Friday, June 13, 2014

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Neera Tanden points out that a wide range of citizens rely on a strong safety net at one time or another - and suggests that it's long past time to start discussing how important social programs have been in our own lives:
I believe we have a historic opportunity to address poverty today, because the interests of low-income people and the middle class are converging. Median wages—the wages of middle-income earners—have been stagnant for twelve years. People recognize there is growing inequality in this country and that something is amiss when companies are doing well but people aren’t—when dividends, stock prices, and CEO salaries rise but wages don’t.

And while we have a clear opportunity to make the connection between the interests of people in poverty and the interests of the middle class, we have our work cut out for us. Conservatives have successfully pitted people in the middle against people struggling near the bottom. They are skilled at exploiting economic anger and anxiety, fear and distrust. For example, they have convinced many Americans that many people who turn to the safety net want to be on welfare rather than having a job. This mistaken notion is particularly troubling right now, when the hardest-hit communities face high unemployment rates of 20 to 30 percent. Conservatives say we have to break up the safety net or people won’t pursue jobs. But the truth is those jobs just don’t exist right now. So the real effect of these heartless policies will be more people hungry, more people homeless, and more children with fewer opportunities to succeed—children just like my brother and I.

For my family, as for many American families, the safety net was a bridge that carried us through hard times. That’s why it’s important that I tell my story.
When we take on the assumptions and stereotypes directly—and actually look at the lives of poor people—we see in fact that their lives are full of struggle (including the struggle to navigate a welfare system that seems designed to make it as hard as possible for people to receive benefits).
- Alex Boutilier writes that the Cons are now scrambling for accurate labour market information in an effort to figure out what to do with temporary foreign workers - after having slashed exactly that type of data collection as part of their war on evidence. But as Andrew Coyne points out, there's a fairly obvious answer if the Cons are willing to let newly-arrived workers have a future in Canada by eliminating the "temporary" part of their designation, rather than wanting to make sure they remain disposable at an employer's behest.

- Meanwhile, Paul Adams discusses how Stephen Harper has become a leading figure for climate denialists around the globe (much to Canada's embarrassment):
More than anything, Abbott admires Harper because he sees him as a world leader in the fight against doing anything meaningful to contain global warming.

Like Harper, at one time Abbott was close to being an outright climate change denier. “The argument (behind climate change) is absolute crap,” he once remarked.
Nowadays, Abbott, like Harper, could best be described as a “skeptic”. He acknowledges that climate change is occurring but doubts the role that carbon emissions play in it. He got into a scrap with a UN climate change official and Australia’s own Climate Council over the possible link between climate change and his country’s unusually severe wildfires last October.
(Abbott took a page out of Harper’s book by abolishing the state-funded Climate Council, whose mission is to provide independent scientific information...)
Like Canada, whose economic dependence on dirty tar sands oil has grown under Harper, Australia has an emissions problem. In fact, Abbott seems bent on increasing the growth of his country’s coal industry, which is closely linked to China’s economic expansion.
That’s why Abbott is joining Harper in forming a cabal of nations trying to slow efforts to contain emissions. He is trying to repeal the carbon tax imposed by Gillard. And he has been an outspoken critic of President Obama’s recent climate-change initiative.
As chairman of the G-20 meeting slated for November in Brisbane, Abbott is resolute in keeping climate change off the agenda.
- Finally, Justin Ling reports on the Canadian military's extensive monitoring of Idle No More protestors. And CBC finds the Cape Breton and Central Nova Scotia Railway to be rather less subtle in its efforts to shut down any discussion of rail safety - including by threatening elected officials with legal action if they say or do anything about crumbling rail lines.

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