Sunday, October 26, 2014

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Tony Burman comments on the increasing recognition of the dangers of inequality even among corporate and financial elites:
(I)t is significant that the policy debate among many decision-makers seems to be changing. Rather than the nonsense about “the makers versus the takers,” there is increasing focus on the notion that income inequality could be a key factor in why overall economic growth has been sluggish in recent years.

There has always been a “common sense’ element to this argument. The wealthy tend to save a larger percentage of their income because they are able to. In contrast, middle- and lower-income people spend virtually all of what they earn because they have to. If the rich have more to save and the rest have less to spend, is it surprising that the current economy has remain stalled?

But a glimmer of hope can be seen in these latest appeals from Yellen and Carney. Their message to the business and political class was not only that the increase of inequality was morally wrong. But, perhaps more convincing with this crowd, they are arguing that it is dumb economics.

If the vaunted rulers of our flawed economic system can finally get their heads around this simple truth, the world may miraculously escape another recession.
- And the Observer weighs in on the desperate need for the corporate sector to start paying its fair share rather than evading any social responsibility:
Companies such as Facebook and Google earn enormous sums of money from UK consumers – and then avoid paying tax on that revenue by processing the sale in Ireland.

They benefit in myriad ways from the UK’s infrastructure, culture and rule of law and yet do everything in their considerable power to cheat the British exchequer out of monies that would help sustain those virtues of British life. It is no wonder that the cool and edgy ambience that once surrounded tech companies has dulled. And not content with the Irish tax swerve, many technology companies that do business in the UK also drive down their tax rate further – below 5% in some cases – by holding key intellectual property in tax havens such as Luxembourg.  Royalty payments for the use of intellectual property (IP) are sent to a company that is in Ireland but has its headquarters in a tax haven.

Tax avoidance that allows multinationals to grow ever richer also damages the fabric of democracy. In the US, as the midterm elections approach, the tech companies are spending billions of dollars to protect their interests, exercising undue influence on legislators. Last year, Google spent more money on political donations in America than Goldman Sachs. There was a time when we believed that the cultures of a Google differed considerably from that of a Goldman Sachs. Not any more. Don’t be evil? Don’t be gullible, more like.

But there is a wider, more fundamental point. The perception, particularly in America, that Congress is overly influenced by major business interests that can bend legislation in their favour, erodes trust in an already enfeebled political institution.
Taxes matter.  They build schools, hospitals and roads and finance public services.  They also indicate a  society’s commitment to fairness. As Sandel writes in What Money Can’t Buy: “Democracy does not require perfect equality but it does require that citizens share in a common life… for this is how we come to care for the common good.”
- Meanwhile, Murray Mandryk notes that Brad Wall's obsession with forcing a corporate mindset on Saskatchewan's public health care system is proving disastrous.

- Ian Mulgrew writes about how Michael Zehaf-Bibeau's known mental health issues - and the lack of treatment even when they were pointed out - contributed to last week's tragic shootings:
Wednesday’s tragedy exposed not so much a failure of our security forces as the gaping holes in our appallingly frayed social safety net.

Homeless and troubled, Montreal-born Michael Zehaf-Bibeau knew he wasn’t coping, sought assistance, begged from the sounds of it; no one listened closely enough.

During his adult life, we spent a small fortune in two provinces providing the 32-year-old with plenty of “due process” and stretches of free room and board at Her Majesty’s motels.

But we didn’t help him and, if anything, the legal system only exacerbated his frustrations.

The vast amount of tax money devoted to his petty crimes would have been far better spent providing him with appropriate psychiatric and social care.
We can change our approach and begin to help [people like Zehaf-Bibeau] or we can curtail civil liberties and invest in more cops, metal detectors, fences and listening equipment.

I know which approach would make me feel safer, what I would call real security measures: a social safety net that caught those in obvious need before they went postal, people like Zehaf-Bibeau.
- Mitchell Anderson expands on the same point. Doug Saunders discusses the interplay between ideology (of whatever origin) and pathology in cases like Zehaf-Bibeau's. And Stephen Walt proposes what would make for the most reasonable response to the tragedy - while worrying that Stephen Harper is pushing in exactly the wrong direction by looking to meet futile and misdirected violence with futile and misdirected violence.

- Finally, digby highlights yet another step in the right's attempt to demonize participatory politics, as even simple encouragement to get people out to the polls is now being labeled as "fraud" by a Republican party which prefers to see as few people as possible having a say in elections.

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