Sunday, January 30, 2022

About That Convoy ... Protest ... Whatever

As we speak a bunch of anti-mask/vaxx/generally pissed off with govt types are clogging things up in Ottawa

Frankly, this is a bunch of loudmouth idiots who have fallen down the rabbit hole of QAnon / MAGA conspiracy thinking egged on by a bunch of grifters who have managed to hoover up a considerable amount of money. 

What these people "think" is going on with the pandemic is so far removed from any reality that it renders their ideas irrelevant. They seem to think that governments can "just wave the pandemic away". Of course, no virus pays attention to the politics of the day - and the money behind this protest know that too. 

At the end of the day, this is a test run of the next iteration of the "Ragey Right" that started with the emergence of the Tea Party in the US. I see these people as little different than Hitler's so-called "brownshirts" in the 1930s. Loud, violent, and basically willing to stoop towards violence in order to intimidate the rest of the country into quiet compliance with them.  

The Tea Party fizzled out in the US - becoming a rump faction within the GOP (although like the SoCons in the CPC, it's an influential rump). The most recent incarnation in the US is the MAGA thing, which ultimately culminated in the Jan 6, 2021 insurrection. The two "convoy protests" in Canada have been more oriented around perfecting the money side of the picture.  

This isn't going away, but make no mistake about how it is being driven by the same apparatus that drives Rebel Media, CPC fundraising, and so on. It's all about getting people upset enough that they will donate money to it, regardless of whether that money actually goes to the "outrage issue of the day" or not. 

Friday, January 21, 2022

Kenney Is On The Right Track?

So, according to Ken Boessenkool,  we should congratulate Jason Kenney for "being on the right track".

I get it - Ken's a conservative organizer, and he's going to think that Klein's tenure was some kind of high point.  It wasn't, and I think we all know that - we've spent that 15 odd years since Klein stepped down cleaning up the mess that he made.  There's a whole lot more to good government than just "balancing" the fiscal books.  

So, what does he think Kenney is winning on? 

Ah yes ... the old conservative saw about "cutting spending". In Alberta politics especially, this is held as some kind truism.  The government is always "wasting money", or "we're spending too much".  

The logic usually goes something along the lines of "OMG, govt spending is increasing at a rate greater than inflation!" (or inflation plus population growth ... or whatever other axis you want to use). Therefore, the automatic assumption is that we are spending too much. The problem with this logic exists in multiple axis of consideration that our conservative friends almost never seem to address in their arguments. 

For example, the most basic of business case analyses - cost / benefit - is almost never present. In pure business terms of course, cost/benefit analysis is purely a matter of $.  If I spend $X on a project, and it comes back with $Y in revenue, is Y > X.  (Yes - I'm simplifying here).  We don't even get that far with government spending analysis done by conservatives. 

When we talk about analyzing government programs, it's even more complex.  The costs and benefits of any program may well not be easily measured. For example, lets look at what is commonly called welfare.  It looks like a straight up cost sink. The government puts $X into the program, and gets nothing back out, right?  Wrong. That $X put into the program has impacts all over the place. It reduces homelessness, it reduces petty crime (B&E, shoplifting, etc) because recipients are no longer desperate for the basic resources to survive, it reduces healthcare costs because mysteriously, people actually have the money needed to eat, so they aren't showing up at emergency with conditions exacerbated by malnutrition, etc. 

The benefits of government spending are hard to quantify sometimes.  That doesn't mean we shouldn't do so.  

The value of a funded and functional healthcare system vastly outweighs the costs - even when it is a large proportion of the government's spending. People who aren't worried about whether they can afford to get sick or not are more willing to take economic chances - like starting a new business.  Businesses benefit because suddenly they don't have to provide hugely expensive healthcare insurance plans for their staff (call that one an undeclared payroll tax). Large scale investment also looks at whether people are willing to move to a place - and healthcare is near the top of most people's agendas - for good reason. Likewise, a funded and functional education system is hugely important, and should not be used as a political football as Kenney has done in Alberta. The benefits vastly outweigh the costs, but those benefits are 20 years down the road. 

Needless to say, I have never seen a conservative talk about these benefits in any kind of reasonable way, or what we may be giving up by focusing on "balanced budgets".  

The other side of that same coin is the revenue picture. Alberta's revenue picture has been abysmal since before Klein. Our governments have insisted that a PST or HST is absolutely off the table, and there are frequent bragging sessions about having the lowest tax rates in the country. They paper the fiscal holes with one-time royalty dollars that should be flowing into the Heritage Savings Trust Fund.  (Getty quit putting money in there in the 80s).  Again, it's cheap populist politics in Alberta to say that raising taxes is unnecessary - just tighten the belt a bit further. Conservative politicians seem utterly oblivious to the fact that the revenue side of the picture also needs to be considered, and it is not reasonable to hold the line at unrealistically low tax rates. 

So, will Mr. Kenney's polling fortunes improve on a wave of "good economic news"?  Probably.  But nobody should be fooled into thinking that he is in any way capable of, or willing to, understand the value of government spending.  

The Cass Review and the WPATH SOC

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