Sunday, January 05, 2014

Sunday Morning Links

Assorted content for your Sunday reading.

- Frank Graves recognizes that the dismal mood of young Canadians is based on the economic reality that the expected trend toward intergenerational progress has been reversed.

- Meanwhile, Jesse Myerson discusses five policy proposals which would give younger citizens a far more fair chance at success than they currently hold. Ben Irwin lists twenty elements of life in poverty which figure to be unfamiliar to anybody at higher income levels. And Dennis Raphael nicely boils down the policy choices we face in addressing family poverty:
Research carried out by UNICEF points out that those nations with the lowest child and family poverty rates are, not surprisingly, those nations with the smallest proportion of low-paid workers. Low-paid workers are much more common in nations where the labour sector is weak, government does little to manage the economy in the service of all, and public participation is less than the case in other countries. They are also the nations with a system of proportional representation that allows greater citizen input into the election process. It is not only the Nordic nations that do well in reducing child and family poverty. The Continental nations of Europe also do far better than we do in Canada. 

This analysis suggests that the best means of reducing child and family poverty is to reduce the imbalances in power and influence that exist among Canadians. The best — and easiest way — to do this is to make it easier to organize workplaces, increase the progressivity of income taxes, and assure that all members of the population, regardless of their class status, have the benefits and supports necessary to avoid poverty. 

The recent history of public policy in Canada has been to do the opposite. There have been sustained attacks on organized labour, taxes have been reduced on the wealthy, and the social safety net has been weakened.
- And Don Lenihan rightly questions the corporate media's attempts to downplay the growing gap between the rich and the rest of us, while recognizing the most important influence on escalating executive wealth extraction:
CEOs’ high compensation also relies on a culture of collusion. Boards of directors hire CEOs and set their compensation. But this has at least as much to do with the collegial nature of the corporate executive world as with markets. Boards are an elite professional club. To become a member—most of whom are still men—people work hard to cultivate the right connections, say the right things, dress properly and be recognized as a “team player.” If not, they don’t get in—or at least they don’t last. And therein lays the problem.

Many members sit on multiple boards and depend on this for a substantial part of their income. The more robust the compensation packages for CEOs, the more likely board members are to see their own status and compensation enhanced. No one wants to upset the applecart. On the contrary, there are very strong incentives to support the trend to ever better packages, and serious risks for opposing it—even if one thinks it is unnecessary or wrong.

“The market” provides the perfect alibi. It allows board members to ascribe CEOs’ salaries to an impersonal calculus. They talk about the remarkable skills and learning of CEOs, the small talent pool available to run big organizations, the risk of losing such talent, and so on.

In a private moment, however, the same people can be surprisingly candid about how becoming a successful CEO has less to do with exceptional management skills than proper grooming, meticulous planning, and a ruthless dedication to the goal.
- Finally, Chantal Hebert suggests that Stephen Harper would be smart to say "no" to the Northern Gateway pipeline. But given his apparent lack of concern that Canada's top spy watchdog - responsible for overseeing agencies reported to have plotted with oil interests to spy on First Nations and environmental groups - is himself lobbying on Enbridge's behalf, we can safely say that Harper isn't the least bit concerned with maintaining the appearance of intelligence or unbiased evaluation.

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