Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Colby Smith writes about the changing role of public stock markets, which are serving primarily to allow already-wealthy investors to cash out rather than to fund the growth of expanding businesses. And the Equality Trust examines the growing gap between the CEO class and minimum-wage workers in the UK.

- Silvio Marcacci and Sara Hastings-Simon point out how Doug Ford's insistence on immediately cancelling anything which could possibly rein in climate change is leading to economic aftershocks for Ontario. And Sharon Riley comments on the connection between climate change and British Columbia's catastrophic wildfires.

- Christo Aivalis discusses how the Ford PCs are wrecking lives by scrapping Ontario's basic income pilot for the sole purpose of avoiding being proven wrong about the effect of a stable and predictable income. And Hadrian Mertins-Kirkwood examines the problems with the limited window for Employment Insurance sick leave benefits which typically expire before recipients are ready to go back to work.

- David Climenhaga offers a reminder that Ontario is just the latest example of minimum wage increases improving incomes for the people who need it most without any meaningful side effects. And PressProgress responds to the Fraser Institute's typical use of laughably-torqued assumptions and numbers to attack public revenues.

- Finally, Courtney Dickson reports on the rightfully-outraged response to the Libs' Hunger Games plan for on-reserve housing.

[Edit: fixed typo.]

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Angled cats.

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Humberto DaSilva comments on the need to recognize that it's the distortion of the political system by the wealthy that's left most people with a standard of living that's stagnating or worse. And Davide Mastracci makes the case for an inheritance tax as one step toward improved equality and social cohesion in Canada.

- Meanwhile, Daniel Tencer writes about Ontario's minimum wage boost as yet another example of wages increasing where they're most needed without any of the threatened side effects.

- CBC reports on a new study showing how the Saskatchewan Party's elimination of STC is preventing victims of domestic abuse from getting to safety. And Krystalle Ramlakhan discusses how Doug Ford's attack on drug overdose prevention will cause easily-preventable deaths.

- Matt Wittek argues that limiting the use of straws is just a small first step in reducing our reliance on environmentally-destructive single-use plastics.

- Finally, Jeffrey Ball writes about the limitations of low-level carbon pricing absent a meaningful strategy to shift to a clean energy economy. David Gray-Donald calls out far too much of Canada's media for failing to point out the glaring gap between oil industry projections and climate imperatives. Melissa Lem and Larry Barzelai point out that a summer of record temperatures and wildfires should confirm that climate change is a public health emergency. And Jonathan Watts and Elle Hunt describe the devastating effects of the extreme heat that's becoming more common.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Beth Gutelius writes that any discussion about the future of work can draw important lessons from the past, with most of the issues facing workers today echoing or arising out of ones which have surfaced before:
The set of structural forces that has converged over the last forty years has shaped the economy and produced an uneven distribution of benefits, especially along lines of race, gender, immigration status, disability, and other markers of social difference. These are the ghosts of work, forces which include:
  • Structural racism and gender discrimination that disadvantages people of color, especially African Americans, and women;
  • Immigration policy that has resulted in a secondary labor market for undocumented immigrants and immigrants with certain visas;
  • Industry reorganization that has led to an increasingly fissured economy and increasing reliance on outsourcing and worker subcontracting;
  • Decline in union density, due to explicit and well-funded attacks on workers’ rights to organize and bargain collectively, which has reduced the wage-setting capacity and political influence of unions;
  • Shifts in corporate governance that have lead to increased shareholder power and CEO pay, and curtailed shared prosperity;
  • Globalization and trade policy which produced a new set of low-road competitive dynamics, including offshoring;
  • Attacks on the public sector which have resulted in policies skewed toward financial and private sector deregulation, privatization, and the overall shrinking of the role of government;
  • Tax policy reform that has favored the wealthy and corporations, and has lead to a redistribution of gains toward the top of the income spectrum; and
  • Financialization, which has bloated the role of the financial sector in the economy.
What a list! Taken as a whole, these major trends have shifted power and resources away from workers, and allowed or even incentivized employers to pursue a range of low-road approaches to profitability. These root causes may be shifting somewhat, but they are not going away.
  1. The future of economic justice is a just transition to what will involve more technologically-mediated labor markets and jobs. A just transition should mitigate the costs and share the benefits of new technologies.
  2. Change is certain, but its path is not, and giving in to inevitability will stifle our imagination. There are many alternatives, and it is our collective duty to create and promote them.
  3. Efforts to confront the changing nature of work should strengthen the role of the public sector in setting and enforcing workplace standards and delivering a social safety net.
  4. Those workers most affected by an issue should be involved in shaping any proposal or campaign to address it, and the process should help build workers’ voice and capacity to act.
- Meanwhile, the New York Times editorial board examines the long-haul trucking industry as a damning example of the combination of longer hours, greater demands and stagnant wages faced by so many workers in the U.S. over recent decades.

- The New York Times editorial board also points out how the Trump tax giveaway served only to further enrich the wealthy. And Thomas Piketty discusses the dangers of burgeoning inequality.

- The Economist offers a useful set of principles and proposals to make tax systems more fair and effective. 

- Finally, Don Lenihan writes about Canada's telecommunications oligopoly - and the need to treat access to the world as an essential service to ensure access is available in areas which won't receive equitable services based on profit motives. And Sarah Fischer discusses the dangers of increased concentration of local television broadcasting and other media.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Somini Sengupta writes that the extreme heat experienced so far in 2018 shows how ill-prepared humanity is for the climate change it's causing. And the Economist offers a warning that the oil industry can't realistically expect past prices to continue to apply under a future transition toward other energy sources.

- Meanwhile, UC Berkeley unveils new research as to the effectiveness of regulations in reducing multiple types of industrial emissions without affecting output.

