Sunday, December 01, 2013

Sunday Morning Links

Miscellanous material for your Sunday reading.

- Sean McElwee highlights the fact that inequality is an avoidable result caused by policies oriented toward rewarding greed:
The problem, then, is not machines, which are doing a great deal to boost productivity; the problem is that the benefits from increased productivity no longer accrue to workers. In a provocative paper earlier this year, Josh Bivens and Mishel argued that the gains for the richest 1 percent were due to “rent-seeking” behavior by CEOs and financial professions, not competitive markets. As John Kenneth Galbraith said, “The sense of responsibility in the financial community for the community as a whole is not small. It is nearly nil.” The newly minted rich want to blame robots for declining wages at the bottom and their innate superiority for their disproportionate share of the income. But these excuses mask their theft of productivity gains that rightfully belong to the rest of us.
If inequality were the result of economic fundamentals, it would not matter who was in the White House, but rather inequality would be correlated to underlying economic trends. This is not true either. Larry Bartels finds in “Unequal Democracy” that income growth is more equal under Democratic presidents than it is under Republican presidents, pointing to the possibility that political systems drive inequality.
Workers must exercise political power to change the institutions that shape their lives. Walmart doesn’t have to pay its workers starvation wages and could easily pay them more. There is no celestial law that the richest 1% can plunder our common inheritance. We don’t have to crush workers when we globalize and we don’t have to destroy the environment in the pursuit of profits. Just as inequality is a choice, equality is a choice. By shifting the discussion away from the policy changes that have caused inequality, we legitimate it. As Eugene Debs said, “the class which has the power to rob upon a large scale has also the power to control the government and legalize their robbery.”
- And Martin Regg Cohn theorizes that Ontario may soon be home to a far more pointed challenge to the forces pushing inequality - as the Hudak PCs' attacks on workers are being met with a united front.

- Meanwhile, Eve-Lyne Couturier reminds us how we all end up paying the price for abusive employers. Josh Eidelson reports on Wal-Mart's state-aided retaliation against workers and other involved in peaceful protests. And Lauren McCauley writes about the widespread collection of personal information about consumers by Wal-Mart and other retailers.

- John Greenwood takes a look at the focus of the Canada Revenue Agency - and finds it trumpeting successful collections arising out of minor non-compliance rather than doing anything to meaningfully challenge systemic tax evasion by those who owe the most.

- Finally, Lana Payne comments on how the Cons' fear of losing power led to the corruption of Stephen Harper and his PMO.

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