Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Matt Taylor discusses how the U.S.' Supreme Court has stacked the deck against workers by allowing employers to evade all types of collective action, while the Economic Policy Institute points out that a majority of workers are required to sign away their ability to seek class action remedies against illegal actions. And Elizabeth Tippett reports on the use of distorted time-keeping technology to systematically require workers to put in extra time without pay.

- Meanwhile, Jim Stanford comments on the importance of using the government's role in the economy to raise the bar for worker rights and employment standards:
Australia’s government sector is by far the largest single part of Australia’s economy.  The report documents the enormous fiscal dimensions of the economic footprint of government:
  • Total expenditures of over $660 billion per year, equal to 36 percent of Australia’s GDP.
  • Total “consumption” spending (that is, expenditures on current production of public goods and services) of over $330 billion per year (18.5 percent of GDP), and investment spending (on longer-lived capital projects) of over $85 billion (another 5 percent of GDP).
  • Direct public sector employment of close to 2 million workers, with millions more jobs indirectly dependent on government injections of spending power into the economy.
  • Fiscal and policy support for public and community service provision by arms-length non-profit agencies, worth at least another 4 percent of GDP.
  • Goods and services procured from private-sector suppliers equivalent to around 10 percent of GDP (or about $175 billion per year).
This economic footprint, if wielded consistently to achieve higher wages and better jobs, could have a powerful impact on labour market outcomes.  Moreover, through a “demonstration effect,” improved wages and labour standards would “spill over” into better practices in businesses and sectors that have no direct connection to government spending at all. 

It is ironic that Treasurers always pray for stronger wage growth in every budget they prepare, because strong wages are essential to healthy government revenues and stronger economic growth.  But governments don’t pursue obvious opportunities to help achieve that growth, by tying their own expenditure programs to stronger wages and better working conditions.
- Erika Shaker argues that an increased reliance on fund-raising rather than public revenue is only exacerbating differences between wealthier and poorer schools. And Jen St. Denis reports on hundreds of millions of dollars of takes owed which are going unpaid in the real estate sector in Toronto and Vancouver.

- Catherine Griwkowsky interviews Siobhan Vipond about the importance of child care in narrowing the pay equity gap between men and women.

- Finally, Raymond Saint-Germain and Art Eggleton highlight the need for improved social supports and evidence-based criminal justice policy to reverse a sharp increase in the number of women incarcerated in Canada.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Clutching cats.

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Tom Parkin discusses the distinction between giveaways to the rich which are perpetually seen as carrying no price, and the expansion of the commons which is treated as intolerably costly:
(O)ffer something that is actually free and things get downright snarky. In the currently Ontario election, the NDP platform includes a free drug plan, free dental benefits and free childcare for lower income households. There’s no fee, toll or service charge. It really is free to the user, paid for through our progressive tax system.

In Horwath’s plan, tax on income over $220,000 goes up one point, tax over $300,000 goes up a second. It’s all accounted for.

Now suddenly come a wave of objections—the service “isn’t really free,” say detractors as if there is some sort of deception.

But just stop. We use lots of great free public services everyday, paid by our progressive tax system.

Roads and bridges. Parks. Schools. Health care. Libraries. Police. Firefighters. Armed Forces. Coast Guard. It’s a long list.

And it we want we can add a free drug plan, dental benefits and child care. And just like our roads and health care, they will be paid through our progressive income tax. There’s no deception.

And these new public services are right. Working people are struggling. Families with two incomes need affordable childcare. Fewer workers get union dental and drug benefits. Wages are stagnant. But executive compensation is skyrocketing. It’s fair.

Boil it all down, here’s the basic point. In our society, free money for rich people requires no explanation. Free public services, even if fully paid for, are an outrage. Go get it at my supermarket.
- But on the bright side, David Climenhaga renews his prediction that the Horwath NDP's plan for a more caring and secure society will win out over Doug Ford's attempt to get the working class to vote for exploitation by the rich.

- Meanwhile, Patrick Greenfield and Sarah Marsh highlight how the UK is criminalizing homelessness. And Justin Wm. Moyer reports on the 7 million Americans who have lost their drivers' licences - and in many cases their ability to legally meet the availability demands of most employers - to punitive traffic debt.

- Finally, The Mound of Sound takes note of the grim milestone that's seen the Earth above its normal temperature for 400 consecutive months. And Damian Carrington offers a reminder that even as the worst effects of climate change loom in the future, humanity's track record involves the widespread destruction of plant and animal species.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

-The UK's Association of Directors of Public Health speaks out (PDF) about the importance of giving children the best possible start in life - including through security in the essentials of life.

- But Christina Gibson-Davis and Christine Perchenski write about the increased inequality that is leaving a large majority of families in the U.S. with no safety net. And Matthew Stewart breaks down the U.S.' income brackets into the .1% which is accumulating wealth faster than it can spend, the 90% which is falling behind, and the 9.9% between the two which has mostly held its position.

- Melissa Davey comments on the lack of investigation and punishment of wage theft in Australia. But David Marin-Guzman reports on one noteworthy example of an employer being sentenced to a meaningful jail term - if only for contempt of court after the employer breached an order to retain funds to pay workers. 

