Blogs & Comment

Free stuff for Father's Day (or moms) and why this dad is no auto bailout fan

Something must be wrong with me, which probably isnt news to everybody. Nevertheless, I am appalled by the $14-plus-billion (and counting) cost of the Canadian auto company bailouts. I don’t think it is worth spending this huge amount of public money to try to save maybe five thousand jobs, especially not at companies that failed to address many obvious issues because executives and union leaders alike knew they could squeeze taxpayers when the poop hit the fan.
When it comes to GM and Chrysler, I think the money being tossed around in Canada is nothing more than a cynical vote acquisition spree by a Conservative government running wild thanks to the Great Recession, which has freed the Harper administration from seriously pretending it prefers to govern with balanced books.
I am not proposing this, but if the bailouts are really about the big economic picture, or even saving the Canadian auto sector, I actually think it might be better to give the money to Honda and Toyota, so they could strengthen local operations. Or maybe even Toronto-based electric carmaker Zenn. Its ownership rights to potentially game-changing energy storage technology is still a long-shot (for more on this, see my new market column in the Tech 100 issue of Canadian Business magazine), but unlike GM or Chrysler, you can at least see the pin.
I am not supposed to think this way. Indeed, I have a young daughter, who, according to current academic thinking, is supposed to have me singing socialist ditties as I bake cupcakes for dollhouse tea parties or dance around the house in frilly princess outfits. I know this thanks to a recent Guardian article, which noted that having little girls makes even the most masculine man “learn to love pink, take part in endless games of dressing up, and even bake fairy cakes if that’s what his little princess desires.”
According to the British newspaper, the simple existence of my daughter is supposed to make me support increased public spending. The article in question was based on two studies that suggest the political views of parents are heavily influenced by the sex of their children. One examined voting records of U.S. congressmen before and after they had children. It reportedly found support for gender equity policies is greater among male politicians with daughters.
The second study claims British voting behavior provides “evidence that daughters make people more left wing, while having sons, by contrast, makes them more right wing.” After men father females, Brit academics claim, they “gradually shift their political stance” and become more sympathetic to raising taxes and the “female desire” for a larger amount of people employed to look after the “public good.” A mother with sons, on the other hand, becomes sympathetic to the “male case” for lower taxes and smaller government.
As a father, of course, I’d argue that these conclusions smell like the puffy clouds generated by Walter the Farting Dog after he eats a brick of very old cheese.
My political beliefs are not fixed. I used to call myself a Platonic Marxist. But that was back in my graduate school days. I never even thought about what the term was supposed to mean. I simply thought it would sound cool to the numerous females in my classes. Back then, I argued with people who misunderstood socialism. But I also took a lot of heat for a poster in my student office that pictured the back-end of expensive cars sticking out of a five-car garage. It had a caption that said: “Justification for higher education.”
Some folks thought that meant I was a member of the young PCs. I wasn’t. They were geeks. I bought the poster because I was a kid with crappy tastes, except in cars.
Over the years, I have learned a few things, and not just that male students should not use the word “platonic” in any self description, unless they actually want to study on study dates. But my political views are still a mess. I enjoy the company of labour leaders and billionaires alike. I believe in capitalism, but know it is far from fair. I support free trade, but don’t really think losing jobs to countries that oppress individuals is a good thing. And I don’t have a huge issue with Buy American spending in the States, at least not in the short term, since the U.S. economy is more important to a global recovery than our own (these ideas are my own, not the stand of the CB editorial board that I serve).
I understand how politics works. In fact, I often think about entering the game, which makes me try to imagine policies that could get a guy like me elected. My best is a real whopper from the left, which looks more and more plausible every day. Since governments are getting into business in a big way, and since banks are being blamed for the financial meltdown, I say why not steal some of their profits by offering a Bank of Canada credit card, which could use personal debt to help pay down national debt by allowing anyone with a private sector card to transfer outstanding balances and pay interest of just a few points above inflation.
