Monday, August 19, 2013

That was then; this is now

Much of my youth was spent in the coastal mill town of Powell River. Paying excellent wages, the pulp, paper and lumber company directly employed almost 2,500 workers. It hired the town's young people and provided trades training through apprenticeships and skill development programs. Managers and supervisors were promoted from the regular workforce. Retirees lived their final years with reasonable pensions that included extended healthcare and pharmaceutical coverage.

Small enterprises in Powell River had the company as their best customer because it bought many supplies and services from nearby businesses. It paid substantial property taxes to the municipality and contributed to medical facilities and community sports, recreation and culture. Young men who left high school for university enjoyed summer employment in the mill, making post-secondary education affordable without debts or major family contributions.

The company and the community had a mutually beneficial relationship. One was loyal to the other.

But that was then; this is now. The Guardian describes today's style of doing business:
"The UK-based mobile phone group [Vodafone] used an Irish subsidiary, which employed no staff between 2002 and 2007, to collect hundreds of millions of pounds a year in royalty payments from operating companies and joint ventures around the world. By 2007, Vodafone Ireland Marketing Ltd, a company registered to an industrial estate in the Dublin suburb of Leopardstown, was reporting a turnover of €380m (£320m) a year.

"During a four-year period, these royalty payments, collected from most countries except the UK and Italy, have helped Vodafone send more than €1bn worth of dividends to the low tax jurisdiction of Luxembourg from Dublin..."
This is 21st century capitalism. Downsizing, outsourcing, tax evasion and tax avoidance are bywords of business. Greed, facilitated by political influence, trumps ethical, honest and responsible conduct. It's a road to ruin for us all.

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  1. Good post Norm.
    I'm not sure who to blame for the disassembly of our country's industrial base.

    Do we blame 3rd world countries for their cheap labour?

    Do we blame big business for becoming as ruthlessly profitable as they can increase stock prices or pay dividends to their shareholders?

    Do we blame govt for cutting Education (trades, university,etc.)to the bone as the money is needed for Health.

    Do we blame ourselves for allowing this all to happen?

    Unfortunately nothing will change because eligable voters are staying away from the polls in droves.
    Too much beaurocracy, too much sloth, too much waste in govt.
    It has to get much much worse before things will change.
    Greece is experiencing "change" right now.


    1. Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich: "The fundamental problem isn't the decline of US manufacturing, and reviving manufacturing won't solve it. The problem is the declining power of workers to share in the gains of the economy.”

  2. History will record (if there is any history left) than the neo-capaitalistic age we now live in, was the age of great rape of the Earth.

    Our democracy doesn't work, because political parties do not want it to work, simply it is much easier to win elections when you only need 18% of the vote from legitimate voters. Both the BC Liberals and the NDP practice this sort of nihilistic democracy. The real reason to win elections is not to represent people, but shower electoral goodies to your friends.

    The result is a downward spiral of Democracy in the West, where big business has purchased politicians at wholesale prices and it doesn't really matter who gets in, as the real power in government are the power-brokers who own politicians.

    The bureaucracy has been dumbed down to such an extent, is that it has become a repository of those who are so incompetent, they can't get a job in the real world. And who want to, with the high wages paid for such little output.

    This again, suits big business big time and stupid people are easy to manipulate, especially with cash.

    The only way things will change is revolution and boy that will happen, sooner than later, as our youth wakes up to the fact that government has left them with nothing, except slinging fries at the local fast-food. Just wait til that happens folks, it will be bad, very bad.

    Greed, corruption, decadence, and gangsterism is paving the way for, "interesting times to come."

  3. Quite true. Harper pursues policies favouring his corporate backers, yet has a political base of angry bigots like Wendy Sullivan, driving a beat-up car and working the convenience store night shift, blaming their woes on immigrant taxi drivers, unions, the unemployed, welfare recipients, cultural minorities and similar targets, rather than the actual economic and political decision-makers who bear responsibility for such conditions....

  4. Totally off subject ( Sorry Norm )

    Did anyone else sit up and take notice of the news that a Toronto police officer has been charged with Second Degree Murder with the review of the Transit bus shooting a few weeks back?

    One wonders if Vancouver Constable Lee Chipperfield is getting a tad nevous over his video'ed "Coup de Gras" shot to the head of a severely wounded and crawling Paul Boyd.......

    Chief Chu may actually have to blink, gulp and answer unscripted questions for once.


    1. Thanks for the note. You'll see an update today on my article about the shameful killing of Paul Boyd.

      The Ontario Special Investigation Unit has an unsatisfactory record of dealing with police homicides but the Yatim killing, done in full view, could not be ignored. It was only luck that kept innocent bystanders from being injured by ricocheting bullets as that madman shooter opened fire.

      I hope the investigation goes beyond that moment of the shooting. It needs to look at recruitment, training, discipline and substance abuse.

  5. But let any everyday person evade/avoid taxes, and look out.

  6. Just want to reply with total agreement with what Rene has written.
    When will people learn it's not the little guy at the bottom who is the problem. But so many people just have a NIMBY attitude, but one day, maybe a cheque or 2 away, they'll be at the bottom too. Just wait till the banks/govt start raising rates. How many of those "home equity lines of credit", have people used for the toys? Cars, bigger home than needed? Stupid, anyone who would even touch that disgusting thing!

    Sorry, went on. Rene, I so agree with most of what you have said.

  7. It's amazing how many people have ties to Powell River. My friend Rick Piechotta (you probably know him or the family name anyway, Norm) has many fond memories of growing up there and of the well-paying jobs he had at the mill, while working his way through university.

  8. Taxes are the price we pay for a civilized society. Maybe it's about time to fight fire with fire. If you don't want to pay taxes, then we should say you don't get access to the court system, you get no patent or other protection, shareholders are 100% on the hook for costs [much like those of Lloyd s of London's underwriters are], corporate officers are personally responsible for all harm caused by their company, you have to pay 100% of the use of all infrastructure, etc.

    But given the current corporatist gov'ts in power, I'm not holding my breath...



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