Our Leaders are Failing Humanity
by Sameer Gupta
The flurry of recent budget-related announcements have produced a news cycle which is becoming depressingly familiar in this era where our horizons seem to extend no further than the next election. Election-platforms-masquerading-as-budgets elicit fawning coverage from a commentariat which is increasingly controlled by the capitalist class, while talk of the class dynamics which are driving the evaporation of working class prosperity has been all but banished from the media that is consumed by the majority of Canadians.
This has happened because the media’s historical memory, if they possess one at all, is afflicted by a partisan, selective amnesia which divorces the myriad dimensions of identity and social life from their historical (and present) roots in a capitalist system which readily availed itself of all manner of hierarchies, producing our present system of imperialism under which economic gains made in one domain often simply further entrenches the exploitation of someone else further down the totem pole.
Indeed, imperialism is what has allowed a (shrinking) segment of the working class to enjoy financial security, with wage arbitrage fueling the deindustrialization of our economy, the rise of precarious work and an ever-growing human surplus, people whom the capitalists have deemed unnecessary to the productive economy - swelling the ranks of what Marx and Engels coined the lumpenproletariat. And yet, every single article headlined by some permutation of “How the Budget Impacts You” would have readers believe that the rampant corporate welfare and militarism which comprises the majority of new spending in this budget simply does not concern them, a pervasive, self-serving attitude amongst our ruling elite that is proving corrosive to the very spirit of our democracy.
Returning to the budget’s specifics, the star of the show was the promise of $10-a-day childcare, amongst a raft of other proposals aimed at creating a post-pandemic recovery “for Canadians.” As for the media, they didn’t even need to wait for the budget to be presented to roll up their sleeves and begin dutifully pushing the official line. “Finally!” declared a Toronto Star columnist back in March, citing a report from Deloitte which called for “high quality” spaces to be made available. Deloitte of course has raked in millions from the public sector during the pandemic through secretive contracts to assist with vaccine distribution, and that’s been going swimmingly, but I digress.
Maclean’s meanwhile pulled a rhetorical bait and switch that is becoming all too familiar in the mainstream press, breathlessly piling superlatives onto the Liberals’ “massive, historic” childcare pledge before quickly turning to remind readers that this “enormous” undertaking was actually far from assured, as any national childcare program would require bilateral negotiation with the provinces. While the article correctly notes that this is due to the constitutional division of powers which sees childcare fall under provincial jurisdiction, it is worth emphasizing that the Liberals expect their claimed goal of $9.7 billion in permanent annual funding by 2025-2026 (which includes previously announced funds) to be matched by their provincial counterparts.
$9.7 billion seems impressive, and the media know it because they regularly cite numbers put forth by the government without context in order to demonstrate the supposed sincerity of their claims. The Maclean’s article for example mentions that this budget proposes $142 billion in new spending, an impressive figure until you consider analysis from the Communist Party of Canada (Ontario) which found that an obscene $95 billion of that is earmarked for the arms industry alone.
The Communist Party’s analysis offers an excellent breakdown of where the Liberals’ “transformative” budget is distributing that much-publicized new spending, and the picture it paints of a government looting enormous sums of public wealth at the behest of imperialists and rentier-capitalists is a stark contrast to the rosy coverage of this budget in the mainstream press.
It is worth pointing out that this “massive” childcare push, which the government claims is “on a scale with the work of previous generations of Canadians, who built a public school system and public health care,” will only produce $3 billion in funding for the 2021-2022 year, which leads one to ask what the government would call its decision to extend Air Canada a $5.9 billion bailout, a company which has cut half its workforce. Or its decision to unveil $17.6 billion in “green” spending and tax relief for the private sector that has been roundly criticized by climate activists for being an unambitious giveaway to the rich.
Returning to the childcare pledge, the smoke and mirrors act continues once contextual factors are considered. The Quebec system which the government praises as a “pioneer” costs the province over $2.5 billion a year, and anyone who has studied the Quebec model will tell you that considerably more investment is needed in order to meet demand - do they really believe that the promise of $9.7 billion down the line will be enough to entice governments in Alberta, Ontario or Atlantic Canada that have struggled with (or simply refused to entertain) far less ambitious demands like paid sick days or student debt relief, and whose balance sheets have been ravaged by the pandemic? It seems like the Liberals are more interested in putting uncooperative governments in an uncomfortable position than they are in actually realizing their expressed goal of quality, affordable childcare.
Why not instead use the roughly $77 billion earmarked for the purchase and upkeep of 88 warplanes to bolster funds for not only childcare but perhaps that pharmacare program that the Liberals have been promising for over 20 years now? That such asymmetric budgetary priorities can be presented to ordinary people as a “recovery” plan strains credulity.
A national commitment to affordable, high quality childcare is laudable and a moral imperative for any government which claims to be advancing a working class agenda, but what does it say about the feminist bonafides of this government when their signature policy proposal simply reinforces this selective austerity?
Where working people are leaned on time and time again to finance the profit-seeking of a capitalist minority that is effectively on a tax strike; immolators whose asset-grabbing and maximalist rent seeking threaten to extinguish the very notion of “dignified, stable employment” altogether, while rendering even the more modest aspirations of many young working class people (and young women in particular) like home ownership and parenthood increasingly remote.
In return, are we offered a robust social wage that affirms our aspirations of a life with dignity by prioritizing things like free public transit, universal access to medicine and all the other dimensions of health which are currently left out of our public system? Does anyone in this government speak of debt cancellation? Or amnesty for low-income folks whose CERB payments left them on the hook for unpaid taxes to the CRA? The budget has no answers for any of them, because the ruling class has successfully undermined the hard-fought social compact (limited as it was) which over the course of the previous century delivered unprecedented prosperity to the working class in North America.
Now these rapacious looters are invested in a full-spectrum offensive to reassert control in the face of mounting resistance, their only project for humanity at this stage being a new, vastly pared down social contract to replace the one they’ve spent the last half century systematically dismantling and denigrating. Whether you call it “Build Back Better” or The Great Reset is immaterial, the message is clear: the neoliberal arsonists demand our trust in their vision of the future. Now, more than ever, the working class needs a united, populist and unapologetically socialist Left, with a revolutionary agenda to match. Our humanity demands it.
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