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A Budget For The Rich

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Last week the provincial government brought down its budget for the coming fiscal year. Notable was a statement that they would not be raising the minimum wage. A wage that not only has been stagnant at eight dollars per hour for the entire eight years of Liberal rule, but was actually lowered by the government when they brought in their six dollar per hour "training" wage.

This government, however, has not been so parsimonious when it comes to taking care of people who are well off. One of the first things that the Liberals did after getting elected in 2001 was to raise the salaries of senior government employees. Meanwhile it beat back demands for wage increases from public unions. Yet, it raised the salaries of Members of the Legislature. And, last year, it raised the salaries of senior government employees even more. People who make six figure or better incomes have been served well by this government. Those who make less are paying the bill for the bloated incomes of the rich.

In a 2007 study the BC Federation of Labour found that corporate profits are taking a larger and larger share of the gross provincial product while the labour share declines. They also found that middle and low-income workers are working longer and longer hours just to maintain their current income levels. In a time with a tanking economy bringing more and more stress to average and below average income earners, one would think that a government that cared about its people would be structuring its policies to redirect incomes to those who need them most rather than maintain the economic privileges of a few with far more than they need.

Of course, given the nature of the Liberal government one should not be surprised. Liberal is a name of convenience for this party, in reality it is a very conservative organization owned and operated, like most parties, by the wealthy for the purpose of protecting their interests. Unlike real liberal parties that understand that the best way to protect the wealthy is to make a few concessions to the rest of society, this party is in the same league as the Bush Republicans and others bent on undoing hundreds of years of social progress as quickly as possible.

It is interesting to look at income distribution over the past century. In the mid 1920s the richest 1% of Americans had about 25% of the total income. Progressive governments and labour practices brought that down to less than 9% by 1976, then the conservative reformation began with right wing governments bringing in policies, like the Campbell government, to redistribute wealth up the ladder, and by 2005 that 1% was now taking almost 22% of the total income.

Down in the US things might be changing. The Obama government is certainly a product of a political system controlled by wealth, and will protect that wealth, but like other progressive governments over the last two centuries, that protection may come from satisfying, to a degree, the needs of the those with modest or less income, rather than from blatantly ripping more away from them.

While Gordon Campbell gives fat salary increases to himself and to top government officials, Obama has put salary caps on executives that take government money to bail their businesses out of the mess that their economic practices have bogged them down in. And while Gordon Campbell is only talking tax breaks, Obama is talking breaks for some and raising taxes on those with high incomes.

The purpose of government is to direct society's wealth. A socially responsible, progressive government directs it to serve the greatest benefit. A conservative government, by nature, directs it to enrich those who already have it. The present Liberal budget is a budget meant to serve the rich.
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Jerry West grew up on a farm in California and is currently Editor and Publisher of THE RECORD newspaper in Gold River, BC. Graduate with Honors and graduate school, UC Berkeley. Member, Phi Beta Kappa. Vietnam veteran and Former Sgt. USMC
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