Friday, May 09, 2014

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Robert Reich calls out four fundamental lies used to push corporatist policies. But perhaps more interesting is the truth which no amount of concentrated wealth seems to be able to suppress:
But the more interesting thing here is the memo’s concession of a hurdle AFP faces: That people support the idea of “taking care of those in need and avoiding harm to the weak.” That this is seen as a messaging problem is telling.
As it happens, the AFP memo is right. Majorities of Americans do see the economy as rigged for the wealthy and don’t believe everyone has an equal shot at getting ahead. Majorities support a minimum wage hike. Though polling is admittedly mixed on the proper role of “government,” polls have shown majority support for the idea of policies that tax the wealthy to fund programs for the poor, and more Americans think government programs for the poor help rather than hurt. During the 2012 election — which the AFP memo cites as a teachable moment — polling showed strong support for preserving the safety net.
- Meanwhile, Duncan Cameron kicks off Rabble's UP! series with a look at the history of Canada's labour movement. But Tyler Cowen points out that Canada may be on a "super-unequal" trajectory - meaning that there's ample work to be done in shaping a country that looks for ways to serve anybody beyond the wealthy few. And Linda McQuaig also weighs in on the disproportionate growth of concentrated wealth:
Even Republican President Theodore Roosevelt argued in 1906 that the U.S. should place "a constantly increasing burden on the inheritance of those swollen fortunes which it is certainly of no benefit to this country to perpetuate."

The slashing of those high tax rates in recent decades has contributed greatly, Piketty notes, to today's return to inequality.

Piketty also dispels the notion that today's fortunes are the result of talent, noting that 60 to 70 per cent of them are due to inherited wealth, and that we're on track to return to a world -- like late 19th-century Europe -- dominated by inherited wealth.

Stephen Harper is no doubt hoping we'll be distracted by sports, and by reports we're doing about as well as middle-class Americans, who've been crushed by the brutal, ongoing, Wall-Street-induced recession.

Meanwhile, an immensely rich and powerful class right here in Canada is quietly amassing ever greater wealth and power to hand down to their heirs, who will be still richer and more powerful. But, go Habs, go! Why would we care? 
- Joseph Heath writes about the apples-to-oranges comparison between defined-benefit pensions like the CPP which offer retirement security to all workers included in their scope, and the Cons' preferred message that retirees can expect not a dime more than they can buy through an individual annuity.

- And Danielle Martin, while pointing out that there's reason for pride in Canada's universal health care system, also highlights the room for improvement in our health policy:
I see three big ideas out there that could raise the bar for the health of Canadians in the next decade.

The first is to improve access to prescription medications. Public insurance, either provincial or national, should cover the 20 most effective medications for chronic disease for every single Canadian. If we purchased those 20 drugs in bulk for the whole country and bargained effectively on the price we pay, we could put this program in place without spending a single penny more of public money than we already spend.

The second big idea flows from a campaign called Choosing Wisely. It taps into the reality that today’s health care consumers are increasingly well prepared to have conversations about the risks of tests and treatments. Too many Canadians are harmed every year by inappropriate, wasteful and often harmful tests and prescriptions. Radiologists agree, for example, that 30 per cent of CT scans are unnecessary, and these scans involve radiation. And do we really need to be taking 80 per cent more drugs than we did 10 years ago? It’s time to challenge the belief that more is always better when it comes to health care, and start a conversation between patients and health care providers that is more honest about what good research tells us are the risks and benefits of our interventions.

Third, we need to acknowledge that health is about more than just health care. Rather than spending more and more at the repair shop, we need to attack the causes of ill health. Income is the most important predictor of health: the poorer you are, the more likely you are to have negative health outcomes. The Guaranteed Annual Income, a simple and powerful concept that is supported both by local and international evidence, could dramatically improve the health of all Canadians by reducing poverty.
- Finally, Don Lenihan discusses the stark distinction between academic and political commentary. But it's well worth using his analysis as a starting point to discuss how political can be made less war-like, and more open to actual discussion of public policy choices.

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