Explaining how the right wing echo chamber operates … operates … operates … The Strange Case of the Canada Pension Plan

Posted on June 21, 2016, 1:27 am
7 mins

PHOTOS: “Alright, everyone, here’s what we’re gonna say: ‘Expanding the CPP is a solution in search of a problem.’ Everybody got that? Fraser? Check! APEC? Check! CFIB? Check! Taxpayers? Check! … ” Actual right-wing echo chamber conference calls may not unfold exactly as described. Below: What you actually see behind the curtain.

Note: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Canada’s premiers reached a deal late yesterday to very modestly improve the Canada Pension Plan. Quebec continued with its own parallel plan and Manitoba did not sign on to the deal. The echo chamber immediately sprang into action with dire predictions of economic catastrophe as a result of the insignificant improvements, which remain far less generous than those of the U.S. social security system. Expect to hear much more of this nonsense in the next few days.

With Canada’s premiers talking pensions on the West Coast, the Canadian right wing echo chamber is in full cry trying to scare the beejeepers out of us ordinary folk about the hideous damage that will be wrought if anyone improves the Canada Pension Plan.

the-great-and-powerful-oz-revealed-4-pay-no-attention-to-that-man-behind-the-curtainIt’s all baloney, of course, designed to serve the interests of a very small group – probably amounting about 1 per cent of the population, you might say.

Still it’s interesting to observe how the often noted but seldom examined right wing echo chamber actually operates. To illustrate this process – with apologies to Frank Magazine’s “Cliché-o-matic” feature – I have assembled for the edification of the masses a short list of recent quotations from several of the Usual Suspects on the right on the topic of the CPP.

The real question of course, is this: Do the Fraser Institute, its many regional clones, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business and their journalistic auxiliaries actually get together to cook up this stuff, do they just organize a conference call? Does it all just somehow filter down from one central bureau, or is some other process at work?

There’s a PhD thesis in in political science in this for someone, I think, although not one that would likely be approved by the University of Calgary.

Anyway, consider these statements, if you will:

“In short, CPP expansion is a solution in search of a problem.”
– Aaron Wudrick, Canadian Taxpayers Federation federal director, June 8, 2015

“The proposed CPP hike is a solution looking for a problem.”
– Ted Mallett, Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses chief economist, Dec. 17, 2015

“An expansion of the CPP is a solution looking for a problem.”
– Niels Veldhuis, Fraser Institute president, Feb. 20, 2016

“An expanded CPP seems a little like the ORPP – a solution in search of a problem.”
– Finn Poschmann, Atlantic Provinces Economic Council, March 16, 2016

“Given that most Ontarians are preparing sensibly for retirement, the ORPP is a solution looking for a problem.”
– Ben Eisen, Fraser Institute associate director, May 10, 2016

“Is CPP reform a solution in search of a problem?”
– Tasha Kheiriddin, former Fraser Institute director, June 16, 2016

“It becomes abundantly clear that expanding the CPP is a solution in search of a problem.”
– Charles Lammam, Fraser Institute director, June 16, 2016

“Raitt called it a solution looking for a problem.”
– CBC, in an interview with Conservative Finance Critic Lisa Raitt on CPP reform, June 18, 2016

“Expanding the CPP is a solution in search of a problem.”
– Ben Eisen again, June 19, 2016

Got all that?

So, whaddya think? Is fixing the CPP a solution in search of a problem? Maybe not?

This list barely scratches the surface, of course, because each example is picked up and repeated ad nauseum as supporting quotes in mainstream media articles and, even once, I confess, in one of my blog posts. Before I noticed.

It is very difficult to estimate with precision how many times this point has been repeated, because there are so many repetitions. The Fraser Institute press release featuring Mr. Lammam above appears likely to have been quoted directly more than 100 times, rarely with a balancing or critical comment, by lazy journalists for a variety of publications.

What is very clear is that the people who represent the interests of Big Business and Big Banking would very much like us to believe that improving the CPP is “a solution in search of a problem.” That is to say, they desperately hope we will agree it is not needed at all because there’s no problem at all, that it will cost too much money, that it may somehow deprive us of something, yadda-yadda.

The bottom line? Improvement of the CPP is not “a solution in search of a problem.” It’s a solution to a very real, very urgent problem affecting very large numbers of Canadians, many of whom will end their lives in poverty if the Fraser Institute and its clones, the Conservative Party, and the mainstream media get their way. Some very powerful people want us to forget all about this.

The only way to counter their influence is to let our elected representatives know how we feel – and it’s important that this particular message about the need to fix the CPP goes to politicians at both the federal and provincial levels of government.

We know what the problem is. We know what the solution is. For the good of Canada and Canadians, let’s fix the CPP!

This post also appears on Rabble.ca.

41 Comments to: Explaining how the right wing echo chamber operates … operates … operates … The Strange Case of the Canada Pension Plan

  1. Louis

    June 21st, 2016

    Look carefully who has come out against an enhanced CPP :
    1 – Fraser Institute : an group financed in part by the US-based Koch Brothers. If the Fraser gang had its way, it would get rid of many things, most of which are public services. Privatize everything. It’s ALWAYS better that way. Let the poor fend for themselves. Who needs public health care (too expensive), private schools are ALWAYS better. The smaller the government, the better. No exceptions.
    2 – Conservative MPs enjoying a very, very generous pension (Hello Lisa Raitt and company). Hey, never mind if taxpayers pay for my generous pension, the rest of Canadians only have to fend for themselves and organize their retirement. Who needs help from the public purse (except MPs, of course !).

    So, if you look at those two examples, it’s a good enough reason to see that a better CPC is good for most of us. In fact, surveys generally show that Canadians are in favour of it!
    The rest, is just right-wing noise.

    Reply
    • Maureen Lussier

      June 21st, 2016

      You might also have mentioned that the Fraser Institute enjoys a tax-free status as it claims to be a non-profit organization. I wonder if all those who enjoy their full time well paid positions at the Fraser Institute also enjoy a lucrative pension plan, similiar to those they continue to fawn over: those well paid reformacon politicians?

      Reply
  2. June 21st, 2016

    Donald Guttstein has expended oceans of ink real and virtual following the money and the careers of the people and ideas promoted by the Fraser Instituteand the whole vast network of right wing think tanks, business groups and taxpayers federations.

    As much as any outsider could he has mapped their money, ideas and pod people.

    Reply
    • Dave

      June 21st, 2016

      Thanks for the reference. Some very cool stuff at Guttstein’s blog.

      Reply
  3. Athabascan

    June 21st, 2016

    Same message created with the same faulty logic to a appeal to the uninformed or uneducated in order to advance a particular agenda.

    Isn’t that basically the test for differentiating between propaganda and intelligent debate?

    I wonder at this point, after so much brainwashing, if the Cons are even capable of discussing anything without reverting back to old tired talking points that essentially boil down to propaganda?

    I guess a rotten party that did a dismal job when they were in power, probably does an equally horrendous job at being the official opposition as well. They really are a party of trained seals who have lost their master. Now they can’t even formulate an original thought or lucid argument to make a point.

    Reply
  4. Sam Gunsch

    June 21st, 2016

    re: ‘…Fraser Institute press release…appears likely to have been quoted directly more than 100 times, rarely with a balancing or critical comment, by lazy journalists for a variety of publications.’

    So here’s another useful Ph. D thesis: RW MSM’s role in marginalizing democracy in Canada?

    ===========

    FWIW… Donald Gutstein’s done some useful work on it in his examination of the primary sources of Harper’s success.

    Harperism – Donald Gutstein

    donaldgutstein.com/harperism/

    Oct 7, 2014 – The success of Harperism is no accident. Donald Gutstein documents the links between the politicians, think tanks, journalists, academics, and

    Reply
    • Alsadius

      June 21st, 2016

      Are connections between think tanks and political parties really a surprise? They’re people who believe the same things and just use different tactics for trying to make their beliefs a reality. It’s exactly the same revolving door on the left as the right – I mean seriously, the Broadbent Institute is a thing. There’s nothing wrong with it.

      Reply
  5. Martin D'Entremont

    June 21st, 2016

    Geez, who will save the right wing from itself?

