There's no question that "government" is making policies in response to this, but, frankly, what would you have them do? Where would you have them get the money from?

Tax the corporate bigwigs to the hilt, maybe, because they have more than enough to live on? What's to stop said bigwig from taking his investment capital and expertise elsewhere?

As for the fancy sidewalks downtown, this might seem to be mere superficiality. It's an attempt to attract quality tenants to the core - I'm sure you'd agree that the current lot of adult stores/theatres, a bingo hall, and "fast cash" joints aren't doing much to encourage positive life choices or to foster the development of a more upbeat public space. Rather, they're playing a significant role in the perpetuation of something of a ghetto mentality downtown.

It is not just the wealthy capitalist who would benefit from a nicer urban environment - the people who rely on social assistance and live near the downtown would also appreciate it, I'm sure.

To be sure, the sidewalks, combined with other ways the city tries to raise the core's profile, might seem like mere superficialities - but there's no rule-book out there on how to improve city cores, particularly for cities like Hamilton who have such deep-seeded structural economic difficulties. Other ways to make the core a more positive space might include tax incentives, better transportation, a general civic environment of open-mindedness and innovation - all things, to my way of understanding, that the city of Hamilton has had some dealings in.

What are your ideas? How would you improve the core?

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