Sometimes, history has a way of sneaking up on you. Just when it was beginning to look like there was no way to slow down the world’s insane rates of consumerism, coupled with our even crazier output of Earth-destroying pollutants, along came the Great Financial Meltdown of 2008.
The breadlines on Canadian streets have not yet lengthened significantly from the effects of the meltdown, but with plummeting commodity prices and ever-tightening credit, our turn is coming. Falling world demand has done what no amount of environmental activism could do: slowed down the Canadian oil industry.
In an unexpected development, even the recycling business has taken a hit. Raven Recycling, the Yukon’s nonprofit waste management society, is in financial difficulties because the value of recycled paper and plastic has plummeted with the demand for plastic consumer goods.
There is now no money to be made in shipping recyclables down the Alaska Highway.
It is essential to our survival as a species that we slow down our rate of consumption. At the same time, our survival as individuals requires that we consume a certain amount, so a rational slowdown would be far preferable.
Sad to say, in this pyramid scheme we call the international economy, the only way to slow down uncontrolled growth is to plunge millions of people into misery and poverty, pushing the many millions already in that state closer to starvation and death.
Fortunately though, the rich can expect to be spared the pain. When people all over the US were losing their homes to foreclosures in the subprime mortgage crisis, bailouts never entered the public discussion. But when the losses moved uptown, the sudden threat to multi-billion dollar financial institutions required a US$700 -billion rescue fund.
According to Guardian economics editor Larry Elliot, “The crisis will only end when house prices stop falling and banks stop racking up huge losses on their loans.” Early intervention in the real-estate markets could have helped millions of Americans keep their homes, and prevented the meltdown, but that would be socialism, and of course unthinkable.
Bailouts are not for $300,000 mortgagees with $40,000 salaries. They’re for multi-billion-dollar corporations, whose CEOs earn on average more than 10 per cent of profits. In 2007, the average salary for CEOs of Standard and Poor 500 companies was $9.1 million. For bankers, who bear most of the blame for the meltdown, the figures were often much higher — $20 million at J.P. Morgan, $23 million at Bank of America.
Now North American auto makers have their hands into the US Treasury for $25 billion, and are making it clear that Canadian jobs depend on a similar bailout in this country. General Motors CEO Richard Wagoner pulled in $15 million in 2007, up 64 per cent from the previous year, while the company’s stock plummeted, and jobs were cut on both sides of the border.
The people creating the ‘solution’ to the Great Financial Meltdown are the same people who manufactured the crisis in the first place. All that money that’s disappeared out of your RRSPs didn’t just go poof in the night. Somebody walked away with it. Now they want more.
If we have to find billions of dollars to fix the economy, let’s not hand it over to the same crooks to feed the same crooked schemes. Let’s work on a new economy. One that puts the planet and its citizens first.
Instead of pumping billions into GM and Ford, pump them into a New Deal for the 21st century. Create jobs in green manufacturing, in housing the homeless and creating environmentally responsible infrastructure. Create a fund to upgrade existing housing and put thousands of carpenters, plumbers, and electricians to work.
For the past 30 years we’ve put the globalist theory to the test. Now that it is completely discredited, it’s time to try something rational in its place. There are a lot of intelligent ways to spend a billion dollars. Handing it to the guy who stole your last billion isn’t one of them.
Al Pope won the 2002 Ma Murray Award for Best Columnist in BC/Yukon. His novel, Bad Latitudes, is available in bookstores.