    Reply
  6. Bob Raynard

    June 21st, 2016

    Good heavens, David, you have only scratched the surface with the one comment. Here are a couple of others, and I bet the smart people who post comments will have even more:

    “We have a spending problem, not a revenue problem”

    “Canadians are taxed to death”

    Bob

    Reply
    • Expat Albertan

      June 21st, 2016

      Cliche’s are powerful, but our side has created a pretty good one a few years ago that’s got legs: the 1% vs. the 99%. I think it’s awaken people from the neo-liberal slumber of the past 35 years and reminded people that class struggle is real. Heck, even the right wing is using the meme.

      Reply
  7. PJP

    June 21st, 2016

    Hey Ben. Hey Lisa. Hey Finn. Hey Niels. Hey Tasha…

    What’s your solution to 1000’s of seniors living in poverty?

    ….

    Crickets.

    Reply
    • Expat Albertan

      June 21st, 2016

      Lower taxes, of course (particularly for the wealthy).

      Reply
    • Alsadius

      June 22nd, 2016

      Perhaps it shouldn’t start with taxing the 10,000,000s of working Canadians, many of whom are also in poverty?

      Reply
  8. Alsadius

    June 21st, 2016

    It seems a really natural attack to me. Not quite as natural as “the government thinks we’re all a bunch of stupid children”, but natural enough.

    I mean, really – the argument is basically “People can’t save enough, so let’s tax them more!”. All in order to give a bit more money to the richest group of people in our society. How is this a thing?

    Reply
    • Athabascan

      June 21st, 2016

      Oh, man. Alsadius, your post is the most incoherent thing I have every read.

      Enhanced CPP benefits give more money to the richest group?

      Also, CPP contributions are NOT a tax. It is a socialized pension plan (as in savings plan).

      Lastly, the argument that you concocted is nowhere near what you describe.

      Reply
      • Alsadius

        June 22nd, 2016

        My original message seems to have gotten eaten, so let’s try again. Yes, old people are the richest group of Canadians – this isn’t controversial, it’s easily available statistics. The median senior family has over twice the wealth of the median working-age family, and the median single senior has over ten times the wealth of the median single working-age person. (These are 2012 stats, but I doubt they’ve changed much). Subsidizing a richer group on the back of a poorer group is kind of mad.

        And I don’t know about you, but when the government tells me I have to pay them, I call it a tax. It goes to paying for government services, of course. It’s not just thrown in a hole, but it’s still a tax.

        Reply
        • Northern Loon

          June 23rd, 2016

          Your lack of knowledge about how pension plans like the CPP work and the reality faced by individuals is what is causing your posts to read like garbage. A pension is not a tax, it is (in the case of the CPP) more like a forced savings plan where each individual gets a monthly income commensurate to what they have paid into the fund. So todays retirees have paid their own fund which they now are getting the money out of. Many, many baby boomers do not have any wealth being transferred to them from their parents, and even if they are receiving money from inheritance, they have also paid into the CPP for their entire working life.

          Reply
          • Alsadius

            June 24th, 2016

            Yes, it’s forced savings. When the government forces me to give them money, for any purpose, it’s a tax. When the government gives me money, it’s a government spending program. Linking the two helps keep things more fair in the long run, which is nice, but it’s still a fair program comprised of taxes and government spending. To be clear, I’m not saying we should get rid of the CPP – lots of people have built their retirement plans around it – but the status quo is a perfectly plausible alternative to a big expansion.

            Also, remember that half the money for CPP comes from employers, who get nothing for it. Even if you say it’s not a tax on employees, it’s still a tax on employers.

  9. Jim

    June 21st, 2016

    You have to say though the messaging has improved from the original working title “let them die in the streets”

    Reply
    • Alsadius

      June 21st, 2016

      A post-65 couple who is getting the average CPP and zero other income(aside from OAS/GIS) will make almost $40,000 per year net of taxes. This is before the new enhancement, and assuming they were fools and spent every dollar they made in their working lives without saving a penny. If you’re dying in the streets on that income, you’re doing it wrong, because that’s not far off the median household income in Canada. If there’s a problem with retirement income in this country, it only exists at the low end of the lifetime income spectrum(where they’re not collecting much CPP), and those are exactly the people a CPP increase won’t help.

