Saturday, July 18, 2009

Harper "conservatives" dance to union tune

As a follow-up to the Economist's reference to union interests blocking intelligent healthcare reform in the US at the end of my last post I would direct readers to Ezra Klein's blogspot on WaPo asking Will Unions Kill Health Care Reform?

I haven't followed Ezra Klein closely because I've been a bit skeptical about how authoritative this kid with a social sciences Bachelor of Arts can be on economics. But his lack of an advanced degree in the subject and his poli sci background may actually make him more of a necessary read as opposed to less because he has more of an interest or ability to see the politics involved in policy than the PhDs in the ivory towers.

His post from May 28 is telling: here's a progressive blogger who sees that the union attack on the liberal Democrat sponsoring the Senate's version of a progressive healthcare bill follows from the fact "the poorest among us would get slightly more and AFSCME [and the UFCW's union] members might get slightly less."

One thus need not look much further for why Obama has failed to step into the debate going on in Congress to really get a bill moving. He could either go to bat for House leader Nancy Pelosi's union coddling bill that is "so far to the left of American political discourse" (to use the Economist's words) it would damage his re-election prospects or he could back the Senate bill, which would mean adopting a tax increase that he slammed McCain for supporting:
Senator McCain doesn't think it's enough that your health premiums have doubled. He thinks you should have to pay taxes on them too.

Obama allegedly spent more than $75 million in October alone trying to hammer home this "tax raiser" accusation. Never mind that McCain would have eliminated a tax cut that the most influential Congressman with respect to the healthcare debate, a Democrat, calls "regressive": "It’s too regressive," said Mr. Baucus, the [Senate Finance] committee chairman. "It just skews the system."

Are Canadian politicians equally in the tank for unions? Consider a July 17 headline: Steelworkers Union Applauds Clement's Actions Regarding U.S. Steel. At a time when the demand for steel has collapsed (US Steel reported a first quarter loss of $439M, and plants operating at as low as 38% capacity), the Tories are going after US Steel for layoffs. This despite the fact US Steel has already said it will fund Stelco (which US Steel acquired in 2007) pensions and repay $100M loaned to it by Ontario. A senior fellow at the Hudson Institute warns at the protectionist message being sent, but, like their Alberta counterparts, when have the Ottawa Tories preferred an expert's advice to that of the daily mob? The only thing that gives more satisfaction than a public flagellation of big company is that of a big foreign company.

And so it was that Jim Prentice's Industry department did what no previous Liberal government had done for more than two decades under the Investment Canada Act and blocked the (attempted) April 2008 MDA acquisition. This was just one of Canadian Auto Workers Carol Philip's lobbying successes - a year later the "conservative" government agreed to bailout the auto sector to the tune of $12 billion.

Andrew Coyne was one of the few if not the only pundit calling on true conservatives to wake up and see the MDA decision as grandstanding devoid of principle. Any Tory supporters surprised by the subsequent auto bailout weren't paying attention. Note to Craig Chandler, who earlier this month was quoted as saying ""People . . . say the [Alberta] Progressive Conservatives are the sister of the federal Conservatives. We aren't related." Yes, you are. It's the same cynical manipulation of social conservatives, the same hostility to informed analysis, the same nonchalance with respect to spending discipline, the same rejection of fixed election dates, the same centralization of power in the leader's office, the same demagoguery with respect to carbon and sales taxes, the same poll chasing, the same inclination to side with union interests against taxpayers and international investors. It's why I'd take the Liberal John Manley over the Conservative Stephen Harper every day of the week and twice on Sundays. So go ahead, point to this and my support for a McCain plank in this post as evidence that I am a Republican for Ignatieff: policy questions matter to me, unlike some.

UPDATE on union power (or NDP blogger paranoia?), July 19:
After a post where "Tiny Perfect Blog" taunts the Stelmach Tories for rolling over so easily for United Nurses of Alberta, this NDP Alberta blogger expresses a need to quit blogging and go underground. Why? Because comments in the same post about the Alberta Public Employees Union being less successful in taking the taxpayer for a ride have, in the perception of this blogger, put him or her on the AUPE's enemies list!

No comments: