Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Zach Carter shines a spotlight on the few types of interests who stand to gain from austerity:
But the austerity game also has winners. Cutting or eliminating government programs that benefit the less advantaged has long been an ideological goal of conservatives. Doing so also generates a tidy windfall for the corporate class, as government services are privatized and savings from austerity pay for tax cuts for the wealthiest citizens.
"Austerity policies are literally a redistribution from the bottom of the income spectrum to the top," said Dorian Warren, a professor of political science at Columbia University and a fellow at the Roosevelt Institute, an economic policy think tank. "In Wisconsin, both wealthy people and businesses got tax breaks, while middle-class and working-class employees of the state essentially got crushed."

Warren emphasized that there are political dimensions to the austerity push. Efforts to curb collective bargaining rights -- and thus pay and benefits -- for state employees cut to the heart of the American labor movement. With only 7 percent of the private-sector workforce unionized, public-sector unions are a critical component of labor's political influence and an important bloc in Democratic Party operations.

Governments in Europe, most notably the United Kingdom, have also pursued tax cuts for the rich while imposing austerity measures on the working classes. And the European financier class has benefited even more directly than their American counterparts from these budgets.

Every time the European Union has reached a crisis point on the debt carried by Greece or Spain, EU leaders, especially German Chancellor Angela Merkel, have come to the rescue with bailout funds. That money goes to the banks that own Greek and Spanish debt, whose holdings would take a hit if either country were unable to repay. But the bailout comes with harsh austerity requirements intended to encourage budgetary discipline, so it's ordinary citizens who end up taking the hit. The most vulnerable populations are harmed by the bailouts, while the well-paid financial professionals who made the deals to finance Greek and Spanish deficits in the first place continue profiting handsomely.
- Chris Hedges recognizes the need for thoughtful questioning of self-serving "conventional wisdom":
And here is the dilemma we face as a civilization. We march collectively toward self-annihilation. Corporate capitalism, if left unchecked, will kill us. Yet we refuse, because we cannot think and no longer listen to those who do think, to see what is about to happen to us. We have created entertaining mechanisms to obscure and silence the harsh truths, from climate change to the collapse of globalization to our enslavement to corporate power, that will mean our self-destruction. If we can do nothing else we must, even as individuals, nurture the private dialogue and the solitude that make thought possible.
- Erin Weir makes the point that massive potash profits only confirm that Saskatchewan is forfeiting massive amounts of public wealth to the Saskatchewan Party's corporate benefactors. And Tom Shelstad notes that a reasonable royalty regime would provide ample money to fund projects like a Regina stadium up front - rather than requiring the city to take on decades of debt.

- Meanwhile, the Star-Phoenix editorial board is duly skeptical about the Wall government's pretending to listen to cultural industries only after driving them out of the province.

- Finally, I've tended to view Regina's housing crisis as a significant issue demanding a policy response. But apparently I should have known it was nothing more than a charming human interest story all along. (I'm just surprised the featuredidn't end with a down-on-his luck new arrival marrying the campground manager's daughter.)

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