Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- George Monbiot discusses the fallout from decades of corporate-controlled governments abdicating their responsibility to consider the public interest:
In other ages, states sought to seize as much power as they could. Today, the self-hating state renounces its powers. Governments anathematise governance. They declare their role redundant and illegitimate. They launch furious assaults on their own branches, seeking wherever possible to lop them off.

This self-mutilation is a response to the fact that power has shifted. States now operate at the behest of others. Deregulation, privatisation, the shrinking of the scope, scale and spending of the state: these are now seen as the only legitimate policies. The corporations and billionaires to whom governments defer will have it no other way.

Just as taxation tends to redistribute wealth, regulation tends to redistribute power. A democratic state controls and contains powerful interests on behalf of the powerless.
This is an example of what happens in a market-based system: any clash between generating profit and protecting the natural world is resolved in favour of business, often with the help of junk science. Only those components of the ecosystem that can be commodified and sold are defended. Nature is worthy of protection when it is profitable to business. The moment it ceases to be so, it loses its social value and can be trashed. As prices fluctuate or crash, so do the fortunes of the ecosystems they are supposed to protect. As financial markets move in, with the help of the environmental bonds and securitisations the taskforce champions, the defence of nature becomes ever more volatile and uncertain. The living planet is reduced to a subsidiary of the human economy.

When governments pretend they no longer need to govern, when they pretend that a world regulated by bankers, corporations and the profit motive is a better world than one regulated by voters and their representatives, nothing is safe. All systems of government are flawed. But few are as flawed as those controlled by private money.
- And Jonathan Bernstein rightly describes Republicans in particular as having left the very idea of public policy in the rear-view mirror.

- Mike de Souza reports on the attempts of the Harper Cons and the Redford PCs to claim that air and water pollution from the tar sands doesn't count because they'd rather people not think about it. And Frances Russell writes that Canadians are once again being left out of any say and any consideration in decisions about our publicly-owned resources.

- Pat Atkinson reviews the dangers of unduly relying on temporary foreign workers:
The temporary foreign worker program is supposed to allow employers to hire foreign workers only when Canadians or permanent residents aren't available to fill the job. In most cases employers can access the program only after they have obtained a Labour Market Opinion confirming the unavailability of Canadians to fill the vacant positions.

Currently the use of temporary foreign workers in some parts of Canada has nothing to do with a shortage of skilled workers, and everything to do with maximizing profits. Stephen Harper's Conservative government changed the rules a year ago, allowing employers to bring in overseas workers at wages that can be as much as 15 per cent below the average regional rate for a particular occupation.
(W)hat about those who are looking for work, such as unemployed Canadian miners who are being replaced by temporary workers from China? What about those information technology employees at RBC who are being replaced by temporary foreign workers?
Why did Finley's ministry give approval in the first place to HD Mining bringing in 200 workers from China, and to the outsourcer retained by RBC to bring in workers to replace 45 bank employees?

Outsourcing is about replacing middle-income domestic employees with lower wage workers abroad. Importing temporary workers to many sectors of the economy with a 15 per cent wage differential is about lowering wages and not having to pay benefits to Canadians.

We as Canadians need to think about how this will affect our young people and their future. If we are all a bunch of low wage earners, who will pay for important public services such as health care or education? As for the banks, who will be able to qualify for one of their mortgages?
- Finally, Laurie Monsebraaten reports on the CCPA's appalling finding that we're 228 years away from achieving gender equality in Canada.

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