- But Ben Parfitt points out the role of British Columbia's heavily-subsidized natural gas and "gas liquids" in facilitating the further destruction wrought by the oil sands. And Andy Crosby and Jeffrey Monaghan expose how the federal government has consistently used public resources to spy against activists on behalf of the oil industry, rather than doing anything to identify and defend the public interest.

- Sarah DelVillano highlights the need for leadership from the federal government to combat poverty in Canada. And the Star's editorial board suggests that a valuable first step would be to take on the basic income pilot project so callously trashed by Doug Ford, while Glen Pearson is particularly aghast at the ideological cancellation of research into an idea capable of earning support from multiple points on the political spectrum.

- Finally, Chris Dillow argues that UK politics are failing to select for anything approaching desirable attributes in distributing power - and a few of the concerns appear to apply far more broadly.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Ainslie Cruickshank reports on Grand Chief Stewart Phillip's call to prevent catastrophic climate change rather than devoting public money toward fossil fuel subsidies. And Eric Holthaus points out that the recent "hothouse Earth" report includes the recognition that it's not yet too late to return to climate stability with a meaningful push toward clean energy.

- But Emma McIntosh's report and David Climenhaga's post on climate change denialism within Jason Kenney's UCP offer a reminder that there are far too many people in and around the halls of power who won't even acknowledge the existence of a problem, let alone work toward a desperately-needed solution. And Alex Randall notes that neoliberal ideology has created extra barriers to concerted public action to solve climate change (or any other issue where the public interest comes into conflict with entrenched corporate power).

- Meanwhile, Zach Kaldveer examines how Donald Trump has pushed the U.S.' Environmental Protection Agency to take direction from corporations seeking free rein to pollute regardless of the resulting harm to the public.

- Don Pittis discusses some of the factors standing in the way of an inheritance tax in Canada - while noting that complaints seem to be largely based on a lack of awareness that other peer countries already have one.

- Finally, Rod Hick offers an overview of in-work poverty, while noting the need for far more work to assist people in escaping poverty traps.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Musical interlude

Eli and Fur - You're So High

Friday Evening Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- David Moscrop makes the case for a long-overdue inheritance tax in Canada:
Over time, if left unchecked, capitalism facilitates the pooling of wealth — cash, property, business ownership, investments — among a select few. This is as true in Canada as anywhere else. That pooling implies not just the concentration of wealth but also the concentration of authority, influence, proximity to decision-makers, and all the other tactical tools it takes to get things done the way you want them done.

That concentration of power ultimately undermines democracy. When a small elite hog the wealth and the power, the rest of the people are either marginalized or shut out altogether.

The most obscene way that wealth is made is through large-scale inheritance. Passing along wealth facilitates the concentration of resources in the hands of the few, generation over generation. In Canada, inheritance is a serious problem that prevents not just equal outcome but even equal opportunity.
- Wanyee Li highlights how soaring housing prices in Vancouver have made it nearly impossible for middle- and working-class citizens to become homeowners. And Ryan Cooper points out the role social housing needs to play in building cohesive and functional cities.

- Nick Loenen discusses the value of an electoral system which encourages cooperation and genuine majoritarianism rather than artificially assigning absolute power to one leader with a minority of the total party vote.

- Meanwhile, in a prime example of how artificial majorities lead to abuses of centralized power, Mike de Souza exposes how the Libs allowed Kinder Morgan to raid the public treasury without keeping anybody informed of their plans. And David Sirota reports on Donald Trump's latest scheme to hand free money to banksters at public expense.

- Felice Frayer reports on a new study showing the connection between on-the-job injuries and opioid deaths.

- Finally, while the Saskatchewan Party tries to wish away its Global Transportation Hub scandal, Geoff Leo reminds us of just 20 of the outstanding questions about the fiasco while finding nobody willing to answer them.

[Edit: fixed typo.]

Wednesday, August 08, 2018

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Frank Rich writes that the lack of a meaningful response to the 2008 financial crisis has understandably undermined public confidence in the U.S.' future:
Everything in the country is broken. Not just Washington, which failed to prevent the financial catastrophe and has done little to protect us from the next, but also race relations, health care, education, institutional religion, law enforcement, the physical infrastructure, the news media, the bedrock virtues of civility and community. Nearly everything has turned to crap, it seems, except Peak TV (for those who can afford it).

That loose civic concept known as the American Dream — initially popularized during the Great Depression by the historian James Truslow Adams in his Epic of America — has been shattered. No longer is lip service paid to the credo, however sentimental, that a vast country, for all its racial and sectarian divides, might somewhere in its DNA have a shared core of values that could pull it out of any mess. Dead and buried as well is the companion assumption that over the long term a rising economic tide would lift all Americans in equal measure. When that tide pulled back in 2008 to reveal the ruins underneath, the country got an indelible picture of just how much inequality had been banked by the top one percent over decades, how many false promises to the other 99 percent had been broken, and how many central American institutions, whether governmental, financial, or corporate, had betrayed the trust the public had placed in them...
- And Julia Conley notes that older Americans are starting to bear the brunt of policies which initially seemed to favour them at the expense of younger generations - particularly as co-signors to unmanageable student loans are seeing the bills come due.

- Meanwhile, Ben Batros discusses the importance of an international fight against tax avoidance and tax havens to meaningfully reduce inequality rooted in gross wealth disparities.

- Pat Thane points out that there has been little change in the prevalence and causes of poverty in the UK over the past century-plus. And Gary Bloch implores the Ford PCs to work on building supportive social programs, rather than making it their primary aim punish the poor (and in the process increasing the costs of the health and justice systems for everybody).

- Finally, Jenny Schuetz notes that both renters and homeowners would benefit from a housing policy designed to ensure everybody has a safe and affordable home.