Saturday, May 17, 2014

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Bill Moyers interviews Richard Wolff about inequality - featuring Wolff's observation that anybody trying to justify inequality as an inevitable byproduct of unregulated markets manages only to make those markets indefensible:
Bill Moyers: When you say that there's no economic argument that people should be kept at the-- should not share in the gains of economic growth, the response is, "Well, that's what the market bears."

Richard Wolff: Well, you know, in the history of economics, which is my profession, it's a standard play on words. Instead of talking about how the economy is shaped by the actions of consumers in one way, workers in another way, corporate executives in another way, we abstract from all of that and we create a myth or a mystique. It's called the market.

That way you're absolving everybody from responsibility. It isn't that you're doing this, making that decision in this way, it's rather this thing called the market that makes things happen. Well, every corporate executive I know, knows that half of his or her job is to tweak, manipulate, shift, and change the market.

No corporate executive takes the market as given. That may happen in the classroom, but not in the world of real business. That's what advertising is. You try to create the demand, if there isn't enough of it to make money without doing that. You change everything you can. So the reference to a market, I think, is an evasion.

It's an attempt to make abstract the real workings of the economy so nobody can question what this one or that one is doing. But let me take it another way. To say that it's the market is another way of saying, "It's our economic system that works that way." That is a very dangerous defense move to take.

Bill Moyers: Why?

Richard Wolff: Because it plays into the hands of those like me who are critical of the system. If indeed it isn't this one or that one, it isn't this company's strategy or that product's maneuver, but it is the market, the totality of the system, that is producing unconscionable results, multi-million-dollar apartments next door to abject poverty, then you're saying that the system is at fault for these results.

I agree with that. But I'm not sure that those who push this notion of "the market makes it happen," have thought through where the logic of that defense makes them very vulnerable to a much more profound critique than they will be comfortable with.
- Meanwhile, Lana Payne tears into Tim Hudak for his job-killing agenda and long-discredited policy prescriptions, while Alan Pyke discusses how corporate freebies have failed in Kansas. And David Olive singles out Hudak for well-justified scorn in his claim (contrary to all evidence) that another round of handouts to the corporate sector will help Ontario's economic prospects - though Olive is also right to note that there's significant room for greater long-term investment on all sides in the Ontario election.

- Upstream makes the case for a focus on youth homelessness as an area where public investment could radically improve lives. And the NDP is pushing (and petitioning) for a renewed federal role in funding social housing as a means of alleviating poverty.

- The Star takes a look at the Cons' cuts to refugee health care, and confirms the suspicion that the effect of withdrawing funding for needed services would be to inflate costs for the provinces who are left to deal with diseases left untreated for too long.

- Finally, Kady O'Malley points out that the NDP has received a substantial boost from former House of Commons law clerk Rob Walsh in its effort to stop the abuse of parliamentary resources to attack opposition parties. But it's hard to see the Cons being persuaded to change course given that Walsh's warning against "the use of House proceedings for any purpose license parliamentary tyranny by a governing majority over the minority parties sitting in opposition if not also over outside third parties" would fit neatly as a mission statement for Stephen Harper and his minions.

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