Sunday, April 29, 2012

Sunday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your weekend.

- For much of the relatively recent past, one of the areas of relative consensus in economic theory is that productivity increases would find their way to workers. But Paul Krugman shows that hope to be utterly misplaced:
Where did the productivity go?

The answer is, it’s two-thirds the inequality, stupid. One third of the difference is due to a technical issue involving price indexes. The rest, however, reflects a shift of income from labor to capital and, within that, a shift of labor income to the top and away from the middle.

What this says is that widening inequality makes a huge difference. Income stagnation does not reflect overall economic stagnation; the incomes of typical workers would be 30 or 40 percent higher than they are if inequality hadn’t soared.

Which confirms all the more that we need to work more on redistribution, rather than on the hope that expanding the economic pie through productivity gains will benefit anybody other than those constantly angling for a larger share.

- But of course, the Cons are doing their utmost to make sure as little of the benefit of any economic growth as possible goes to mere workers. And the Star takes them to task on their efforts to push cheap, disposable foreign labour to replace Canadians who might know and act on their employment rights:

Since Prime Minister Stephen Harper assumed power in 2006, the number of foreign temporary workers admitted into Canada has grown by 40 per cent. The temporary worker stream is now larger than the stream of permanent workers intending to set down roots and become citizens.

When Canada introduced its temporary foreign worker program in 2002, the governing Liberals vowed never to adopt the European model route in which “guest workers” are paid less than nationals and treated as second-class residents.

But under Harper, the country is now moving in that direction.

Likewise, Thomas Walkom has this to say:

Employers could solve their labour shortages by offering higher wages or — in the case of skilled trades — by training Canadians to do the job.

But, if government is willing, it’s easier and more profitable to import cheaper, trained labour from abroad.

And this government has shown that it’s willing. It says that if Canadians don’t want to see jobs going to foreigners, they should quit whining and accept lower wages.

Which is why Ottawa’s answer to complaints made about temporary foreign workers is to toughen Employment Insurance rules.

Kenney has warned that unemployed workers who refuse to take low-wage jobs will have their EI benefits cut off. If Canadians agree to work for less, he explains, Ottawa won’t have to bring in as many low-wage outsiders.

All of this is a solution of sorts, I suppose, albeit a 19th century one. But it is a solution that threatens to bring with it the kind of agitation now seen in countries like France, Holland and Greece — where the racist right is on the rise and where far too many workers view immigrants as mortal enemies out to steal their jobs.

- Lawrence Martin asks whether we still live in a democracy - and the answer is rather disturbing. And the Canadian Association of Journalists gives the Cons their due reward for suppressing information.

- Finally, Michael Hollett suggests that anybody hoping for a more progressive and representative government get behind the NDP in order to implement proportional representation. And Brian Topp points out that the Libs' own perpetual appeals to strategic voting - which I'd note represent arguably the lone consistent note in the party's campaigns over the past decade - may end up being the greatest obstacle to their efforts to rebuild.

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