Friday, July 17, 2009

The academics are revolting

A little summer activism from the academic crowd of note today. Got to love that commitment to the public interest.

First we see Arthur Haberman, historian, with a lament for the loss of the "Progressive Conservative" element in Canadian politics. His op-ed reviews what in his view the elements of "progressive conservatism" were but then bluntly turns to the party that has swallowed them whole:
The Conservative party self-consciously dropped the progressive part of the program and substituted a kind of American Republican doctrine. They don't like parliaments very much and their leaders – Stephen Harper, Mike Harris – behave like presidents rather than prime ministers and premiers.

Conservatives are driven hard by ideology rather than pragmatism and tradition. When the financial crisis occurred last fall, they put forward a budget that had no stimulus because they believe that government should get out of the way. Faced with a defeat in Parliament, they prorogued the House of Commons and returned with something resembling their opponents' position. But they are implementing it very slowly or not at all because they don't really believe in it, even though it is now the law of the land.

These new Conservatives like to be tough, or at least appear to be so. Canada now fights wars instead of keeping the peace. When the United States invaded Iraq, both Harper and Peter MacKay supported sending Canadian troops. In Ontario, Mike Harris decided that he would penalize those on welfare and in the education system – in his years in power, Ontario had the lowest per capita support of higher education of any province. They talk about law and order a lot and like to believe that the way to prevent crime is to fill up our prisons and have a higher rate of incarceration, possibly hoping to emulate the land with the highest rate of incarceration in the world, the United States.
We are "all the losers" due to this development, the new "rigidity of the right," he concludes. With that, some of us would absolutely agree.

Elsewhere, the economists are revolting. You know, the ones with the PhD's, unlike a certain someone who just plays one on TV. They're coming out in support of the Parliamentary Budget Officer, Kevin Page, who was tackily and plainly dissed by the PM last week. That display was followed up by Deficit Jim's put down of the PBO report as too "pessimistic." There's a website, "Support the OPBO," which demonstrates the support of 134 economists and counting. There are three specific requests, directed not only at Conservatives, to be fair. But then again, let's be real, the loudest critics of the PBO are in fact those just mentioned:
We call on Parliamentarians of every party to pursue the following actions in support of the Office of the Parliamentary Budget Officer:
Ensure adequate funding to carry out its mandate
Independence by making the PBO a full Officer of Parliament
Public reporting of all analysis.
Additionally, there was another influential economist, Dale Orr, publicly supporting the Budget Officer this week and getting some significant media attention over the past day.

So what does all this mean? The academics-against-Harper crowd grows. And put simply, the "thinkers" are not too impressed by the present state of affairs and they're making themselves heard.