Alberta: where the poor are choking to death in the streets (we can make a .pdf, so it must be true!)

(alternate post title:)

"Fuck you, you Marxist morons."
Signed, a Rugged Individualist.

There's more than a few hilarious tidbits in this document put out by the Alberta Association of Social Workers.

The first has to be that there is an association (which they first disguise by calling it a "college") made up of social workers in Alberta. This is a classic case of what Yes, Minister aptly described as Parkinson's Law of Social Work: the social problems in any jurisdiction rise to occupy the time of the social workers hired to fix them. This sixty-page document is meticulously researched written to justify the jobs of people who have time to invent this sort of dreck and simultaneously get paid for it.

The report is all about "[en]visioning a more equitable and just Alberta" which should instantly raise your bullshit sensitivity detectors: More equitable by which standard? By what perverted sense of "justice" does the report plan to make Alberta more just? The subtitle is "Closing the Disparity Gap Phase II". What happened to Phase I, and how come it seems there is still yet more work to be done? Okay, that one's easy enough, just remember Parkinson's Law.

You don't get 10 words into the meat of the paper before you see the two words that should tell you that the rest can be ignored. Absolutely ignored.

The Parkland Institute.

Rather than read it, you're probably better off at this point printing the report out, lighting it on fire, shoving it down a homeless man's pants and taunting him with "bet you wish you could afford air conditioning". Indeed its the next paragraph when you find out what agenda this ACSW is pushing:
The Alberta College of Social Workers regulates social work practice in Alberta. Its primary focus is to serve and protect the public interest by promoting skilled and ethical social work. Social Workers work with people across the lifespan from infants to seniors. The fields of practice of the profession range from direct service delivery and community development to advocacy and policy development. To compliment its legislated obligations, ACSW advocates for policies, programs, and services that serve the public interest. Across the province, much of the work Registered Social Workers do is with those who are vulnerable and marginalized.
Its primary focus, you see is to "serve the public interest" by regulating and policing the occasional mini-totalitarian instincts of social workers. That's what its legally supposed to do. However, like all bureaucracies created by left-wingers with an axe to grind, it descends into a wholly unrelated and indeed often countering agenda to "advocate for policies" that serve this "public interest" again: though this time the social workers themselves are trying to define what "public interest" means. In the same way that farmers will interpret "public interest" to mean farms and politicians interpret it to mean legislatures, social workers declare that their own often distorted concepts of something called "social justice" (which in practice is anti-social and anti-justice) are the guiding lights to which ACSW's "public interest" is campaigning for.

That last bit is a bit of a mouthful, so lets look at some examples.

The second recommendation of this piece of compost is:
2. Quality of life for all Albertans:
Improve access to quality social programs, increase leisure time, and reduce stress on families through: increased spending on culture and leisure, childcare and early learning, education, and healthcare; reduced working hours; increased vacations; and expanded community based public health and other services for Aboringinal communities.
At the forefront is the hilarious implication that "access to social programs" is a measure of quality of life. Check the people using social services, then check the people not using social services. Hey, anybody wanna guess whose quality of life is lower?

Next comes how their lofty goals are to be reached: right away you see that involves spending more of your money. That's right, spending those social worker salaries just aren't enough. AUPE has a lot more members in the education and healthcare fields that could use some sugar too! ACSW has scratched their back, and surely the next glossy .pdf you can read from the Alberta Teachers Association will contain some seemingly random tidbit about the need for more social workers to identify special needs and problem children right away to scratch in return. When they say "increased spending for culture and leisure" you didn't think they meant tax cuts so that families could spend more on culture and leisure, did you?

Same with "reduced working hours and increased vacations". Is anybody dumb enough to read this yet think the point was we're supposed to ask the boss to up our annual vacations from 15 business days a year to 25? Of course not. What they want is to petition to legislate a 34 hour week rather than a 44 hour one, or increase mandatory vacation pay from 6% to 12.

Then they want even more special monies and privileges for Indians. We'll go into further detail about this later. For now, enjoy the next policy plank:
3: Investing in housing affordability
Fulfill promise to eradicate homelessness by 2019 including $3.3 billion in spending.
Whew, we'd gone almost 8 words without calling for more money by the beleaguered taxpayers of Alberta. Good to see that the waste of money that will only cause more homelessness is so well loved by the social workers who, I cannot stress this enough get their own sweet take of the money. Seriously, if BP put out a big winded piece of fluff about how oily beaches are good for marine life it would probably have less craven opportunism in it than this document. Hey, look at part 4!
4: Ensuring dignity and an adequate income for the most vulnerable
Strengthen the province’s social safety net through the development of programs that provide a livable income, are universal, accessible and delivered in a non-stigmatizing manner.
A stronger social safety net? I'm sure social workers wouldn't see a dime of money spent like that! And what's this about a non-stigmatizing manner? You're the bloody front line folks for these programs. If you are delivering them in something that's called a "stigmatizing manner" (which is supposedly a bad thing), maybe it should be something your regulatory body -- what's it called again? oh yeah, the same ACSW that put out this document! -- needs to get a firm handle on. Social workers who fail to non-stigmatize shall be fired. That's what happens at work when people don't properly non-stigmatize themselves. [Warning: the proceeding link is a .pdf document that contains useful information and possibly actual research. Don't freak out, this sort of thing is normal. -ed]

