Thursday, June 26, 2014

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Harry Stein discusses how government policy is currently designed to exacerbate inequality by subsidizing the concentration of wealth:
This issue brief puts aside the question of whether new policies, such as a global wealth tax, should be enacted to reduce economic inequality. Instead, it explores two existing policies that actually subsidize wealth inequality. First, reduced tax rates on capital gains and dividends increase the after-tax rate of return on wealth, which makes it more likely that the rate of return on capital will exceed the overall economic growth rate. Second, capital gains are never subject to the income tax at all if the investor dies, which subsidizes wealth concentration within a family dynasty.
American wealth is concentrated within the richest families at levels not seen since the 1920s, and the American people should ask whether our government should incur roughly $2 trillion in deficits over the next 10 years for two policies that subsidize wealth inequality. To start answering that question, the public benefits from these subsidies should be weighed against their fiscal cost, as all spending programs and tax expenditures should be. But even if these policies do have some merit, perhaps there are other ways to spend $2 trillion that deliver equal or greater public benefits without subsidizing inequality to such a dramatic extent.
- And Tax Justice points out that even the IMF is beginning to acknowledge that tax evasion (and the tax havens who facilitate it) contribute to poverty and inequality - particularly in the countries which can least afford to have revenue siphoned off.

- Les Whittington reports that Natural Resources Canada is fully aware of the catastrophic economic and health consequences of climate change (despite the Cons' desperate attempts to ignore the facts). And Chris Mooney notes that even in the U.S. where industry-funded denialism is at its strongest, there's relatively little disagreement on the need to prevent those consequences.

- Meanwhile, Robyn Benson sums up how the Cons' approval of Northern Gateway was based entirely on their selective listening - with Enbridge receiving privileged access, and any dissenting voices treated as traitors. And Eden Robinson writes about the increasing outrage among the people who were left out.

- Harsha Walia observes that all of us are affected by the temporary foreign worker program (along with the Cons' other regressive immigration policy). And Tamsyn Burgmann reports on one of the many loopholes left open by the Cons (in this case with an assist from NAFTA).

- Finally, Laurie Penny rightly recognizes that the fight against homelessness should involve ensuring that people have shelter - not the installation of spikes to clear out more-privileged areas.


  1. Hi Greg. Stein's premise is explored in terrific detail by Joe Stiglitz in "The Price of Inequality." The Nobel laureate economist demonstrates that most inequality is neither merit- nor market-driven but the direct and intended result of government policy and regulation including the transfer of natural capital, public property, either free or at far below market values.

    1. Anonymous12:38 p.m.

      I see that book around a lot. Is it worth the read?

  2. Anonymous1:22 p.m.

    I bought it and I consider it a valuable resource on the inequality issue because of the comprehensive manner in which it demonstrates that inequality is a legislated and quite carefully fashioned result. Two other books I rely on are Piketty's "Capital" (I got an amazing deal on it) and "The Spirit Level" by two British epidemiologists, Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett. Spirit Level contrasts outcomes on a variety of social parameters - longevity, health, crime, etc. - among the OECD nations and individual American states according to their relative inequality. While they applied medical research models to inequality, their conclusions have been borne out on other measures since.

    1. Excellent suggestions all. A couple more books I'd recommend for those putting together a full reading list on inequality: Linda McQuaig and Neil Brooks' The Trouble with Billionaires, and Lorne Tepperman and Nina Gheihman's Habits of Inequality.