The Cancer of Growth

There is a cancer referred to as The Economy which is growing world-wide – in Canada, the USA, Brazil, Indonesia, Nigeria, Turkey, Mexico. It accompanies a notion – nay, ideological fantasy – that growth is a universal remedy for an ailing – or failing – economy. This is profoundly odd since the primary characteristic of cancer is that it endeavours to consume its host.

Only one item is apparently on Harper’s capitalist agenda these days: set the economy to growing again, that is, reinvigorate the cancer. It is almost as if the economy were some giant field of corn and beans, a giant rice paddy, or the cod-fishery of old, able to provide for all if only we can get it growing again.

Never mind what was on our mind yesterday – climate chaos, peak oil, massive malnutrition and starvation, genetic engineering, growing inequity, loss of biodiversity, patenting life. Today there is only one priority, even though it is our mindless drive for economic growth that has caused and will continue to cause all these important moral and physical problems.

how growth kills usWe’ve got to bail out the auto industry, even though it is at least half a century out of date, an infinitely destructive force in the world and a cause of climate change, energy depletion, and environmental destruction.

We’ve got to keep the food industry growing, even though it is its centralization, global sourcing and corporate concentration that is wiping out the peoples that feed themselves rather than us.

We’ve got to keep the tar sands expanding to fuel our economic growth, regardless of the environmental costs to the entire world.

Yes, by hook or crook, we have no choice. We have to get the economy growing again, even if it kills us.

If we cut back our energy consumption, our GNP will falter and the economy won’t grow.

If we insist on eating locally and ecologically, the agrotoxin, fertilizer and transport industries, not to mention the food manufacturing and pharmaceutical industries, will no longer grow and our economy will stumble and fall.

If we stop producing weapons, our exports will fall and our economy shrink.

No, we have to get the economy growing again! Only then will we be able to address the problems we know about, and even some of those we do not yet know, that are caused by our growing economy.
    What is the point of ‘growing the economy’?  In the business press we read that the point is generally to assure and increase corporate profits. No mention is made of what else could be done with or in The Economy, such as more inclusive health care, public transport, more communal facilities and long-term residential care for ‘seniors’, and good-food-for-all programs.

Instead, “to improve profitability” for the insurance ‘industry’ insurance premiums are to rise by 15–20%. “While rate hikes will be a burden on consumers, they will help improve the profitability of a sector [of the economy] that has been hurt by a string of climatic events.” Being “hurt” is not the same as losing money, it just means reduced profits. So the insurance ‘industry’ is also reducing coverage for “extreme weather” damages, thus increasing corporate profits while doing nothing to address climate change, or “exposure to unusual weather” such as recent ice storms in Eastern Canada. Odd, that’s what we thought was the whole point of buying insurance.                       – source: GM, 8/1/14
“Growing the Economy” does not apply just to countries. Corporate executives, such as Canadian Pacific Railway CEO Hunter Harrison, are major beneficiaries ($49.15 million in 2012). We find it disgusting to say, as the press does, that Harrison “earned” that much. Neither he nor any other human being can “earn” $49.15 million in one year. However, that much can be stolen, appropriated or otherwise seized out of the national economy. In 2012 Canada’s top CEOs were paid 171 times more (an average of $7.96 million) than the average national income.

Prairie grain farmers who rely on the railroads to get their grain to terminal for export may not be happy with CP’s service, but shareholders of CPR do not need to be so jealous of Mr Harrison: CP profit rose to $875 million for 2013, or $4.96 a share from $2.79 a year earlier. Those who really got the short end of the stick from Mr Harrison are the 4,500 workers who lost their jobs as their contribution to Mr. Harrison’s $49.15 million income.

While the newspapers are firing staff and cutting their news as they become uglier and uglier vehicles for consumer advertising, the CEO of Thomson Reuters Corp took home $18.81 million – enough to cover the salaries of quite a few unemployed reporters.