Category Archives: Social democracy

Crony Capitalism

 

Gandhi was once asked what he thought about western civilization. He replied it would be a good idea. I feel that way about capitalism. Many of my friends are big supporters. I am more sceptical. m

Scott Galloway calls what we have  crony capitalism.  He liked capitalism; he hates crony capitalism. This is what he said to Bill Maher, who also likes capitalism:

 

“Capitalism is hands down the best system of its kind. What young people are seeing today is not capitalism. We have rugged individualism on the way up and then we have ‘we’re all in this together on the way down.’ We have socialism. Capitalism on the way up where 5 CEOs of airline companies make $150,000,000 and use all their excess cash flow to buy-back stocks so that they artificially inflate their own compensation and then shit gets real when a pandemic comes they don’t have any money and all of a sudden its ‘we’re in this together.’ When you have capitalism on the way up and socialism on the way down, that’s not capitalism or socialism it is cronyism. It is the worst of all worlds. Capitalism is full-body contact violence at a corporate level so we can create prosperity and progress that rests on a bed of empathy. We have flipped the script here. We need to be more loving and empathetic with people and more harsh on companies. We should be protecting people not companies. Fucking Delta? Burn baby burn!”

Larry Wilmore made an important point. He said, “we have not had pure capitalism for 150 years. We are constantly redefining what capitalism is”

 

In the period of the new deal we expanded what government could do. It could bring social security and unemployment insurance. It could bring things that at one time were considered uncapitalistic. Now that does not matter. Perhaps in the US Obama care will be accepted as a proper government benefit. Socialized medicine, as the Americans like to call it, has been an acceptable governmental interference in the economy in all western countries except for the United States.

 

The Republicans in 2016 rode to victory on a platform of dismantling Obama Care. For the first two years the Republicans had a Republican president and a Republican Senate and a Republican House of Representatives and could not kill Obama Care. Perhaps it is also here to stay. How many Republicans campaigned to dismantle Obama Care in the 2020 elections? Not many. They were largely afraid to try that. So they ran on no platform. Their only platform was “I like Trump.” What ever that meant.

 

In Canada no political party in 40 years has campaigned to dismantled Medicare. It is a sacred trust. It does not matter that it is not capitalism. No one in Canada cares.

Capitalism? Yeah that’s something we should try some time.

Inequities in capitalism that must be eliminated

The pandemic has exacerbated some tendencies in capitalism that have had a negative effect. For example, working from home in some sense is a good thing. It’s mostly a good thing. People don’t waste so much time commuting. They can spend more time with their loved ones. But there are problems. As Professor Scott Galloway said,

If they can move your job to Denver they can move it to Bangalore. So be careful for what you ask. I think you are gong to see continued pressure on the working class as we get better and better at outsourcing jobs.

 

I am a subscriber to Photoshop and Lightroom two photographic programs.  A few years ago, I had to subscribe to them. I could no longer just buy them; I had to rent them. I hated paying $12 a month. Now it’s more of course. Then I realized there was a benefit. They had a help line. I am not an expert in the program. I often need help. So now I can phone them 24 hours a day during the week and get my questions answered by very knowledgeable people without extra charges. I love that.

And, of course, these helpers are always in India. At first, I had a little trouble understanding what they said because of their accent, but in time I got to know them and like them. They were very helpful. They taught me a lot. But they are Indians and they answer questions for all the people in North America. These are skilled jobs. They know their stuff and the programs in my opinion are complicated. Far too hard for me to do without expert help. It’s too bad they can’t hire North Americans to do it, but the company I suppose figures they can’t hire North Americans to do it at the money they offer. But this is outsourcing technical expertise. These are not laborers.

