Opinion

Economy is improving but for whom?

Watching the debate between Bernie Sanders and Senator Ted Cruz over the subject “Repeal of Obamacare”. During one of the exchanges, Cruz commented that the essential thrust of his administration was to guarantee that everyone had “access” to health insurance. Sanders quickly reminded the audience that having access means nothing when you cannot afford it.

It is like ensuring that everyone has access to the real estate market when the reality is that your “access has no value when you don’t have the funds”. Having access to healthcare insurance is different from mandating healthcare.

It reminds of the conversation in Bermuda when statements are made that the economy is recovering or the other comment: “We are coming out of the recession.” Yes, it may be true, but while the steep downward slide seems to have bottomed out, it begs the question, “Whose economy has gotten better?”

In every economic scenario, no matter how good or bad, there are always winners and losers, or persons who benefit during hard times and those who are harmed. The best example is that of Steve Mnuchin, the recently nominated US Secretary of the Treasury, who during the global crash of 2009 made hundreds of millions of dollars by attracting, refunding and purchasing a defunct mortgage bank that was failing, with thousands losing their homes through foreclosure and having their assets seized and resold by his bank.

For many who sit at the top of the food chain, whose lot was also challenged by the recession, because their stake is in the mainstream of the economy, they would be the first to experience any new life in the economy.

For those whose financial status is based on a well-paying job and have their worth tied to real-estate investments, they may not see much improvement.

Below that strata are many who were heavily leveraged; they are still struggling.

Then there is a layer just beneath whose fate is a hit or a miss, sometimes employed and at times not. They constitute a large body who, like the unemployed, are one step away from poverty. They definitely feel no growth in the economy.

So when we hear the economy is improving, we need to measure those statements. Those on the Right will say we must all be content because it trickles down, but those on the Left cannot see or feel the trickles and are anything but content. This is part of the resentment being expressed in our recent protests.

It does not help the Bermuda Government that it is associated with and, in some cases, has members who are at the top of the economic food chain. Too often, even when their positions can be argued as good, they will be interpreted as self-serving or satisfying vested interests.

The only way to bust that cycle is to generate economic programmes that reach out beyond the base of the status quo.

That equation has always challenged our leaders, and was the bane of destruction for the United Bermuda Party. It fuelled and goaded the excesses of the Progressive Labour Party and has returned to bring into question the performance and direction of the One Bermuda Alliance.

Often the conservatives will say: “Leave the markets alone; the governments that govern the least govern the best.”

While that may be a truth, we need also remind ourselves that the government that governs for all truly governs the best.