Saturday, August 13, 2016

Saturday Afternoon Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Paul Krugman rightly points out that it's to be expected that Republican establishment figures would line up behind Donald Trump since he shares their top priority of handing still more money to the richest few. And Emine Saner highlights how strong inheritance taxes would help connect children of privilege to the society around them.

- Meanwhile, Neil Gross comments on the decline of the U.S. union movement as a contributing factor to the rise of the xenophobic right.

- Kendall Worth makes his case for a basic income. And Ursula Huws discusses the need for our social safety to adapt to an economic where people are expected to get by without secure, full-time employment:
For workers hovering precariously on the edge of survival trying to patch together a livelihood from multiple jobs, never sure when the next piece of work or income will show up, a benefits system in which the only categories are “employed” or “seeking work” is of little help. At the same time, daytime television programmes such as Saints and Scroungers, Benefits Britain: Life on the Dole, and Benefits Street drive home the message that there is no middle ground: you are either a hardworking taxpayer, or a lazy scrounger. In times of austerity, when governments aim to save money wherever they can, this is a convenient message. But the reality is not so simple.
We should go back to the drawing board and develop a system that provides basic security and dignity for all while still allowing for work to be organised flexibly. One possible solution is to give everybody a basic income – a guaranteed minimum income for everyone, available as a right. This would raise the standard of living and reduce poverty among the most vulnerable, but would also allow workers to move flexibly in and out of paid work, education and care work without being subjected to the expensive, demeaning and dysfunctional inquisitorial procedures of the current benefits system that sees only the largely exclusionary categories of “work” and “claiming benefits”.
- Shaurya Taran points out a stark example of the costs of homelessness - and asks why we're absorbing both the health and human costs rather than providing needed housing.

- Finally, the Globe and Mail reminds us not to overreact to the barely-existent risk of harm from terrorism in Canada. And Murtaza Hussain points out that the example of Aaron Driver looks to have been based on a lack of psychiatric care and other social supports for a single individual, rather than any meaningful type of organization.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Musical interlude

Yuri Kane & Ana Criado - Running Wild

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Owen Jones interviews Ha-Joon Chang about the foreseeable harm caused by the UK's austerity, as well as the false claims used to push it.

- The Stoney Creek News rightly argues that Canada Post should move toward posting banking in large part due to the potential to improve the level of service available for vulnerable groups. But Dean Beeby notes that Employment Insurance administration is just one of the many areas where the idea of actually assisting the public has been lost in favour of automation and corporatization.

- The Canadian Labour Congress points out a few of the policies which could offer much-needed opportunities and security for younger workers. And Jared Bernstein writes that an improved minimum wage (one of the CLC's recommendations) has worked exactly as hoped in Seattle, increasing workers' pay and length of employment without any of the threatened side effects.

- Mound of Sound highlights how Justin Trudeau has chosen to make Stephen Harper's industry-dominated National Energy Board his own, while Kai Nagata points out Trudeau's broken promises to put a credible review system in place before ramming through more project approvals. And Christopher Adams examines CAUT's investigation into the dubiously cozy relationship between the University of Calgary and oil-sector funders. 

- Finally, Murray Brewster exposes a Canadian-owned firm's sale of troop carriers for use in the ongoing war in South Sudan. And Don Pittis rightly notes that we should be less concerned with the nationality of a corporation's official ownership than with its actual behaviour.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

New column day

Here, on the Saskatchewan Party's decision to try to make up for its gross mismanagement by squeezing benefits out of people with disabilities.

For further reading...
- This year's provincial budget spin from the Ministry of Social Services is here, featuring the following:
Government’s next steps on the Saskatchewan Disability Strategy will focus on the Where to Start actions identified in the strategy, as well as six priority areas identified by community members:
  • accessible and safe transportation so people can participate in their communities;
  • respite to help families and caregivers get a break from their caregiving role;
  • accessibility legislation to create more inclusive communities;
  • residential services to help people live in their homes and communities;
  • service co-ordination and navigation so people can find disability services when they need them; and
  • awareness and understanding of the rights of people experiencing disabilities so all citizens have a greater understanding of and respect for their rights.
These initiatives have begun, and efforts are under way to establish measures, targets and public reporting on progress.
- Jonathan Charlton and Peter Mills are among those who have reported on the cuts to disability benefit recipients, including individual stories as to how little people already have to survive on. (Speaking of which, a summary of the existing SAID benefits is here (PDF).)
- Finally, I'll once again point to the Advisory Group on Poverty Reduction's report (PDF) as an example of the type of compassionate and thoughtful policy which are utterly lacking from the Wall government.

