Maxed Out 

Pay now... eat later


Music has charms to soothe a savage breast... and I'm in need of a lot of soothin' these days. Fortunately, I have a lot of music. It - and the uneasy knowledge I'd be completely alone - is about the only thing keeping me from taking to the streets. Well, that and oppressive socialization that's made me more or less Canadian over the past 30 years.

Watching the political farce that is Canada's national election unfold raises a savage heat within my breast. Watching the placidly passive reaction of Canadians to the corruption of power being perpetrated around us simply adds to the heartburn. It is reminiscent of the old frog in the increasingly hot water trick. Ah... feel the healing powers of the national hot tub surrounding us. Doesn't it feel good? Hardly notice it getting hotter, eh? Go Canucks, go.

I don't know if it's sad or just culturally iconic that the only thing with the power to make us outraged enough to hit the bricks in protest and passion is the outcome of a hockey game. But that seems to be the only event capable of rousing real rage in the true north, strong and, well, indifferent.

So why not reduce politics to hockey. Let's let Steve and Iggy and Diamond Jack duke it out in the pocket. Keep Elizabeth and Gilles and the rest of the fringe parties in the penalty box watching. It makes at least as much sense as what we're doing.

What we have now is a farce worthy of Gilbert and Sullivan. We enjoy the spectacle of the three party leaders dashing around the country promising to toss bones to the dogs - we're the dogs in case you were wondering - we all know will never materialize. In a relentless march towards the ruinous policies that have brought much of the rest of the Western world to the brink of bankruptcy, the people leading our political parties are telling us we can have it all... without paying for any of it. Money for nothing and chicks for free.

The two most moronic things about election campaigns are, ironically, the two most prevalent things: signs and empty promises. Both pander to the lowest common denominator - people clueless enough to need the first to remind them of who's running and the second to fool them into believing there actually may be a free lunch.

It is, naturally, Stevie Hapless' Conservatives who have raised the art form to its pinnacle. In an attempt to pander to the demonstrably false but stubbornly clung to idea that Conservatives are more fiscally prudent, Stevie's gone beyond simply promising giveaways. Oh sure, there are plenty of those. But in the second week of the campaign, he's invoked the Wimpy Strategy.

For those of you too young and those of you who have already set out on the road to amnesia, Wimpy was a friend of Popeye the Sailor Man... of cartoon fame. I'm fond of Popeye because disguised as a children's cartoon, Popeye was, in fact, a precursor to all the self-help advice that followed. Everything you need to know about life is contained in Popeye's catch phrase - I yam what I yam. Live with it.

Wimpy was large, gluttonous and fond of dining on other peoples' tabs. Addicted to hamburgers long before the golden arches ruined a single generation's tastebuds, Wimpy would implore anyone he thought an easy touch with the line, "I will gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today."

Pudge, bearing a passing resemblance to Wimpy, albeit with a helmet of Ken doll hair and a passive expression most often seen in post-lobotomy patients, has turned the tables. He's now offering Canadians hamburgers Tuesday if we pay for them today. Many of his most recent promises of giveaways will kick in when the budget the Conservatives unbalanced is, once again, balanced. My savage breast can verily hear the harmonious strains of Over the Rainbow welling up as background music. It takes an even higher level of cynicism than I possess to believe the Conservatives will ever balance the budget. Whistler will roll back property taxes before the Conservatives ever balance the budget.

Why, you ask? Largely because of the peculiar brand of economics favoured by Conservatives since the days of St. Reagan, Princess Thatcher and Mulroney the Knave. It can be summed up by the Orwellian chant, "Taxes Bad. Government Bad. Markets Good."

More legerdemain than organizing economic principle, it is chanted by Conservatives and parroted by their unthinking supporters in much the same way as the mindless, but mesmerizing, chants at sports events. "CA-NA-DA, CA-NA-DA. U-S-A, U-S-A." It has so powerful a hold that True Believers seem unable or unwilling to notice under conservative rule overall taxation goes up, government gets bigger and more oppressive and markets pretty much destroy the middle class while they merrily chant their way to poverty.

North of the border, the strategy still works. Why? Because of the Liberal Sponsorship SCANDAL!!! Regardless of how insignificant, Liberals can't shake scandal. If you want to start a good barfight, walk into pretty much any watering hole in Calgary, clear your throat, and loudly say, "Boy, that National Energy Program Pierre launched in 1980 sure was a good idea." Rednecks and oilmen who weren't even born in 1980 will be throwin' blows before you can say, "Just kidding."

The more recent Sponsorship Scandal - which actually squandered less money in an attempt to keep Quebec from separating than was spent by the Gomery Commission investigating it - is trotted out time and again by Conservatives as proof Liberals are corrupt wastrels who will set fire to precious tax dollars if they're in power. Yet, 15 years after the fact, I'm still trying to figure out how it was the Liberals balanced the budget in the 1990s and created the surplus frittered away by Pudge when he got his hands on the national pocketbook.

Of course, squandering $15 billion on new warplanes to support Canada's new world role as war monger is prudent in ConWorld. Even if, as both the Parliamentary Budget Office and the Pentagon say, the real price tag will be at least twice that much. Proroguing Parliament - twice - because you want to take your ball, okay, Canadians' ball, and go home is okay. Kicking people out of your open-to-the-approved-public meetings because they might have come on a Liberal's Facebook page is okay. Being unwilling to even talk about token efforts to deal with climate change, while the biggest hole in the ozone ever opens above your vaunted Arctic, is okay.

Music... I need music. Ah, how soothing.




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