Monday, November 25, 2013

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your Monday reading.

- Paul Wells and Dan Lett offer roundups of today's federal by-elections, while Chantal Hebert offers some advice to the candidates (whether or not they're elected to Parliament today). And Murray Dobbin explains why there's only one true progressive choice in Toronto Centre in particular:
McQuaig's Liberal opponent in the riding is Chrystia Freeland, a parachute candidate who is being touted as a progressive with deep concerns about inequality. Trudeau has tried to boost her profile by stating that he wants her in his "inner circle."

The problem is that there is nothing to suggest that the Liberal Party or their star candidate give a damn about inequality let alone have any intention of doing anything about it. Trudeau's hero is Paul Martin, who as finance minister did more than any other politician in Canada to undermine equality and reduce the power of ordinary workers. His "labour flexibility" policies devastated Canadian working people and large swaths of the middle class. He slashed Unemployment Insurance, ended the Canada Assistance Plan (the federal funding program that forced provinces to have half-decent social assistance programs), deliberately kept unemployment at high levels through the 1990s to weaken labour and generally abandoned policies that protected employees. He gave huge tax cuts to the wealthy, exacerbating inequality, and cancelled Canada's social housing program. Even Brian Mulroney paled in comparison in his policies.

Neither Justin Trudeau nor Chrystia Freeland have said anything about reversing these socially destructive policies. Yet these are precisely the policies that have created much of the inequality Freeland talks about.

McQuaig, on the other hand, has consistently made the case that growing inequality is the direct result of an ideology that has dominated government policy and media discourse since the 1980s. McQuaig actually talks about solutions -- advocating for strengthened social supports, rebuilding public programs, empowering labour and creating a more progressive tax system. The NDP has historically stood for these things, too, and if McQuaig wins she will be a strong voice to continue with these policies.
 - Of course, by-elections also offer an opportunity to field-test ideas which haven't yet been used in general elections - making the Libs' use of "shame" tactics in Toronto Centre something worth watching. And Tim Harper discusses how the Broadbent Institute looks to be adopting some of the more successful strategies of the Centre for American Progress.

- Michael Harris discusses why Stephen Harper should be as good as gone if last week's revelations about the Senate bribery scandal are true. And Dan Leger comments on the Cons' Senate corruption and cover-up as an example of central command gone awry.

- Daniel Tencer reports on how the Libs and Cons alike have handed massive tax giveaways to the corporate sector and the rich - while nickel-and-diming working Canadians to partially make up for the shortfall.

- Finally, Barrie McKenna notes that Canada should be learning lessons from the misuse of NAFTA's arbitral mechanisms to attack all kinds of government policies through a perpetually-expanding definition of "investment". And Ian Welsh writes that free trade reflects elites selling out their own populations - though it's probably fair to say that many of the corporatist advocates pushing for free trade have built a far stronger sense of kinship with fellow mercenaries than with anybody originating from the same place:
Internally, free trade is used to create betrayals.  Trade deals do not allow environmental protections, do not allow high wages, do not allow workers to be treated well, or you aren’t competitive and the usual remedies, like tariffs and subsidies are not allowed by those same trade deal.  This allows oligarchs in every country involved in the deal to put downward pressure on wages, regulations, benefits and even standards of humane treatment, in the name of “competitiveness.”

A wise society, including a global society, takes certain types of behavior “off the table”, by just forbidding them. Absent that, they make it so that those who do such things are not rewarded.  Fail to do either of these things, and you find yourself in a race to the bottom.

Note, again, that this is in oligarchs best interest EVEN if their country loses.  Greek oligarchs, post-crash, are doing just fine.  African potentates walk away with multi-million dollar bank accounts even as their own citizens starve to death.  Business owners want to push down wages and costs, no matter where they are.  This devastates countries, and even the citizenry of many of the winning countries (like the US), but it benefits of the few a great deal in relative terms.  They’d be better off, as a class, in absolute terms if they took this behaviour off the table, but they wouldn’t be as rich relative to everyone else, or as powerful, and they value that relative wealth and power more than absolute wealth and power.  It isn’t enough that they win, their own populations must be poor and weak, too.

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