Archive for October, 2011|Monthly archive page

The Long Gun Registry Is About To Die

The one thing that I was happy about when the Conservatives won a majority in the last federal election was that they would finally be able to get on with their long-standing promise to abolish the long gun registry. The registry, a massive white elephant, is quite possibly the most useless piece of legislation that was ever conceived of in this country, in that it was a knee-jerk reaction to a perceived problem, which has been patently ineffective at dealing with the problem. Add to that it was a massively expensive program, costing far more than it ever was claimed it would, and really delivering nothing in return for the money.

I’m hoping that the money saved might be diverted to programs that might actually deal with gun violence effectively.

What makes me laugh – and cry – is simply this: the chief defenders of the program are basically totally ignorant of anything to do with firearms, and thus generally are woefully unable to discuss anything about them. They cannot make any significant intellectual arguments in the matter. They instead would like to paint Canadian gun owners as a bunch of nuts who want no laws at all, which is frankly completely ridiculous. Most realize that owning firearms is a great responsibility and a privilege, and that some manner of legal controls are necessary in the interest of society. That’s why we have mandatory safety training, licensing systems, and we make certain types of firearms harder to own and use. Of course, some of those restrictions are rather silly (like the restriction on any AR15 derivative, while similar firearms that aren’t “black and scary” aren’t restricted), but in all, most are not unduly onerous.

What I’d like to see, now that it looks like the LGR is done, is some of those resources directed instead to things that might work – better education, diversion programs to keep kids away from things like gangs and crime, and hey, I’m cool with better licensing rules and more intensive application processes to screen out more problems. In the rare event that legal gun owners commit crimes with their firearms (like, for example, Dawson College shooter Kimveer Gill), I have to wonder if a more thorough investigation of applicants for firearms licenses would have kept them from buying the guns in the first place.

How To Fix The US Economy

All the kerfuffle about the American Jobs Act, Stimulus 2, etc, has me wondering why there’s no movement in the US to fix the economy, which I’m starting to think really isn’t that complicated when you really consider it.

Today, I read a Politifact piece on the “infrastructure deficit” in the United States, that is, the cost to do all of the infrastructure work currently needed to maintain current infrastructure. They put it around $2 trillion dollars. In a time when businesses are holding on to cash and not investing, there is no real danger of crowding them out if government starts spending on needed projects, such as rebuilding bridges that are currently condemned because of their condition.

Where to get the money? Jack up corporate taxes, perhaps? If corporations aren’t investing in expanding, then hit them for more taxes, and put that money into infrastructure projects. It’ll still grow the economy in the long run.

How, you ask?

Think back to Macroeconomics 101. Remember aggregate demand functions? Well, if you dump $2 trillion into the pockets of highway workers, concrete and asphalt producers, and so on, a curious thing happens. They spend that money. On all sorts of things. They create demand in the economy which then incents businesses to hire. That then puts money into more workers’ pockets who in turn increase aggregate demand. Remember this? The multiplier? It’s simple, and it’s brilliant.

These infrastructure projects have an advantage – they often require relatively low skilled labour, meaning that many unemployed people could transition into these jobs, and they could be made to pay decent wages. That will get many of the unemployed at least in an even keel, and as the economy comes back to life, those jobs will wind up and new ones will emerge.

It’s not that complicated. It really, really isn’t. But sadly, it seems there’s more political will to interfere with things like reproductive rights than there is to actually improve the lot of millions of Americans. It won’t get the GOP votes to let things get fixed on President Obama’s watch, after all.

That’s the problem. That’s what needs to happen. And waiting until next November to bounce the GOP out of Congress to do it won’t cut it.

So, where do we go from here, then?

On Occupying Things

I’m not going to be anywhere near as well spoken on this issue as the great @iboudreau on Twitter and his post, which in theory I’ll link here at some point, but I’ve been pondering this whole “Occupy [insert location]” protest concept. I tend to ponder these things at odd times, like in the shower, or during conference calls I’m not really interested in, but I’m trying to let this gel into something worth writing.

I see the same problem as the Tea Party had for them. Yes, them. Spare me the trip on the outrage bus, but there’s more similarities than differences. Of course, Occupy movements aren’t media darlings getting the push that Tea Partiers did, but to the observer who’s not made up their mind what to think of a movement, they’ve got a pretty clear problem. They have ideas, demands, etc – but their message isn’t clear, and the signal-to-noise ratio is unbearably low. It’s not enough to have a clear message, you have to also curb all the off-message messaging. There’s been a lot of that, and it’s no wonder that the media is able to lambaste them constantly. When you mix in a lot of pointless babble (or downright contemptible fringe opinion) with a big movement, then the whole thing is so muddied that you’re going to have a hard time winning anyone over.

Of course, I think that’s the curse of any big movement, particularly when you want it to appear as organic and formless as OWS type protests. And I don’t have any answers on how to fix that without undermining that apparently desirable characteristic.

What’s therefore more important is to channel the energy into something that’s meaningful and productive – which really means getting people interested in issues, educated enough to be able to make an informed decision, and most importantly, into voting booths. The reason that insidious agendas make progress is that people don’t pay enough attention, and frankly, as an outsider looking in on the US, it’s pretty terrifying the kind of ideas that get traction. It happens because of voter apathy, manipulation of messaging, and so on. That’s what these sorts of movements can do that is of value – put out a strong counter message that resonates.

So there’s room for the movement to get somewhere, but it means that everyone who wants to see things change needs to get involved in some form – even if it’s just helping get people informed and interested in the political process. That, and not drum circles, will actually effect change. But then the question becomes, how to really do that…?