Being near the headquarters is a valuable thing for workers in a corporation. It allows people to network and rub shoulders with executives. That proximity is very valuable for a worker trying to build a career. Because women still spend more time typically than men building relationships with their family, they will tend to gravitate toward working at home. And this of course is a good thing, but it will be a drag on their careers because they will lose the benefits of proximity if they work from home instead. As a result, this will be a drag on their march toward greater equality. And that is not a good thing. Currently,  about 7% or less of CEOs for the S & P 500 are women. If women lose this proximity to power this unfortunate situation will get worse not better. As a result, Galloway asked,

“Are we building an infrastructure at HQ that is just filled with white guys? There is just no getting around it. Proximity to headquarters puts you on a different path in terms of advancement within the organization. So, I think there’ll be some positives and some negatives that we will have to adjust for and recognize that people who serve and have the money or don’t have the kids or have the ability to live close to work. As a tribal species that loves affinity and proximity, we will have to adjust for people who aren’t capable of being at headquarters every day.”

 

For these reasons stimulus from the government should be focused on protecting people and the environment. If we took 2 or 3 trillion dollars of stimulus and divided it among the most vulnerable households, the effect on society would be remarkable. Stimulating big corporations just doesn’t do as much. People who are in the top 10% are living a great life in this pandemic.  I admit I am. Life for me is great. I spend a lot of time with my wife. We read a lot. We watch some excellent TV shows together. We miss our family and friends terribly, but we are certainly not suffering. The key is how can we protect the bottom 90%? Stimulus should be shaped to do that. If you took the bottom third of American households and divided $3 trillion among them each household would get $100,000. That could be deeply transformative. Society would be very different. And those people would spend that money inside our economies. They would not stash it away in Swiss accounts.

Or let’s say it’s even less money. It would allow those people to make better decisions. Studies have shown how poverty makes it very difficult for poor people to make good decisions. People would not have to choose between paying for their insulin or their rent. They would not have to choose between paying for food or education for their children. Imagine that.  They could actually do what’s best for their families. Life in our society could be transformed. As it is now, many people have to get part time jobs with Uber to pay for food or rent or clothing for their families. So instead of staying now with their kids and helping them learn remotely they are out working at 2 or 3 jobs. This is not good for society. There is a better way.

We do need  to reset. Only the extremely comfortable think things are perfect right now. People like my member of Parliament.

Stock Markets like Monopolies; People don’t

 

Some people have been surprised that I have been critical of capitalism. I deny that I have been critical of capitalism.   First, let me say, I have been critical of what has happened to capitalism, not capitalism itself. It is appalling what has happened to it. Monopolies are not capitalism. They are predators of capitalism. They destroy capitalism. Subsidies for capitalists are not capitalism either. What we need is capitalism!

 Hari Sreenivasan pointed out to Scott Galloway, “One of the interesting things about the pandemic is that it has been exceptional for the big 4–Google, Apple, Facebook, and Amazon.”

Scott Galloway, a defender of capitalism, and Professor of Marketing, not socialism, agreed, and added this,

If you owned shares in those 4 companies they have risen 47% so far in the pandemic. And it might be just the middle of the pandemic…Markets have spoken. They have said monopolies are good.”

Galloway also said,

“If you think of the market as an organism that absorbs millions of data points and then spits back a verdict, the market is saying those unregulated monopolies and these are fantastic companies, but let’s be honest, they’re monopolies, they are able to extract rents like other companies can’t, and also companies that are too big to fail like airlines that have reinvested 93% of their free cash back into stock buy-backs which juices the equity based compensation of their CEOs and then on the way down they wrap themselves in the American flag and say ‘we’re all in this together’ and look for bailouts.”

 

As Galloway said,

“One the way the up in the markets, capitalists love to be rugged individualists. On the way down they want to be coddled and entitled socialists.”

That is modern capitalism. It is sickly capitalism, good for only a few corporations. According to Galloway,

“The Big 4 have come out of the pandemic stronger. So far at least. The Pandemic has treated monopolists kindly like the child of a rich man. Which of course is what they are.

