Monday, April 07, 2014

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Laura Ryckewaert looks in more detail at the continued lack of any privacy protection in the Unfair Elections Act. And Murray Dobbin is hopeful that the Cons' blatant attempt to suppress voting rights will instead lead to a backlash among those who are intended to be excluded:
(W)hatever the outcome, perhaps the best possible response of democracy activists would be to treat this loathsome piece of legislation as a useful crisis. This is exactly what leaders of the African-American and Latino communities have done in their fight against the blatant voter suppression efforts in the U.S. -- where individual states determine voting procedures for federal elections. "A Center for Social Inclusion report entitled "Citizens Denied: The Impact of Photo ID Laws on Senior Citizens of Color" warned that nearly half of black voters over age 65 and one in three Latino senior voters would have a more difficult time registering and voting on election day due to photo ID laws passed in some 33 states."

In at least some cases efforts at voter suppression in the U.S. have backfired because the attack on black and Latino communities has galvanized them to get out the vote. The government of Florida reduced the early voting period which prompted black churches "to conduct a two-day 'souls to the polls' marathon. And even as election day turned into a late election night, and with the race in Ohio, and thus for the 270 votes needed to win the presidency, called by 11 p.m., black voters remained in line in Miami-Dade and Broward, two heavily Democrat counties in Florida, where black voters broke turnout records even compared to 2008."

Efforts to suppress the vote in civic elections in North Carolina and Texas also backfired, resulting in record turn-outs of the people targeted by Republican party controlled board of elections.

With young people, the homeless and First Nations voters at the low end of the turn-out numbers, the Harper government's crude effort to suppress their votes even more can and should be used to galvanize the vote from those communities.

Student organizations, anti-poverty groups, the Idle No More movement and senior's groups are well placed to take up the challenge, with help from groups like Democracy Watch and perhaps the NDP.

While many in those communities have found little reason to go to the polls given the slim likelihood of any change in their lives, no one likes to be told what they can and can't do -- especially when it comes to rights. For the people targeted by Harper for disenfranchisement, the 2015 election could be purely about democracy itself.
- Dave Seglins reports on even more rail safety incidents which were left unreported by the railways involved. And Wendy Gillis notes that Transport Canada and MMA are refusing to release the details of the safety plan whose failure caused the Lac-Mégantic disaster - effectively declaring that so far as they're concerned, the plans approved by the government as being sufficient to keep the public safe are none of the public's business.

- Don Lenihan looks at the military procurement process, and highlights the problem with governments allowing contractors to dictate public procurement goals.

- Donald Gutstein tests Andrew Coyne's fudged numbers used to argue against the need for public revenue. But Coyne's figures look downright healthy compared to those being spun by the CCCE - who are trying to claim income taxes and other taxes merely remitted by big business on behalf of others as part of their calculation of what the corporate sector contributes.

- Finally, Barrie McKenna comments on Thomas Piketty's observations about the link between growing inequality, and the corporatist goal of promoting capital returns over broad-based growth:
Prof. Piketty challenges one of the underpinnings of modern democracies – namely, that growth and productivity make each generation better off than the previous one. With hard work and education, conventional thinking goes, anyone can achieve upward mobility, and live the Canadian (or American) dream.

Prof. Piketty warns instead that global economic growth will limp along at just 1 per cent to 1.5 per cent for the rest of this century – roughly half the pace of the past century. The spoils will flow increasingly to the wealthy – entrepreneurs, owners of capital and those fortunate enough to inherit wealth, he argues. Workers will fall further behind.

Think of Prof. Piketty’s world as the antithesis of free-market champion Milton Friedman’s mantra that capitalism spreads the “fruits of economic progress among all people.”

Without radical intervention, the result will be growing inequality and social strife, Prof. Piketty argues.
Just as controversial as his dissection of the problem is his recommended solution – a global tax on wealth. Prof. Piketty would slap an annual graduated tax on stocks, bonds and property, which are typically not taxed until they are sold (capital gains). The tax would thwart the concentration of wealth and limit the flow of income to capital.

To be effective, it would have to be applied not just in one country, but virtually everywhere.

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