Feb 112013
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Progressives have no time to tinker.

by Ish Theilheimer

Humanity needs radical thinking and urgent action to get out of the jam the corporations and their right-wing political friends have got us into.  The "jam" is actually an inter-related set of unprecedented crises:

1. Industrial-scale meddling with the environment is causing climate catastrophes that ruin economies, trigger food shortages, and instigate violence. Deadly proof is everywhere.

2. Global trade deals have ruined job markets because they place everyone in the world in competition with countries that have the lowest pay, lowest employment standards and least environmental protection. In the past, it just wasn't possible to outsource everything. Now outsourcing is the norm, thanks to new technologies, and the laws the wealthy have demanded.

Instead of more cuts to the public role, we need politicians and governments to take leadership in calling for new investment in the things we know need to be done.

3. As a result, it has become extremely difficult for young adults, Aboriginal people, immigrants, refugees, people of colour and laid-off older workers to find jobs that will support a middle-class lifestyle — anywhere in the world today.

4. Widespread unemployment, in turn, has combined with corporate tax give-aways to plunge governments around the world into deficit because people without jobs don't pay the tax revenues governments need in order to provide services.

5. Alarm over public deficits, in turn, encourages the kind of austerity fever right-wingers have always wanted, leading to huge cuts in public services, more unemployment, and unfulfilled needs of working-class and poor people who can't afford to pay privately for services people used to expect from governments.

Frustration over these problems is widespread and growing, as mentioned in last week's editorial. Talk to a few neighbours. The fears live around every kitchen table.

This is no time for tinkering. Radical approaches are needed that offer hope of change and improvement. Instead of more cuts to the public role, we need politicians and governments to take leadership in calling for new investment in the things we know need to be done.

We know we need to put young people and the disenfranchised — Aboriginal people, people of colour , immigrants and refugees — to work, using the skills they've worked hard to get training and education for, before their frustration explodes.

We know we need massive new investments to transform a polluting economy into a clean one, and these investments will provide the jobs.

We know we need a new approach to trade that will provide jobs and commerce while protecting workers and the environment everywhere.

And we know these kinds of changes cannot be made in only one place. Municipalities, provinces, states, and nations need to work together in calling for reinvestment, stimulus and new trade deals that move us forward — instead of backwards, into an earlier century.

Only with a plan and passionate leadership can Tom Mulcair win the majority he needs — or successfully work with other opposition parties to unseat Harper.

Barack Obama must lead by example. If he fails to use his second mandate to make these kinds of transformations, there won't be another chance.

Here in Canada, a great deal rests on the shoulders of Tom Mulcair and the NDP.  Although polls show a Justin Trudeau-led Liberal Party would win a majority if the vote were today, they don't mean much. Trudeau's obvious weaknesses and the wear and tear of combat will take the sheen off his appeal, which is, at this point, largely novelty, good looks and a name. All of these traits have elected Prime Ministers in the past, of course, but the Liberals will remain hamstrung by their regional weaknesses and the kind of contradictions that have sidelined them since their "good old days." And neither Trudeau nor any of the rivals in the Liberal's very odd debate- and convention-free leadership selection process has offered any sort of vision that addresses the multiple crises we face.

Mulcair has. In speeches, as when he ran for his party's leadership, he frequently mentions the legacy of environmental and economic problems the current generation in power is leaving future generations. In the House of Commons, though, he has focused on managerial competence and Stephen Harper's lack of it, in hopes of defusing long-standing public concerns about the NDP on that file.

Mulcair's focus on competence is refreshing and needed. He can't, however, let it take precedence over a bold and radical program to take on our multiple crises. Only with a plan and passionate leadership can he win the majority he needs — or successfully work with other opposition parties to unseat Harper. The plan can become the blueprint for governing and something to rally support around or else something to bargain around in the event of a post-election minority scenario.

Without something to rally around, voters may well grab at a good head of hair or a famous name, and the progressive vote will be fractured.

About Ish Theilheimer

Ish Theilheimer is founder and president of Straight Goods News and has been Publisher of the leading, and oldest, independent Canadian online newsmagazine, StraightGoods.ca, since September 1999. He is also Managing Editor of PublicValues.ca. He lives wth his wife Kathy in Golden Lake, ON, in the Ottawa Valley.

eMail: ish@straightgoods.com

© Copyright 2013 Ish Theilheimer, All rights Reserved. Written For: StraightGoods.ca

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