Sunday, August 25, 2013

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Robert Reich discusses how we'd all better off if we acted in the public interest and insisted that our representatives did the same:
A society -- any society --- is defined as a set of mutual benefits and duties embodied most visibly in public institutions: public schools, public libraries, public transportation, public hospitals, public parks, public museums, public recreation, public universities, and so on.

Public institutions are supported by all taxpayers, and are available to all. If the tax system is progressive, those who are better off (and who, presumably, have benefitted from many of these same public institutions) help pay for everyone else.

"Privatize" means "Pay for it yourself." The practical consequence of this in an economy whose wealth and income are now more concentrated than at any time in the past 90 years is to make high-quality public goods available to fewer and fewer.

In fact, much of what's called "public" is increasingly a private good paid for by users -- ever-higher tolls on public highways and public bridges, higher tuitions at so-called public universities, higher admission fees at public parks and public museums.

Much of the rest of what's considered "public" has become so shoddy that those who can afford to do so find private alternatives. As public schools deteriorate, the upper-middle class and wealthy send their kids to private ones. As public pools and playgrounds decay, the better-off buy memberships in private tennis and swimming clubs. As public hospitals decline, the well-off pay premium rates for private care.
We're losing public goods available to all, supported by the tax payments of all and especially the better-off. In its place we have private goods available to the very rich, supported by the rest of us. 
- And Peter MacLeod makes the case for political parties to serve as social movements rather than mere electoral machines. But needless to say, Stephen Harper has about as much interest in that possibility as he does in following the rules that govern everybody else.

- Monika Dutt highlights how social programs affect health, particularly for those with the least:
An ideal assistance program is one that is designed to support good health.

The Wellesley Institute suggests some ways in which this can be done: (1) ensuring people have access to the basics, such as income, housing, nutritious food and health care; (2) building skills so that people can move away from depending on income assistance programs; (3) working with existing community resources; and (4) taking health into account when designing assistance programs.

Some provincial programs across the country fulfil some of these criteria, for example through child benefits, which acknowledges that supporting children in their early years leads to long-term better health. However, more could be done to promote health in a way that ultimately benefits individuals, their families, and their communities, and lessens the use of income assistance.

Most people do not want to use these programs, particularly the ones intended for people living in poverty; they would prefer to be able to support themselves and their families on their own. They also do not want to experience poor health due to poverty.

Improving the health of people living in poverty benefits all of us, including those with high incomes. A healthy society is one in which your income doesn’t define how healthy you are.
- Finally, the Tyee documents a few brilliant Fraser Institute Kid Tips.

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