Friday, February 12, 2010

Financial Luddites

One of the most frustrating things about contemporary politics is the counter-historical association of "fiscal conservatism" with Conservatives. Small-government types alternate between extremes in their failure to understand public finances. They have irrational fears of debt and deficits, certain that the complete collapse of the nation is just a billion dollars away. Yet they're also militantly anti-tax, insistent that tax rates are always on the wrong side of the Laffer curve.

And so we come to the unfortunate case of Ed Clark. Mr. Clark, CEO of TD Bank, is guilty of giving voice to a home economics level financial fact, if you're spending more than you're making, either spend less or make more. This had the Cons (or at least the ones on CPC HQ's e-mail list) salivating, and now Canadians are being told that Clark has spoken to Ignatieff, Clark wants taxes raised, ergo, Ignatieff will raise taxes.

I don't doubt that Ignatieff has consulted Clark, nor would I suggest that Clark, the head of the country's second largest bank, would be ignored in future Liberal economic consultations. My problem with this conversation is that the CPC refuses to address the substance of Clark's comments and the media just let them get away with it. Those CPC supporters, the ones that we're told are the fiscally responsible ones, blather on about the multi-millionaire Clark wanting to tax hard working Canadians, dutifully ignoring the question of whether taxes actually need to rise or not.

The kicker though, the thing that has me grinding my teeth, is that this has unfolded exactly as the CPC had hoped, and the inevitable attack ads linking Ignatieff to Clark and his higher taxes will convince a good chunk of Canadians that they must trust Harper, the fiscally conservative one, to run the country.


  1. On the Clark-Ignatieff routine:

    "[Prime Minister] Harper visited the institute for a roundtable discussion about the economy with high-powered business and banking executives, such as TD Bank president and CEO Ed Clark and Elyse Allan, head of General Electric Canada."

    Those damned inconvenient pesky facts.

    Wonder if Clark would be willing to sit in on a roundtable discussion with Harper now? The Cons constant efforts to disparage respected "experts" has to be having an effect. They keep this up, no one will want to talk to them.

  2. I'm a bit mystified about what Harper and Flaherty are thinking. A part of me thinks they know raising taxes is necessary but they're focused on the political dividends. But there's still that tiny voice in my head saying that they really are smoking their own stuff.

    Then, of course, there's the other option, Harper wants to starve the government to death.

  3. I'll add, do you think Harper and co really care whether the experts hang around or not? I'm pretty sure Harper knows best is the order of the day. He does have an economics degree from the University of Calgary don't ya know.

  4. I know they don't care. That's become readily apparent. However, it becomes really hard to run a country when anybody with a lick of sense starts avoiding you for the pushy, arrogant, know-it-all ass you are.

    Yes, you can hire yes men and lick-spittles (and the evidence there is aplenty) but these, by virtue of their lack of pride in their own skills, will be utter incompetents. So in the end the incompetence will catch up to you and the whole system you preside over will become a shambles, incapable of even the actions you desire.

    It would take a few years for this to occur, years I do not believe this team of screw-ups really has. I used to fear, that left unchecked, they would in effect destroy the country. But the utter incompetence shows that they are more likely to destroy themselves first.

  5. I have heard of this before. In fact, the Blogging Tories had a field day trying to make TD Bank look like some sort of Liberal haven some sort. It was just another populist jab at the "Bay Street" Liberals, a very boorish criticism to say the least. I never quite understand the cognitive dissonance associated with being rabidly pro business on the one hand only to turn around and criticize politicians who are connected to the business world. Never mind the fact that many CPCers originally had very strong corporate connections, but I suppose energy companies are different (sarcasm).