Friday, April 25, 2014

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Larry Bartels highlights how class plays a particularly large role in U.S. politics, as opinions about the role of government are particularly polarized based on income. And Paul Krugman notes that as a consequence, any demand to "stop class warfare" in favour of imposing the austerity preferred by the upper class amounts to a demand that lower-income citizens forfeit their right to be heard.

- Carol Goar discusses how poverty and inequality are serious barriers to access to health care in Canada, particularly when it comes to increasingly-costly prescription drugs:
People with debilitating — in some cases life-threatening — diseases are mortgaging their homes, borrowing huge sums, holding auctions, organizing fundraisers or quietly giving up.

The Canada Health Act says all permanent residents of this country are entitled to “reasonable access to health services without financial or other barriers.” But for an increasing number of low-wage workers, seniors without personal savings and families with no health insurance, cost is a barrier — an unscalable one.

The extent of this inequity was underlined last week by a new report from Statistics Canada. It showed that out-of-pocket expenditures for health-care (primarily prescription drugs, dental services and private insurance premiums) shot up by 63 per cent for the poorest fifth of the population between 1997 and 2009. Those in the middle-and upper-income quintiles experienced increases ranging from 36 per cent to 48 per cent.
Governments are pushing patients out of hospitals faster, saddling them (except those on social assistance and old age security) with the cost of their own prescriptions. What this means is that the core principle of medicare — that every Canadian should have equal access to health care regardless of wealth — is deteriorating.

As always, the poor are first and hardest hit. The majority of middle-income Canadians have private health insurance. The rich don’t need pharmacare; they can cover the cost of their own medications.

But what typically happens when a universal program erodes is that damage works its way up the income ladder. There are already isolated cases of patients whose insurers won’t pay for astronomically priced drugs. There are stories in the media about families of all socio-economic levels begging governments to help them pay for rare and costly medications.

There is still time to fix this problem. What is missing is the political will.
- Tara Carman reports on the C.D. Howe Institute's observation that the abuse of temporary foreign workers is driving up unemployment rates. Both Murray Mandryk and the Star-Phoenix editorial board discuss the obvious flaws in the Cons' push toward disposable labour (along with the eagerness of employers to abuse their privileged status). And Karl Nerenberg views the use of temporary foreign workers as just one part of the Cons' regressive immigration policy.

[Also, what thwap said.]

- Dr. Dawg writes that we shouldn't be surprised to see the Robocon investigation falter due to a lack of investigatory authority which Elections Canada has long pointed out as a problem. Alison documents the type of misdirection which has apparently been treated as legitimate (or at least incapable of being investigated). And Saskboy rounds up yesterday's news about the Elections Commissioner's decision to give up on Robocon.

- Finally, Paul Adams reminds us of the rights at stake when the Cons look to rewrite elections law to restrict access to the polls:
(T)his isn’t just about most Canadians. Most Canadians don’t live on reserves. Most Canadians don’t have parents or grandparents who were forbidden from voting by law. And most Canadians would have trouble imagining the circumstances of those who do.

As First Nations leaders have pointed out, many people living on reserves don’t have driver’s licences or even bank accounts. Interestingly, ‘status cards’ — the core identification document on reserves — have a photograph but not the address required by the proposed bill. Moreover, these cards expire and may be difficult to renew.

We know that aboriginal people rely on the vouching provisions of the current law to a far greater degree than other Canadians for precisely those reasons.

Lurking not far beneath the suggestion that most Canadians think it is reasonable for voters to have ID in their pockets on election day is the sense that only the “deserving” — the upright, respectable citizens — should be participating in our democracy.
Democracy is both more and less than the right of everyone to vote. Athens had a democracy — just not for women and slaves. For most of the last century, South Africa had one excluding blacks. Israel has one, but it excludes many of the Palestinians ruled by its laws and power.

Canada was a democracy before it gave women or aboriginal people or 18-year olds the vote because it was governed by representative institutions; because power was diffused among federal and provincial governments as well as between Parliament and the courts; and because it was built on the rule of law.

But it was a democracy for the few.

Most of us have come to believe that we should have a democracy for all.

And that is why this isn’t just a matter of election administration. It’s a matter of civil rights.

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