Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Louis Uchitelle discusses how the decline of organized labour in the U.S. has harmed not just workers' direct interests, but the economic sectors where unions previously thrived:
Want to make America great again and keep factories in the United States? Try strengthening labor unions.

That may seem counterintuitive, and certainly contrary to the direction the country has been moving in lately. But the reality is that when organized labor dug in its heels — as it did regularly in the United States until late in the 20th century — manufacturing companies thought twice about shutting a factory and transferring production to another country.
As union membership declines, labor has less leverage to intervene in the management of a corporation, or to galvanize the public into boycotting the products of manufacturers who put too many factories overseas while exporting less from the United States.

Strikes work when union membership is high enough to encourage the public to support the strikers, or at least feel a kinship with them. My parents, who lived comfortably on my father’s earnings as a textile broker in New York, never crossed a picket line thrown up by a labor union in pursuit of a favorable contract. They might not have agreed with a union’s demands, or even known what they were. But they respected a strike as an often-necessary tool in reaching a compromise acceptable to both sides.
The street demonstrations and marches so characteristic of today’s resistance can be immensely meaningful, but they don’t force the sort of permanent economic change that a union can achieve through a binding contract that emerges from a strike.

Or at least they haven’t yet. Perhaps in time new organizations will emerge — heirs to the old union movement — and one of their priorities will be to pressure manufacturers quite publicly to put more of their factories in the United States.
- Alex McKeen reports on a needed push for labour market indicators which recognize the reality of gig work and other forms of precarity. Julia Horowitz points out that WalMart represents a particularly egregious example of inequality between executives and workers. Chris Parsons offers a reminder that one of the greatest threats to free speech is employer suppression of workers' views - particularly where they involve asserting rights in the workplace. And UFCW points out one recent Alberta example of an employer's anti-union tactics leading to a remedial certification.

- Daniel Tencer examines the assumptions behind the sticker price of a basic income, and notes that the savings in social costs could make a secure income into a bargain for everybody.

- Marc Lee highlights the full cost-benefit analysis which shows a Trans Mountain expansion to be a poor deal for everybody but its corporate operators. And Tzeporah Berman writes about the importance of protest movements in ensuring that the people excluded from the Libs' decision-making are still able to influence the course of events.

- Finally, Brent Patterson reminds us of a few of Justin Trudeau's most important broken promises.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Robert Costanza reviews Mariana Mazzucato's The Value of Everything, and highlights its focus on attaching proper importance to priorities that aren't reflected in prices:
(T)he current mainstream ‘marginalist’ concept bases value on market exchanges: price, as revealed by the interaction of supply and demand in markets, determines value, and the only things that have value are those that fetch a price.

This has major implications for ideas about the distinction between value creation and value extraction, the nature of unearned income (‘rent’) and how value should be distributed. As Mazzucato notes, it stokes inequality because the market, simply by generating income, is seen to justify its level and distribution: “All income, according to this logic, is earned income: gone is any analysis of activities in terms of whether they are productive or unproductive.”

Mazzucato lays out disturbing implications of the marginalist approach. These include (mis)measuring national income and real wealth, confusing financial speculation with the production of value, perverting the patent system (which stifles, rather than rewards, innovation) and undervaluing government and public goods, including public infrastructure, ecosystems and social networks. Her engaging and insightful exploration reveals how embedded the marginalist approach has become, and how it distorts economies’ ability to foster innovation, equity and real progress.
Economics has been defined as the use of scarce resources to achieve desirable ends. In the Anthropocene epoch of human influence on the planet, we need to redefine those ends, and reevaluate which resources are truly scarce. Value should be viewed as contribution to the sustainable well-being of Earth and all its inhabitants...Mazzucato’s trenchant analysis is a compelling call to reinvent value as a key concept to help us achieve the world we all want. 
- Meanwhile, in a prime example of how reality is being warped to achieve surface financial goals, Matthew McClearn discusses how Ontario's Libs are condemning citizens to decades of avoidable interest payments in order to avoid answering for the costs of power privatization.

- Richard Florida examines the role housing prices play in the growth of inequality.

