Sunday, August 04, 2013

Sunday Afternoon Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- David Atkins comments on the ever-growing disconnect between the interests of a few making a killing on Wall Street and the lives of people stuck in the real economy:
(T)the entirety of supply-side economic thinking is based on the idea that inflating the assets of the wealthy will lead to more jobs for working people. If inflating middle-class assets like housing leads to dangerous bubbles while boosting stock values that largely benefit the rich does nothing for the greater economy, the entire edifice of conservative economics comes crashing down.

But it's not just the way conservatives describe the economy. Even progressives and liberals in Congress use language that suggests the link between Wall Street and Main Street still exists, but that it has simply become blocked or frayed. "Gains on Wall Street haven't reached the middle class," one often hears--as if it should naturally happen but for some evil gremlin getting in the way.

There's a reason that even liberal politicians won't say the chain has been broken, and a reason why the media largely refuses to even report on the phenomenon: the implications are terrifying. If helping Wall Street doesn't actually help Main Street, then the foundations of the capitalist economy are shaken to their roots. Capitalist economics is supposed to be a virtuous circle: companies generate profits which generate reinvestment, which generates employment, which boosts demand, which in turn generates higher profits. When certain industries take on too much weight or grow obsolete, or when supply outstrips demand, there are temporary but necessary corrections called recessions that keep the system in check.

But what if profits don't generate reinvestment and companies simply hold onto the loot? What if "reinvestment" takes the form of financialization rather than real product development? What if boosting productivity means mechanization that leads to job gains, rather than job losses? What if the few job gains that do accrue, happen in countries with such depressed wages that middle-class workers in advanced economies (the ones who create the demand for high-cost, profitable products) simply cannot compete?

And what if, in order to disguise this phenomenon, policy makers attempted to bribe the public with free trade agreements that lowered the cost of electronics and plastic toys while quietly destroying jobs? What if policy makers' next step in a failing wage environment was to boost asset prices like housing so that the currently middle-class homeowner could feel artificially wealthy, all while obliterating any prospect that the next generation could afford even a modest home in areas with strong job markets without help from their parents? What if the low-skill job market deteriorated to such an extent that young people needed an outrageously expensive college education or more--and only in the "right" fields--to attain any sort of job security, all while policymakers refused to lift a finger to help make that education more affordable? And what if policy makers made it easier for underwater Americans with failing wages to take on debt via credit cards, while doing nothing to prevent predatory lenders from taking advantage of them?

In that world, the virtuous circle of capitalism becomes a death spiral. Recoveries become shorter and more jobless. Recessions and depressions become longer, even as asset markets remain curiously "healthy." This happens a few times until eventually supply-side Wile E. Coyote runs out of demand-side cliff and comes crashing at terminal velocity into the canyon below.
- Thomas Walkom highlights the Harper Cons' sellout of Canadian sovereignty - including their willingness to declare U.S. police officers operating in our country to be above Canadian law:
The U.S. government wants American police agents working in Canada exempted from Canadian law. If this is a surprise, it shouldn’t be.
The secret American demand was unearthed this week by Canadian Press reporters looking into Ottawa’s much ballyhooed border deal with the U.S.
A 2012 RCMP briefing note obtained by The Canadian Press points out that Washington and Ottawa have been at daggers drawn over whether U.S. agents and police officers who commit crimes in Canada would be subject to Canadian law.
Under a 1951 treaty, even Canada has ceded some rights over U.S. and other NATO troops operating inside this country.
But the 1951 treaty does give Canada the right to arrest and try NATO soldiers or their dependants who have committed non-military crimes such as murder.
It seems now that the U.S. wants more. According to the RCMP memo, Washington is demanding that its police agents operating in Canada be entirely exempt from Canadian criminal law.
- And Dr. Dawg provides the appropriate response - if coupled with justified concern that the Harper Cons are perfectly happy to allow the U.S. to control Canada with impunity.

- Jeff Jedras offers his take on party discipline and the role of elected representatives:
I also think a larger issue is one of public perception, or misconception, about the role of the parliamentarian in our political process. Technically, we're electing an individual representative to speak for us and act on our behalf; there may be a party name on the ballot, but we're electing Joe Blow the individual. More and more though, people see the individual and secondary and irrelevant next to the party brand and vote based on the leader. This is because discipline has rendered the individual indistinguishable from their peers, further fueling the argument for discipline because the individual owes their position to the party and leader, not the people...
Several times during the debate, party leaders were called to “give” or “allow” more freedom for parliamentarians. It’s not something for leaders to give – parliamentarians have the freedom already. They just need to take it.
- Don Lieber discusses how Suncor's rip-and-ship plan includes a deliberate choice to cut down on safety checks and maintenance in order to extract as much bitumen as possible - presumably before the damage done by insufficient planning and maintenance catches up.

- Finally, Doug Cuthand criticizes the Cons' narrow focus on colonial history - pointing out the gap between a multi-million dollar campaign surrounding the War of 1812 and a complete lack of recognition of the treaty relationship between First Nations and the Crown.

No comments:

Post a Comment