Building U.S.-Canada relations is more urgent than ever, both economically and in foreign affairs. If America intends to keep its advantage as a superpower, it will greatly help to ally with its neighbor, Canada. While Canada has depended upon the U.S. historically as the stronger military might, it has, under a Conservative Government, demonstrated global leadership in economic policy and foreign affairs. Given the rise of economic superpowers such as China and India, and the challenges from our enemies, such as Islamists, a strong foreign policy and a functional economy are key. Under its current policies, the U.S. faces the threat of becoming a lesser nation, starving its golden goose, pro-growth investment policies; governed by unsustainable socialist domestic ideologies like Europe (and California domestically); inviting aggression by hollowing out its defense with often irreversible deep cuts to military spending. In the meantime, China, a potential adversary, surges ahead with its plans to control space, the presumed next theater of war; while the U.S. radiates a shaky, undefined foreign affairs mandate which sends the message to global adversaries that America is without a captain; and to Israel, not to count on America's tradition of support.
Canada, by contrast, has demonstrated economic leadership and an unwavering support for Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East, which several countries in the Middle East outspokenly seek to destroy -- as specified under the Charters of both the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, and as the Palestinian government-controlled media continues daily calls for its obliteration.
For most Americans, the economy takes precedence in the upcoming elections. Romney came out swinging in the first of three debates for the Presidency, which Gallup polls called the biggest debate victory in recorded history. According to Romney, America is faced with tax hikes -- for both modest businesses as well as the wealthy -- that would not only slow job creation, but cause partial lay-offs as employers cut back working hours to sidestep new tax requirements.
Then, however, came the realities of what Romney pointed out: that over the last four years, gas prices have doubled, food prices and health insurance costs have increased while median family income has continued to decline. Even though Obama continuously repeated that the economy he inherited was one of the worst since the Great Depression, Obama's "recovery" according to Forbes, has ended up worse than the Bush recession that Obama's election was supposed to reverse. It would have been hard to imagine the economy worsening even further, but in the face of the failed promises of "hope and change," it did.
Americans, especially youth, cannot afford to gamble on the current brand of fiscal policy seen in the States: nearly 50% of college graduates over the last five years are either unemployed or underemployed, according to a study by Rutgers University.
As if to make a bad situation worse, President Obama then said of the "Occupy Movement," "we are on their side". Foremost among this disparate movement was early advocate David Graeber, an anarchist, anthropologist and proponent of communism. Occupy Wall Street spilled over into Canada, lugging along with it the same lack of order with no central message, except calls to nationalize the banks, "Free Palestine," and hate the rich while wanting their money, an economic plan referred to in television clips by the U.S. President as a desirable "transfer of wealth." Souvenirs of "Occupy" stopovers consisted of waste and filth in respectable communities and in their camps, and even physical attacks. New York police alone had to spend over $5 million in overtime for work related to the "Occupy" protestors. That was the movement whose side the President of the United States had declared he was on.
In looking at the contrast between the US and Canada during the economic downturn, the conservative fiscal leadership of Canada, reflected on how it had fared. Canada had experienced an expanding economy and when the G20 gathered in Toronto, the nation excelled on the world stage. The Huffington Post advised Americans : "Need A Job? Try Canada, Where Hiring Is Booming And Home Prices Are Rising". Forbes also put Canada at the top of its list of places to do business, while another report highlighted that even Moody's believes in Canada's housing market and economy.
America now faces too much government spending, a huge deficit, an exorbitant national debt, a suffering economy and unacceptable rates of unemployment. While some reports indicate decreases in unemployment, a substantial group of discouraged workers , those who have given up their search altogether, as well as part-time workers who would rather be full-time, are not even included in those tallies -- thereby misleading Americans with an artificial impression of job growth.
The Wall Street Journal described how a more conservative brand of economics saved Canada during a debilitating fiscal and economic breakdown in the early 90s, when Jean Chretien became Prime Minister. Chretien then decided to implement conservative fiscal policies which, by the late 1990s, saw the economy rebound.
What is needed for the economy to revive, as many have prescribed, is a conservative plan of less spending and lower taxes. Prime Minister Stephen Harper recently said it was imperative that the next U.S. President improves the U.S. federal government's fiscal health. Harper was asked what he sees as the biggest threats to the Canadian and global economies. His reply was the ongoing fiscal crisis in Europe, followed by the U.S., saying: "The United States fiscal situation is very bad. The trajectory is very bad." He concluded that he and his government are ready to work with whoever prevails in November.
Given the arguments in favor of the need for real "hope and change" in America, the question of economic growth for the largest demographic—the "Baby Boomers," born just after World War II -- is essential: it not only answers questions of future economic sustainability but represents a huge voting bloc.
The ability of small businesses to grow, and the need to lock up the Boomer and Senior votes, which combined count for 60% of the vote, represent an ironic new reality: that a huge number of Boomers (and even Seniors) are not retiring "on schedule," and that the labor force participation rate for the oldest workers has been climbing steadily, while that of the youngest has been dropping ---in a contrast that is dramatic. Almost a quarter of the people who were supposed to have retired automatically at age 65 will still be in the labor force.
Many are still working as their retirement packages (most notably, the value of their homes) have been seriously eroded, if not wiped out – yet one more proof of the disastrous past four years. They simply cannot afford to retire. They are healthier than their historical counterparts and enjoying longer lives.
