Friday, August 09, 2013

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Henry Blodget recognizes that the systematic corporate squeeze on mere workers represents a deliberate choice rather than an inevitability:
One of the big reasons the U.S. economy is so lousy is the American companies are hoarding cash and “maximizing profits” instead of investing in their people and future projects.

This behavior is contributing to record income inequality in the country and starving the primary engine of U.S. economic growth–the vast American middle class–of purchasing power. (See charts below).

If average Americans don’t get paid living wages, they can’t spend much money buying products and services. And when average Americans can’t buy products and services, the companies that sell products and services to average Americans can’t grow. So the profit obsession of America’s big companies is, ironically, hurting their ability to accelerate revenue growth.

One obvious solution to this problem is to encourage companies to pay their people more — to share more of the vast wealth that they create with the people who create it.

The companies have record profit margins, so they can certainly afford to do this.

But, unfortunately, over the past three decades, what began as a healthy and necessary effort to make our companies more efficient after the malaise of the 1970s has evolved into a warped consensus that the only value that companies should create is financial value (cash) and that the only thing managers and owners should ever worry about it making more of it.

This view is an insult to anyone who has ever dreamed of having a job that is about more than money. And it is a short-sighted and destructive view of an economic system...
- And Kendra Coulter makes the case for a retail revolution to ensure that the employment of the future provides a reasonable standard of living for workers:
Most retail jobs epitomize the scourge of precarious work. Retail jobs usually mean poverty-level wages and income insecurity. Schedules are erratic, volatile and provided at the last minute. Retail workers are often disrespected and dismissed as lacking skill, education or value. In other words, retail does not simply reflect inequities. Retail contributes to increasing inequality. This needs to change.

More retail workers are joining a growing movement of low-wage service workers who recognize the need to transform lousy jobs into better jobs. Workers at Sirens in Brampton have just chosen unionization as a way to raise the standards at work, for example. These young workers believe retail jobs can and should be good jobs, regardless of who shops in the stores and which brands are sold. Notably, Holt Renfrew workers have repeatedly told me that high prices do not automatically translate into high quality jobs. 

Undoubtedly, the retail terrain will change, but retail jobs are here to stay. It is high time to look beyond the brands and the boardrooms, to how retailers of all kinds treat us. We are not numbers, nor are we disposable. We are workers, citizens, and people who matter.
- Sum Of Us is rightly challenging Eli Lilly's attempt to sue Canada for following an unbiased patent approval process rather than simply handing over half a billion dollars in public and patient money.

- Don Lenihan discusses the difference between the "political" and "policy" types of politicians - and I'll readily approve of his implied view that we should encourage more of the latter. But I do think it's worth noting that the few Cons who have ever ventured into that territory have faced more reprisals than just being denied cabinet positions, while having no apparent role in shaping legislation - meaning that there's only so much power to be taken back by individual MPs without some more concerted push.

- And finally, Glen McGregor's story on Stephen Harper's continued refusal to allow repairs at 24 Sussex Drive might serve to perfectly sum up the Cons' philosophy: Harper and company are perfectly happy with their current life of luxury, and aren't about to let trifles like the public interest interfere.

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