60 cents of the digital marketing dollar pre-pandemic went to Facebook and Google. Coming out of the pandemic it will be 80 cents, because there’s a culling of the herd right now in business. And the biggest elephants will come out of this with more foliage to feed fewer elephants. ”

 

And monopoly power is never a good thing. It is not good for capitalism. It is bad for capitalism, but some monopolists benefit enormously. And all of this is very bad for the economy. As Galloway said,

“We’ve had a very scary trend towards more and more consolidation of power across fewer and fewer companies. It’s bad for the economy because typically the companies that generate jobs are small and medium-sized companies. There are half as many companies being formed today as there were during the Carter administration! The consolidation of power, the tyrannical march of big tech taking shares from everybody else continues unabated.”

 

Massive stimulus is good for the economy. We’ve had that. Galloway said, what capitalism needs to oxygenate the economy would be to drastically increase the funding of regulators like the Department of Justice. They have to restore their historic role of reigning in big companies that are destroying the economy. As Galloway said, a company like Amazon can become so big that it can make an announcement that scares the crap out  of the entire “free” market. For example, he mentioned how Amazon announced that it would start delivering prescriptions to home and immediately retail pharmacies and pharmaceutical companies shed billions of dollars of market capitalization.  As he said,

“we need to go to these companies, and not only big tech, but also big Pharma and big Ag. and break them up and restore and oxygenate the marketplace. If you go back to the AT&T breakup all 7 companies were more valuable than the original one. So, you have more jobs, more acquisitions, more funding, broader tax base. Typically, everybody wins in such a breakup except for one stakeholder the CEO.”

 

Capitalism needs regulation. Monopolies don’t want it. Real capitalists know that they need it.

 

Economics writer, Will Hutton, agrees with this. He  believes what American capitalism needs is more, not less regulation. Regulation can often be good for business. Business needs good government. A government like that led by Trump is not the answer. He tried his best to eliminate all regulations. There are many on the right who think that is the right approach. It isn’t. It would have been disastrous. According to Hutton, that is why European companies are in many cases doing better than American companies. They are regulated better. So they can’t get fat and lazy.

When these giants are broken up you have more robust and vigorous corporations and it is better for everyone, in particular the public but also the organizations. They all benefit. So, the United States needs a strong President, unlike Trump, who can do this. Is Biden the one? I doubt it, but I hope I am wrong. He certainly will be better than Trump, no matter what he does or does not do.

Capitalism needs smart regulation. Without it, capitalism starves.

Flattening the Curve for Rich People: Wall Street, Main Street, or Willow Place?

 

Once again Wall Street is doing much better than Main Street. Th at should not surprise anyone.  And Wall Street is doing even much better than Willow Place. This is always an interesting phenomenon. In my view this will always happen in a system that permits plutocracy, and even worse in a system that encourages plutocracy. If we left the rich rule they would do what is in their best interests. It really is that simple.

As Scott Galloway said,

“As a nation we suffer from an idolatry of innovators. And we personify companies and believe that it all starts with the shareholders. The shareholder class is the premier class and as long as the economy is strong everything will fall into place. And we measure the economy’s health by these dangerous indices called the Nasdaq where 90% of the stock are owned by the top 10%. The Nasdaq and the Dow are not indicators of the health of our economy; they are proxies for how well the wealthy are doing. And–spoiler alert–they’re killing it.”

Again no one should be surprised by this. We have a system that is designed by the wealthy for the wealthy and inevitably such a system will deliver the goods to the wealthy. Our system does that well.

Another problem Galloway draws to our attention is that private power has been unleashed as a result deregulation. As he said, as a result of regulators doing nothing,

“… we end up with a lot of private power that has now overrun government. There are now more full-time lobbyists from Amazon that are living in Washington D.C. than there are sitting US Senators. There are more people manicuring Sheryl Sandburg and Mark Zuckerberg’s image in the communications department of Facebook than there are journalists at the Washington Post. So, we now have a situation where if you look across the market at the S&P 500, the 50 biggest companies are up for the year, the companies in the middle are down in the high single digits and the smallest 15 companies are down in double digits. We have decided that companies are either big tech monopolies, or too big to fail. That is our priority. And the wealthiest cohort in America small business owners have received one of the largest bail-outs. There will be very well publicized examples of the owners of a cupcake bakery that made it through the other end, but mostly what PPT has done is two things. Not giving  bridges to small business but giving  them piers where they are still going to go out of business, but we have just kicked the can down the road. This economy is reshaping. It’s coming down differently. And two, we have flattened the curve for rich people. Small business owners are millionaires typically, and there was no reason they needed a bailout. The big mistake here, looking back, will be we should have protected people not companies. We should have put money in the hands of people and then let them decide  what businesses survive and what perish. Capitalism and rugged individualism on the way up and cronyism and bailouts on the way down is just cronyism. It doesn’t help the economy. And money is nothing but the transfer of time and work and all we’ve decided is that we want our kids and grand kids to spend less time with their loved ones such that wealthy people now can stay wealthy.”