- Christian Breyer summarizes new research showing that a 100% renewable energy system is entirely feasible and affordable. And David Fickling notes that for that reason, the next key developments in energy figure to involve storing the product of intermittent renewable sources, not looking for excuses to keep extracting and burning fossil fuels.

- Meanwhile, Wal van Lierop calls for a reality check about the future of an oil-dependent economy (and the construction of pipelines intended to extend that dependence).

- Finally, Tabatha Southey examines the parallels between Doug Ford and Donald Trump as overgrown children of privilege trying to use populist language to further indulge the advantages they've held. And Paul Wells writes about Andrea Horwath's campaign as she offers Ontario a positie alternative.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Brian Wakamo notes that Kirsten Gillibrand is pushing for postal banking in the U.S. as an alternative to predatory lenders in underserved communities.

- Glen Hodgson discusses the rising fiscal costs of climate change - even as the Trudeau Libs plan to put public money into exacerbating it. And Damian Carrington examines the looming danger of severe destruction of insect habitat from even best-case climate change scenarios.

- Meanwhile, Yonatan Strauch points out that the threat of oil embargos being used to try to bully British Columbia into risking its environment for pipelines ultimately only highlights the need to stop depending on fossil fuels. And Gary Mason comments on the need for Alberta (among other jurisdictions pushing the Trans Mountain expansion) to pay attention to British Columbia's legitimate concerns.

- Murray Mandryk argues that Scott Moe and the Saskatchewan Party need to start doing something more productive than taking potshots at the federal government - even if it's obvious that they're desperate to distract from their own failings and scandals.

- Finally, Yves Engler discusses the Libs' Bill C-59 - which goes beyond authorizing surveillance to also allow for aggressive "disruption".

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Saturday Afternoon Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Noah Smith writes that public resentment toward the U.S.' wealthiest few is based on a genuine (and justified) concern about an economic system rigged to exacerbate inequality across generations, not mere envy toward the people who have more:
(R)esentment of the super-rich is probably not simply envy. It likely has to do with notions of fairness. As economist N. Gregory Mankiw conjectured in a 2013 essay, people are more likely to begrudge vast fortunes if they feel the wealth wasn’t earned. Technology company founders may be rich, but they mostly got that way by creating new products or services that benefit many people’s lives — think PayPal or iPhones or Facebook. Similarly, rich athletes or entertainers used their talents to make life more enjoyable for millions of Americans.

But about 38 percent of American billionaires inherited at least a substantial part of their fortunes. These heirs and heiresses tend to be less in the public eye, but they hold vast sums nonetheless. Taxing these unearned billions seems like a great way to allay public concerns about the super-rich.

Economics provides both empirical and theoretical support for the idea of taxing inheritances at much higher rates, and making the tax much harder to avoid. Surveys find that informing people about wealth inequality makes them much more likely to support higher estate taxes, but only slightly more likely to support other forms of taxation. And economic theory suggests that taxing wealthy inheritors can increase economic efficiency if many of them are bad investors.

So one idea to address popular anger over the dramatic success of a few super-rich individuals is to stop them from passing most of those fortunes on to their children. That won’t take the Elon Musks and the Mark Zuckerbergs out of the news, but it will reassure Americans that most of their crazy-rich countrymen made their own money through hard work and talent, not just the luck of having rich parents.
- George Eaton discusses the combination of popular support which is leading toward increasing public ownership of the UK's public services. And David Zarnett reports on the Wynne government's giveaway of a profitable casino for pennies on the dollar - representing just one more example of how the public loses out when neoliberal government focus on privatization over competent management.

- Adam Litwin, Ariel Avgar and Edmund Becker study (PDF) how the outsourcing of cleaning services in hospitals leads to the increased spread of infectious diseases.

- Bernard Goldstein comments on another of the Trump administration's moves to prevent regulators from doing their jobs, this time by making a policy of rejecting some of the best available environmental studies.

- Finally, following up on this week's column, Samir Shaheen-Hussain points out another policy choice which results in children being deprived of family support when it's needed most, as air ambulances refuse to allow parents to accompany Inuit children to receive care.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Musical interlude

Sloan - 500 Up

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- George Monbiot discusses the dangers of treating our natural environment solely as something to be priced and commodified.

- The Mound of Sound comments on Stephen Leahy's work in crunching the numbers on the climate change impact of a Trans Mountain expansion. And Matt Scuffham and Rod Nickel report on Bill Morneau's apparent plan to divert Canada Pension Plan funds into forcing through a pipeline which can't find private investors.

