Saturday, September 15, 2012

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Jon Wisman and Aaron Pacitti put a price tag on the upward redistribution of wealth in the U.S.:
Between 1983 and 2007, total inflation-adjusted wealth in the U.S. increased by $27 trillion. If divided equally, every man woman and child would be almost $90,000 richer.

But of course it wasn’t divided equally. Almost half of the $27 trillion (49 percent) was claimed by the richest one percent — $11.7 million more for each of their households. The top 10 percent grabbed almost $29 trillion, or 106 percent of the total. Meanwhile, the bottom 90 percent suffered an average decline of just over $16,000 per household.

What could be bought with the $29 trillion increase in the top ten percent’s wealth over the past three decades? Strikingly, it covers all of the expenses necessary for our future collective well-being — the very expenses that, we’re told, can’t be funded because of budget deficits and rising public debt.

The American Society of Civil Engineers estimates that the United States needs to spend $2.2 trillion over the next five years to meet its infrastructure needs. To ensure that Social Security can pay all promised benefits for the next 75 years would cost $8.6 trillion. Providing all needed Medicare funding for the next 75 years would cost a total of $4.6 trillion.

To pay for all Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, and subsidies for purchasing health insurance through the Affordable Care Act for the next 10 years would cost $1.5 trillion. To close all projected federal budget deficits until 2021 would cost $7 trillion. Taking back the $29 trillion would cover all of these needs and the $5.1 trillion that would be left over could pay off about one-third of the national debt.

The rich managed to capture this $29 trillion because they gained greater command over the political process, which allowed them to engineer economic policy for their own gain. Their greater wealth meant greater command over the political process, which in turn made them wealthier. The explosion of corporate lobbyists and corporate campaign contributions leveraged their political influence. 
- Simon Enoch points out that the Sask Party's plan for the province seems to be to turn Saskatchewan into Oklahoma North. And no, that's nothing close to a positive result:
Oklahoma adopted right-to-work legislation in 2001. Despite claims by proponents that the adoption of RTW would result in a mass influx of jobs to the state, since (its) adoption Oklahoma has lost a third of their manufacturing jobs and the average number of new companies coming into the state has been one-third lower in the decade since RTW was adopted than in the preceding decade. Moreover, Oklahoma’s unemployment rate in 2010 was double what it was when RTW was first adopted in 2001.

Surveys of manufacturers show that despite the claims of RTW champions, right-to-work laws are not a significant factor in decisions to relocate. Indeed, in 2010 manufacturers ranked it sixteenth among factors affecting location decisions. For higher-tech, higher-wage employers, nine of the ten most-favoured states are non-RTW, led by union-friendly Massachusetts.
...Certainly, there is no doubt that the adoption of RTW significantly reduces average wage-levels. According to the Economic Policy Institute, the impact of RTW laws is to lower average income by about $1,500 a year and to decrease the odds of getting supplemental health insurance or a pension through your job—for both union and nonunion workers alike.

However, the impact of RTW is not confined to wages. According to recent research from the University of Michigan that examined the U.S. construction industry, the rate of industry fatalities is 40 percent higher and the rate of occupational fatalities is 34 percent greater in right-to-work states than in free-bargaining states. Given that Saskatchewan already has one of the worst workplace injury rates in the country, it seems we can ill-afford to adopt legislation that would contribute to even greater levels of risk for Saskatchewan workers.

Social issues are not immune to the effect of right-to-work laws either. Eleven of the 15 states with the highest poverty rates in the U.S. are RTW states, while nine of the 11 states with the lowest are worker-friendly. Furthermore, the percentage of the 2008 population living in poverty in RTW states was 14.4 percent, while the percentage in worker-friendly states was 12.4 percent. In regards to health insurance, we find that 18.6 percent of people in RTW states are uninsured, while only 13.9 percent of people in worker-friendly states are uninsured. Lastly, RTW laws may even influence your life expectancy! Darrell Minor found that of the 13 states with the highest life expectancy rates, 10 are worker-friendly states. Conversely, of the 12 states with the lowest life expectancy rates, only two are worker-friendly states. In worker-friendly states, citizens can expect to live 77.6 years (the median), while citizens in RTW states can expect to die at 76.7.
- David Pugliese's blog post is a nice first step in pointing out the absurdity of the Cons wasting public resources to make identical announcements in multiple cities. But I'll suggest that best possible response might be to make use of the local media coverage the strategy is designed to pull in: a single video splicing together the voices and faces of a dozen spokespuppets chanting the same passage in unison (with duly ominous music) would just about match the dystopian vision behind the Cons' communications strategy.

- Meanwhile, the latest snag in Robocon involves the Cons' phone bank service provider trying to conceal the evidence which would actually determine who's telling the truth as to whether live calls directed voters to the wrong places. And it's not hard to infer that the Cons and their suppliers would be much less determined to fight disclosure of the facts if they didn't undermine their public story.

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