 

Keep the wealthy being wealthy. That is what is happening with cronyism. Is this what modern capitalism is all about?

Lessons from e-commerce

 

 

In e-commerce it took years for the kind of growth we have seen lately. It is astonishing. I hate what Amazon is doing to small businesses around the world. I hate the thought of giving any more money to the richest man in the world (or second richest) whose employees have to wear diapers to work because they are not given enough time to go to the washroom.

Before the pandemic Jeff Bezos was earning $1 million every 50 minutes now he is doing much better than that and I have helped him out, as have millions of others. We have done that because we came to realize how convenient it was to shop from Amazon. For many things we don’t really have to go to a store to look them over. Ordering them from our homes for some of us is just easier, simpler, and cheaper.  Other businesses will have to learn that we have learned something during this pandemic and if they don’t change, we will change where and how we shop. Not for everything but for many things. Capitalists had better innovate or they will be left on the dust heap. Capitalist always say that is what they are good at. Let’s see if that’s true.

That does not mean all has been rosy. As Hari Sreenivasan pointed out to,

“It has been a boon for those who could afford it. There has been a blue collar pandemic and a white collar pandemic. For the white collar people it was great.  I can get everything from Instacard and Amazon. But if you’re an essential worker that doesn’t really apply to you.’

For others not so much. And some of us still care a little bit about fairness. Fairness and competition.

Scott Galloway is a professor Marketing who was interviewed by Sreenivasan on Amanpour & Company and he agreed completely:

“If you’re in the top 10% of income earners there is no change in employment. It means you’re no more vulnerable than you were before the pandemic. There’s a 60% likelihood you can work from home. You can spend more time with your family. You maybe got 10 hours back a week. If you make less than $40,000 a year, 40% of those people have lost their jobs and less than 10% can work from home. You don’t like to say this out loud, but if you’re in the top 10% and you’re blessed with good health you’re most likely spending more time with Netflix, your kids, and less time commuting, and by the way your stocks are probably up and I would argue that a lot of the stimulus unfortunately hasn’t been about arresting the pandemic, and helping our neediest, it’s been about flattening the curve for rich people. The savings rate in American has never been higher. The Nasdaq has never been higher. If you do a google search for covid and markets you’ll find more articles than if you do covid and mortality. It’s as if as a nation our priorities are reflected in our spending. The velocity of death is unprecedented. More people are dying every day from this than any crisis in history! And that’s meaningful. But what would be profoundly tragic would be if the Nasdaq declines! At least that’s what our spending seems to indicate. We want to save restaurants but not keep schools open. We seem to want to ensure that the markets are washed in liquidity and people are wanting stimulus, but we aren’t protecting people. We see infection rates rise. And we see our health professionals wanting for PPE equipment. It does definitely seem that we have decided that corporations are people and they are the ones that we have to save.”

 

And remember all of this is not coming from some crazy leftwing extremist. This is coming from a self-described enthusiast for capitalism. He is an insider. He likes the system. Perhaps not as much as Zwaagstra does, but he is no bleeding socialist. He just thinks the current system sucks. It sucks because the rich people are swimming in cash while those who are not are taking their chances serving the rich people. They are called essential workers, but they are not paid like it.

