As any fan of CBC business analyst Kevin O’Leary will tell you, one need not understand a problem in order to understand the solution. As O’Leary himself so patiently explains to those listeners who aren’t busy hugging trees or whining about third world child labour practices, the real solution to all human problems lies in the fifty-year-old discoveries of American economist, Milt Friedman.
In case you chose Advanced Bong Theory over Economics 101 in your first semester at SFU (present company included), Friedman was the guy who discovered that the amount of money flowing through an economy directly determines the business conditions in that economy. Genius stuff. And you don’t have to be Kanye West or Pitbull to know that good business conditions are the key to all human happiness. Even the Dalai Lama knows that if you ain’t got the money, then you don’t get the honey-coloured ground-to-air missiles needed to push the Chinese out of Tibet.
That Friedman’s lessons on unfettered capitalism have not bypassed the Canadian government can be seen in its recent announcement that, starting January 2013, cash will be used to simplify the needlessly complex social issue of crime and punishment. At that time, parents of children either murdered or missing due to violence will receive cash – up to $350 per week for 35 weeks. According to government spokes-folk, this will help grieving parents deal with the unfathomable loss of a child to violent crime. I for one think that this may be the first time a Canadian government has ever gotten it right when it comes to the wet and sticky Justice portfolio. However, it does beg a question or two. For instance, what branch of advanced mathematics did the government use in pricing a murdered child? Wouldn’t that have been an interesting room to be in…
“O.K. Guys, gather round. This just came from upstairs. The Chief needs to throw Boisvenu a bone, before he starts booking shooting safaris to the penitentiary exercise yard. Any ideas? Griswold?”
“Not bad, Griswold, not bad. But we need to focus on victims of violence here – especially the parents.”
“Why don’t we just give them cash – you know, like a dividend?”
“Magical Moses, Beamann, that’s genius. It’s pure Friedman.”
“Actually boss, I’ve been reading this really cool book about a time in the future when teenage kids will be able to earn money for their families by slaughtering each other in a televised game show kind of thing, and then there’s this girl…”
“O.K., Beamann, that’s nice. But now we need to figure out how much to give. Gentlemen, as you can imagine, this is a very, very sensitive subject. Our government takes the matter of balanced budgets seriously. We can’t just go throwing gobs of good taxpayer money around like it was fighter-jet fuel.”
“Uh – I got a question, boss. When we say ’pay the parents’, are we talking just birth mothers here, or do we cut a cheque for stepparents too? And what about gays and lesbians? Or deadbeat dads?”
“What about sperm donors?”
“Sperm donors? Don’t be ridiculous, Burnsworth. Next you’ll have us paying Liberals.” (Room fills with snorts and guffaws).
“Seriously though guys, let’s not reinvent the wheel here. If they have a Social Insurance Number, a valid Passport, a birth, or baptism certificate for the kid, a marriage certificate or court-appointed custody document, and they can pass a paternity test, I say that’s good enough.”
“Who pays for the paternity test?”
“C’mon Griswold, get with the program here. They do.”
“Just checkin’, boss.”
“Hey, boss, what if we just sent them a weekly cheque, you know – like an Employment Insurance thing. That way we get a piece back in taxes.”
“Good idea Burnsworth. Tell me more.”
“Well, the way I figure it, the max we pay out on EI is $485 per week. So, maybe if we gave them half of that…”
“Yeah boss – and that way we could cut it off at 35 weeks. I mean, how long does it really take to get over this kind of thing? Heck, they could have a brand new kid in 40 weeks.”
“Man, that’s cold, Beaman. That’s friggin’ frigid. I like it.”
“No good boss. 35 weeks at $250 a week only gives them $8,000 per kid. The Liberals gave Clifford Olsen $10,000 per kid. The Chief won’t have the Liberals outdoing him.”
“Good point, Griswold. So let’s do this: you guys figure out how to divvy it up, but just make sure you stay under the new O.J. cap.”
“Yeah, $12,500 – it’s Finance’s new petty-cash limit. They’re trying to reel in Bev Oda’s yearly juice bill.”
Sid Caesar once said that humour is just the truth with a few little curlicues on it. But I wonder what he would have said about cutting Mohammad Shafia a weekly grieving cheque? I’m pretty sure the great comedian would have reversed his equation.