Monday, December 09, 2013

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- David Simon laments the division of the U.S. into the few who are rewarded by market forces and the many who are constantly under siege - while also pointing out that concentration of wealth may prevent democratic forces from offering a counterweight:
The idea that the market will solve such things as environmental concerns, as our racial divides, as our class distinctions, our problems with educating and incorporating one generation of workers into the economy after the other when that economy is changing; the idea that the market is going to heed all of the human concerns and still maximise profit is juvenile. It's a juvenile notion and it's still being argued in my country passionately and we're going down the tubes. And it terrifies me because I'm astonished at how comfortable we are in absolving ourselves of what is basically a moral choice. Are we all in this together or are we all not?
So how does it get better? In 1932, it got better because they dealt the cards again and there was a communal logic that said nobody's going to get left behind. We're going to figure this out. We're going to get the banks open. From the depths of that depression a social compact was made between worker, between labour and capital that actually allowed people to have some hope.

We're either going to do that in some practical way when things get bad enough or we're going to keep going the way we're going, at which point there's going to be enough people standing on the outside of this mess that somebody's going to pick up a brick, because you know when people get to the end there's always the brick. I hope we go for the first option but I'm losing faith.
The last job of capitalism – having won all the battles against labour, having acquired the ultimate authority, almost the ultimate moral authority over what's a good idea or what's not, or what's valued and what's not – the last journey for capital in my country has been to buy the electoral process, the one venue for reform that remained to Americans.

Right now capital has effectively purchased the government, and you witnessed it again with the healthcare debacle in terms of the $450m that was heaved into Congress, the most broken part of my government, in order that the popular will never actually emerged in any of that legislative process.

So I don't know what we do if we can't actually control the representative government that we claim will manifest the popular will. Even if we all start having the same sentiments that I'm arguing for now, I'm not sure we can effect them any more in the same way that we could at the rise of the Great Depression, so maybe it will be the brick. But I hope not.
 - Meanwhile, the Star provides both an article and an infographic on the public services slashed by the Harper Cons.

- And Bill Hatanaka, Jim Keohane, Jim Leech and Michael Nobrega highlight the value of defined-benefit pensions as a means of ensuring a secure retirement for workers. (And Konrad Yakabuski's apparent preference for letting individuals rather than social pension plans address the consequences of a "declining real rates of return on pension investments" doesn't serve as much of an argument against stronger public pensions.)

- Finally, Susan Delacourt proposes a few fixes to the current rules (or lack thereof) governing political and government advertising:
What could we do right now? Three steps are available to us, each as easy to embrace as Chong’s reforms:

- We need to have a conversation about whether we should continue to allow political advertising in between elections.
- If we’re stuck with advertising between elections, it seems we’re recognizing that political parties are just another consumer marketer. How about subjecting them to the same standards?
- Speaking of disparaging firms and commercial activity, how about those new ads this fall from your federal government, taking a poke at the wireless and telecom providers? We learned this week that the Conservative government is spending $9 million on its new ad campaign against Canadian cellphone providers. “More Choice. Better Service. Lower Prices,” the ads state, as though the government was the chief competitor, not the regulator, of a wireless industry that employs hundreds of thousands.

The federal government has since 2006 spent an estimated half-billion dollars or more on advertising, including $100 million on those ever-present Economic Action Plan ads.
Is this political advertising? Or, as the government claims, simply money spent to “inform” Canadians?
Ontario solved this problem almost a decade ago when it passed a law requiring the Auditor-General to review all government ads for political content. 

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