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April 22, 2019 | Seeking Heroes

A best-selling Canadian author of 14 books on economic trends, real estate, the financial crisis, personal finance strategies, taxation and politics. Nationally-known speaker and lecturer on macroeconomics, the housing market and investment techniques. He is a licensed Investment Advisor with a fee-based, no-commission Toronto-based practice serving clients across Canada.

Ukraine has a new boss. He’s a comedian. The country borders a voracious nation-state that recently sent tanks to rip out a key piece of Ukraine territory. And who do voters elect to face up to steely Vladimir Putin? A guy who played the role of president on TV. Name recognition, yes. Experience, no.

They call him the Trump of the Ukraine. Not a stretch. The most powerful politician in the world also had no experience when elected. He was a reality TV star. Last week a special counsel report said Trump obstructed justice ten times, but his supporters don’t care.

In France the burning of Notre Dame briefly brought the civilized world together in sadness and regret. Rich families pledged bags of money to help rebuild the cathedral. Days later thousands of yellow vest protestors started fires in the streets, angry at the wealth inequality, suggesting they need the money more than some old building.

They say Jair Bolsonaro is the Trump of Brazil. Like the US president, the new leader of that country calls himself an avowed nationalist and used Twitter to circumvent the MSM. He’s said he would rather have his brother dead than be gay and sprinkled crudities about women and natives. His popularity runs high.

In Britain the genie of populism slipped the surly bounds back in 2016 with a referendum on leaving the EU. Millions of uninformed people were asked to vote on the planet’s most complex trade and economic agreement. The majority sided against it, largely because of immigration and tribalism. Three years later the issue has torn society apart, rendered Parliament turgid and inert, wasted two PMs, diminished the nation and sowed the seeds of UK breakup.

Just five examples of the creative destruction of western politics now taking place. Opponents call it populism. Proponents call it democracy. The issues are diverse and deep. Those in favour of globalism, free trade, the flow of capital and porous borders are clashing with others who support trade wars, immigration controls and economic nationalism. But there’s way more. Progressives worry about climate change and the next generation. Populists worry about next month’s mortgage payment and see carbon taxes as theft. The wealth divide is a visible symbol to many that capitalism has peaked and failed. Others say world per-capita income has never been this high, thanks to trade, growth and efficient markets.

Walls versus treaties. Nationalism (a term not in vogue for decades) lined up against globalism. The offshoring of jobs, pitted against the fall of the western middle class. It’s bred a clutch of leaders with powerful, simple solutions to insurmountable issues, appealing to needy, unhappy masses through 140-character messages. Some people see the parallel in this month’s Alberta contest.

In a democracy, everyone’s equal. One person, one vote. Winning election means capturing the attention and support of many, not just the privileged and successful. In fact it’s a feeling of disenfranchisement that motivates voters and feeds populism’s flames. Trump was masterful at being a billionaire living in a gilded penthouse, yet making himself a champion to the rustbelt unemployed. His opponents totally missed that and paid a price. They responded by attacking the character and fabric of the man – aspects his supporters ignore. Trump is about empowering the common man. He can eat kittens if he wants.

Well, this brings us to…us.

While many readers of this pathetic blog are 1%ers, financial nerds, investors, professionals and affluent canine aficionados, most people aren’t. Sometimes we lose sight of the struggle these Canadians find themselves in, whether it was self-inflicted by real estate lust or not. This week’s stats are arresting.

An Ipsos survey finds 48% are less than $200 a month from insolvency. Currently 26% don’t earn enough to pay existing bills. Over half – 54% – fret they cannot repay debts and half say if interest rates (now near historic lows) rise, they’ll be pooched. A third insist that means bankruptcy.

“This isn’t simply a matter of people living beyond their means,” says the insolvency firm sponsoring the poll. “The reality is that too many households simply cannot make ends meet, however hard they try.”

And that’s the thing. The tipping point. The moment hope turns into helpless. It makes people vote for none-of-the-above; throw the bums out; to try the improbable and untested. The common good is an abstraction compared with the survival of their family.

If most Canadians are a few bucks from losing it, quick to lay blame and seeking a hero, woe betide the way things are.

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April 22nd, 2019

Posted In: The Greater Fool

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