Harper Sets a Corporate Table for Summits

by Barry Weisleder

The big issues on the agenda for the G8 and G20 Summits in Huntsville and Toronto in June include climate change, nuclear weapons, Afghanistan, and the state of the world economy. Poverty, hunger, and disease as a function of capitalist economic crisis and growing inequality will likely take a distant back seat to government deficit and debt reduction.

Just to make sure that the rich are not made to pay, even in the slightest way, for the crisis their system caused and their actions aggravated, the Conservative federal government in Ottawa is campaigning aggressively to block a proposal for a speculation tax and an excess-profits tax on financial institutions.

This is an old idea, first posited by the English economist John Maynard Keynes in 1936, and by American economist James Tobin in 1972. It is backed today by British P.M. Gordon Brown and the International Monetary Fund; even U.S. President Barack Obama is edging towards such a tax to pay for bank bailouts. These facts are clues that the FAT (Financial Activities Tax) will not go nearly far enough—and moreover, that it is designed to help stabilize the system of the fat cats rather than help working people.

But it goes way too far for the likes of Canada’s Finance Minister Jim Flaherty and Prime Minister Stephen Harper. “No Canadian taxpayer money has to be put into our system,” Flaherty told The Canadian Press on April 20. While Canadian banks were not hit as hard by the global meltdown in 2008, the country didn’t escape unscathed. Quebec’s giant Caisse de depot et placement, which manages the province’s pension fund plan, was burned by its investments in risky securities, as were private holders of asset-backed commercial paper. The Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan lost $19.5 billion since the end of 2007.

And now deficits resulting from shrinking revenues, in large part caused by cuts to corporate taxes, are being cited by governments as a reason to slash services and jobs, freeze workers’ wages, and further reduce corporation taxes. So, wouldn’t a Tobin Tax go well now?

Socialists are not opposed. But we insist that to eradicate (not just alleviate) poverty, hunger, and disease, and to convert industry and homes to green energy technologies (to save our global habitat), it will be necessary to expropriate the banks and big business. Democratically elected councils of workers and consumers will know how to invest the fabulous wealth of such institutions in the interest of the majority, once and for all.

In the meantime, let’s get ready to hit the streets and alternative venues for the Peoples’ Summit and protest actions in Toronto during the week leading up to June 28.