Billionaires do Great; Poor people suffer

 

While billionaires like Jeff Bezos have seen their wealth explode (again) during the Covid—19 pandemic, poor people have suffered the most (again). Poor people are feeling the brunt of the ill effects of the pandemic. Funny how that happens.

I recently  heard a very interesting interview with Mariana Mazzucato Professor of Economics at University College in London. She  wrote a book called The Value of Everything. I assume the title is a reference to a famous  quote by Oscar Wilde, that “a cynic knows the cost of everything and the value of nothing.” I actually have used that line to describe some conservatives I know. With some justification I might add.

 

At the time she was speaking on the television show she said that just as 8 million case of Covid-19 have been experienced in the US, 8 million people have dropped down below the poverty line. At about the same the average wealth of billionaires had gone up by 25%. More than a million people had died and 38 million people infected (at the time of the interview). Many more since then, of course.  According to the Gates Foundation at the time 37 million people around the world had been pushed from poverty into extreme poverty! That means they earned less than $1.90 per day. Meanwhile the rich are getting much richer. Meanwhile conservative politicians think everything is fine and no changes are needed. That is what my own member of Parliament, Ted Falk believes.  with enthusiasm he believes that. In fact any suggested changes must mean the crypto-communists are trying to turn our country into a communist hell.  

Why does it have to work that way? The short answer is that it doesn’t have to work that way, it works that way only because we allow it to work that way.  We keep electing politicians like Ted Falk. That is the system the well to do, together with their political minions, want to conserve. That is the essence of modern conservatism. Everything is fine for us, so everything is fine.

Are we all in this together or is it time time for a platitude adjustment?

 

Bill Maher said on this on  his television show,

“the next person who tells me we’re all in this together must work a shift at Grub Hub. Half the country is home in their comfy clothes ordering take-out and the other half is out in the cold delivering it. So stop it with the ‘in it together bull shit.’ We’re in this together is another ‘Thank you for your service.’ Just something we can say to people doing the dirty work so we can feel better about not doing it ourselves. And even before the pandemic hit, America was well into the ‘gig-economy’ which sounds sort of hip like you’re in a rock band except you’re not in a rock band, you’re delivering hot chicken. And it doesn’t cover your rent.”

 

He is right about one thing. This platitude is getting tired. It would be nice if people actually believed it. But not many do. Our actions speak loudly. All kinds of people have done very well in this pandemic. Most of them are well-to-do.  Lawyers have done very well. It’s hard to figure out why that is the case, but it’s true. I heard from my furniture guy that they have never done better. Why are people spending money of furniture? Jeff Bezos has seen his personal net worth climb astronomically during the pandemic. He recently announced his retirement as CEO of Amazon. If he wanted to, he could give each of his 1 million employees a retiring bonus of $105,000 and still have more wealth than he had before the pandemic!

Some corporations for awhile gave their employees a bonus of 50 cents an hour to compensate them for risking their lives so the business could remain afloat. Then they revoked that as soon as they could.

No, we are not really all in this together.  As usual, the rich are benefiting from the disaster while the common people suck socks. Isn’t that the way it always works?

Does it have to work that way? Is there even a good reason that it works that way? What does it say about us that it does work that way? Is there a better way?

 

Capitalism in the time of Pandemic

 

Scott Galloway is an enthusiast for capitalism, just like Michael Zwaagstra a local counsellor here in Steinbach . But that is where the resemblance ends. Zwaagstra recently wrote an article in our local Carillon News and said capitalism was doing just fine and he could hardly wait to get right back to it without any changes. Why change what’s pretty close to perfect? Zwaagstra dismissed any suggestion that anything should change, he liked it exactly the way it was. Of course, those most comfortable with things as they are, tend to feel that way.

Scott Galloway is different. He is also enthusiastic about capitalism, but he believes changes are needed. Badly.  Galloway wrote a book called Post Corona: From Crisis to Opportunity. I heard him interviewed on Amanpour and Company.

Hari Sreenivasan interviewed Galloway and pointed out that in the US more than 250,000 people have already died from Covid-19. (Since then the numbers have doubled.) Sreenivasan pointed out that the disease has exposed some serious weaknesses but has also provided an opportunity to fix some of those weaknesses. Someone once said, we should never waste a crisis. Zwaagstra and the other Panglossians want to do exactly that. Why fix something that is not broken?

