What's Left 2016-10-30 Volume 80

Liberals announce terrible social services plan, we make fun of it with satire; Standing Rock Hard; Quebec: Liberal Party corruption, police spying on journalists; Basic Income; LEFT NOISE

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Liberals announce terrible social services plan, we make fun of it with satire

The Federal Liberal Government has announced its first attempt to privatize public services using social impact bonds.

Well, obviously, this is a great initiative. Social impact bonds and marketized social services are the future.

Our draft proposal is for a social enterprise called Progressive Innovations and Social Systems.

The first project allows tagging of selected vulnerable people individually by drones. These tags will send information of health and activities minute by minute via the corporate Cloud. This will allow you to use your smartphone app to bet directly on individuals Hunger Games-style and give directly to your Tagged Investments (TIs).

Because we believe in transparency, the aggregate information will be available to everyone via a pay-per-use data-stream on your favourite trading terminal. This data will allow you to choose and trade your investments and allow the government and the market to develop better and more efficient policy.

Using the power of the market, it is likely that the majority of these TIs will do better under this privatized system than the current system. If that is the case, the government will pay back all of your investments plus 30 per cent.

Deserving TIs will benefit from this system and relieve the pressures on underfunded public services.

We are looking for venture capital funding. Obviously, the venerable and philanthropic-minded investment banks of Bay Street have already approached us as angel investors for guarantee for preferential stock.

Social Impact Bonds: The Next Stage of Casino Capitalism

The old word for all this was philanthropy, but this model has a new twist where the corporation/bank actually gets all its “donation” back with a hefty profit tacked on the top paid for by the public.

Minister of Health announces Social Impact Bond for heart and stroke health

Canada’s federal court rules intelligence service bulk data collection illegal



Standing Rock Hard

Across Canada, the weekend saw numerous actions in solidarity with Indigenous water protectors at Standing Rock. The Toronto demonstration was one of the largest demonstrations in the city this year, with thousands of people marching through the streets.

Several grassroots projects have sprung-up to help educate on this ongoing struggle by Indigenous communities in the defence of water and other natural resources.


A Navajo Chef Gives A Glimpse Inside The Makeshift Kitchens At Standing Rock

Quebec: Liberal Party corruption, police spying on journalists

Montreal had two stories break this week, one dealing with what is likely to be the biggest corruption scandal to hit Quebec and the other involving police spying on journalists.

The Liberal Party of Quebec fundraising machine is embroiled in a corruption scandal involving privatization of government property management. Radio-Canada’s Enquête program has uncovered a real estate scheme where private contractors were used to run buildings, but government officials overseeing the privatization got kickbacks. The contracts to manage public assets are extremely lucrative to the private sector and a type of privatization that is difficult to reverse. As with other forms of privatization of government assets, it is always more costly to do lease-back agreements. In this case, there is the added cost of paying-off government cronies.

The Liberal Party corruption scandal was almost overshadowed by the release of an investigation into police spying on journalists. Adding insult to injury, it seems as though every time the Montreal or Quebec police force spokesperson made a statement, an expose is released showing yet another journalist was targeted for surveillance. At this point, it is hard to keep count.

Surveillance of La Presse reporter a ‘serious attack on freedom of the press in Canada’

6 reporters spied on by Quebec provincial police

Quebec police spying scandal widens: 5 years of call logs and another journalist

Basic Income

In a clear victory for rhetoric over substance in the age of post-truth, the Ontario Liberal government has announced that it will run a pilot project to test the so called “universal basic income” idea. However, from the policy documents that have been released, it is quite obvious the Liberals intend to implement a more regressive version of this deeply flawed policy program.

The Liberal-supporting media is tying itself in knots in attempts to support the program. First, a plea decrying Ontario’s “meagre and rule-bound social assistance program” that the provincial government has purposefully manipulated in order to limit access to supports. Then, without a sense of irony, the media say that cash to buy private services is the only way to fix the problems previous Liberal and Conservative governments created through privatization and austerity.