Both Boomers and Seniors are buying franchises and creating small businesses, even home-based ones, in record numbers. They have become the new generation of entrepreneurs. According to a 2009 report,"The Coming Entrepreneurship Boom," by the Ewing and Marion Kauffman Foundation, "Contrary to popularly held assumptions, it turns out that over the past decade or so, the highest rate of entrepreneurial activity belongs to the 55-64 age group. The 20-34 age bracket, meanwhile, which we usually identify with swashbuckling and risk-taking youth, has the lowest rate." The report also suggests that those entrepreneurial 60-year-olds could be the 2020s' entrepreneurial 70-year-olds." This trend also opens up an even stronger, more innovative, future-oriented case for the growth of small businesses as presented by Romney recommended, even as, in the debate, he vowed to preserve Social Security.
The Conservative government of Canada has already shown foresight and recognition of these trends by raising the age of eligibility for Old Age Security from 65 to 67, to begin in 2023. Although not without criticism, the decision was about the sustainability of resources in anticipation of this "Boomer Bulge" moving up in age -- as well as small business growth according to the Conservative mandate.
To return to the need for tighter U.S.-Canada relations, it was recently further underscored through a warning issued to American companies by the U.S. House Intelligence Committee to avoid doing business with China's two leading technology firms (Huawei Technologies Ltd. and ZTE Corp), in view of the national security threat they pose to North America. The warning was met with a defensive response by Huawei's Vice president for external affairs, who stated that he hoped the U.S. would do more to benefit the interests of the two countries, the U.S. and China, not the opposite. The influence of communist China as a growing economic superpower as well as its interests are at best ambiguous. With the expansion of globalization come partnerships, both politically and economically. In a climate of competing interests and potential threats, Canada can be counted on as a close and reliable ally.
Another solid argument for a tightened partnership is Canada's "ethical Oil", which would potentially suffer under Obama, but develop under Romney. During the debate Romney took aim at Obama for picking "losers" in the energy sector while turning his back on American fossil fuels such as coal and natural gas. Romney mentioned the $90 billion that taxpayers were forced to pay -- directed at funding wind, solar and other renewable-energy projects in the form of green energy -- initiatives which included some high-profile failures, such as the now-bankrupt solar-panel maker Solyndra LLC.
Romney's plan for energy independence is an offer to heal a Canada-US rift, and promote jobs, freedom, and American security -- as well as to reduce dependence upon Middle East oil. His strategy involves the U.S. approving the Keystone XL pipeline to carry Alberta oil to the U.S. Gulf Coast, as well as to lay additional pipelines to promote Canadian oil exports to the U.S. Both ideas have twice been rejected by Obama, whose aversion, prompted by the environmental movement, toward the oil sands, has resulted in Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper courting markets in Asia, particularly China.
As world leaders prepared to discuss climate change last year, Canada's Minister of the Environment, Peter Kent, put proponents of the duplicitous Kyoto Treaty in their place. He robustly defended the Alberta oil sands in his argument of an "ethical'" and reliable energy source compared to continued reliance on Mid-east oil, and declared that he was not about to sign to any deals that mandated some countries reducing greenhouse gas emissions while others did not.
Foreign Affairs policy will be the focus of the October 22nd debate between Romney and Obama. U.S. intelligence agencies under the current administration have been praised in efforts to find and kill Osama bin Laden, but the War on Terror continues , as on display most recently in Libya, Yemen and Pakistan. It is current U.S. policy in the Middle East that needs a clear and resolute "reset" in the administration's mishandling of foreign policy; not Russia.
Romney's address, "The Mantle of Leadership," to the Virginia Military Institute in Lexington, Virginia unveiled a foreign policy that included a mandate to restore America to a position of global leadership. He referred to the struggle now shaking the entire Middle East, and the strained relationship between Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and he accused Obama of emboldening Western adversaries, especially Iran. He said that to prevent war, America needs confidence in its cause, clarity of purpose, resolve of might and a strong military.
According to a Wall Street Journal article, Obama has allowed America's leadership to atrophy: the economy is stuck in a "recovery;" a national debt has risen to record levels; the military is facing devastating cuts, and America's values have been misapplied by a president who believes that weakness will win favor with America's adversaries. Concerning Israel, Romney accused Obama of recently sending a clear diplomatic message by downgrading Israel from being America's "closest ally" in the Middle East to being only "one of our closest allies," while dismissing Israel's concerns about Iran as mere "noise" that he prefers to "block out," and declining to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu.
Romney has warned that we need leaders who understand that keeping the peace requires American strength and steadfastness especially the kind that earned Canadian Prime Minister Harper the World Statesman award; in his acceptance speech, Harper did not hold back on supporting Israel or slamming Iran.
Conservative economic and foreign affairs policies have proven to be stabilizing to Canada in the midst of a global economic meltdown. Harper managed to shift Canada to the right and win a surprising majority. He gradually lowered sales and corporate taxes, outperformed other democracies, recovered lost jobs, stabilized the banking sector, avoided climate change legislation, increased military spending and extended Canada's military mission in Afghanistan. A strong, united continent, governed by policies that work in the face of economic woes, rising Islamism, and the threat of terror against Israel and the West, is both our best defense and our best offense.
David Cravit, author of Beyond Age Rage, also contributed to this column