Galloway pointed out that before the pandemic there were a lot of people who were optimistic to the point of arrogance. The system was working well for many people, but for others it was disastrous. The pandemic made clear to all that many of the governmental institutions had been woefully underfunded. Galloway is a capitalist, but he recognized the importance of government. His eyes are not shut. The crisis has allowed us to spend more time with our families, it has allowed us to look closely at our educational system. Our health care system needs a close examination in the light of what we have learned from the pandemic. It has shown how ecommerce can work. To him, unlike Zwaagstra, a crisis is a terrible thing to waste.

In health care Galloway believes the greatest shift in stakeholder value is about to occur in the business history of the US. In the US 17% of the GDP is heath care.

As he said,

“It is arguably the largest business in the world clocking in at 3 or 4 trillion dollars a year, but the outcomes have been decreasing. Life expectancy has been going down and mortality is stuck at a certain level. Customer satisfaction is pretty anemic. The medical profession as retail is probably the second worst retail in America behind gas stations. Imagine going to a store for a sunblock and someone sides a plexi-glass gives you a form and says to you ‘Here fill out this paperwork and we’ll see you in 30 minutes! It’s a fairly uninspiring experience. The exciting thing is that 99% of the people who have contracted, endured, and developed anti-bodies for the coronavirus did it without entering a doctor’s office let alone a hospital.”

 

He said that morning he got his Covid-19 test in his kitchen. Things are changing rapidly and sometimes for the better.

“Just as ecommerce took the store to your living room, just as the movie theatre moved into your living room, the doctor’s office, hospitals, and diagnostics moved to your house.”

These things are a sea change. I know I had a doctor’s examination from my cottage at the lake while the doctor was in his office. I had a blemish or spot on my head that worried me. My wife took a photo and emailed it to the doctor who looked at it and said, “I think it’s benign.”  While I wished he could have said that with a little more confidence, the experience with my physician was shockingly good.

As Galloway said,

“This might give us not just an opportunity to reduce costs but to take us off our heels as a nation being reactive and defensive about our health and get on our toes and talk more about primary care. It made people more comfortable with their relationship with their health care provider. Amazon just announced that they would have 24/7 pharmacists available and 2-hour delivery. So, we could see an explosion of innovation in health care. You could arguably say it is the most exciting place to be in our economy post-covid. Regulations have come crashing down. Consumers are now comfortable receiving health care over their hand held instruments in their home.”

 

I admit that describes me. I want to see my doctor from time to time, but often I don’t need to go his or her office. By phone or Ipad often is good enough and saves me a lot of time. My time is valuable too.

In ecommerce it took years for the kind of growth we have seen. I hate what Amazon is doing to small businesses around the world. I hate the thought of giving any more money to the richest man in the world (now he is second). Before the pandemic he was earning $1 million every 50 minutes. All this while he is crushing small business everywhere and while many of his employees wear  diapers because they can’t afford to take a washroom break or they won’t be able to  meet their quotas. Now he is doing much better than that and I have helped him out, as have millions of others. We have done that because we came to realize how convenient it was. For many things we don’t really have to go to a store to look them over. Ordering them from our homes for some is just easier, simpler, and cheaper.  Other businesses will have to learn that we have learned something and if they don’t change, we will change where and how we shop. Not for everything but for many things. Capitalists had better innovate or they will be left on the dust heap.

That does not mean all has been rosy. As Sreenivasan  pointed out,

“It has been a boon for those who could afford it. There has been a blue collar pandemic and a white collar pandemic. For the white collar people it was great. I can get everything from Instacard and Amazon. But if you’re an essential worker that doesn’t really apply to you.”

 

For others not so much. And some of us still care a little bit about fairness. Fairness and competition.