- Howard Mann views the Trudeau Libs' determination to put the resource sector and its foreign profiteers ahead of the public interest through backroom deals as a hallmark of third-world governance. Andrew Nikiforuk takes a look at the Enron roots of Kinder Morgan, the latest beneficiary of the Libs' largesse. And Ralph Surette offers kudos to John Horgan's NDP for being able to tell the difference between the "national interest" and the profit motive of the fossil fuel sector.

- Finally, Isabella Lovin discusses the need for countries to not only reach their modest climate change commitments in the short term, but to reach net zero carbon emissions in a matter of decades to avert a climate catastrophe.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Denise Balkissoon writes about the importance of ensuring a just transition for fossil fuel workers - rather than using their jobs as bargaining chips to preserve oil industry profits. And Andrea Olive, Emily Eaton and Randy Besco point out that there's plenty of public support for carbon pricing and other elements of a strong climate change policy in Saskatchewan.

- Meanwhile, Nick Falvo offers a list of takeaways from the Moe government's first provincial budget - including multiple choices which will make life even more precarious for people facing poverty and precarity:
6. Social assistance benefit levels in Saskatchewan remain very low. For example, a single employable adult on social assistance in Saskatchewan receives approximately $9,000 annually on which to live (and pay rent). A person with a disability gets between $12,000 and $16,000 annually, depending on the severity of the disability. Every year, the value of inflation erodes the value of these benefits. (All of these figures can be found here.) 

7. This budget announced the phasing out of a rental housing benefit for low-income households. The Saskatchewan Rental Housing Supplement provided some additional rent money for low-income households with either children or a disability; but this budget announced that no new applications will be accepted as of July 1. The provincial government expects this will save the provincial treasury $5 million in the first year (or 0.03% of the total budget). Without the rent supplement in place, I believe it’s likely we’ll see more people becoming homeless in Saskatchewan, which itself comes with added costs to the public treasury. 

8. The budget’s decision to extend the PST to used car sales may disproportionately impact low-income households. The budget removes the PST tax exemption on (light) used car sales, which may translate into almost $100 million in new annual revenue. This will make it slightly more expensive to purchase a used car in Saskatchewan. The budget also restores the trade-in allowance when determining the PST—so, when a car owner is trading in a vehicle, they will only pay the PST on the difference in price of the trade in and the selling price for the vehicle they’re buying. 

9. The budget fails to address on-reserve child poverty. According to Census data, Saskatchewan’s on-reserve rate of child poverty (as measured by the After Tax Low Income Measure) is nearly 70%, second highest in the country after Manitoba. Neither this year’s budget nor last year’s takes meaningful steps towards addressing that.
- Heather Stewart reports on UK Labour's push for genuinely affordable housing - rather than stretching the term to fit homes priced far beyond people's means.

- Michael Geist discusses the dangers of allowing - and even encouraging - corporate giants to monitor and control online content. And Murad Hemmadi talks to Charlie Angus about Facebook's influence over public policy (even as it fails to register to lobby government).

- Finally, Ruth Dreifuss and Richard Elliott make the case for the decriminalization of personal drug use and possession in order to reduce the social harms arising out of prohibition.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Quirks & Quarks examines the potentially devastating effects of a dilbit spill on British Columbia's coast. And David Climenhaga warns that Kinder Morgan is looking at NAFTA to provide it an alternate source of risk-free profits at public expense.

- Mia Rabson reports on Canada's continued failure to come anywhere close to our already-insufficient emission reduction commitments. And Laura Kusisto and Arian Campo-Flores examine how oceanfront properly is beginning to lose its value as buyers recognize the impending effects of climate change.

- Thomas Walkom offers his take as to why Canada needs a universal pharmacare system. But Andre Picard points out the need to be much more specific about what will be included and how it will be funded. 

- Hugh Segal argues that prosperous societies have a particular duty to eliminate poverty and insecurity - including by guaranteeing a basic income.