I'll skip the #5, which is some blather about protecting workers. Here's the next recommendation:
6. Democracy and good governance
Reform the democratic process to ensure that it accurately represents Alberta’s diversity especially Alberta’s Aboriginal peoples.
See what I mean when I saw that ACSW has a hard-on for the Indians? Is the democratic process really so shitty on the reserves? Oh yeah, it is. Hey, maybe we should work on cleaning up the squalor and corruption that the Indians themselves keep inflicting on each other first? Might that not be a more serious concern than whether electoral boundaries don't dissect reserves perfectly?

Well, after recommendation #6 this report can't possibly go more off the deep end, can it? Well, er, it can:
7. Progressive revenue reform
Return to progressive taxes and raise corporate and other taxes to levels that allow continued support for public goods like healthcare, education and social programs that Albertans feel are citizenship rights.
Just when you thought they couldn't get any dumber, they do. Obviously all we have to do is raise everybody's taxes! Especially the Evil Rich™, those guys will just happily pay more tax with no negative socio-economic impact whatsoever. The thing that first strikes you about this claptrap is that its clearly not true: if Albertans feel the continued support for these things was so important, they wouldn't need ACSW as an advocate. Likewise, if there was a level that would support such beloved items, governments would merely pay it. The problem is one this propaganda piece continually has trouble with: that "level" can always be defined the exact same way:
More than there is now.

It might be good to read the entire preamble to the Executive Summary.
Alberta has been prone to booms and busts but overall has seen long-term growth in the size of the economy and a dramatic increase in wealth. However, along with this wealth has come disparity; inequality in both income and quality of life is creating problems across Alberta. Alberta’s economic growth has gone mostly to those in the higher incomes. Quality of life indicators such as income security, personal disposable income, social cohesion, food security, housing affordability, leisure and family time, and educational attainment show that middle and low-income Albertans are struggling to keep the status quo and many are being left behind. Research shows that the costs of this inequality cut across all of society. Some of the impacts visible in Alberta include: economic and social exclusion evidenced by increasing food bank usage and homelessness; Alberta has the highest rates of family violence in the country and leads the country in domestic assault, homicide-suicide and stalking; Alberta has record low voter turnout; Albertans rank the lowest in
the nation for sense of belonging in their community; Alberta has low university participation; and Albertans have the lowest leisure time in the nation.

In response, the Alberta College of Social Workers (ACSW) launched the Closing the Disparity Gap Project. That project includes a multi-sector stakeholder process to generate ideas and to develop practical solutions to the problem of economic and social disparity in Alberta. This report is Phase II of that project. The research included two symposia to engage ACSW and community leaders as well as academics in discussion on the key causes of disparity and to workshop policy recommendations.
What ACSW probably doesn't understand (they're only a bunch of dumb social workers after all) is that Alberta's wealth and prosperity are in many ways because of the laundry list of complaints provided above. We spent a lot of time at work (ie. not leisure) and go into the workforce immediately after high school or trade schools rather than a relatively unproductive stint in University? Uh, yeah. That's why we're rich, dummies.

Low voter turnout is a new one, I honestly can't say I've ever heard that "inequity" is a cause of low turnout in provincial elections. Doesn't that seem counter-intuitive? If there was so much disparity going on, wouldn't the huddled masses of poor be banding together to vote NDP and bring about this glorious Worker's Paradise (minus the work, of course) that ACSW seems so keen on?

As for the issues with family violence, stalking (?!), "community participation" [defined by whom? -ed], homicide-suicide, homelessness and food bank useage, let me place the blame somewhere other than "our disparity".
There, see how easy this is? Its a good thing too, this problem is probably way cheaper to solve than this disparity crap.

An organization this intellectually bankrupt, peddling soft-Marxist nonsense long-since discredited, and with such a naive and ideologically driven lens to colour whats wrong and what to do might be honestly identified as lacking any sort of proper values. It helps when they cover it themselves in their "values" section:
The social work approach represents a fundamental shift away from the value of rugged individualism that has underpinned widened inequality and instead puts collectivity front and centre.
The "value of rugged individualism" is perhaps best described in this context as the quaint notion that "if you think this is such a problem, then you go fix it". Conversely, "front and centre collectivism" is a less-enjoyable idea that "if you think this is a problem, make somebody else fix it for you". In the first case, inequality can surely happen. Some people, faced with such a problem, decide against fixing it. This may or may not be a smart idea, and depending on the person and their circumstances it could be justified or condemned by a variety of standards (not the least of which is the time-lapse problem). However, this "rugged individualism" also goes by another noble name. You may have heard of it:
And one of those freedoms, yes indeed, is to chose to be inequitable.