Galloway agreed completely:

“If you’re in the top 10% of income earners there is no change in employment. It means you’re no more vulnerable than you were before the pandemic. There’s a 60% likelihood you can work from home. You can spend  more time with your family. You maybe got 10 hours back a week. If you make less than $40,000 a year, 40% of those people have lost their jobs and less than 10% can work from home. You don’t like to say this out loud, but if you’re in the top 10% and you’re blessed with good health you’re most likely spending more time with Netflix, your kids, and less time commuting, and by the way your stocks are probably up and I would argue that a lot of the stimulus unfortunately hasn’t been about arresting the pandemic, and helping our neediest, it’s been about flattening the curve for rich people. The savings rate in American has never been higher. The Nasdaq has never been higher. If you do a google search for covid and markets you’ll find more articles than if you do covid and mortality. It’s as if as a nation our priorities are reflected in our spending. The velocity of death is unprecedented. More people are dying every day from this than any crisis in history! And that’s meaningful. But what would be profoundly tragic would be if the Nasdaq declines! At least that’s what our spending seems to indicate. We want to save restaurants, but not keep schools open. We seem to want to ensure that the markets are washed in liquidity and people are wanting stimulus, but we aren’t protecting people. We see infection rates rise. And we see our health professionals wanting for PPE equipment. It does definitely seem that we have decided that corporations are people and they are the ones that we have to save.’

 

And remember all of this is not coming from some crazy leftwing extremist. This is coming from a self-described enthusiast for capitalism. He is an insider. He likes the system. Perhaps not as much as Zwaagstra, but he is no bleeding socialist.

Once again Wall Street is doing much better than Main Street. This is always an interesting phenomenon. In my view this will always happen in a system that permits plutocracy, and even worse in a system that encourages plutocracy. If we let the rich rule, they will do what is in their best interests. It really is that simple.

As Galloway said,

“As a nation we suffer from an idolatry of innovators. And we personify companies and believe that it all starts with the shareholders. The shareholder class is the premier class and as long as the economy is strong everything will fall into place. And we measure the economy’s health by these dangerous indices called the Nasdaq where 90% of the stock are owned by the top 10%. The Nasdaq and the Dow are not indicators of the health of our economy they are proxies for how well the wealthy are doing. And–spoiler alert–they’re killing it.”

No one should be surprised by this. We have a system that is designed by the wealthy for the wealthy and inevitably such a system will deliver the goods to the wealthy as our system does so well. It just sucks to be poor.

 

Clean Air

 

When we were in Paris a couple of years ago we noticed that there were places in the city where the government had provided electrical sites to charge their electric cars. Manitoba does this as well but to a very limited extent. In discussions with an American he asked me, “why should the government pay for that? ”Why should I have to pay for someone else to charge his car?” I would say in response that we should all pay for that because we all want a clean environment. Clean air is a public good and we should all pay for it. Besides, the government spends billions (many billions) subsidizing the fossil fuel industry. Surely it can spend a little to subsidize cars that don’t pollute the air and don’t increase our greenhouse gas emissions. Though I recognize that electric cars are not all good either. Life is rarely that simple. We all have to realize that there are many public goods that are important to a good life on this planet. We must all pay for those. The French have learned this. Canadians and Americans not so much.

One good thing about the Covid-19 pandemic is that we are starting to appreciate (not nearly enough of course) that the common good is important. Often more important than private goods, no matter what those who hoard the private goods tell us. It’s time to start thinking for ourselves.

Is it really the fault of the homeless?

 

Manitoba has the second highest rate of deaths from Covid-19 iun Canada. Only Quebec has more.

Recently, I heard Manitoba health officials said the reason Manitoba was in such poor shape during this pandemic was because Manitoba had so many homeless and poor people. I believe that is true. But is it really the fault of homeless and poor people? That  begs the real question—why does Manitoba have so many poor people? And why have Manitobans not cared about them? At least until now.

Now some people are starting to realize that during a crisis we are only as strong as our weakest members. Inequality in other words is dangerous. I wish more people learned this valuable lesson. Reducing inequality is good for all of us. It is not just poor people who benefit from such measures—we all do.