In a time of deteriorating social services and poverty wages for service providers, the government has somehow found cold hard cash to distribute without increasing taxes – and yet not a penny of it will be spent on improving existing social services or significantly increasing the minimum wage.

Unfortunately, social advocates, desperate for any relent from the cuts, embrace it as a win and defend the government’s decision with irrational hostility.

There is a deep problem with the analysis that leads us to ask if we need a basic income in the first place: that automation under capitalism will lead to mass job loss and thus extreme poverty. This is a very old canard and based on a misunderstanding of how labour, value, and the economy are created.

And liberals love to use this misunderstanding to promote all sorts of privatization and profit-seeking schemes with nice sounding names: social impact bonds, social enterprise, public-private partnerships, shared services, and community benefit agreements. This list goes on.

The question of whether a universal basic income “works” is tautological. Does giving a low-income person money help alleviate their poverty? Of course it does, almost by definition.

However, if solving poverty were this easy, capitalism would have “solved poverty” a long time ago. Poverty and unemployment are not the result of automation and just giving people money is not going to solve either of these issues. Capitalism creates and needs unemployment. And, it should be obvious that those who govern for the profiteers of are not going to implement a basic income that would actually be progressive. Instead, what a basic income seems to achieve under the Ontario Liberal government is the further dismantling of social and public services.

The real question is: What policy solution should progressives, unions, labour activists, and socialists push for in response to the poverty created by capitalism?

The answer to this question: Definitely not a universal basic income.

Should we give money to the poor, oppressed, and those who bear the brunt of crisis? Of course we should. Should we give money to those who cannot work? Of course we should (and do, it is called welfare, Old Age Security, etc.)

But, should we redirect funds that have been taken from public social support over three decades of neoliberal regression, give it to poor people, and forget about the resulting service cuts to healthcare, education, etc.? Absolutely not.

Basic income does nothing to address real and systemic poverty or help those in need. Money in your pocket can only buy services and it is rather barbaric to think that the poor and those in need should have to navigate a dangerous and unscrupulous private marketplace of supports to try to find quality help.

A society should provide the help through the state, through our communities, directly as labour, as housing, as food, and as leisure time. This is one of the main reasons that public sector unions are so essential. They defend public, free at use social programs and support workers who actually provide those needed services.

In the end, whatever service you are going to receive through the private market place of the universal basic income or through the public service, it is going to be provided by a worker. However, only through the public service can families be guaranteed a quality service, that workers receive a paycheque that equally keeps them out of poverty, and that revenues are reinvested into the system instead of being used to pad the pockets of rich tycoons.

In opposition to the Ontario Liberal government’s “Basic Income Guarantee” | What’s Left

The Wrong Kind of UBI

Basic income – too basic, not radical enough | Michael Roberts

Beware of Basic Income



1. The 30 Days, 30 Songs for a Trump Free America just expanded to include 50 songs in the build up to the US election.

Here are two of the better tracks:

Here is Andrew Bird with a song he originally wrote about GWB’s reelection in 2004 called Sic of Elephants.

Anthony D’Amato “If You’re Gonna Build a Wall”

2. A catchy song about planned obsolescence

Capitalism Sucks Y’all!

3. Pussy Riot!

Pussy Riot celebrate the vagina in lyrical riposte to Trump.

Here is the anti-Putin “punk prayer” that landed them in a Russian jail for 16 months.

4. Red Shadow (The Economics Rock and Roll Band) - Understanding Marx

Read Marx and Lenin it will really turn you loose!

5. I read some Marx (and I liked it!) - The Internet!

Two students uploaded this odd and charming Katy Perry cover that advocates reading some Marx in June of 2010.

Then a group of Swedish youth in the Ung Vänster (the youth organisation of the Swedish socialist party Vänsterpartiet) covered the song with a few guitars during a retreat.