Poverty puts a dent in profits

Brian
Brian Jones
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There are things in this life that are seemingly not meant to be comprehended by the human mind: the moons of Saturn, the essence of gravity, the logic of business groups.

Before I lay waste to the logic of the Newfoundland and Labrador Employers' Council, let me clarify that I am an avid free-enterpriser.

There are things in this life that are seemingly not meant to be comprehended by the human mind: the moons of Saturn, the essence of gravity, the logic of business groups.

Before I lay waste to the logic of the Newfoundland and Labrador Employers' Council, let me clarify that I am an avid free-enterpriser.

I used to be a self-described socialist, but that was prior to 1985, when I spent a month travelling through the workers' paradises of Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Poland and East Germany. For a clear look at what a state-monopoly society is like, don't go to the beaches of Cuba - go instead to the streets of East Berlin.

When some representatives of business groups speak on public issues, it's as if they intentionally cloak themselves in every clichÉ ever thrown at the business lobby by Hollywood, arts faculty professors and NDP strategists: big, bloated, greedy, selfish, eager to stuff even more into their own pockets and mouths, and only slowed down by the fat stogie they're sucking on and the smoke they're intentionally blowing into the face of common decency.

At least, that's how they often appear to wide swathes of the public.

Low pay

The employers' council is against regular increases to the minimum wage, which in Newfoundland (and Labrador) is slated to hit the grand sum of $10 per hour July 1. For those with full-time jobs, that works out to $400 per week, and $20,800 per year.

These days, in and around St. John's, you can't buy a lean-to in the suburbs on that. Some families annually spend half that amount, or substantially more, on groceries.

And yet the employers' council wants the minimum wage to stay static, rather than rise with the cost of living. They may as well come right out and declare, "Poverty is OK with us."

This situation is a good example of how looking out for only your own interests can backfire. It may make sense for individual employers to pay their employees as little as possible, or only as much as they must according to either the law or the market. What doesn't get paid out as wages can be put toward earnings, profits, dividends, reinvestment, executive bonuses and so on.

But such a policy, in the wider marketplace among all employers, is counterproductive and self-defeating. If you're selling widgets, you need customers. If your customers have more money in their wallets, all the better.

Free enterprise relies on constantly flowing cash. When the cash flows in only one direction, there's trouble - and illogic.

The current Great Recession has prompted calls from politicians and captains of industry for consumers to spend, spend, spend. Get that cash moving, and we'll advance beyond this economic downturn. Strange, though, that there have been few, if any, similar calls for employers to pay, pay, pay.

Pathetic pensions

The business lobby is content to pay a pittance when people enter the workforce and when they leave it.

With all the controversy over the Canada Pension Plan and its inadequacy in providing many retirees with an acceptable standard of living, it was predictable that the Canadian Federation of Independent Business would oppose governmental and employer increments to CPP payments.

This is more shortsighted and illogical thinking. As the massive horde of baby boomers retires, it won't bode well for the economy if large numbers of them can't afford to buy widgets.

Public-service unions are voicing concern for the poor, downtrodden private-sector workers who will become poor, downtrodden retirees surviving on CPP.

That those with golden, public-sector pensions have positioned themselves as defenders of the masses is ironic, preposterous and laughable. But it is also brilliant public relations. Some business groups should observe and learn.

Brian Jones is a desk editor at The Telegram. He can be reached by e-mail at bjones@thetelegram.com

Organizations: Newfoundland and Labrador Employers, NDP, Canadian Federation of Independent Business The Telegram

Geographic location: Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Poland East Germany Cuba East Berlin Hollywood Newfoundland St. John's

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Recent comments

  • W
    July 02, 2010 - 13:20

    .........golden public sector pensions, surely you jest........generally you can retire from the public sector when the sum of your age and years of service equals 85. In addition, your CPP is clawed back dollar for dollar sinc eyou are receiving siad golden pension, so public sector workers are penalized for contributing and receiving said golden pension. You Brian will not be penalized on your CPP since you will not receive nor contribute to that pension.

    I belive the golden pesnions are from teh House of Assembly & St. John's City Hall Councillors, neither group contributes and both have short eligibility time frames.