When being serious, of course, I think Canada should hang tough and stop justifying more and more deficit spending by claiming it will help us fight a global downturn that we can’t really influence. In global monetary affairs, we are a spectator nation. So maybe we should try to keep our fiscal heads, which was our competitive advantage when the world economy was firing on all pistons.
For the record, however, I absolutely love Tea Virginia Reed Watson, my wonderful kid, who came into this world in my living room-where I catered to the needs of four midwives (one for my wife, one for my daughter and two students) before fighting them all for a ringside seat at the birthing tub. I took parental leave and was happy doing it. In fact, since helping deliver my child, I have shared the caregiver role equally with my equally loving wife. I have played My Little Pony for hours on end in the local public pool and I have watched The Little Mermaid at least once for every dollar being tossed at GM.
I get behind my daughter’s causes. Indeed, I am Twiller Baby aware, so I fully supported Thumbelina’s campaign against urban developers. I worry about my child’s interests. In fact, I could write a graduate thesis on the negative gender stereotypes projected by the Berenstain Bears. Simply put, I’ll do anything for my daughter, which is why I didn’t care about the shocked looks I got on Toronto Island two summers ago when doing what it takes to deal with a seriously bad case of childhood constipation.
But, hey, I still want lower taxes. Maybe it is because I also play dad to Oscar Snow Mittens Reed Watson, a semi-evil male cat, who would be a lot safer with fewer cars on the road. Whatever the reason, I think the market should have a lot more say in what automakers survive this downturn, not to mention how GM and Chrysler restructure. In my humble opinion, spending $2.5 million per job to save positions at companies losing money in an industry with overcapacity and demand issues is just nuts. It isn’t even fair to the real working class.
I try to imagine how liberal capitalism will shake out for my daughter. Free nations around the world are relying on Red Capitalism to bail them out of this crisis. And to buy time, the States is doing some pretty large-scale social planning that doesn’t seem to care much for creditor rights. Since nobody seems to want to allow failing companies to fail, I can’t imagine what will happen with inflation or during the next major downturn (or the one after that).
Any way you slice it, the future looks pretty depressing, especially for parents who don’t like taxes. And so, for Father’s Day, I hope to help someone, right or left, escape current events with a giveaway package of reading material worth about $200. To try to win, just post a comment on this blog, making an argument for or against the auto sector bailouts. I’ll pick the best of the bunch and send the poster a free subscription to Canadian Business magazine, along with the following package of books from Simon & Schuster Canada: Old City Hall , a Robert Rotenberg legal thriller set in Toronto; John Connollys The Reapers ;Bryan Gruleys Starvation Lake ; The Last Patriot by New York Times best-selling author Brad Thor; Roadside Crosses , the third in Jeffrey Deavers high-tech thriller trilogy; and Fools Gold , a market meltdown tale by award-winning Financial Timesjournalist Gillian Tett. ____________________________
DOUBLE TAKE: Aside from trying to promote myself while generating Web traffic that helps put bread and butter on my table, this blog aims to stir debate by taking a harder look at current news and events. I obviously enjoy voicing my own opinions, but I am a big boy and I welcome all comments that dont require R ratings. So let me have it via this blog or send me an email at I reserve the right to post email comments without disclosing the senders name. If you dont think I am a total twit, follow my DOUBLE TAKE posts via my NotSOCRATESTwitter site.
THOMAS WATSONis a senior writer, market columnist and editorial board member at Canadian Business magazine. Since winning a community journalism award as a cub reporter with the Hamilton Spectator in the early 90s, he has covered business, finance, politics and technology for various news outlets. Prior to joining CB in 2001, he reported on the steel and automotive sectors for the Financial Post. Watson received two National Magazine Award nominations for business feature writing in 2008, winning a silver award for his coverage of Canadas ABCP fiasco. He landed his first NatMag nomination for exposing a stock manipulation plot aimed at Waterloo, Ont.-based Open Text during the dot-com boom, when he headed investor relations for an international venture capital outfit in the City of London. Watson holds graduate degrees in journalism, international relations and public finance and undergraduate degrees in history and politics.