Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Jacob Chamberlain discusses the all-too-familiar pattern of corporate insiders using their wealth and influence to try to attack basic social supports for less-privileged citizens:
CEOs from America's largest corporations—including its biggest banks, retailers, and insurance companies who helped drive the country into the worst recession in nearly a century— are now calling on Congress to punish the nation's working class and society's most vulnerable by advocating major changes to Social Security and Medicare in a new lobbying push that critics say reveal the cruelty and selfish nature of the country's corporate class. 

The Business Roundtable, comprised of more than 200 chief executives and some of the nation's wealthiest individuals, began lobbying DC lawmakers Wednesday in a press conference calling for major cuts to Social Security (including a raise in elgibility age to 70) and a new push to privatize Medicare.
 ...
Among the other 200 corporations, Roundtable members include American Express, AT&T, Bank of America, Bayer, Chevron, Conoco Phillips, Dow Chemical Company, and JPMorgan.

"Average CEO pay for S&P 500 companies is nearly $13 million," Garofalo adds. "Recent increases in life expectancy have only benefited wealthier workers in non-physical jobs. Poorer workers doing physical labor have not seen the same gains and would be most hurt by an increase in the retirement age."
- Meanwhile, the Harper Cons are using public money to make sure that Canada's equivalent business barons are able to jet-set around the globe in pursuit of their own profits.

- But while far too many Canadian governments have bought into the divine right of corporate leaders, the courts aren't quite so deferential - as evidenced by the ruling that HD Mining isn't entitled to escape scrutiny for its decade-plus "temporary" worker permits granted without any meaningful review.

- Andrew Jackson rebuts the claim that the erosion of Canadian manufacturing as anything but a sub-contractor to the tar sands is either inevitable or desirable:
In fact, there has been a huge divergence in the fortunes of Canadian and U.S. manufacturers over the past decade. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, if 2002 is set as the base year, U.S. manufacturing output grew by 23.2 per cent by 2011, while shrinking by 11.5 per cent in Canada.

The same data base shows that Canada experienced a massive loss of cost competitiveness compared to U.S. manufacturers. Canadian unit labour costs rose by 79.1 per cent on a U.S. dollar basis from 2002 to 2011, compared to a fall of 14.3 per cent in the U.S.

Most of this huge loss in cost competitiveness was due to the appreciation of the exchange rate. However, lagging productivity is also an important part of the story. Between 2002 and 2011, hourly productivity in manufacturing grew by a stunning 55.7 per cent in the U.S. compared to an abysmal 10.6 per cent in Canada.

To summarize, U.S. manufacturing output and productivity have both grown strongly since 2002, while output has shrunk in Canada and productivity has barely improved.

This picture is not one of successful restructuring. Rather the dismal state of Canadian manufacturing is the result of an over-valued exchange rate combined with the impacts of a structural regression to relatively low value-added resource extraction and processing.
- Finally, Pete McMartin rightly slams the closed-door nature of what are supposed to be public hearings into the Northern Gateway pipeline.

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