  • Taxpayer
    July 02, 2010 - 13:17

    Even when you have a point you have to go off message and try to make a point which is factually unproven. Business is all about the clout of the people who George Bush liked to call the Haves and the Have Mores. If they were to consider the people who have less than them, that would put what they have in peril. Unions, even though their leaders are well paid, have some connection to the people with little and so at times can be advocates for them as they know that we all need money to live on. 1985 was a long time ago maybe you should update your education. Norway or Sweden might better examples of counties that are not driven by greed.

  • Politically Incorrect
    July 02, 2010 - 13:15

    Gold plated pensions? Pleese... There is hardly anything new or uncharacteristic about unions -- public service or otherwise, working to improve the conditions of everyone in the working class. Weekends, like health care, pensions, health and safety legislation and the eight hour day, things which most workers enjoy, were not given to us by magnanimous bosses and their politica parties, but were fought for by unions. As for the business groups, they have nothing to learn they already know where their class interests lie and its not with the workers.

  • David
    July 02, 2010 - 13:13

    Canada needs to look south at it's imediate neighbor and learn from what has gone very wrong in that country. Classism or the casting of the common class (in America this is referred to a s the shrinking middle class) leads to a country of have's and have not's. It sets up a system of deceptive but very potent predation whereby those granted membership to dominant culture, dominant in that they have active decisional roles, are granted access to resources via good jobs or the ability to pay for an education to get those jobs via their ascription and loyalty to whoever is in power.

    The problem occurs, when greed drives the system, it is only a matter of time before the prey becomes a subgroup of those who consider themselves as part of the dominant culture. I agree with the author, the pile of human debrie left in the wake of greed ultimately becomes the burden of society. Of course America for over 8 decades found a rather unique way of dealing with this by industrializing the penal system. I'm not kidding, each election, more and more politicians play the crime card to elicit voters emotional vote and once elected, they continue to make it toughter for those already convicted to get out of jail and keep raising the bar on what type of offences constitute a felony classification. Of course the longest sentences are reserved for crimes that statistically are committed by minorities such as hispanics or African Americans.

    In America, you get a longer sentence if you were caught posessing marijuana for the 3rd time than if you were convicted of a violent rape. And how do you deal with those liberal judges? Easy, you develope mandatory sentencing laws which ignore the circumstances of a case and remove human judgement from criminal judicial proceedings. Unfortunately, justice is often removed as well. One in eight Americans will become involved in some type of criminal proceeding and judicial control at the current rate of incarceration.

    And who fills these jails, non violent offenders. Here comes the clincher on election years, politicians start screaming we need toughter jails, jails that punish all those non violent offenders, we need more super maxs, an environment sure to turn the most docile into a violent animal. All the good folk in their gated homes watching true crime Hollywood style on their entertainment boxes nod their heads in agreement.

    Public hospitals close and a new super max is funded, creating more jobs in communities that are already considered above average but mostly, loyal to the ideology that is in power.

    As an American, I always admired Canada for not going down this road. At one time, Canada had one of the most aggressive rehabilitation efforts for convicted criminal and one of the lowest crime rates which I always considered more than a mere correlation. I admired Canada for having intelligence to see beyond the smoke screens created by the greedy and America's entertainment industry who seem to feast of scaring the public with inacurrate portrayals of what it wants Americans to fear.

    Buy grace, the leadership in America became so arrogantly dictatoral that it created a backlash by those in dominant culture and angered minorities enough so they voted in the last presidential election. Finally, a leader who is again a just human being fills the executive. But what a mess, over 700 civil liberties lost durring the reign of a totalitarian nut who American's re-elected and who could have cared less because they did not want to rock their own boats of comfortability to ask questions or, pay attention beyond what Hollywood was convincing them was real.

    Canada needs to take a very hard and serious look at what went wrong with their southern neighbor and at the very least, learn to spot the same pathogens that allowed a tyrant to almost ruin a country founded on just and humanitarian ideals.

    My two cents.

  • Blackadder
    July 02, 2010 - 13:10

    Thanks, David. You have provided a very coherent and informative argument. Your perspective as an American who has critical insight into a society, to which many Canadians naively accept as a paragon of democracy and freedom believe we should aspire, should be seen as a warning.

  • W
    July 01, 2010 - 20:02

    .........golden public sector pensions, surely you jest........generally you can retire from the public sector when the sum of your age and years of service equals 85. In addition, your CPP is clawed back dollar for dollar sinc eyou are receiving siad golden pension, so public sector workers are penalized for contributing and receiving said golden pension. You Brian will not be penalized on your CPP since you will not receive nor contribute to that pension.