- Finally, Stop the Cuts weighs in on yet another austerity budget from the Saskatchewan Party. And Murray Mandryk criticizes the Moe government's belief that it's above any need for ethics.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Musical interlude

The Stills - Hands On Fire

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- PressProgress crunches the numbers on tax loopholes and finds that more and more revenue is being lost to the most glaring loopholes every year. And Andrew Jackson hopes for a sorely-needed response from the federal government to rein in tax avoidance by the wealthy.

- Sam Cooper reports on Vancouver's embarrassing status as a poster child for criminal money laundering.

- Wanda Wyporska highlights the importance of fighting for greater equality rather than allowing it to overtake social cohesion and individual well-being.

- Anna Patty reports on a new study showing how an improved minimum wage could create jobs in addition to boosting standards of living in Australia. And Scott Brown writes about the B.C. NDP's first steps toward including all workers in basic employment protections (including the right to a minimum wage).

- Mark Winfield warns of the risks of panicking about the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, though Mike De Souza reveals that the Libs have made a habit of leaping into reckless action at Kinder Morgan's behest. And Hadrian Mertins-Kirkwood writes that we should be focusing on a just transition for both resource sector workers and their communities, while Mitchell Anderson discusses how the Trans Mountain expansion would only exacerbate a trend seeing refinery jobs leaked south of the border.

- Finally, CBC reports on Justin Trudeau's lack of interest in following the UK's ban on single-use plastics.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Paul Constant discusses a new study showing that the positive effects of minimum wage increases for low-income workers actually grow over time. And Sheila Block highlights how a $15 increased minimum wage stands to offer far more to workers than Doug Ford's tax tinkering.

- Meanwhile, Pam Weintraub writes that anxiety and stress arising from traumatic experiences have repercussions spanning multiple generations.

- Natalie Appleyard points out the amount of work to be done to address the multiple forms of precarity and poverty faced by Canadians. But Andrew Coyne examines the Parliamentary Budget Office's report on the cost of a national basic income and concludes we could realistically end extreme poverty for an additional three percent on the existing GST.

- Kelly Grant reports on the conclusion of Parliament's Standing Committee on Health endorsing a true national pharmacare program (rather than the patchwork planned by the Trudeau government).

- Finally, Rachel Browne investigates the unconscionable racial divide in arrests for cannabis possession which systematically pushes minorities into the criminal justice system. And the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation examines the lack of housing resources for people trying to reintegrate after being incarcerated. 

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Ann Pettifor discusses the trend toward financialization which has led to regular economic disasters - and suggests the public is well aware it's getting left behind in the policy choices which have created it.

- ScienceDaily takes note of the strong connection between education levels and longevity.

- Sarah Jones calls out the U.S. Republicans' constant steps to withhold food from people who need it - including children who have to attend school hungry as a result. And Andrew Sniderman and Vincent Larochelle discuss the unfairness of mandatory surcharges which impose lasting debts on people with no ability to pay them.

- David Suzuki points out the regular occurrence of dangerous oil spills around the world while highlighting the risks of any Trans Mountain expansion. Martin Lukacs writes that it's Indigenous protestors against pipeline expansion who are actually defending the national interest. And Kai Nagata asks for suggestions as to how we could better use $8 billion of public money other than to subsidize a pipeline for the benefit of Enron alumni.

- Finally, Luke Savage comments on the contrast between Justin Trudeau's slogans and his actions while in power:
(I)t is the disparity between Trudeau’s rhetorical posturing and political execution that perhaps best illustrates the essential conservatism of his government. Social investment and Keynesianism, supposedly the defining pillars of Liberal economic strategy, have given way to corporatism and stealth privatisation.

Even as Trudeau performatively condemns corporate elites, his supposed war on inequality has amounted to tinkering with income tax brackets while opposing a $15-an-hour minimum wage for federal workers. The legalisation of marijuana looks increasingly like a cynical revenue-raiser for avaricious former politicians and ex-cops, rather than a deserved reprieve for those criminalised by the previous system. And while Trudeau’s government was talking up feminism and human rights abroad, it was also signing the export permits for $15bn-worth of armoured vehicles – including some labelled “heavy assault” – to Saudi Arabia.