      (Each person gets $570.52 OAS, $664.57 CPP, and $773.60-($664.57/2) = $441.32 of non-taxable GIS per month, for a combined household income of $3352.81. Taxes on this amount are trivial, less than $60 per month combined)

      Reply
      • Pogo

        June 22nd, 2016

        A post 65 couple getting less than the average will get what then? Oh I see, you don’t care. The tens of thousands of schmucks who don’t fit your narrative can just disappear. Tom, Preston, and the rest of the Harper Hayek hacks must be so proud. Oh, I have you all wrong? You intend to let all us morally inferior people lick the grease from Jason Kenney’s cocktail weiner fingers? Sorry mate. I thought you were a real piece. You’re but a stain in training.

        Reply
        • Alsadius

          June 22nd, 2016

          A post-65 couple getting literally zero CPP and with literally zero savings will get $32,259 of income per year, tax-free. That’s still livable, and about 50% above the poverty line. More to the point, a couple getting literally zero CPP will not be helped by a CPP enhancement, so I’m not sure why you get to claim that you care about them more than I do.

          I know you won’t believe this, but I do actually care about poor people, and I do actually want to help them. I just think your solutions mostly range from bad to awful. I’m sure that you care and you mean well, but your goals are not achieved by the programs you advocate. I was talking to a buddy in Rona Ambrose’s office the other day about ways that we could improve retirement. Mostly it boiled down to a) finding ways to the sort of upper-middle-class folks who’d actually benefit from a CPP hike get some of the benefit of it without needing to hike payroll taxes and put people out of work, and b) seeing if we can afford to raise GIS and/or lower the clawback rate for the lower-income folks who actually need help. In other words, I want to run a program designed to spend money on poor people, not to spend money on rich people. But I guess that just makes me a heartless grease-licker.

          Reply
          • Northern Loon

            June 23rd, 2016

            No, your assumptions are wrong. CPP enhancements will not help anyone retiring in the next few years as all CPP enhancements have to be paid for by the generation getting the enhancement.

            Pension income is taxable, except for a small portion of about $2,000.00 per year.

            GIS is only paid for people who’s income consists of lower level CPP and OAS payments with no other taxable income. This works out to a maximum payment of about $1,700.00 per month. No where near $32K per year and not $32K tax free.

          • Alsadius

            June 24th, 2016

            I’m talking about combined income for a couple, not for a single person. $1700 per month*2*12 months = $40,800 per year. And yes, pension income is taxable, but the basic personal deduction still applies, and GIS is tax-free. Between those two, actual taxes paid are minimal unless you have income above OAS and an average CPP.

  10. tom in Ontario

    June 21st, 2016

    Former Tory Finance Minister jim Flaherty was a proponent of updating and improving the CPP. He died too soon, however, and his progressive ideas died with him. Harper made it plain from day one that his Fraser Institute buddies would have no quarrel with his lack of action. Sadly for Steve, he won’t be around to vote against whatever improvements parliament and the provinces come up with.

    Reply
  11. David

    June 21st, 2016

    I suppose if you are a millionaire or a billionaire, increasing CPP for middle class people might seem like a “solution looking for a problem”. I suppose those people don’t worry about having to eat cat food in their retirement. That quote sort of shows how detached from reality and the rest of the world the 1% has become.

    While I don’t expect them to be clamoring for better pensions for working people, it would be nice if they didn’t reflexively oppose anything progressive due to fears that it may slightly reduce their corporate profits or dividends.

    Reply
  12. Ron

    June 21st, 2016

    The cliche is regularly repeated in comment boards. It’s almost like a group of them get briefing notes every morning telling them what to harp on.

    Reply
    • Alsadius

      June 22nd, 2016

      Or it’s like we can read, and decide that a particular statement is kind of clever. Because trust me, there’s no conservative group in the country organized enough to give us all briefing notes.

      Reply
    • political ranger

      June 22nd, 2016

      Oh they do. There are news aggregators that these people subscribe to. Gives them all the same news bits and just the kind, flavor, type, spin that they want.