    I belive the golden pesnions are from teh House of Assembly & St. John's City Hall Councillors, neither group contributes and both have short eligibility time frames.

  • Taxpayer
    July 01, 2010 - 19:58

    Even when you have a point you have to go off message and try to make a point which is factually unproven. Business is all about the clout of the people who George Bush liked to call the Haves and the Have Mores. If they were to consider the people who have less than them, that would put what they have in peril. Unions, even though their leaders are well paid, have some connection to the people with little and so at times can be advocates for them as they know that we all need money to live on. 1985 was a long time ago maybe you should update your education. Norway or Sweden might better examples of counties that are not driven by greed.

  • Politically Incorrect
    July 01, 2010 - 19:55

    Gold plated pensions? Pleese... There is hardly anything new or uncharacteristic about unions -- public service or otherwise, working to improve the conditions of everyone in the working class. Weekends, like health care, pensions, health and safety legislation and the eight hour day, things which most workers enjoy, were not given to us by magnanimous bosses and their politica parties, but were fought for by unions. As for the business groups, they have nothing to learn they already know where their class interests lie and its not with the workers.

  • David
    July 01, 2010 - 19:50

    Canada needs to look south at it's imediate neighbor and learn from what has gone very wrong in that country. Classism or the casting of the common class (in America this is referred to a s the shrinking middle class) leads to a country of have's and have not's. It sets up a system of deceptive but very potent predation whereby those granted membership to dominant culture, dominant in that they have active decisional roles, are granted access to resources via good jobs or the ability to pay for an education to get those jobs via their ascription and loyalty to whoever is in power.

    The problem occurs, when greed drives the system, it is only a matter of time before the prey becomes a subgroup of those who consider themselves as part of the dominant culture. I agree with the author, the pile of human debrie left in the wake of greed ultimately becomes the burden of society. Of course America for over 8 decades found a rather unique way of dealing with this by industrializing the penal system. I'm not kidding, each election, more and more politicians play the crime card to elicit voters emotional vote and once elected, they continue to make it toughter for those already convicted to get out of jail and keep raising the bar on what type of offences constitute a felony classification. Of course the longest sentences are reserved for crimes that statistically are committed by minorities such as hispanics or African Americans.

    In America, you get a longer sentence if you were caught posessing marijuana for the 3rd time than if you were convicted of a violent rape. And how do you deal with those liberal judges? Easy, you develope mandatory sentencing laws which ignore the circumstances of a case and remove human judgement from criminal judicial proceedings. Unfortunately, justice is often removed as well. One in eight Americans will become involved in some type of criminal proceeding and judicial control at the current rate of incarceration.

    And who fills these jails, non violent offenders. Here comes the clincher on election years, politicians start screaming we need toughter jails, jails that punish all those non violent offenders, we need more super maxs, an environment sure to turn the most docile into a violent animal. All the good folk in their gated homes watching true crime Hollywood style on their entertainment boxes nod their heads in agreement.

    Public hospitals close and a new super max is funded, creating more jobs in communities that are already considered above average but mostly, loyal to the ideology that is in power.

    As an American, I always admired Canada for not going down this road. At one time, Canada had one of the most aggressive rehabilitation efforts for convicted criminal and one of the lowest crime rates which I always considered more than a mere correlation. I admired Canada for having intelligence to see beyond the smoke screens created by the greedy and America's entertainment industry who seem to feast of scaring the public with inacurrate portrayals of what it wants Americans to fear.

    Buy grace, the leadership in America became so arrogantly dictatoral that it created a backlash by those in dominant culture and angered minorities enough so they voted in the last presidential election. Finally, a leader who is again a just human being fills the executive. But what a mess, over 700 civil liberties lost durring the reign of a totalitarian nut who American's re-elected and who could have cared less because they did not want to rock their own boats of comfortability to ask questions or, pay attention beyond what Hollywood was convincing them was real.

    Canada needs to take a very hard and serious look at what went wrong with their southern neighbor and at the very least, learn to spot the same pathogens that allowed a tyrant to almost ruin a country founded on just and humanitarian ideals.

    My two cents.

  • Blackadder
    July 01, 2010 - 19:47

    Thanks, David. You have provided a very coherent and informative argument. Your perspective as an American who has critical insight into a society, to which many Canadians naively accept as a paragon of democracy and freedom believe we should aspire, should be seen as a warning.