Monday, April 15, 2013

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Peter Gillespie discusses the problems with tax cheats (and the overseas tax havens which encourage them):
Multinational corporations and banking and financial institutions routinely use tax havens to lower or eliminate their tax obligations, avoid regulation, and shield themselves from liability. Tax havens host more than two million “international business corporations,” often little more than shell companies with a postal address. The British Virgin Islands, with a population of 30,000, hosts an estimated 460,000 business corporations. One modest building in the Cayman Islands is home to more that 18,000 of these entities.

Last December, media reports in the United Kingdom revealed that Google, Amazon and Starbucks were paying little or no taxes to the national treasury despite earning billions in profits in the British market. During a parliamentary investigation, officials from the three companies admitted they were shifting profits out of Britain into lower tax jurisdictions. Amazon collects its U.K. sales in Luxembourg. Google collects its sales in Ireland and through a complicated scheme sends its earnings to the tax haven of Bermuda via the Netherlands.
(T)hese opaque and secretive jurisdictions are causing serious harm, especially in the era of austerity and the attendant erosion of social support programs worldwide. The reports from the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists are shining a light into the murkiest spaces within the global economy. We should all be grateful.
- Doug Saunders writes that Canada has developed largely thanks to the full integration of immigrant workers - and argues that the same opportunity, not only temporary worker status, should be available for new arrivals today. And Heather Mallick discusses the hollowing-out of Canada's work force:
Stephen Harper’s long-term plan for Canada includes not just the Thatcherite destruction of unions but a clear-out of government workers and a lowering of all wages. The man keeps winning elections because he trusts that voters won’t make the connection and take it personally.

Indeed wages drop slowly, not instantly, and they’re hard to track. But welcomes news tips from the public. Here’s my story, one man wrote, and journalists recognized that the story of one man was in fact the story of many. And that’s when Canada got angry.

Eventually, outsourcing will ravage Canadian office workers. Their loss will become our loss, and that’s what we still don’t grasp. We know about specific bank IT complaints, and teachers’ strikes, but we don’t see the big picture.
Government workers inspect our food, issue our passports and clean our hospital rooms. As they are laid off, replaced with outsourced low-paid foreign workers or not replaced at all, our quality of life sinks like a stone. What is true for government workers is also true for the private sector. We need Canadian bank workers to be paid fairly, too.
- But fortunately, the corporatist effort to take more and more away from mere workers isn't without some organized opposition - as John Bonnar reports on the work of the Canadian Foundation for Labour Rights.

- Carol Goar discusses a few examples of single statistics being used as talking points even when they're carefully selected to obscure the real picture.

- And finally, Michael Harris muses that the Harper Cons may have run out of gas:
(W)ith a rejuvenated opposition capturing the public’s eye — one party through a policy-driven convention taking dead aim at this government, and the other by selecting a new leader who might just bring the kids back into politics — Stephen Harper suddenly looks old.

He looks old flying to the funeral of a woman who defended apartheid and whose death sent thousands of her own countrymen into the street partying. He looks old fronting for a corporate elite who can’t buy enough advertising to portray their greed as swashbuckling philanthropy, putting us all to work. He looks old welcoming Chinese panda bears to Canada while cold-shouldering native kids who walked through an eternity of winter to be heard on the lawns of Parliament.

Old is bad enough. Then there is ancient. That’s the place where Stephen Harper has arrived on the environment. This is a file you just can’t lie your way through, no matter how many spinners do your bidding. The polar ice caps are disappearing and Canada opts out of Kyoto. There is a reason that anyone in this PM’s environment portfolio ends up with more wrinkles than an Agatha Christie plot.

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