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- William G. Gale, Hilary Gelfond and Aaron Krupkin examine the evidence as to the effects of upper-class tax cuts, and find that they serve no purpose but to concentrate wealth and power in the hands of those who already have the most:
[Donald Trump's economic] plan won’t generate economic growth. We’ve been down this road before. For example, Reagan’s tax cuts did not boost the long-term growth rate, according to authorities like conservative economist Martin Feldstein, who was a Reagan appointee, and Douglas Elmendorf, former head of the Congressional Budget Office.

No one even proffers the suggestion that George Bush’s tax cuts – featuring lower income and estate taxes, like Trump’s plan– helped the growth rate, and for good reason. There is simply no evidence that it did.

Other countries have tried cutting top tax rates, too. The evidence shows that tax cuts for the rich help the rich accumulate more wealth, but don’t do anything much for economic growth.

Or, ask the people of Kansas how their income tax cuts have worked out. Listen to the stories about having to cut education and other spending and raise regressive taxes to make up for the absence of the promised growth miracle. Indeed, because of the massive rise in debt, Trump’s tax plan may actually hurt growth.
- Chris Dillow argues that grossly excessive executive compensation should be seen as just as much of problem from the right as from the left. And Christopher Shell and Frank Stilwell highlight the spread of income inequality in Australia.

- Joanna Smith and Jordan Press report on the federal government's analysis of the need for proactive pay equity legislation rather than a system limited to addressing complaints.

- Crystal Warner comments on the federal government's own failure to pay our public servants due to the Phoenix pay system debacle. And Bob Barnetson tells the stories of workers fired due to a supposed lack of work after informing a major employer of serious health and safety concerns - only to see their jobs taken over by more pliable replacements.

- Finally, Franklin Warsh offers a useful example as to how the social determinants of health can manifest themselves in drastically different outcomes for people who seem on the surface to be in similar positions.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Wednesday Afternoon Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Norman Farrell highlights how following the reversal of the HST transition, B.C. businesses haven't given up on their goal of making sure that only individuals pay consumption taxes.

- Jordan Press and Lee Berthiaume report on the lack of any recent effort to ensure that federal government buildings don't jeopardize health and safety - which fits all too well with areas such as federal and provincial pipeline regulation as examples of short-term cost savings virtually certain to produce long-term disasters.

- David Suzuki argues that it's time to press the Trudeau Libs toward action on climate change (based in no small part on the recognition that they'll never bother of their own volition).

- Sheldon Whitehouse and Elizabeth Warren comment on how big oil has rigged the U.S.' political system to prevent anybody from even asking questions about its longtime climate fraud, while Greg Russell points out that oil operators seem set to abandon their offshore wells and cleanup responsibilities. And David Climenhaga examines how Enron suckered the Alberta PCs into the laughably unfair power deal which the NDP is now trying to reverse.

- Finally, John Conway discusses the many dark clouds looming over Brad Wall's tenure as premier. And Murray Mandryk notes that the summer's events have called most of the Saskatchewan Party's core identity into question. 

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Faith no more

Shorter Catherine McKenna on the Libs' response to the National Energy Board misleading the public about its insider dealings with lobbyists on Energy East:
Clap sunnier! Clap sunnier!

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Covered cats.

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Thomas Walkom discusses Mel Hurtig's philosophy of economic nationalism, while noting that Canada stands out as an exception in lacking a strong movement toward greater internal planning and economic control. And Maude Barlow looks back at Hurtig's work, while Melissa Fundira reports that the Libs are trying to bar the door to would-be participants in the World Social Forum who would figure to follow in his footsteps.

- Frances Ryan highlights the absurdity of the U.K. Conservatives (like other right-wing governments) pointing to exclusionary private schools as a solution to, rather than a generator of, increased inequality.

- James Wood reports on the significant increase in the availability of workers' compensation benefits for Alberta farm workers.

- Joe Fiorito offers some solutions to homelessness from the people actually faced with it. And Diana Aviv highlights the U.S.' widespread lack of food security, while noting that there are some answers at hand.

- The Star's editorial board points out that we need to ensure that governments are funded to take care of people who need it most as well as meeting our other social priorities. And Jonathan Charlton reports on the Wall government's choice to instead attack the already-minimal benefits which helped Saskatchewan citizens with disabilities to stay afloat.

- Finally, Tom Parkin comments on the Libs' continuation of the Cons' tradition of news dumps - and notes that consultation-free permits for Site C represent one of the worst attempts to bury rubbish to date.

Monday, August 08, 2016

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Joseph Stiglitz writes about the continuing need to rein in the excesses of corporate-dominated globalization:
The failure of globalization to deliver on the promises of mainstream politicians has surely undermined trust and confidence in the “establishment.” And governments’ offers of generous bailouts for the banks that had brought on the 2008 financial crisis, while leaving ordinary citizens largely to fend for themselves, reinforced the view that this failure was not merely a matter of economic misjudgments.