- Nora Loreto writes about Canada's criminalization of dissent on the left. And Nathan Robinson argues that the right's perpetual persecution complex serves mostly to distract from the suppression of anti-establishment speech:
I want to suggest a hypothesis that may sound outlandish: What if the whole narrative is backwards? What if people who think they are voicing suppressed dangerous ideas are actually the ones suppressing the truly dangerous ideas? What if this effort to condemn the irrational excesses of political correctness is in part a way of avoiding having to engage with its arguments and listen carefully to its advocates? What if people who seem to be “challenging” a dissent-stifling power structure are actually defending one? Now, I’m not saying this is the case; I’m just asking some questions. But let’s, for a moment, because we are rational and skeptical, consider the possibility that the conservative narrative is totally upside-down. Let’s picture a topsy-turvy world in which Donald Trump is the president and left ideas are actually marginal. 
...I’m just asking us to imagine a strange world in which the interests of the wealthy mattered far more than the interests of the poor, and in which the good people got left behind while the bad people were honored and celebrated. But let’s stick with the idea, just a moment longer. In this kind of world, what would we make of people like the members of the “Intellectual Dark Web,” who insist that their ideas pose a challenge to the mainstream consensus? Well, first we’d have to look at the ideas themselves. But if those ideas turned out to coincide remarkably well with the interests of those who are already wealthy and powerful, and if those ideas seemed to downplay, deny, and evade all of the contrary evidence, we might begin to suspect that these Dissident Intellectuals should not, in fact, rightfully be considered dissidents. In this kind of world, the real dissidents would be the ones whose names we didn’t know, the ones who were trying to dredge up the truths nobody wanted to listen to, rather than the people whose faces and opinions were constantly in the newspapers. The dangerous ideas would be the ones that weren’t spoken from the White House and on cable news, because they actually indicted those institutions rather than benefiting them.
- And finally, Rinaldo Wolcott and Naomi Klein discuss how Ontarians can prevent Trumpism from spreading into their provincial government by voting for the change they actually want.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Thursday Evening Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Alex Boutilier discusses the glaring gap between hype and reality when it comes to tech sector jobs. And Virgina Eubanks writes about the futility of expecting miracles from algorithms in allocating grossly insufficient funding for social programs.

- Meanwhile, Dean Baker argues that if anybody should face the prospect of workfare, it's the financial-sector profiteers who enrich themselves while offering poor service managing public assets such as pensions.

- Geoffrey Stevens warns Ontario voters not to once again saddle their province with the mindset which brought them Walkerton and other avoidable tragedies. And Vjosa Isai's report on toxic chemicals in Canadian baby products should instead confirm the need for far stronger protection of the public against corporate irresponsibility.

- And Rachel Cohen discusses the findings of Alex Taborrok, a libertarian economist who wanted to prove a connection between regulations and economic stagnation - but instead demonstrated that one has nothing to do with the other:
(F)or the first time, economists could more confidently measure federal regulations over time and by industry. In theory, that would make it easier to build the case that regulations were hurting the economy.

For his first paper using the database, Tabarrok decided to analyze the effect of federal regulation on “economic dynamism”—a catch-all term referring to the rate at which new businesses launch and grow, and at which people switch jobs, lose jobs, or migrate for work. There has been a notable and somewhat mysterious decline in dynamism over the last few decades. The rate at which start-ups form is half of what it was forty years ago, the fraction of workers who bounce from one job to another—a sign of competitive labor markets—has plunged, productivity has slowed, and adult employment remains well below its early-2000 peak.

Armed with RegData, Tabarrok and Goldschlag set out to show that regulations were at least partly to blame. But they couldn’t. There was simply no correlation, they found, between the degree of federal regulation and the decline of business dynamism. The decline was seen across many different industries, including those that are heavily regulated and those that are not. They tried two other independent tests that didn’t rely on RegData, and came to the same conclusion: an increase in federal regulation just could not explain what was going on.
Indeed, the new paper undermines one of the most deeply held convictions of the American right, one that unites libertarians like Tabarrok with mainstream conservatives: that regulations inevitably impose “deadweight loss” on the economy and are therefore an enemy of economic growth. This idea has been a mainstay of Republican politics since the Reagan era, and the Trump administration has taken to deregulation with missionary zeal. In fact, it’s probably the policy objective that the administration has pursued most successfully—rolling back the Clean Power Plan, repealing net neutrality, freezing the fiduciary rule, and on and on.

The premise that regulations come at the expense of economic activity—that we must always make trade-offs between safety and jobs—is so pervasive that even the American left tends to accept it, defending regulations as necessary evils to promote other social goods. Yet there has never been strong evidence that these trade-offs actually exist. To the contrary, federal regulations have often driven growth and innovation, whether it’s fuel standards spurring new electric cars and solar energy, or the Dodd-Frank law causing an entirely new industry—financial technology—to appear out of whole cloth.
- Finally, Marie Burge criticizes the P.E.I. Liberals' latest efforts to avoid a fair referendum on electoral reform.

New column day

Here, on how Canada continues to tear Indigenous children away from their families due to the lingering effects of discriminatory policies.

For further reading...
- Katie Hyslop has been reporting on the causes and consequences of a severe lack of attention to the welfare of Indigenous children.
- CBC News previewed last week's Federal Court hearing into the sixties scoop settlement, while Jason Warick reported on it afterward.
- Meanwhile, Jennifer Ackerman has reported on the continued delays in the work survivors are being forced to put in just to pursue an apology from Saskatchewan's provincial government.
- Finally, Doug Cuthand comments on the lingering effect of the sixties scoop. And the Star's editorial board has also highlighted the need to stop the cycle of family disruption.