Finally, some really great news – government auditors have located over a half trillion dollars in the public treasury, to pay for a people’s recovery from the current economic crisis.
$553 billion, in fact.
It’s enough to pay for a federal child care program (a federal plan charging $8 per day is estimated to costs $2.5 billion per year), eliminate student debt (estimated at around $30 billion total), introduce universal pharmacare (a comprehensive single-payer system is estimated at $15 billion per year), and build one million social housing units over 10 years (estimated at $20 billion per year).
There’s billions of dollars for job creation, expanded Employment Insurance and increased social assistance payments. We could introduce (wait for it) a universal, defined benefit public pension plan that guarantees a livable retirement income with a full pension at age 60.
It means there’s money for climate justice and environmental cleanup, including cleaning poisoned water and soil in Indigenous communities (mercury cleanup at Grassy Narrows, for example, is estimated to cost $85 million over ten years).
The government can use the money to easily pay the $2-8 billion the courts have said it owes in compensation for discriminatory funding of Indigenous child welfare.
All this and more – it really is great news, and the best part is the money’s already there. So, why isn’t anybody celebrating?
Well, that’s where the bad news comes in. The money has already been allocated to the Department of National Defence, to pay for new equipment, troops and training envisioned in the military’s Strong, Secure, Engaged (SSE) plan. Under that plan, introduced by the Liberals in 2017, Canada’s military will increase its troop numbers by over 5 percent, to nearly 72,000. The navy will get 15 new warships. The air force will get 88 new fighter jets. The army will get a new fleet of light armoured vehicles (perhaps based on the Canadian design that Saudi Arabia is currently testing against the people of Yemen?)
So, it sounds like the money we need for a people’s recovery has already been spent, right? Well, that’s where we go back to more good news, albeit in a weird way.
Government auditors released a report in June that criticized the Department of National Defence for its “poor oversight of military-spending plan.” Specifically, they were upset that DND had only assigned “less than three people” to oversee the SSE spending bonanza, causing “delays and slow implementation.”
Let’s pause here for a minute to review. The government has a half trillion dollars of public money already committed to massive military expenditures. But the military isn’t spending that money. When government auditors notice this – during an economic crisis that is the worst since the Great Depression and which will cost about half a trillion dollars in government assistance to working people – they decide the best thing to do is slap DND on the wrist and tell them to go shopping.
It’s a surrealistic situation of Kafkaesque proportions.
But it’s also a message to the working class: this country has the resources we need for a people’s recovery, but in a capitalist society the priorities of corporate monopolies and imperialist militaries trump those of working people. Clearly, without a massive fight, powerful enough to challenge that prioritization, we will face neoliberal austerity measures on a scale we have not yet seen.
We can have a people’s recovery. But only if we force it.
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