Saturday, July 21, 2012

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Doug Saunders discusses how corporate cash hoarding is limiting any economic recovery - and what we can do about it:
(T)his should be a great time for companies to invest: low prices, low interest rates, cheaper labour costs. A sensible company would build up cash during boom times – when investments are more expensive – and spend it during recessions, when consumer demand is weak and capital is cheap.
Yet this is the precise opposite of what actually happens. Companies look at the low consumer demand and become terrified, failing to recognize their own role in creating it.

This has become a public issue. There are some very important reasons why we need investment and spending now – and why chopping down the cash mountains should come before filling in the debt pits.

Unemployment is threatening to cripple an entire generation in many countries. The worldwide food crisis has returned, for no good reason; with more investment, the world could produce more than enough food. There are serious housing shortages in most Western countries. The drive to reduce carbon emissions has stalled, due to a shortage of investment in nuclear and alternative-energy power sources.

If the economy doesn’t start moving, there is something else we could do: start taxing those cash reserves – especially those held overseas. If we make hoarding expensive, companies will find it more desirable to use earnings to increase market share, improve products through research or expand into new markets.
- Sarah Schmidt reports on the Cons' choice to prioritize an unregulated junk food industry over the advice of health experts on trans-fat monitoring.

- Don Morgan helpfully responds to criticism of his government's attacks on a hundred years of labour progress by saying that his own consultation paper means nothing whatsoever. Meanwhile, Erin Weir points out that Saskatchewan residents are facing real cost-of-living increases which the Sask Party has gone out of its way to avoid ameliorating.

- The Guardian highlights that the NDP is making inroads in Prince Edward Island, both in terms of general organization and a provincial leadership race.

- Finally, Gerald Caplan suggests that the Cons' environmental and military debacles are doing the NDP's work as an official opposition for it:
The first was the huge hole blown in their single most significant economic initiative – unwavering support for Enbridge’s proposed Northern Gateway pipeline from Alberta to the Pacific. The second was the blow to their vaunted managerial efficiency that was to be demonstrated by a modernized Canadian military machine, central to the warrior culture the government wants to make a cherished Canadian value.

In each case, the week’s bad news happened to be the fourth in a series of bad stories that have begun to undermine these two major projects. Oil pipelines received the most coverage, all of it damning. Enbridge’s very public humiliation at the hands of the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board, for a serious pipeline rupture in Michigan in 2010, reminded Canadians that no fewer than three large oil spills had taken place in Alberta itself just the previous month. That in turn evoked unwelcome memories of last year’s massive spill near Peace River, Alta., which then led to reminders that besides the Michigan disaster, 2010 also saw an average of two pipeline failures every day in Alberta. No one, it seems, had remembered this distressing record – until now.

Suddenly, the existing political equation was turned on its head. Instead of the Harper-led attacks on opponents of the Northern Gateway pipeline project as radicals, Canadian politicians and oil interests were now falling all over themselves to insist they put safety first. The villains had become, in the words of one American regulator, Enbridge’s “Keystone Kops.” And instead of Mr. Mulcair being characterized as the mindless arch-enemy of an ever-expanding energy sector, he seemed increasingly credible as a voice of elementary commonsense, as polls indicate.
So the competent Harper economic managers cannot properly supply the armed forces they’ve tried so hard to elevate as a symbol of conservative Canada. And their signature economic policy cannot advance without a guarantee that some time, somewhere, Canada will continue to pay massive environmental costs for it. It seems the Conservatives are graciously doing a good deal of Mr. Mulcair’s work for him.
But I will caution that the Cons have offered plenty of examples of their own incompetence before which weren't enough to cause voters to turf them from office. And the NDP's real work likely lies in making sure that these types of stories stay at the forefront of Canadian political discussion, rather than allowing the Cons to deflect attention elsewhere.

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