Monday, January 20, 2014

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Graeme Wearden reports on Oxfam's latest study on inequality and the outsized political influence of the wealthy few:
The Oxfam report found that over the past few decades, the rich have successfully wielded political influence to skew policies in their favour on issues ranging from financial deregulation, tax havens, anti-competitive business practices to lower tax rates on high incomes and cuts in public services for the majority. Since the late 1970s, tax rates for the richest have fallen in 29 out of 30 countries for which data are available, said the report.

This "capture of opportunities" by the rich at the expense of the poor and middle classes has led to a situation where 70% of the world's population live in countries where inequality has increased since the 1980s and 1% of families own 46% of global wealth - almost £70tn.

Opinion polls in Spain, Brazil, India, South Africa, the US, UK and Netherlands found that a majority in each country believe that wealthy people exert too much influence. Concern was strongest in Spain, followed by Brazil and India and least marked in the Netherlands.
Oxfam is calling on those gathered at WEF to pledge: to support progressive taxation and not dodge their own taxes; refrain from using their wealth to seek political favours that undermine the democratic will of their fellow citizens; make public all investments in companies and trusts for which they are the ultimate beneficial owners; challenge governments to use tax revenue to provide universal healthcare, education and social protection; demand a living wage in all companies they own or control; and challenge other members of the economic elite to join them in these pledges.
- Meanwhile, the Economic Policy Institute is assembling support among economists for an increase in the U.S.' minimum wage. And Rob Rainer discusses why Canada should ensure a basic income guarantee as a matter of values and conscience.

- Bloomberg reports on the latest Enbridge oil spill just outside Regina. But Sheila Pratt points out why we probably can't expect even another incident close to home to lead to any meaningful public discussion - noting that the atmosphere of tar sands intimidation in Alberta has reached the point where doctors are refusing to treat patients who observe a connection between their illnesses and oil development.

- Finally, Gerald Caplan discusses the reality Stephen Harper should try to see during the course of his trip to Israel - while acknowledging the certainty that Harper will avoid it at all costs.

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