Saturday, December 26, 2015

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Carolyn Shimmin discusses the connection between inequality and social ills, while Sarah Khapton reports on new research showing part of the biological explanation.

- Rachelle Younglai documents the growing number of people living with low incomes in Canada. And John Falzon points out that anybody who values the concept of an economy based on new ideas should be eager to ensure people have the necessary social supports to be able to work on developing them.

- John Nichols comments on the many U.S. politicians who seem determined to play the role of Dickens villains in denigrating even the idea of relieving the challenging facing the poor. Scott Santens notes that Dickens' work anticipates many of the lessons we're learning in studies of the relationship between the wealthy and inequality. And Bruce Johnstone highlights how the Saskatchewan Party is not only trumpeting counterproductive austerity among other regressive principles at the provincial level, but trying to push it across the country as well. 

- Alex Himelfarb's keynote address to the Parkland Institute's most recent conference on the decline of the collective and the possibilities for progressive change is well worth a view:

- Finally, Murray Dobbin has some ideas as to how the Libs can develop a more progressive tax system, including by ensuring that wealth isn't transferred offshore or left to accumulate in corporate coffers.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Musical interlude

I Have A Tribe - Yellow Raincoats (Frank Wiedemann Remix)

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Desmond Cole rightly slams the stinginess of Ontario's government in taking support away from parents based on child support which isn't actually received. And Karl Nerenberg laments Bill Morneau's decision to let the Scrooges among Canada's finance ministers dictate the future of the Canada Pension Plan.

- Meanwhile, Tom Cooper writes that the payday loan industry is profiting off the vulnerability of people facing a precarious financial situation. And Michael Geist notes that the phamaceutical sector is also raking in massive amounts of money thanks to governments willing to put its interests over those of the public.

- Angella MacEwen examines Canada's job trends over the past year (and worries that the high-demand areas of health care and social services might not serve as the sources of jobs they should due to public-sector austerity).

- But on the bright side, Duncan Cameron is optimistic that renewed interest in democratic socialism will carry over into 2016 and beyond. And Corey Hogan looks at Calgary as a prime example of a city with a far stronger progressive base than conventional wisdom may have assumed.

- Finally, Kelly Carmichael calls for the Trudeau Libs to implement a fair, proportional electoral system for once and for all.

New column day

Here, on how the kindness and compassion underlying our welcoming of Syrian refugees deserves a far larger place in a wide range of public policy decisions.

For further reading...
- Zack Beauchamp summarizes the exclusionary rhetoric that's propelled Donald Trump into the thick of the U.S.' presidential race. And Janet Hook and Patrick O'Connor note that the worst of Trump's proposals don't seem to be hurting him with primary voters.
- By way of contrast, Will LeRoy reports on Justin Trudeau's holiday message featuring a call to share the holiday spirit with refugees - though Thomas Walkom is right to note that the Libs' own combination of delay and backtracking leaves plenty to be desired. And CBC reported here on Brad Wall's initial (if since-reversed) efforts to slam the door on refugees.
- Susana Mas reports on the final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission into residential schools.
- And finally, Catherine McIntyre's example of Toronto's unfunded plan to fight poverty offers a useful example of the gap between good intentions and the political will needed to give them effect.

[Edit: fixed wording.]

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Ronald Inglehart discusses the political roots of inequality - and the likelihood that the forces that have allowed it to fester for decades will eventually be reversed:
New political alignments, in short, might once again readjust the balance of power between elites and masses in the developed world, with the emerging struggle being between a tiny group at the top and a heterogeneous majority below. For the industrial society’s working-class coalition to become effective, lengthy processes of social and cognitive mobilization had to be completed. In today’s postindustrial society, however, a large share of the population is already highly educated, well informed, and in possession of political skills; all it needs to become politically effective is the development of an awareness of common interest.
The essence of modernization is the linkages among economic, social, ideational, and political trends. As changes ripple through the system, developments in one sphere can drive developments in the others. But the process doesn’t work in just one direction, with economic trends driving everything else, for example. Social forces and ideas can drive political actions that reshape the economic landscape. Will that happen once again, with popular majorities mobilizing to reverse the trend toward economic inequality? In the long run, probably: publics around the world increasingly favor reducing inequality, and the societies that survive are the ones that successfully adapt to changing conditions and pressures. Despite current signs of paralysis, democracies still have the vitality to do so. 
- Bill Moyers also weighs in on the need to take back our political system from the plutocrats who have managed a hostile takeover. And Deirdre Fulton reports on the GMO industry's appalling attempts to silence a single teenaged critic as an example of corporatism run amok.

- Meanwhile, Tom Bergin reports on the barely-existent taxes paid by the UK's big banks as just one example of the corporate sector trying to avoid any responsibility to the society which makes its profits possible.

- The Canadian Labour Congress answers a few of the false talking points being used to attack any effort to strengthen the Canada Pension Plan. But the most important myth about the CPP may be any remaining belief that the Libs can be trusted to follow through on improving public pensions - as Thomas Walkom points out.

- Finally, it's well and good that Justin Trudeau is telling others to welcome the refugees arriving in Canada. But Lee Berthiaume observes that our refugee system is currently designed to saddle new Canadians with debt from day one.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Festive cats.

