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Don't forget what your mama used to say.

It has to be noted, although it will soon be forgotten, that the business class in the United States in particular has squandered its reputation to be trusted and influential.

Yes, the crooks and the scoundrels are in the minority, but the obsessive belief in a market economy unfettered by regulation dies hard.

Scratch one of the ex-chairmen of car companies, or mutual fund companies, or banks, or currency traders, or mining companies, or steel companies, or construction outfits, or forestry companies, or fish merchants, or technology czars, or insurance conglomerates and you will find ideologues whose favourite phrase is "The government shouldn't be picking winners and losers."

This chorus is somewhat muted during recessions when the phrase turns to "Pick me pick me!"

It never ceases to amaze me how business people can hold to their views regardless of the facts in front of them. The disaster that is in front of us is man-made. It is made by people and institutions that have been reckless and irresponsible. It is made by banks who became willing players in picking winners and losers (say 50 billion dollar swindler Bernard Madoff) and leveraging the economy beyond all reason. True, Canadians and Canadian banks have been more prudent in this regard, but not so prudent as to save us from the coming pain.

Last week the Canadian Bankers Association was calling for tax cuts in Ontario. Yes, as the government lowered interest rates to unheard of levels, and as the banks declined to pass the full benefit of that reduction along to the people who need money to finance inventories, they were calling for tax cuts in a province that cannot afford to fund its health care system, its education system, or its municipalities. This is before they start borrowing to put people back to work building roads and bridges or addressing the essential bankruptcy of most everyone's pension fund.

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Even if you believe this tax cut nonsense, like say the Federal Finance Minister who has been vocal on these matters before, you would think the PR flack on the 12th floor of one of those towers might say to someone that maybe we should hold off on the press release a bit until the dust settles.

There used to be competing ideologies to free enterprise.

There were serious socialist parties and communist parties and all sorts of left-wing offshoots (Marxists, Leninists, Maoists and God knows what).

They had currency and for good reason. The reason is that more people were poor than well off. More people had no hope than had hope. Additionally, the excesses of the rich were obscene in contrast.

The people who pay the real price for economic mismanagement and greed are always the little people.

As mommies and daddies used to say, although I'm not sure it is still in vogue, "It's not the mistake you make but what you do about the mistake that matters."

The first thing you do is take responsibility. The second thing you do is fix it.

If the business class in this country and others does not take responsibility for the shortcomings of the market system and set about fixing it and fixing it fast, there will be competing ideologies that will set to work on the problem.

Google "Winnipeg strike" if you need a little refresher course on what happens when people get fed up with being pushed around.

Frankly, the bankers association and other business associations should be saying "We don't mind paying a little extra tax for the next three years to help us dig out of this mess and while you are doing it bring back the GST to where it was to help limit the deficit."

I know, you are choking on your toast.

Think about it. If you are paying a tax on profits in this economy you are privileged. Be happy. Share some profit to help put people back to work. If you don't do it now, rest assured you will do it later.

Remember, if regular people have no money, you have no business and no one knows this more than a business person in Northern Ontario.

Michael Atkins

President

Laurentian Media Group

matkins@laurentianmedia.com
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Title Annotation:PRESIDENT'S NOTE
Author:Atkins, Michael
Publication:Northern Ontario Business
Date:Jan 1, 2009
Words:705
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