Saturday, September 29, 2012

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Thomas Walkom discusses how the McGuinty Libs are going beyond imposing immediate pay freezes on the public sector, and instead passing what's better seen as the War on Workers Measures Act - giving Ontario's government the power to dictate labour outcomes by decree without any forum for review:
If approved by the legislature, the Protecting Public Services bill would allow the government to not just freeze the wages it pays to unionized employees — ranging from nurses to home care workers to hydro linemen — but roll them back.

It would give cabinet the power to scrap or modify salary grids — as it has already done with the province’s teachers. The government would also be able to unilaterally change or eliminate any non-wage benefits unionized public sector workers now receive.

And the bill would bar unions from either striking or appealing such decisions to the courts.
For essential services such as hospitals, where workers are already barred from striking, the bill would prevent contract arbitrators from basing their rulings on either the Canadian constitution or the Ontario Human Rights Code.

Indeed, the arbitration section is perhaps the most internally contradictory part of the draft legislation.

Arbitration is based on the notion of having a fair-minded umpire decide issues that management and workers cannot. But this bill would allow that fair-minded umpire’s decision to be overturned by the government, which to all intents and purposes is management.
 - Toby Sanger points out that even the Fraser Institute's latest studies serve to thoroughly undermine blind faith in a corporatist market - at least, if one reads past the heavily-spun headlines to the actual data.

- George Monbiot highlights the social denialism of the uber-rich:
We could call it Romnesia: the ability of the very rich to forget the context in which they made their money. To forget their education, inheritance, family networks, contacts and introductions. To forget the workers whose labour enriched them. To forget the infrastructure and security, the educated workforce, the contracts, subsidies and bailouts the government provided.
As the developed nations succumb to extreme inequality and social immobility, the myth of the self-made man becomes ever more potent. It is used to justify its polar opposite: an unassailable rent-seeking class, deploying its inherited money to finance the seizure of other people's wealth.
The crudest exponent of Romnesia is the Australian mining magnate Gina Rinehart. "There is no monopoly on becoming a millionaire," she insists. "If you're jealous of those with more money, don't just sit there and complain; do something to make more money yourselves – spend less time drinking or smoking and socialising and more time working … Remember our roots, and create your own success."

Remembering her roots is what Rinehart fails to do. She forgot to add that if you want to become a millionaire – in her case a billionaire – it helps to inherit an iron ore mine and a fortune from your father and to ride a spectacular commodities boom. Had she spent her life lying in bed and throwing darts at the wall, she would still be stupendously rich.

Rich lists are stuffed with people who either inherited their money or who made it through rent-seeking activities: by means other than innovation and productive effort. They're a catalogue of speculators, property barons, dukes, IT monopolists, loan sharks, bank chiefs, oil sheikhs, mining magnates, oligarchs and chief executives paid out of all proportion to any value they generate. Looters, in short. The richest mining barons are those to whom governments sold natural resources for a song. Russian, Mexican and British oligarchs acquired underpriced public assets through privatisation, and now run a toll-booth economy. Bankers use incomprehensible instruments to fleece their clients and the taxpayer. But as rentiers capture the economy, the opposite story must be told.
- But even as the corporatist worldview is exposed as a sham, Patrick Diamond notes that there's still plenty of need for progressive parties to better describe and defend an alternative.

- Finally, Gerald Caplan responds to the inevitable wave of talk about a Justin Trudeau leadership run by asking a rather pertinent question as to whether the Libs themselves take him seriously based on his roles in the party's caucus.

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