On voting from experience

If I have any concern with Nathan Cullen's suggestion that Canada hold a referendum on electoral reform only after seeing a different system in action, it's that it may concede too much to the people looking to set up roadblocks in the face of a clear mandate for change.

But the proposal should nicely challenge the obstructionists as well. For anybody motivated to ensure we have the fairest possible system of whatever type, it provides reason to work on developing that in the near future. And anybody still demanding no change at all will be quickly exposed in valuing their own entrenched advantages over any attempt to develop something better.

[Note: Re-post, as the initial post disappeared into the intertoobz.]

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Patrick Flavin studies (PDF) the direct benefits that flow from giving people secure access to health care. And Daphne Bramham writes that the damage done by child poverty can be directly observed in educational outcomes:
Anyone who questions whether child poverty is real in British Columbia should go back to school.

Schools are at the nexus of various governments’ policy failures — high housing prices, low wages, low welfare rates, clusters of children who don’t learn English at home, inadequate mental health and addictions services.

Teachers see it in the faces of the kids who come to school hungry, ill-clothed with bed-bug bites and yawning because they haven’t got a decent bed to sleep in. Or it shows up in the absentee rates.
It’s not right that there are such gaps that vulnerable kids fall through.

And it bears emphasizing that schools have neither the mandate nor the money to fix these societal problems. But all until governments work together to fix the underlying problems, it’s left to teachers, principals, individuals and charities like The Vancouver Sun’s Adopt-a-School and others to fill those gaps.
- Catherine McIntyre makes the seemingly obvious point that the best of intentions in combating poverty won't help if they aren't matched with commensurate resources.

- But then, PressProgress reminds us that our most recent federal government wasn't the least bit inclined to provide even a minimal standard of living for Canadians - not even the sense of altruism needed to see one as worth pursuing.

- Alison exposes the Cons' astroturf attempt to put roadblocks in the way of a more fair electoral system. And David Climenhaga notes that Alberta's right is following the playbook of the Republicans and their puppetmasters in trying to swamp democracy with corporate cash.

- Finally, Toula Drimonis argues that we won't be able to achieve anything approaching reconciliation with indigenous peoples without facing up to Canada's shameful role in suppressing people and cultures.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- John Quiggin examines - and refutes - a few key complaints about fairer taxes on the wealthy. But Kathryn May reports that the Cons are eager to use public resources to investigate and punish public servants who have exposed the problems with the Canada Revenue Agency, rather than lifting a finger to actually bring in needed revenue.

- The Canadian Labour Congress makes the case to expand the Canada Pension Plan to ensure a secure retirement for all Canadian workers. And James Fitz-Morris reports that the Saskatchewan Party's constant obstruction doesn't look like it will stand in the way of an enhanced CPP.

- Kevin Page, Pat Martin and Bob Plamondon argue that we need Parliament to reassert control over the use of public money. And the Star-Phoenix rightly questions the fact that the Sask Party continues to withhold the information needed to assess big-money P3 projects, while hiding behind the consultants who make their money off the industry.

- Jim Bronskill reports on the Libs' noises about a long-overdue review of federal access to information legislation - though of course there's a massive difference between making promises and following through. And on that front, Tom Parkin highlights a few of the promises which are already being left in the rear-view mirror - with a common theme that the Libs' claims to progressive values have been quickly abandoned.

- Finally, Doug Saunders writes that while the words may have changed, the theme of racial prejudice is still far too widespread.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Alan Freeman notes that the Libs' aversion to raising public revenue may lock in some of the Cons' most damaging actions:
With the new Liberal government facing fierce economic headwinds — plus a billion-dollar shortfall created by its middle-income tax cut, and a growing need for revenue to cover promised spending on everything from infrastructure and veterans to First Nations and refugees — it would seem logical to at least mull the possibility of raising the GST.

That appeared to be what Finance Minister Bill Morneau was doing earlier this week when he gave a convoluted response to a journalist that was interpreted as opening the possibility to a GST hike sometime in the future.

Within hours — probably after a panicked call from the Prime Minister’s Office — Morneau tweeted a climbdown of his own: “Contrary to misleading headlines, we are not considering changes to the GST.”

What Morneau made clear is that the Liberals are scared to death of being slammed as tax-grabbers by the Conservatives. While much of the Harper legacy is being scrapped — his obstinate refusal to take action on climate change, his surly, tough-guy foreign policy — the anti-tax mantra lives on.

It’s notable that the first thing on Parliament’s to-do list after the Liberals’ election win was the middle-class tax cut. The Liberals want Canadians to believe that the government’s tax burden (except on the super-rich) can continue to decline as it has since 2000.
- Eric Jaffe reports on new research showing how social deprivation can keep children from meeting their potential for intellectual development. And the Globe and Mail argues that Quebec should be honest about any plans to eliminate a high-quality, public child care system in favour of pushing parents toward more expensive private care.

- Andrea Germanos reports on the latest Human Development Index rankings which show Norway at the top of the pack.

- And in what may not be a coincidence as to the importance of respect for workers in generating shared prosperity, the ILO highlights Norway's leadership in ratifying a new protocol against forced labour among other conventions protecting labour rights. And Edward Keenan discusses the different sides of a gig economy - and notes that the 1% may be confusing its own ability to engage in highly-paid consulting with the reality facing precarious workers.

- Finally, Branko Milanovic offers a theory as to the limits in how much worse income inequality could get in the U.S.