I watched the season opener of Bill Maher last night and it was almost surreal, especially when the talks became about Canada.
But early on he quoted from American economist Robert Reich, who broke down the neoconservative philosophy quite succinctly. "The public is being sold a big lie, that our problems are due to unions and the size of government and not to deregulation and the vast concentration of wealth."
This is especially compelling, given that the Harper government has been driving a deregulation agenda, even going so far as making it legal for corporations to commit fraud.
Reich also said that Obama must frame the narrative. It's tough because he's facing the same corporate sponsored AstroTurfing, as Canada's opposition. Every argument they make gets twisted into "not supporting the troops", being "tax and spend liberals", "careless". And before long some "grassroots" group starts up, which more often than not gets traced back to a Corporate Party of Canada staffer. This creates the same toxic political climate as the Republicans have in the U.S.
But Americans may actually be waking up. Sarah Palin is at her lowest point in popularity and the Tea Party is being debunked. I think the tide may be turning.
James Travers had a very good column this week discussing how Stephen Harper and his right-wing echo chamber, has been able to control the conversation, taking us away from important issues like healthcare, an aging population and a record debt. Instead we debate war, crime, guns, and now Harper is even tossing around the idea of bringing back the death penalty. (a defelection from his support for corporate greed?)
When I first read this as part of his Reform Party policy back in the day, I thought that Canadians would never ever bring it back. Now I have no idea how much Canadians will bear of this man's regressive agenda. It's seems like pretty much anything.
But as many in the media, including Travers, like to lay the blame at the Opposition's doorstep, they need to also look at themselves. I like Travers and he is certainly one of the more progressive thinkers, but he has constantly belittled the opposition and then wondered why they are not stronger. And he has resorted to that this time around, despite the fact that both Layton and Ignatieff are trying to frame a different message.
Layton is discussing our role in Afghanistan and Ignatieff the preservation of healthcare and relief for families caring for an aging family member. He even went so far as to tell the business community that we can't afford more corporate tax cuts. Not just using rhetoric for headlines, but going to the source of the problem.
Because as Maher stated last night, these are not "tax cuts". They are an enormous transfer of funds from those who need it to those who don't. And it has been going on for far too long.
Martin Short: Long on Memory, Short on Awareness
One of the guests last night, was Canadian actor Martin Short. Maher asked him how Canada got it so right. We had public healthcare, gun control and a stable economy. Short and others on the panel said that it was because we were more cautious, which is why our banks didn't need to be bailed out.
Flaherty and Harper have taken the approach that if they said it enough times, people would start to believe it. But we very much did bail out our banks, to the tune of 125 billion dollars. And Canadian economist Ellen Russel believes that since it was done so swiftly and apparently secretly, this will make our banks more careless in the future.
So I would ask our media, why they are blaming the Opposition, when they are the ones who allowed this to go unreported. Because it is now not only part of the Canadian psyche, but apparently the American one as well.
And not only did our banks get 125 billion dollars of OUR money, but they also got another 111 billion from the American taxpayers, through their U.S. branches. Quite a haul for our "good banks".
Short also stated that he was a conservative, to which most on the panel and Maher himself, stated that yes, but a Canadian conservative was much different from an American conservative. In Canada they were more like a social democrat. Short has clearly been away from Canada too long, because our current right-wing party is more toxic Republican than traditional Tory.
There was one man on the panel who could have corrected them, however. A little blast from the past. Republican strategist Mike Murphy, who engineered Mike Harris's Common Sense Revolution. But he stayed quiet, not getting involved in that part of the argument. A good neocon knows that you never challenge a lie that is working in your favour.
But with so much misinformation out there, and a media unable or unwilling to get to the root of it all, maybe the only ones who can really change the narrative is us.