Saturday, January 04, 2014

Saturday Morning Links

This and that for your weekend reading.

- The Star offers an editorial on the continued increase in wage inequality in Canada, highlighting the complete lack of any connection between accomplishment and executive compensation:
(T)he country’s economic performance has changed dramatically. In 2007, when Mackenzie began, the Canadian economy was growing by leaps and bounds, leading some economists to predict that the business cycle could only improve.

Then the 2008 recession hit. Today, the economy is limping along; a growing proportion of the population needs two or three low-wage jobs to survive; and families are cutting back on everything from groceries to heating costs.

Yet there is no sign of restraint at the top. The 100 highest-paid chief executives took home between $3.9 million and $49.5 million in total compensation, for an average of $7.96 million, in 2012 (the latest year for which Mackenzie could get figures). The average Canadian earned $46,634.

“Five years after a global recession knocked the wind out of Canada’s labour market, throwing tens of thousands of workers onto the unemployment line and sidelining a generation of young workers, the compensation of Canada’s CEO elite continues to sail along,” Mackenzie said. What’s more, he added, “there is no clear relationship between CEO compensation and any measure of corporate performance.”
- Meanwhile, Matthew Hutson discusses the dangers of believing that wealth and social status result solely from inherent personal superiority - as well as the efforts of right-wing politicians to cultivate exactly that belief. Paul Krugman notes that the only way to pretend inequality isn't a serious issue is to mangle income data beyond all recognition. And Bruce Livesey eviscerates Thomas Watson's attempt to claim that all corporate fraud and abuse are the fault of the people victimized by a predatory financial system.

- Owen Jones muses about the prospect of more effective left-wing populism to counter the corporatist message:
It was starting to look like the Tories were going to get away with all this, building a Little England, seething with bile and fear, of booming profits and crashing living standards. Labour appeared to have decided: “Sod this for a game of soldiers, providing a semblance of opposition is way too much hassle, let’s have a lie-in until May 2015.” But then Ed Miliband realised that the populism of the Right could only be confronted with populism from the Left.

Every time Labour indulges in bashing immigrants and unemployed people, it just allows the Tories to set the terms of debate, driving issues up the national agenda that ensure the Right thrives. Labour will never win at being trusted to kick foreigners or poor people most, and should file for moral bankruptcy if it did. Similarly, the Tories cannot win on the “cost of living crisis”, as it’s been christened, and realised they have to change the subject, and quickly.

So 2014 has to be the year when left-wing populism flourishes. That means learning from the Right: simple messages that are repeated ad infinitum, hammered into the electorate’s skulls, constantly forcing opponents on to the defensive. Why are we, the taxpayer, subsidising the poverty wages of the likes of Tesco and Sainsbury’s, to the tune of tens of billions of pounds each year? Instead, let’s have a deficit-reducing living wage, which would inject a healthy dose of demand into the economy and, according to one economist, create 58,000 jobs. Why are landlords allowed to fleece the taxpayer with rents that need topping up with state benefits when we should both control rents and give councils the power to build homes, bringing down the social security bill, creating skilled jobs and sorting out the housing crisis?
- And finally, Dylan Matthews interviews Benjamin Radcliff about the link between a more robust government and happier citizens - with a particular focus on decommodification as a precondition to greater well-being.

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