Monday, October 06, 2014

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Sean McElwee is the latest to highlight how only a privileged few benefit in either the short term or the long term from unequal economic growth:
Milanovic and van der Weide decided to investigate how inequality affects growth across the income spectrum. They used a state-level survey conducted once every decade to estimate annualized income growth at different income percentiles. What the researchers find is that the old story of “trickle down” economics have no support in the data — instead, inequality boosts growth only for the rich.
When the authors dug deeper and looked at individual states, they found that, “inequality is negatively associated… with subsequent real growth for the population located below the 25th percentile, and positively with growth for the population belonging to the top decile.” In simple language: Inequality benefits the rich and harms the poor. A rising tide doesn’t lift all boats — just the luxury yachts.

Using the data the authors have developed, we can discover what growth would look like in a more equitable society. The chart below shows annual income growth between 1960 and 2010 by percentile in yellow. The chart is sloped upward, meaning that the income of the richest grew by 1.8 percent each year, while the growth of the poorest grew by .7 percent each year. However, if inequality was reduced by one standard deviation (the difference between Connecticut and South Carolina) across the country, income growth for the poor would more than double, to 1.6 percent each year.

This has important political implications. First, we should not assume that the mere fact that inequality reduces economic growth will be enough to convince the rich to reduce it. Inequality benefits the rich immensely. Second, the idea that a rising tide lifts all boats has been so utterly disproved it should be embarrassing to state in public. 
- Meanwhile, Jim Stanford argues that the Cons' continued insistence on demonizing organized labour is backfiring as the public realizes the importance of voices standing up for workers:
Where unions were once portrayed as greedy and unruly, they now survive (and even win) by successfully positioning themselves as defenders of public interest and universal rights. This reframing of the union message has been essential in their recuperated influence. Unions cannot be seen as “special interest” groups, enriching their own members at the expense of consumers or taxpayers. They must be seen as an institutional bulwark on the side of all those who work for a living, defending vulnerable people within a social order that is increasingly lopsided. As unions succeed in that effort, the political value of union-bashing will continue to erode.

But this lesson will likely be lost on the federal Conservatives. They are desperate to change the political channel, and eager to throw one more bone to their strident base. In that case, it is safe to expect more anti-union rhetoric in the year ahead.
- Kaylie Tiessen points out that the Ontario Libs are right back to ill-advised austerity economics - only this time with less fanfare about their real cuts to public services.

- Carol Goar discusses Scientists for a Right to Know as one of the crucial actors in restoring the principle the scientific research should be both carried out in the public interest, and treated as public knowledge. But Mike De Souza reports on why the Cons don't want the facts getting out - as they tend to involve political staffers insisting that civil servants falsify advice any time the truth proves inconvenient to their political message.

- Finally, Lorna Dueck asks whether we're still the Canada which once went out of its way to offer a home for refugees, while Erna Paris notes that there's also far too much mean-mindedness in Canada's past which is being echoed by today's government. And the Star is similarly appalled that the Cons are refusing to restore health care for refugees in Canada in the face of a court order requiring them to do so.

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