Saturday, March 30, 2013

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Paul Krugman discusses how a myopic focus on slashing taxes and services figures to cheat future generations out of desperately-needed social structure:
You don’t have to be a civil engineer to realize that America needs more and better infrastructure, but the latest “report card” from the American Society of Civil Engineers — with its tally of deficient dams, bridges, and more, and its overall grade of D+ — still makes startling and depressing reading. And right now — with vast numbers of unemployed construction workers and vast amounts of cash sitting idle — would be a great time to rebuild our infrastructure. Yet public investment has actually plunged since the slump began.

Or what about investing in our young? We’re cutting back there, too, having laid off hundreds of thousands of schoolteachers and slashed the aid that used to make college affordable for children of less-affluent families.

Last but not least, think of the waste of human potential caused by high unemployment among younger Americans — for example, among recent college graduates who can’t start their careers and will probably never make up the lost ground.

And why are we shortchanging the future so dramatically and inexcusably? Blame the deficit scolds, who weep crocodile tears over the supposed burden of debt on the next generation, but whose constant inveighing against the risks of government borrowing, by undercutting political support for public investment and job creation, has done far more to cheat our children than deficits ever did.

Fiscal policy is, indeed, a moral issue, and we should be ashamed of what we’re doing to the next generation’s economic prospects. But our sin involves investing too little, not borrowing too much — and the deficit scolds, for all their claims to have our children’s interests at heart, are actually the bad guys in this story.
- Murray Mandryk and Bruce Johnstone both point out similar factors at play in the Sask Party's latest budget - with long-term needs being ignored in favour of short-term corporatist posturing. And the Huffington Post points out how similar mistakes have resulted in four decades of wage stagnation.

- Meanwhile, Stephen Maher is the latest to write that the Cons' blatant environmental neglect may be hurting even the short-term interests of Stephen Harper's corporate masters:
(T)he government goes all out to promote the [oil] industry, to the detriment of other, legitimate interests, to the point that it is reasonable to assume that it is influencing policies that it should not.
Given the stealth style of the Harper government, the refusal to give honest explanations of its decisions, we must seek a pattern in its actions:

* In 2011, Canada withdrew from the Kyoto accord that required us to cut our emissions of greenhouse gases.

The Conservatives have failed to introduce any measures to meaningfully reduce emissions, save copycat legislation mimicking American auto standards and rules full of loopholes for coal-burning plants.

* In two omnibus bills that followed the budget of 2012, the government made hundreds of changes to legislation affecting environmental protections, making it remarkably easier to get federal approval for potentially damaging resource projects and dramatically cutting the number of environmental reviews.

* The government has acted to muzzle federal scientists who study anything remotely connected to climate change, requiring that they receive approval from political masters before discussing their research with the public, leading to complaints from foreign science journals and jeopardizing international scientific co-operation.
(I)t is not clear whether it is in the long-term best interest of the industry to risk Canada appearing to be an environmental pariah, since Ottawa can’t push through the pipelines the industry wants without the co-operation of other governments.

It’s not the industry’s job to balance those competing interests, and there is reason to doubt that they are pushing Ottawa to kill research on fresh water, or muzzle scientists, or avoid meetings about desertification.

In fact, if the public comes to believe the industry is exerting unwarranted influence on public policy, there will eventually be a backlash, which isn’t good for shareholders.

The Conservatives’ hyper-aggressive approach may actually be counterproductive to the industry, the kind of power-drunk overreaching that led to the National Energy Program all those years ago.
- Les Leopold notes that some alternative models have worked far better than a business-first approach - with the Bank of North Dakota standing out as an example of a public institution which has both provided value to citizens, and helped to avoid dangerous financial risks. And Next Year Country reproduces Clifford Singer's review of Reclaiming Public Ownership as an example of how new public institutions may yet prove an important part of our future.

- Finally, Andrew Coyne, Dr. Dawg and Nathan Cullen all have plenty of worthwhile points to make in response to the question of Con MPs' right to make (however distasteful) statements in the House of Commons. And Cullen in particular looks to have nicely identified the problem with the Cons' assertion that Stephen Harper's central command should be able to override any interest in parliamentary representation:
Recently, the Chief Government Whip used a hockey analogy, however poorly applied in this case, and equated his role as Whip of the Conservative Party to that of a hockey coach deciding which player goes on the ice.  He suggested that the Speaker was basically the referee and that it is not your place, Mr. Speaker, to interfere with his choices.  I would simply offer this, Mr. Speaker, that if a coach insists on only sending so-called goons onto the ice simply to pick fights, there is no question that the referee will intervene to give some hope that an actual game might be played. 

I think the analogy should stop here Mr. Speaker, because what is happening in this House is not a game. This is the House of Commons, where we, as parliamentarians, must deal every day with complex matters which have a direct impact on the lives of the Canadians who have elected us, who trust us to manage the affairs of this country.

And, Mr. Speaker, I believe that by changing the nature of statements and using them to mindlessly attack the Official Opposition instead of using that time to raise the issues that matter to the people who have elected them, the Conservatives are clearly abusing the Standing Orders.

1 comment:

  1. The Johnstone piece needs to make up its mind. On one hand, he wants Saskatchewan to learn not to rely so much on resource revenues, reasonable enough. On the other, he wants Saskatchewan to lower corporate taxes. So, where does he propose to find this non-resource revenue? Probably Joe average citizen as usual, I guess.