      Reply
      • Alsadius

        June 22nd, 2016

        Well yeah, the Facebook feed algorithm feeds you stories you want to hear, because happy Facebook readers make them more money than angry Facebook readers(unless it’s righteous anger expressed with the Like button, of course). Some of the nerdier ones will read Bourque or National Newswatch or something, but most it’s just the usual mechanisms of social media.

        I’m not saying this theoretically – I have personal friends who work at Fraser, CTF, Frontier, the OLO, various right-wing provincial parties, and so on. I know right wing activists in Canada pretty well, because they’re my personal friends and I’m one myself. We actually believe in what we say, and we actually believe that our policies will make the country a better place overall. There’s no marching orders from on high, no grand conspiracy, no shadowy figure who we take bribes from. We just disagree with you. Sorry.

        Reply
        • Val Jobson

          June 22nd, 2016

          You’re not as smart as you think you are.

          Reply
          • Alsadius

            June 22nd, 2016

            Probably not. Is anyone?

        • Pogo

          June 22nd, 2016

          And here we have Ezra Levant’s one true pal. This Alcibiades for Alberta has friends who corral flat earth end timers and knuckle dragging whack jobs to form a constituency that is used to oppose us. He thinks Hayek is the way and collateral damage just might have to be one or a couple of million of you/us. Obfuscation is his/her tool of choice and Jason “dough boy” Kenney is the new coming of the “Green Knight”. Wow. These people. Do they not possess mirrors?
          https://youtu.be/rM-sgKL_hhM

          Reply
          • Alsadius

            June 22nd, 2016

            I met Ezra once about ten years ago. He was funny in his own way, but kind of a dick. Not my favourite guy, and his Sun News bits were unwatchably painful(but then, so was 90% of what Sun News ever did, I’m glad they put that network out of its misery).

            Never met a flat earther or an end-timer. I know several folks you’d consider knuckle-dragging whack jobs(heck, I might be one myself in your estimation), but that’s mostly because they disagree with you, not because they actually lack thoughtfulness or insight. I’ve been in enough hours-long conversations about obscure points of history, economics, philosophy, governance, and geopolitics to know that they’re mostly not dummies. It’s a mixed bag, of course – I certainly won’t claim that every conservative is Einstein reborn – but you don’t go seriously into political activism unless you care quite a bit about it, and the sort of people who care quite a bit about something tend to look into it once or twice.

            Hayek isn’t “the way”, but he was a fellow with a few very important insights, and his discussion of how prices embed information should be mandatory reading in every Econ 101 class. He was rather overwrought when he talked about “The Road To Serfdom”, but he mellowed out a lot in his later life – did you know he actually came up with Rawls’ “veil of ignorance” argument many years before Rawls did?

            Every policy has collateral damage. Literally, every one. The mechanisms of modern government are simply too large for any policy to not hurt somebody somewhere along the line, no matter how well designed. That doesn’t make me happy about it, of course, but it’s important to understand, because it means the question isn’t “Do you favour policies with collateral damage? If so, you’re a heartless monster!”, the question is “How can we minimize collateral damage?”. I think that a basic social safety net which guarantees that nobody ever needs to starve on the streets helps reduce collateral damage on net. I think that modern left-wingers have pushed far beyond that point, though, and that they’re causing immense pain that they simply don’t see in order to deal with much smaller amounts of pain that they do. It’s well-intentioned, but that doesn’t make it right.

            Also, Jason Kenney is kind of a non-entity in most ways. He’d be competent, I guess, and I’m all for ethnic outreach, but he has the charisma of a wet bulldog.

            If you want to convince me that I’m a baddie, perhaps you could try actually making an argument to that effect instead of merely asserting it. I mean, as assertions go, Mitchell and Webb is easily the best one anyone’s thrown at me in ages, but it’d be nice if someone ever backed that up with something more well-considered than a semi-random bag of insults. Seriously, every response to me in this thread has been either a rant about how I don’t care about poor people, calling me stupid, or saying that I want to do something weird involving Jason Kenney’s greased fingers. None of those are true. If you said “I know you mean well, but your policies don’t work, just look at (insert country here)”, that’d be one thing. But you seem to have a burning need to believe that I’m evil. I’m really not evil, I promise. I work hard, I have a lovely fiancee, I like cooking, board games, and terrible puns, and I happen to spend a bit too much time on political debate. I’m a normal person who wants this country to be the best place it can be. I disagree with you on how to do that, at least on some issues(I suspect our social policies will be quite similar), but the correct response to that is to try to show me I’m wrong somehow, not to call me the Antichrist. Well-intentioned people can disagree, and frequently do. If you can’t wrap your head around that, I suggest you go study the concept of “theory of mind”. It’s really useful.

