Sunday, October 14, 2012

Sunday Afternoon Links

Assorted material to end your weekend.

- Chrystia Freeland comments on the self-destructive nature of elite protectionism:
(E)ven as the winner-take-all economy has enriched those at the very top, their tax burden has lightened. Tolerance for high executive compensation has increased, even as the legal powers of unions have been weakened and an intellectual case against them has been relentlessly advanced by plutocrat-financed think tanks. In the 1950s, the marginal income tax rate for those at the top of the distribution soared above 90 percent, a figure that today makes even Democrats flinch. Meanwhile, of the 400 richest taxpayers in 2009, 6 paid no federal income tax at all, and 27 paid 10 percent or less. None paid more than 35 percent.

Historically, the United States has enjoyed higher social mobility than Europe, and both left and right have identified this economic openness as an essential source of the nation’s economic vigor. But several recent studies have shown that in America today it is harder to escape the social class of your birth than it is in Europe. The Canadian economist Miles Corak has found that as income inequality increases, social mobility falls — a phenomenon Alan B. Krueger, the chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, has called the Great Gatsby Curve. 
...
America’s Serrata also takes a more explicit form: the tilting of the economic rules in favor of those at the top. The crony capitalism of today’s oligarchs is far subtler than Venice’s. It works in two main ways.

The first is to channel the state’s scarce resources in their own direction. This is the absurdity of Mitt Romney’s comment about the “47 percent” who are “dependent upon government.” The reality is that it is those at the top, particularly the tippy-top, of the economic pyramid who have been most effective at capturing government support — and at getting others to pay for it. 
...
The second manifestation of crony capitalism is more direct: the tax perks, trade protections and government subsidies that companies and sectors secure for themselves. Corporate pork is a truly bipartisan dish: green energy companies and the health insurers have been winners in this administration, as oil and steel companies were under George W. Bush’s. 
- Heather Scoffield reports that the federal government is under no illusion as to what the CETA will mean for prescription drug costs - with Canada's health care system standing to pay billions more every year for needed medications. And Jeremy Laurance discusses another prime example of big pharma seeking to squeeze extra money out of the public - this time Sanofi's pulling and then relaunching the same drug under another name for the purpose of winning new IP protection.

- David Climenhaga suggests the media isn't asking the right questions in reporting on the XL Foods e. coli crisis - in particular when it comes to possible silent partners in XL's business.

- Finally, Trish Hennessy wonders what will happen if the Cons succeed in silencing Canadian charities:
Canadians expect charities to observe the rules, but it is decidedly un-Canadian to jeopardize their charitable status simply because their work reveals weaknesses in government policies. Especially when these very charities are attempting to address the root causes behind major societal problems such as poverty or climate change.

What does it say about our democracy when corporations can devote endless resources lobbying to change policy in their own interest while charities that work on behalf of the public interest risk losing their voice?

Put it another way: What happens to our democracy when the voices of Canada's charitable organizations, the social conscience of this country, go silent?

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