I could really pick this whole thing apart line by line, but there are beers to drink and women to hit on, so I can't do this forever. What causes these "income disparities"?
The Tax Cut Agenda: The flat tax was a transfer of wealth to high-income Albertans. Middle-income Albertans actually pay more tax than in most other provinces, while the top income bracket pays by far the lowest taxes in the nation. Alberta also has the lowest corporate taxes in the nation and collects by far the lowest taxes in the nation, $10.7 billion less than BC, the next lowest province in 2008.
Alberta and BC, Alberta and BC. What else do these two western provinces have in common? (No no, besides that! For heaven's sake, don't mention that!)

Of course we all know that tax cuts don't "transfer" anything. Economic activity transfers things. Poor people en masse transferred money to "high-income people" today, for example.

Delving deeper in, on page 10 (dear Lord, we're only 1/6th of the way through this damned thing!) we find "implement a living wage policy" as one of their planks. That's just it? A "living wage" for everybody? Why do they aim so low? Just raise the minimum wage to $100/hr and we can live in luxury!

Page 11 is all about raising your taxes more and more to pay for their salaries. A "progressive" (higher) income tax. Increasing corporate taxes (bye bye new hires!). Reinstating the liquor tax. Yet even more tax increases for "arts" programs -- the "I'll scratch your back" principle at work again.

Support for faggotry makes it onto Page 16. Some bullshit rainbow factory called the "Happiness Index" spills into Page 17. Page 18 has one of the most nonsensical passages ever committed to .pdf form:
For the last 20 years Alberta’s economy has exploded. Alberta has vast natural resources. This is particularly fortunate for our province as, unlike all other provinces, it does not have to create wealth but only has to manage it.
Such good news that our provincial government "doesn't have to create wealth", since governments don't create wealth, they merely take it.

By Page 20 they have come to the bane of the liberal .pdf report: misleading graphs. Let's look at this one, lovingly "manipulated" from actual data by Armine Yalnizyan.

The first word that comes to mind is "duh". The top 50% of earners, chosen by definition as those making the most money, make more money than another group of equal size chosen by definition to be those making the least. Of course, it looks all very impressive here, and you're left with the impression these lines "should" be the same size. Of course, they shouldn't. Even given a standard Bell Curve of incomes and a linear progression in size, you end up with a similar looking graph.

Now lets look at the big one here:

What is this telling us? Is this telling us that since 1994 "the rich" have been getting richer while "the poor" have been getting poorer? No, what it tells us is that since 1994 "the rich" have been more plentiful. This is Parkinson's Law coming forward again: the exact condition that ACSW seems to want is happening, which makes it all the more important to make it look like some mythical "other" problem is getting in the way. One could only imagine if Phase II is successful and in 10 years even MORE people fall into the "awfully rich" category: ACSW will put an even scarier graph in this one's place, insisting that we need to let Indian women have the special right to elect twice as many MLAs as anybody else.

[Hey, look what I found on Page 22! Didn't Feynman & Coulter's Love Child just finish saying its just as easy to declare its all immigrants' fault? -ed]
Alberta is more ethnically diverse than ever. One in five Canadians is a newcomer, the highest proportion of immigrants in 75 years. Fully 79.8 per cent of Alberta’s newcomers originated from countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America. The majority of newcomers to Alberta are concentrated in Calgary (56.8 per cent) and Edmonton (31 per cent).

Recommendation 7: The government of Alberta must re-establish the link between taxes and public services.
Hey, now finally we have a great idea. If you don't pay any taxes, you don't get any public services.
Reclaiming lost tax revenue means that spending can be maintained on social programs like health care and education. Alberta could collect an extra $10 billion to $18 billion per year in taxes
Argh, I knew it was too good to be true. Would-be revenue from tax hikes that aren't levied isn't collected isn't a "loss", anymore than Tim Hortons suffered a financial "loss" this morning when I made my own breakfast.

Such economic illiteracy is enough to drive a man to drink, and they don't even like that!
Alberta should reinstate the liquor tax to accomplish the twin goals of reducing consumption and raising revenues of more than $180 million.
And on that note I think I really do need to go out to the bar and drink.

To summarize, what ACSW is doing is pushing a very very dangerous political agenda. The rationalization of raising people's taxes and impinging on their freedoms is completely inexcusable, and the simplistic and class/race divisions they try to stoke with their claptrap makes them nothing but a hateful group of so-called public servants eager to suck at the teat of the productive class who have continued to pay their way.