Saturday, December 15, 2012

Saturday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your weekend reading.

- Susan Delacourt writes that laughable conspiracy theories look to be the Cons' stock in trade as they fight against any accountability for electoral fraud:
(I)t may be true that Ford has left-wing opponents on council and that the Council of Canadians, which has launched the legal challenge on so-called robocalls, would prefer that Harper had not win the last election.

But these are not illegal views in this country — at least not yet. Demonization of your adversaries is a spin tactic, not a legal defence.

Besides, Hamilton knows that the concern over misleading calls in the last election doesn’t start or end with the “left-wing” Council of Canadians.

Elections Canada was in touch with Hamilton a few days before the May 2, 2011, vote, according to recently released documents, asking why the organization was receiving multiple complaints of misleading, voter-misdirection phone calls coming from Conservative campaign headquarters.

Moreover, a criminal investigation is underway in Guelph, Ont., as well as dozens of other ridings across the country where voters have reported waves of fraudulent calls, trying to divert them from proper polling locations.

If this is just some crazy left-wing scheme, it’s a remarkably large one, mapped out and executed in advance of voting. With that many resources at its disposal, you’d wonder why the left wing didn’t go to the extra trouble of winning the election 18 months ago.
- Robert Macdonald and Tracy Shildrick report that right-wing attempts to moralize about a loss of work ethic based on existence of bare-bones social programs have about as much basis in reality as "tax cuts for rich = win!!!" (which is to say none whatsoever):
(W)e managed to recruit 20 families where there was long-term worklessness across two generations and interviewed family members in depth. It was clear that these families did not inhabit of "a culture of worklessness". People told us that they deplored "the miserable existence" of a life on benefits. Families experiencing long-term worklessness remained committed to the value of work. Workless parents were unanimous in not wanting their children to end up in the same situation as themselves.

They actively tried to help their children find jobs (for example, by accompanying them to job interviews to provide moral support). As one 50-year-old father said: "What I want is for my family to have jobs. They're not asking for anything big, that's the thing, they are not, like, being greedy." Unemployed young adults in these families were strongly committed to conventional values about work as part of a normal transition to adulthood. They were keen to avoid the poverty, worklessness and other problems experienced by their parents.

The long-term worklessness of parents in these families was a result of the impact of complex, multiple problems associated with living in deep poverty over years (particularly related to ill health). In an already tight labour market, these problems combined to place them at the back of a long queue for jobs.
- Meanwhile, Jonathan Kay recognizes that Canada's relative equality compared to the U.S. has long offered an economic advantage - and that we only stand to lose out as the Cons try to push us toward a less fair distribution of income and tax obligations:
Applying social-justice arguments, many leftists have seized on this data to make the case that American capitalism, in its current state, is fundamentally immoral. But even die-hard laissez-faire types should be concerned by America’s increasingly U-shaped income profile. The very poor don’t buy much. And the very rich spend a relatively small amount of their money on consumer goods. A mass-retail capitalist economy cannot function if it is not being fuelled by a prosperous middle class that’s too rich for Family Dollar, but too poor for Saks.

Income polarization also gives rise to all sorts of more intangible losses for a society — including in the areas of trust and social mobility. A society of haves and have-nots is a society of gated communities side-by-side with trailer parks, the sort of scene one witnesses in Latin America. The polarization of wealth also has a corrosive effect on democratic politics, because it encourages plutocrats and entrenched corporate interests to funnel billions into whatever corps of political ideologues are willing to robotically defend the status quo — a phenomenon that was on display in the recent U.S. election campaign.
- Finally, it isn't only opinion columnists making the case that greater equality is an essential goal for Canada, as Aaron Wherry's year-end interview with Tom Mulcair includes this on intergenerational equity as an emerging question of equality:
When we see 330,000 temporary foreign workers brought into this country, deprived of their rights, bringing down working conditions for Canadians, when we see the loss of hundreds of thousands of good manufacturing jobs that had enough of a salary for a family to live on and a pension, people are worried. You know, for the first time we’re being told by a government that you have to settle for less, that your kids are going to have to settle for less. We think that we can still continue to grow and to have a greater country and a better place for the greater good. So we want prosperity, but the difference between us is we want prosperity for everyone.

In the past 35 years, the top 20% only have seen their revenues increase, the other 80% have seen actually seen their revenues drop. So we’re on the verge of becoming the first generation in Canadian history to leave less to our kids than what we got. And we find that unacceptable. That’s why we have this theme of sustainable development. If I could dial it back, the base of a social democratic approach is to remove inequalities in society. The big battle of generations ago was working people, making sure they had their rights and that they had a decent standard of living. One of the basic inequalities in our society today is an inequality between generations, it’s intergenerational equity that we’re talking about.

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