Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Mike Konczal and Bryce Covert write that an effective solution to wealth inequality shouldn't be limited to redistributing individual income or assets, but should also include the development of a commonwealth which benefits everybody:
Instead of just giving people more purchasing power, we should be taking basic needs off the market altogether.

Consider Social Security, a wildly popular program that doesn’t count toward individual wealth. If Social Security were replaced with a private savings account, individuals would have more “wealth” (because they would have their own financial account) but less actual security. The elderly would have to spin the financial-markets roulette wheel and suffer destitution if they were unlucky. This is why social-wealth programs like Social Security combat inequality more powerfully than any privatized, individualized wealth-building “solution.”

Public programs like universal healthcare and free education function the same way, providing social wealth directly instead of hoping to boost people’s savings enough to allow them to afford either. Rather than requiring people to struggle with a byzantine system of private health insurance, universal healthcare would be available to cover the costs of genuine health needs. Similarly, broadly accessible higher education would allow people to thrive without taking on massive student loans and hoping that their “human capital” investment helps them hit the jackpot.

We already know how to create social wealth using taxes on private wealth and capital. Consider inheritance taxes: in addition to creating revenue, they motivate the wealthy to donate to nonprofits and other organs of civil society. Inheritance taxes direct private wealth to public ends.

Bringing wealth under democratic accountability—rather than making everyone a tiny capitalist—has to be an essential part of any equality agenda.
- Meanwhile, Trish Hennessy documents the high (and soaring) costs of university tuition and child care after decades of planning based on user-pay principles. Canada Without Poverty offers 10 reasons to eliminate poverty in Canada. And PressProgress highlights how a living wage is better for the economy at large.

- Matthew Yglesias discusses the relationship between the pursuit of equality and open-door immigration policies:
Reagan-era conservatives could be for welfare state rollback and broadly pro-immigration because they promised a rising tide that would lift all boats. Now that we're decades into an era of wage stagnation, those kind of easy promises ring hollow. So for Cameron and the reformicons, a tilt against immigrants is the new answer. On this view, the big problem with trickle-down economics is that the bucket is too leaky. Let the rich get richer, but prevent them from hiring maids from Latin America, and soon enough wages for native-born maids will rise.

The moral math whereby this policy becomes more attractive than the win/win/win alternative of broadly freer movement of people paired with progressive taxation and more provision of public services has always escaped me somewhat. It appears to involve putting a negative value on the interests of foreign-born people. But it is a real movement. But it's a movement on the right of politics in the United States and other English-speaking countries. Progressives, rightly, see no need to chose between equality and cosmopolitanism.
- And the Star laments that the Cons are matching the Republicans' antipathy toward anybody who doesn't share our luck in being born within a wealthy country's borders:
Last week, the federal government made a small change to Canada’s immigration rules, lowering the maximum age of a “dependant child” and eliminating any recourse for immigrant or refugee parents seeking an exception to the new definition. It’s a subtle shift, to be sure, but its subtlety belies the cruelty of its future impact and the utter lack of human feeling that underlies it and so much of our recent immigration policy.

Until this month, any unmarried child of 21 or younger could qualify as a dependant under Canada’s immigration rules and be automatically accepted along with his or her parents. Accommodations could be made, too, for full-time students older than 21 who were financially dependent on their family. But as of Aug. 1, the federal government lowered the maximum age to 18 and eliminated all exceptions.
From a human perspective...it’s appalling. As Ashley Chapman of Citizens for Public Justice pointed out in a recent Star opinion piece, “the changes go against one of the official objectives of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act — to reunite families.” The government estimates that roughly 7,000 young adults – some 800 children of refugees among them – will no longer be eligible to immigrate along with their families as dependants this year.

To abandon these youths, often in dangerous countries, without the financial or psychological support of their parents, is morally backwards. The children of those fleeing persecution are known to be at higher risk of violence themselves, especially without the protection of their family. As the Canadian Council for Refugees has pointed out, the dangers are particularly grave and abundant for isolated young women.
And so we have closed the door a little further, become yet a little less welcoming and a little less caring. And all this because of a foolish and dangerous abstraction: the fallacious idea, ever more central to our immigration policy, that people can be reduced to mere economic units.
- Finally, Colin Freeze reports on CSEC's refusal to let Canadians know how long it's storing their private data - offering a compelling signal that privacy rights are being given absolutely no weight whatsoever as massive amounts of personal information are collected without approval or effective public oversight. But lest we think complete unaccountability is an exception rather than the rule, Bob Weber finds a similar response from Alberta's government after asking for an explanation as to who's being included and excluded in energy development hearings.

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