Saturday, November 02, 2013

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Thomas Walkom notes that the Harper Cons' latest EI cuts look to amplify the pain of unemployment in Ontario while serving the broader purpose of forcing workers to conclude their federal government doesn't care if they go hungry:
The great irony is that these days hardly any jobless qualify for EI to begin with.
Latest figures from Statistics Canada show that only 37.6 per cent of unemployed Canadians qualified for employment insurance in August.
In part, that’s because the nature of work is changing. More people have the kind of jobs (such as self-employment) that EI was never designed to address.

But as a 1998 federal study found, about half of the gap is the result of earlier employment insurance reforms put in place by Jean Chretien’s Liberal government.

Now the Harper Tories are making their own effort to eliminate what is left of EI.
The strategy is quite simple: Destroy whatever political support exists for employment insurance by making the benefit almost impossible to collect.
The aim is equally straightforward: Crush any social program that interferes with the downward pressure on wages.
- And Paul Krugman discusses the Republicans' war on the poor south of the border:
I still sometimes see pundits claiming that the Tea Party movement is basically driven by concerns about budget deficits. That’s delusional. Read the founding rant by Rick Santelli of CNBC: There’s nary a mention of deficits. Instead, it’s a tirade against the possibility that the government might help “losers” avoid foreclosure. Or read transcripts from Rush Limbaugh or other right-wing talk radio hosts. There’s not much about fiscal responsibility, but there’s a lot about how the government is rewarding the lazy and undeserving.

 Republicans in leadership positions try to modulate their language a bit, but it’s a matter more of tone than substance. They’re still clearly passionate about making sure that the poor and unlucky get as little help as possible, that — as Representative Paul Ryan, the chairman of the House Budget Committee, put it — the safety net is becoming “a hammock that lulls able-bodied people to lives of dependency and complacency.” And Mr. Ryan’s budget proposals involve savage cuts in safety-net programs such as food stamps and Medicaid.

All of this hostility to the poor has culminated in the truly astonishing refusal of many states to participate in the Medicaid expansion. Bear in mind that the federal government would pay for this expansion, and that the money thus spent would benefit hospitals and the local economy as well as the direct recipients. But a majority of Republican-controlled state governments are, it turns out, willing to pay a large economic and fiscal price in order to ensure that aid doesn’t reach the poor.
- Andrew Coyne highlights the sheer lack of substance in Harper's convention speech, while Tabatha Southey imagines the difficulties facing a hotel trying to take Harper's room service order. And Stephen LaRose documents the connection between Brad Wall and Pamela Wallin - featuring a series of promises to lead the way toward Senate elections, coupled with an utter refusal to follow through when it meant ceding an inch of political advantage.

- The Toronto Star questions whether the green bonds being pushed by Ontario's Libs make sense as a transit strategy on their own. But Mike Moffatt raises more important questions as to whether they make sense at all - since they seem to do little other than impose extra costs on a government financing regime which is already the most efficient means of funding infrastructure.

- Finally, David Atkins points back to the positive, community-based message sent to the world (and indeed the universe) by the U.S.' leaders just a few decades ago - and asks what we've lost if it's out of place in our current political climate:
The tone and message of (Jimmy Carter's statement sent in the Voyager) should strike the modern reader as oddly optimistic and daringly progressive. It clearly assumes that the modern nation-state is a temporary and anachronistic step on the way to a global civilization. It assumes that "our problems" such as poverty, illness and the like can, should and will be solved. It assumes that, much as the nation-state will be subsumed into a global civilization, so too will the denizens of Earth hopefully take our place in a greater galactic community.

It's a profoundly hopeful and inspiring message. It's also one that would sadly likely never be written today by a sitting President.
When the Left talks about how far the national conversation has shifted to the Right, this is what we mean. In spite of huge advances in civil rights, we live in a political society where sentiments such as those we placed on Voyager seem anachronistic and almost shockingly liberal.

That's a problem. It means that we as a society, as a culture and as a civilization, are making a headlong retreat from what makes us human, from what binds us to one another, and from what will ultimately drive us forward toward a successful future if we are to share one at all.

And for what? So that billionaires can steal more money while stoking jingoistic sentiments so that no one notices the optimism we have lost? That's shameful and inhuman.

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