Panel of Concordia Professors Discuss Consequences of Austerity Measures

  • A panel of professors discussed what exactly austerity is, and what the long term consequences entail. Photo Willie Wilson

The age of retirement will be raised from 65 to 67 in 2023, the government has been cutting public services and corporations are being taxed at new lows.

All of these realities are on the menu for those living under the government’s imposed austerity scheme.

This was the theme of an event on Thursday titled “Professors Against Austerity,” as a panel of professors discussed what exactly austerity is, and what the long term consequences entail. The four panelists—all Concordia University professors—discussed contemporary issues directly affecting themselves, the university and the student populace in general.

Professor Charles Reiss, who traces his roots to the United States, warned of the nearsightedness of our current provincial government, and fell back on personal examples of how austerity does not work and is, in fact, counter productive.

“The cuts are extremely short sighted and ruin Concordia in the long term,” he said.

Reiss cited well-respected economist Paul Krugman for examples of how austerity policies often have the opposite effect of what was initially intended.

Part time faculty member and social activist Maria Peluso lamented on how unfortunate it is that we have built our society around a market place ideal, which she compared to the practice of astrology.

“The government is there to serve us and it is no longer doing that,” she said in reference to government cuts in the public sector on behalf of the private one.

“There is a human cost to economics … how is it fair when we are asking the public to increase their tax burden when corporations like Apple can shelter themselves from government coffers by exploiting loopholes in tax laws?” she mused.

After a debriefing on the current state of world economics, sociology professor Beverley Best linked the current state of economic malaise with the root source of the problem.

“An anti-austerity movement must meet with an anti-capitalist movement,” Best explained.

Professor Erin Manning tied up the loose ends after professor Best’s speech, noting the hypocrisy of how some university administrators can earn a yearly salary of $500,000, while others within the institution struggle on substantially smaller salaries.

Manning frequently referenced the need of solidarity amongst all the populace, and made note of Concordia President Alan Shepard’s inability to speak the French language, suggesting he’s disconnected from the local movement.

While students seemed to trickle in and out throughout the entire lecture—which had gone over the allotted time—at its height the basement room was packed.

Productive back and forth dialogue between the audience and the professors yielded many important points and directions towards the greater goal of immediately ending austerity measures, and creating a more equitable society for our future.

Many in attendance were veterans of the “2012 Maple Spring,” which “revolutionized the environment,” as Manning put it, while others were just getting their first taste of collective resistance.

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