Saturday, July 7, 2012

July 7: I didn't actually win the $50,000,000, but...

It was last night's lottery. Fifty million plus fifty more of one million each. I had one number right. I took that as a good sign for things to come; so I'll buy another ticket. The world needs people like me to keep the tax rate down.

There's no point in reading most of today's Moncton Times and Transcript unless you have a passion for reading rock concert ads  disguised as news stories and an editorial - or, perhaps. a fascination with reading the names of graduating students at various high schools where you don't know anybody. You might want to read Bill Belliveau's commentary on the edtorial page just for the thrill of figuring out why he wrote it. If you do figure a reason for it, let me know.

Norbert's column is an interesting rant. It's not interesting because of any insight it has into the subject (government waste) but, rather, for insight into how we get brainwashed by editors who are themselves brainwashed.

Norbert says governments are wasteful. So they can be. And he blames it all on bureaucracy. And that's his first mistake.

1. He doesn't know what bureaucracy means. He doesn't know that private corporations have bureaucracies, too. He also doesn't seem to know that most of our wasteful spending decisions are not made by  civil service bureaucrats at all. They are made by our elected leaders like, say, Peter MacKay who has led us into a spending nightmare for our new fighter plane. And like Bev Oda, who just resigned because of her wastefulness. She, like young Peter, was not a civil service bureaucrat. She was an elected representative who not only wasted money scandalously for eight years but is now rewarded for it with a pension bigger than I get from a lifetime as a teacher.

And remember how Stephen Harper went to a hockey game in New York, complete with an  entourage of bodyguards, secretaries, etc. and tried to stick taxpayers with the tab? Harper's not a civil service bureaucrat, either.

2. Norbert appears to be unaware that there are studies of government spending in both Canada and the US for many past decades now. If he would read them, he would learn that the big spenders have been those governments we call Republican or Conservative. The Democrats and Liberals have been more careful. And the lowest spenders in Canada have been NDP governments. Gee! Maybe there's a column there, Norbert. And maybe you'll write that column - when the first Tim Horton's opens on the moon.

3. I have never seen a column by Norbert on wasteful spending by private corporations. Why not? All that money comes from the same place. And we pay for it. We pay for it taxes. Or we pay for it in higher prices. But we pay for it. Where else could the money come from?

4. A politician gets too much in pay and pensions? Get real, Norbert. Senior execs of corporations get salaries and bonuses that are beyond the wildest dreams of pime ministers or presidents in democracies. And if they get fired for doing a lousy job, they get severance packages in the millions. Where do you think those goodies come from, Norbert? Good fairies?

5. Corporations also get huge breaks in income tax payments and gifts from government, benefits that are not given to either politicians or civil servants; and that must be made up for with our taxes.

6. Anyone who has read anything about the scandalous behaviour of banks in the US, most recently in the UK, and in western banking in general has been stunned at the scale of wasteful, fraudulent and criminal behaviour that has characterized that private sector. It dwarfs even the worst excesses of the Bev Odas and Peter MacKays of this world - and leaves the whole civil service way back in the dust. But Norbert has never written a word on all this.

Kiss ass all you like, Norbert. But don't inflict it on us as required viewing.

Why is it worth spending this much time on Norbert?

Newspapers are full of Norberts. They build up a mindset for constant anger at civil servants who don't deserve this abuse. They divert attention from the real pillaging being carried out by some politicians (not all, by any means), and from the almost unimaginable scale of grand theft practiced by large corporations.

They use words inaccurately, and so convert them into swear words whose only meaning is to provoke an emotional reaction. Bureacrat is a good example. Here is a quite respectable word for a job sector that was created because it provided needed skills. But Norbert simply uses it as a swear word. He also completely ignores the existence of bureaucracy in private business. The result is that  bureaucrat becomes simply a swear word; civil service becomes the equivalent of child molester, anti-semite, nazi pig.

Does Norbert believe what he writes? Probably. As I said above, he's been brainwashed by a generation of editors before him. (He also knows damn well just how long he'd have a job if he dared to tell the truth about the corporate world.)

The result is a reading public that is hopelesslly misinformed, that wastes its energy getting angry at the wrong targets, and that continues to accept abuse from the real villains. Columns like this also pour abuse on people who don't deserve it, and who are in no position to defend themselves - not even against retired editors who don't know what words mean.

de Adder's editorial cartoon is a good one. It reflects what, I think, is a political reality. It does it with humour. It's not "picking" unfairly on anybody. This is what an editorial cartoon should be.

The op ed page comment by Gwynne Dyer is a model of solid, informative comment. Ulike the rest of the TandT, this one makes the news understandable. He's bang on about what's really happening with Iran and why. He doesn't give much sense of why this is so very dangerous. He couldn't. That would require a whole, new column. But it is a situation as dangerous as any you are ever likely to see. And, yes, it could be extremely dangerous even for Moncton.

PS - a reader sent me a private note that I should use spellcheck for my blogs. He's right. I am often embarassed to see the spelling errors, even after I have proofread and published. But I don't know how to use spell check with a blog site. Does anybody out here know?

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