You can fool all of the people some of the time. At any given moment, any one of us can be taken in – by a clever argument, a movie stunt or a stage magician. We gaze in wonder as tigers appear and disappear – convinced for a moment that it is all real, that magic truly exists. Then reason takes hold and we begin to see the smoke and mirrors for exactly what they are. Tricks and illusions.
Politics works the same way. We become persuaded – or more often we persuade ourselves – that something is true and it often takes a lot to lift the veil from our eyes.
One of the great illusions of the modern age is that Conservatives – or at least those who currently call themselves conservative in Canada and America – are wise managers of the public purse. There should be an immediate disjunction of thought at the very idea. How could those who disparage government so much be expected to operate it in a sane and stable way? But never mind. We have no need of theoretical questions when we have plenty of evidence to rely on.
When even the business oriented Globe and Mail begins to question the competence of the so-called financial geniuses currently running for re-election – you have to know something is up. And so it should be.
Take America. Public debt rose faster under Republican presidents than their Democratic counterparts. While not every recent GOP administration has brought us to the brink as the Bush one did in 2008, even Reagan – who ushered in ‘morning in America’ – ran up debts and triggered the Savings and Loan collapse that impoverished millions of Americans. Republicans have proven themselves willing to break financial regulatory systems and offer nothing in its place. And left to the cadre of sociopaths that weave throughout the American banking system it is inevitable that financial turmoil will exist for the many while financial piracy operates for the few.
In Canada, the facts are starting to emerge. Stephen Harper is not only a lousy financial manager; he may be the worst we’ve had since the last prairie populist was in power in 1960. Our growth rate is down, our debt has grown, productivity has declined and job creation is weak. And don’t even get me started on household debt and income disparity. And it can’t be blamed on the recession of 2008. Other Prime Minsters oversaw similar financial disasters and did better. Other countries have done better during the current decade.
But even as the illusion of financial competence begins to dispel, the Harperites are busily weaving new ones – telling us that we are in mortal danger from terrorism, that other leaders are too inexperienced (as if any of them ever had a real job), that they and only they can manage our resources.
But don’t be fooled. Stop looking at the illusion and start staring at the man behind the curtain. Illusions can be fun when they are on stage but not so much when they invade your daily lives.
But that’s ten minutes.