        • political ranger

          June 22nd, 2016

          bullshit buddy!
          You know and I know and most of the readers know, as does our host know, that you and all your ‘personal’ friends are very carefully, if not so skillfully, and constantly whispered too, preached too, cajoled, shamed and manipulated into speaking the One True Way.
          The MSM, owned and operated by your leadership, only and always provide the accepted script for the nutjobs and whackoroos.

          Reply
          • Alsadius

            June 24th, 2016

            If you mean that there’s events where like-minded people gather and talk about stuff then yes, guilty as charged. Speakers come in and talk about things, the audience ignores them and asks 10-minute “questions”(i.e., thinly veiled speeches), and then everyone goes off to have a few beers and debate random issues with their friends.

            I just got together with a dozen friends at a buddy’s place to watch the Brexit referendum results – we had Conservative candidates and staffers, think-tank directors, leadership campaign senior volunteers, and snarky keyboard warriors in attendance. The think-tank director is a groomsman of mine, and an ex-staffer is my best man. These aren’t random people I met once. We argued over whether revitalizing democracy is worth jeopardizing free trade and open borders, we talked about which federal leadership candidates were the least impressive, and a few of them decided to start singing Rule Britannia when the result became clear. This is how the movement works – put a bunch of political geeks in a room, and we debate stuff, because we’re the sort of weirdoes who enjoy it. We think we have good ideas for how to run the country, and we try to make them happen. If someone comes up with a cool project, like-minded folks chip in some money to make it happen. The movement is really quite open to anyone who wants to put in the work – I know some folks who just kept plugging away for the last decade and are now in extremely senior positions on federal leadership campaigns, simply because they put in the work in the trenches. These are the sort of people running stuff, and they’re still in their 20s and have never even once worked for a big company. Most of them are dead broke too – it’s not a profitable gig.

            I know it’s a fondly held belief on the left that we’re all just corporate lackeys, but frankly that’s kind of a silly thing to believe. It’s fun to think of all your opponents as grasping sycophants or corrupt sleaze merchants, but the real world is not nearly so benevolent to your visions of moral superiority. Every political movement is staffed mostly with people who honestly believe in it. There’s a few who are in it to rule the world with an iron fist, or to make money through graft, or whatever, but you can’t build a major political party on that.

  13. Pogo

    June 21st, 2016

    It’s only fair to show an example of the unwashed hippy hordes fighting back.
    Behold! Government regulation! Aiyeeee!11!! We can’t offload our toxic non-performing assets onto unsuspecting tax-payers! The socialism of losses is losing! Man the golf courses! Erect signs and targets! Marshall our farces! “The Alberta Energy Regulator is making it tougher to transfer oil and gas well licences in view of a recent court ruling that allowed the buyer of a bankrupt company’s assets to avoid acquiring wells with high environmental liabilities.”
    When asked, the mayor of Lilliput, Brad Wall opined, this is an astounding opportunity for federal shovel ready make work projects to keep Saskatchewanians (fuck, I broke my keyboard typing that) working cleaning up after the oil and gas “Big Country” boys cleaned up drilling their holes in farms from here to Biggar!

    The common ground between Lenny Bruce and robber drillers in the oil patch.
    https://youtu.be/pcTUux-3dew

    Reply
  14. Val Jobson

    June 22nd, 2016

    Ha, I just glanced at this new article on a different topic and saw

    “Ed Fast, the Conservative critic on environment and climate change, said the review is a “solution in search of a problem” and that Canada already had “among the strongest regulatory systems in the world.””

    http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/environment-resources-assessment-review-1.3643992

    I think rightwingers don’t like to see other governments actually solving problems.

    Reply
    • Val Jobson

      June 22nd, 2016

      I guess it’s not that new, being from June 20. It will be interesting to see where else the phrase pops up.

      Reply

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