Canadian essayist Stephen Marche makes a scathing argument in Esquire that the last 30 years have not so much been good for the rich and bad for the poor as good for the old and bad for the young. This is obvious when Reagan, Mulroney, Bush, Obama and Harper pump up the deficit, but it’s also a matter of which programs get cut, and how the education and job markets are structured. The Baby Boomers grew up in a period of unusual prosperity and when that boom ended they kept their boats afloat by transferring wealth from younger generations.
Although the article is written from a US perspective, he mentions that this phenomenon is widespread in Western Europe. It’s obviously happening in Canada too, where health care is our government’s biggest expenditure (how many days did you spend in the hospital this year compared to your grandparents?).
It’s particularly insidious that, while Baby Boomers have had to support their adult children with housing and small financial assistance, they’ve managed to avoid paying most of their tuition, meaning student loan debt is a cost that society will still be paying off after they’re dead.
Marche doesn’t discuss the cost of real estate: Baby Boomers bought houses and then voted for policies that would keep supply growing slower than demand to increase the value of their houses. He also doesn’t discuss the environmental externalities that were produced and the irreplaceable natural resources that were consumed in the unsustainable generation of Boomer wealth.
Marche implies that the Occupation Movement wasn’t embraced by many Baby Boomers was because, although their wealth has stagnated relative to the 1%, they’ve built a society that will do a reasonably good job of supporting them until they die. Dismantling that system is simply too risky at their age.
Throughout history large numbers of unemployed youth have been responsible for revolutions. The next stage of the Occupation may not bother trying to find common ground with the 25% of the population that hold 80% of the wealth.
The Occupations of Vancouver and Victoria could be evicted any day now, as the previously supportive municipal governments are changing their tune. Although legally the mayor throughout the election period, the mayors have no moral authority to make decisions like this right before an election. But the mayors do have responsibility. Every public servant at every level of government is told to maintain the status quo until a new government is sworn in (November 28) – and the status quo is Occupied.
But I’m amazed that the two centre-left mayors would come down against a progressive movement right before an election. I suppose this signals that their more serious electoral threats are from the right (Paul Brown in Victoria and Suzanne Anton in Vancouver), but both mayoral seats are considered quite safe. It just goes to show that the centre-left in BC is more centre than left. (Gregor Robertson is an ex-NDP MLA; Dean Fortin is associated with the NDP.)
In Victoria the mayor has gone so far as to say that the Occupation needs to be evicted to make space for Christian-consumerist activities in Centennial Square. I guess democracy only gets one month of the year?
The Occupations are requiring larger amounts of police and other emergency responder time, but it is far from an emergency situation. The authorities should work with the Occupation General Assemblies to establish collaborative solutions. If the Occupation requires a continual police presence, so be it: the government has no right to constrain freedoms because they’re inconvenient or expensive.
The incumbent mayors are part of the problem, not part of the solution. Based on this, I am endorsing Steve Filipovic for Mayor of Victoria and Randy Helten for Mayor of Vancouver.
Today is Bank Transfer Day, when everyone is encouraged to stiff the banks responsible for the financial crisis by opening a credit union account. Over here in BC, the two major credit unions are Coast Capital Savings and VanCity.
I don’t have any personal experience with VanCity, but this is what I’ve been able to figure out online:
One of the major differences from my perspective is that VanCity offers their own Visas while Coast Capital is a member of the Desjardins Group, which provides Visas to a bunch of credit unions. Desjardins offers a no-fee gold Visa while VanCity’s is $100/year. On the other hand, the Desjardins partner cards are not supported by Mint.com (which you absolutely should be using if your credit card is supported) and I have to call Quebec for customer service.
Coast Capital has a no fee savings account, while it appears that VanCity charges $7/month for most of them unless you carry a balance they can steal interest from. Both credit unions outsource their online trading, Coast Capital to QTrade and VanCity to Credential Direct (neither of which are supported by Mint).
From an ethical perspective, VanCity has a much larger investment arm and are even still offering subprime mortgages.
Note that all credit unions have reciprocal agreements for no ATM fees, but you should still be aware where Coast Capital and VanCity branches are for those horrible times you have to do something in person.
I was having a discussion last night with Celine and Robin about the lack of identity politics in the Occupy Wall Street movement. Well, today Olga posted a link on Facebook that brings it back, but on the other side. This letter to the Occupation asks them to acknowledge that Wall Street is native territory, discussed further in this blog post.
To paraphrase the Occupation: “We are the 99%. We are oppressed by capitalism. We need to take back political control. We need to take back our country.”
To summarize the criticism: That is not true for the 4% of Canadians (2% of Americans) who identify as aboriginal. They are oppressed by colonialism first, and capitalism as just one aspect of that. They haven’t had any political control to be suppressed by capitalism. The Occupation should be liberating the country on behalf of the aboriginal people, not simply recolonializing it.
Apparently the Lenape, who lived on Manhattan, signed a treaty with the Dutch that they understood to be for sharing the land, not giving it up. Similarly, the Douglas Treaties that cover Centennial Square in Victoria were likely understood as peace treaties, not land transfers.
The demand that the United States “honor all treaties signed with all indigenous nations” seems reasonable to me. And in British Columbia I’d add, “act immediately to negotiate treaties with all indigenous nations who do not have treaties with the Crown”.