Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Ed Broadbent comments on both the growing problem of inequality, and the one institution which can do something about it:
Canada is not doing better. From 1982 until 2004, almost all growth in family income went to the top 20 per cent, with much of that going to the top 1 per cent, while the bottom 60 per cent saw no growth at all. The increase in inequality in Canada since the mid-1990s has been the fourth highest in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

But does this matter? Yes, the evidence is in, and the conclusion is clear: Inequality does matter. In terms of social outcomes, more equal societies do better for everyone, not just for the poor, in almost every respect: health outcomes, life expectancy, level of trust in society, equality of opportunity and upward social mobility. A recent study showed that if Americans want to experience the American Dream of upward mobility, they should pack up and move to Sweden. They would have to leave the most unequal democracy and move to the most equal.

Contrary to the mythology propagated by so many, the actual degree of inequality in advanced democracies has little to do with the so-called forces of globalization or shifts related to technological change. It’s largely the result of government action or inaction. Globalization affects all countries. But, from the mid-1970s, the share of income of the top 1 per cent in Canada, the U.S. and Britain rose rapidly, while there was little change in France, Germany, Sweden and the Netherlands. As recently highlighted by the World Bank, Brazil and other Latin American countries have become significantly more equal over the past decade.

Once again, the evidence is clear: Whether countries become more or less equal depends largely on government policies. Government can reduce or exacerbate the market trends producing inequality.
- And there's at least some evidence that voters will choose the party which recognizes inequality as a problem, as Eric Boehlert discusses how the Republicans' closed information system and associated disdain for mere working Americans led to massive election losses:
Republicans won't because they're intimidated by the right-wing media's power. That's why New Jersey Governor Chris Christie quickly got on the phone  with Fox News owner Rupert Murdoch after Murdoch tweeted that Christie, in the wake of Hurricane Sandy and his bipartisan appearances with Obama, needed to re-endorse Romney or "take the blame" for the president's re-election.

Murdoch: Jump! Republicans: How high?

That unhealthy relationship is the reason why, when it comes to the simple question of whether America is divided between "makers and takers," and if the 62 million Americans who voted for Obama represent a decaying nation of moochers in search of handouts, there's a wide gulf within the conservative movement. The right-wing media consider the claim to be a central tenet, while Republican leaders think saying it out loud is completely batty and a prescription for an electoral losing streak.
So yes, those are conspicuous handcuffs the GOP is wearing: Fox News has hijacked the party's communications apparatus and is pushing the type of paranoid, blame-the-voter rhetoric that loses elections, and the type of rhetoric Romney's now being blamed for. But the GOP can't turn it off. In fact, most Republicans can't even work up enough courage to ask Fox News to turn down the volume.
- Of course, part of avoiding that type of destructive closed loop involves a willingness to look at policy on something other than a wholly tribal basis. And on that front, I'll note that while the Cons' announcement that they're following the U.S.' lead in regulating greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles is only a minor gain, it's certainly better than the alternative of Canada serving as a dumping ground for the least efficient vehicles being manufactured for the North American market - which would be the case if our standards dropped substantially below the U.S.'. And opponents of the Cons' general neglect for the environmental will do nothing but damage by echoing and reinforcing the still-farcical "tax on everything" message in response.

- Which isn't to say we should be anything but horrified by the Cons' economic strategy of "resource boom forever!". And Geoff Dembicki rightly points out just one more counterproductive result of that focus - as we're losing out on a rapidly-expanding global market for clean technology due to a government which insists on pushing dirty alternatives.

- Finally, while I'm skeptical of Chris Turner's take on future electoral cooperation schemes, I'll heartily endorse his argument as to why Calgary Centre is the last riding anybody should be pointing to in calling for them.

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