During the 1992 election, Bill Clinton won the U.S. Presidential race in part due to his election slogan: “It’s the economy, stupid.” The point being that the critical focus of a president (and hence the U.S. Government) should be on creating a robust economy which creates jobs and allows people to enjoy a higher standard of living.
We’re hearing the echo of Clinton’s slogan in the Premier’s commitment that she’s focused on jobs and families. Over the next three weeks leading up to the Oct. 3 Throne Speech she’ll give three major speeches that, hopefully, will outline what, exactly, she means when she speaks about a “jobs and families agenda.”
For at least the last four decades, however, politicians who talk about job creation and creating a robust economy that supports families have focused on tax cuts, downsizing government, and deregulation to create a “competitive” environment for business. Unfortunately, more and more evidence is mounting that this approach simply has not worked. Instead, tax cuts and deregulation have created an environment in which the rich get significantly richer, the middle class either remains stagnant or loses significant ground, and the poor are ill-served by their government (primarily because the government has insufficient revenue to support social programs.)
New reports this week from Statistics Canada and the Conference Board of Canada provide further evidence to support what most people know in their hearts: it’s simply getting harder to make ends meet for the vast majority of people and families. Household debt is soaring in Canada, and income inequality is rising in Canada, interestingly at a faster rate than the US.
Politicians should accept that now, “it’s disposable income, stupid.” Only when the majority of the population have disposable income will our economy be able to create jobs. But, decades of income and corporate tax cuts have forced governments to reduce public services and increase user fees and consumption taxes, forcing people to “buy” what used to be “free.” All of this has dramatically eroded the disposable income of the middle and lower classes forcing too many to maintain their standard of living through borrowing. That’s not the foundation for a sustainable economy by any measure.
If the Premier is truly serious about creating jobs and helping families, then in her upcoming speeches she needs to tell us how she’ll improve the disposable income of the majority of British Columbians. This will require her to put forward an agenda that involves more creative thinking than the smaller government and lower tax mantra she’s been espousing recently.
Bob Simpson is MLA for Cariboo North.