Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Dan Leger and Leslie MacKinnon both theorize that 2013 represented a new low in Canadian politics. But while the Cons may have taken some new steps in petty scandals and cover-ups (and Rob Ford's clown show managed to attract an unusual amount of attention), I'm not sure how any of it reflects much of a change from the attitude on display by Canada's right for the past several years.

- Similarly, while Robyn Benson recognizes the past year as raising the Cons' gratuitous union-bashing to a new level, it's hard to see that development as anything more than the continuation of a longstanding trend.

- The Star decries the Cons' selfie level of scientific discussion. Mike de Souza reports that the Cons went out of their way to avoid so much as admitting that climate change is a serious issue in response to the most recent IPCC report. And Peter Moskowitz reports on the giant ring of mercury deposits surrounding tar sands developments.

- Bruce Campbell looks back at 25 years of North American free trade, and finds that it's primarily served the corporate sector rather than citizens of any of the countries involved:
The FTA/NAFTA was a big business-driven initiative whose primary purpose was investment deregulation. Trade was important, but as a second order rather than a primary goal.

The agreements did make it easier for business to ship goods and services across the border. However, at its core were new powers and freedoms granted to corporations to facilitate their pursuit of shareholder value.

These provisions enabled corporations to move with minimal restrictions on the North American continent, shifting production to jurisdictions that offered the greatest returns in terms of regulations, subsidies, taxes, labour costs, etc.
Between 1950 and 1990, there was a steady drop in the share of national income appropriated by capital (profits) and a rise in labour’s share. In the wake of the FTA/NAFTA, that relationship reversed. Capital’s share rose dramatically; workers wages and salaries’ share fell in lockstep.

Contrary to assurances given Canadians prior to the FTA/NAFTA, big business lobbied hard to reduce program spending and taxes.

Unemployment insurance, health and education transfers, social assistance and housing programs, etc. were “harmonized downward” toward U.S. levels.
In the end, the FTA/NAFTA failed to meet the fundamental test of any major policy initiative: to better the lives of its citizens. And it helped weaken the bonds of nationhood embodied in the Canadian social state. 
- Finally, Chris Dillow discusses how gross inequality has led people with the most money and power to think they're above even the slightest interaction with the mere public - and theorizes that we won't be able to restore any level of mutual respect until we've significantly reduced income and wealth inequality. And Lydia DePellis writes that even business groups (at least in the UK) are willing to acknowledge the need for shared rather than hoarded prosperity.

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