Thursday, August 22, 2013

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Jenny Carson asks what governments are doing to lift poor workers out of poverty. (Spoiler alert: the Cons' answer is "why would we want to do that?").

- Meanwhile, Kemal Dervis and Uri Dadush discuss the desperate need to rein in inequality in the U.S.:
As it turns out, high and rising levels of inequality may well be a cause of increased macroeconomic instability. But the negative spiral doesn’t end there: High inequality also contributes to a fraying of the political consensus, is associated with boom-bust credit cycles and may ultimately lead to a chronic weakness of economic demand.

The United States is now caught in a vicious cycle. The cycle starts with stagnant incomes and a biting credit constraint at the middle and low end of the income distribution. As dramatically exemplified by the large numbers of continuing and still unresolved home foreclosures, this has led to low expectations for effective demand growth – and therefore low business investment in the U.S. economy at large.
(I)t is the rebalancing of the distribution of income within the United States that would play a key role in unlocking the U.S. economy’s growth potential in a sustainable way.
Social balancing programs – such as the Earned Income Tax Credit, food stamps, unemployment benefits and work-share – provide transfers to boost the incomes of low-income or unemployed groups.

These instruments are believed to be four to five times as effective in stimulating demand as policies that benefit high-income groups, such as tax cuts for those with high incomes, for corporations and in the capital gains arena.
An economy such as that of the United States, where nearly all of the income growth accrues to the very rich, is unlikely to generate a corresponding growth in broad-based demand – especially after the Great Recession ravaged the credit scores of a large part of its middle class and poor.
- Pat Atkinson points out why Canadians should be nothing but skeptical about the Cons' economic branding:
When questioned about the advertising tender, Harper said: "Canadians understand and are very proud of the fact that Canada's economy has performed so much better than other developed countries during these challenging times." What's so galling about his response is that Australia and most Scandinavian countries have outperformed Canada's economy since 2009. Harper is sticking to the adage, "Never let the facts get in the way of a good story."

What the government neglects to tell us is that Canada's national debt has ballooned under Harper's stewardship. When he took office in 2006, the debt stood at $481 billion. Today our collective debt is at its highest level in history, at more than $612 billion with Finance Minister Jim Flaherty projecting an additional $18.7-billion deficit this year.

It simply didn't have to get this bad had the government made some different choices.
 - Aaron Wherry argues that while the Cons' latest prorogation itself shouldn't be a source of as much outrage as their previous choices to padlock Parliament, the elimination of 20 sitting days of a House of Commons already being regularly strongarmed into rushing through legislation raises some serious questions. And Tim Harper calls out the Cons' efforts to turn a regulatory issue about wireless communications into a source of partisan bait.

- Alison offers a theory as to how the UK's raid of the Guardian may be little more than a piece of NSA-friendly surveillance theatre.

- Finally, Robin Russell-Jones draws a parallel between the current debate over fracking, and the longtime corporate effort to convince policy-makers that lead in our air and water wouldn't harm people in the slightest:
(W)hat lessons can we draw from the story of lead? First, that society will enthusiastically adopt new technology without considering the consequences. Second, that you cannot rely on industry to act in the public interest, even when their practices are going to pollute the entire planet. Third, that politicians are no more responsive to issues of public health than they were in the 18th century. Fourth, that remedial action only happens when individuals make their voices heard above the clamour of vested interest. And finally disinformation is a standard industry tactic whenever profits are under threat.

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