In the United States, Congressional Republicans even opposed assistance to those who were directly hurt by globalization. More generally, neoliberals, apparently worried about adverse incentive effects, have opposed welfare measures that would have protected the losers.

But they can’t have it both ways: If globalization is to benefit most members of society, strong social protection measures must be in place. The Scandinavians figured this out long ago; it was part of the social contract that maintained an open society – open to globalization and changes in technology. Neoliberals elsewhere have not – and now, in elections in the United States and Europe, they are facing their comeuppance.

Globalization is, of course, only one part of what is going on; technological innovation is another part. But all of this openness and disruption were supposed to make us richer, and advanced countries could have introduced policies to ensure that the gains were widely shared.

Instead, they pushed for policies that restructured markets in ways that increased inequality and undermined overall economic performance; growth actually slowed as the rules of the game were rewritten to advance the interests of banks and corporations at the expense of everyone else. Workers’ bargaining power was weakened, competition laws didn’t keep up, and existing laws were inadequately enforced. Financialization continued apace, and corporate governance worsened.

Now, as I point out in my recent book Rewriting the Rules of the American Economy, the rules of the game need to be changed again – and this must include measures to tame globalization.
- And Erik Sherman writes that increasing economic inequality may be driving the U.S.' political polarization.

- Will Evans points out how temp agencies are able to engage in systemic discrimination with little prospect of having to compensate victims. And Sara Mojtehedzadeh discusses how they also serve as a shield against the enforcement of employment standards, while also reporting on a class action based on the sub-minimum wages paid to workers classified as independent contractors.

- Alec Luhn examines the environmental calamity flowing from Russia's dependence on poorly-maintained pipelines. Richard Fuller and Jack Caravanos remind us that lead poisoning remains a widespread problem which isn't the subject of any meaningful remediation. And Andrew Freedman notes that today's irresponsible experimentation with our shared planet may cause yesterday's to resurface, as climate change allows Cold War-era experiments to emerge from where they'd been buried.

- Meanwhile, Erin Auel discusses how the U.S.' worst carbon polluters are spending large amounts of money trying to fight any regulation at all rather than cleaning up their act. And Eric Lipton and Brooke Williams highlight the connection between think tanks and their corporate puppetmasters.

- Finally, Jim Stanford makes the case to revisit the Bank of Canada's mandate to deal with real concerns about stagnation and systemic unemployment, rather than focusing solely on far-fetched fearmongering about future inflation.

Sunday, August 07, 2016

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Michael Wasser comments on the importance of unions - and the need to ensure that corporate-dominated politics don't stand in the way of worker organization. And Ben Sichel rightly argues that Ontario's widespread violations of employment standards demonstrate the need for unions to protect workers' rights even when there's some theoretical legal protection in place.

- Neil Irwin discusses how decades of neoliberal economics have left most of the developed world with stagnant development:
This slow growth is not some new phenomenon, but rather the way it has been for 15 years and counting. In the United States, per-person gross domestic product rose by an average of 2.2 percent a year from 1947 through 2000 — but starting in 2001 has averaged only 0.9 percent. The economies of Western Europe and Japan have done worse than that.

Over long periods, that shift implies a radically slower improvement in living standards. In the year 2000, per-person G.D.P. — which generally tracks with the average American’s income — was about $45,000. But if growth in the second half of the 20th century had been as weak as it has been since then, that number would have been only about $20,000.

To make matters worse, fewer and fewer people are seeing the spoils of what growth there is. According to a new analysis by the McKinsey Global Institute, 81 percent of the United States population is in an income bracket with flat or declining income over the last decade. That number was 97 percent in Italy, 70 percent in Britain, and 63 percent in France.

Like most things in economics, the slowdown boils down to supply and demand: the ability of the global economy to produce goods and services, and the desire of consumers and businesses to buy them. What’s worrisome is that weakness in global supply and demand seems to be pushing each other in a vicious circle.

It increasingly looks as if something fundamental is broken in the global growth machine — and that the usual menu of policies, like interest rate cuts and modest fiscal stimulus, aren’t up to the task of fixing it (though some well-devised policies could help).
- Meanwhile, Josh Bivens and Hunter Blair examine how a financial transactions tax would both redirect economic activity toward actual productivity, and provide significantly more funding for social benefits.

- Alison Brownlee discusses a thoughtful proposal to fix the twin problems of retiree isolation and unemployment by funding personal support for seniors by low-income individuals.

- Finally, Robin McKie reports on new climate data showing that we're already on the verge of exceeding the 1.5 degree Celsius target set at the Paris climate change talks.