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The Harper Government and the Republican Tea Party: Partners in the Revolution of the Night Watchman

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There is an astonishingly silent connection between the debt ceiling crisis in the U.S. and the stealth agenda of the majority Harper government in Canada. In the U.S., the Tea Party wing of the Republican Party, the ideological twin of the Harper Conservatives, were determined to hold the full faith and credit and economy of the U.S. hostage if they did not get severe spending cuts and with no tax increases. The Democrats and President Obama have caved in to most of their demands in a last-minute deal to avoid a catastrophic impact on U.S. and international markets together with the permanent undermining of the dollar as a global reserve currency.

The connection between the Tea Party ideologues and the Harper government is their stealth agenda to starve governments of tax monies to spend on social programs and downsize to a minimal state the very organizations they were elected to lead. Proof of the Canadian version of the Tea Party comes from one of Harper's former main ideological mentors, Tom Flanagan. He was a former Conservative Party campaign chair and a former chief of staff to the present prime minister. He is reported as stating that tightening the screws on the federal government would leave more money in the taxpayer's pocket and make it harder for the federal government to spend on any new social programs. This silent or hidden agenda has been accomplished through successive Conservatives budgets. The goal is what I call the revolution of the night watchman.

Harper has imported this revolution from the United States and the hard right, Republican "destroy the enemy" politics. The night watchman part is a legacy of the 19th century -- what some term "minarchist libertarianism." Theorists include Herbert Spencer, Friedrick Hayek, Ayn Rand, Robert Nozick and Milton Friedman.

The night watchman promotes a minimal role for the state in a free society, which is protecting the liberty of citizens. This would include being seen to rigorously protect citizens from crime (even if the crime rate is falling -- in order to keep voters fearful of crime), and being seen to protect the citizens from foreign aggression (even if there are no real discernable threats). In this fashion, Harper's "tough on crime" legislation with its focus on mandatory minimum sentences may seem irrational in light of the falling crime rate and warehouse prisons may seem to hold the potential to become massive schools for crime, but the legislation is very rational in the context of creating the minimal state. Even moderate Republican leaders in the U.S. have learned the folly of such "tough on crime" agenda, but it has not penetrated the blind ideology of hard right ideologues in Canada.

In a similar fashion, spending on the F-35 fighter jets by both the Harper government and former George W. Bush Administration also seems irrational, but may be crucial to the stealth agenda to undermine spending on social programs. The unnecessary war in Iraq and the botched war in Afghanistan has contributed to the bankrupting of the U.S. Treasury.

The revolution in Canada may already have been substantially accomplished due to the following actions by the Harper night watchman:

1. Massive military spending -- including the possibly unnecessary fighter jets whose real costs could spiral to almost $30 billion and beyond according to the Parliamentary Budget Office. This is almost double the estimate provided by the Harper government.
2. Crime and justice initiatives that will result in major expenditures on prison expansions, new prisons, and the hiring of thousands of new personnel to staff these warehouses of prisoners. The Parliamentary Budget Officer estimated that the mega-prisons could cost between $10 billion to $13 billion over five years.
3. Wedge politics tax measures -- the fitness tax credit, for example -- designed to bring more of the electorate into the camp of the night watchman.
4. Perhaps the most devastating action to those who oppose the revolution of the night watchman was the reduction of GST, one of the most important sources of revenues for the federal spending power, to five per cent from seven per cent. The two per cent GST cuts will reduce the federal purse by more than $76 billion in lost revenues between 2008 and 2013.
5. In addition, the most recent cuts to the corporate tax rate, even though compared to the United States and Europe, Canada's corporate tax rates were one of the lowest. The rates are planned to be reduced to 15 per cent in 2011. This again would result in a loss of cumulative $60 billion in federal revenues.

The revolution of the U.S. and Canadian night watchman will lead to more inequality with the real losers the most vulnerable in both countries. Welcome to the "Darwinian society."

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