Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- The 25th anniversary of Parliament's unanimous - if failed - commitment to eliminate child poverty has given rise to plenty of worthwhile commentary. Marco Chown Oved talks to Ed Broadbent about what the resolution meant at the time (as well as how it came to be ignored), while also interviewing social justice advocates about the need to effective start from scratch now. And Olivia Carville explores one life which could have been changed for the better if Canada had made good on its promise.

- Meanwhile, Dennis Raphael discusses the need to combat both poverty and inequality - with wages serving as a primary issue on both fronts. And Joseph Stiglitz highlights how inequality is undermining economic and social progress alike in the U.S.:
The extreme to which inequality has grown in the United States and the manner in which these inequities arise undermine our economy. Too much of the wealth at the top of the ladder arises from exploitation—whether from the exercise of monopoly power, from taking advantage of deficiencies in corporate governance laws to divert large amounts of corporate revenues to pay CEOs’ outsized bonuses unrelated to true performance, or from a financial sector devoted to market manipulation, predatory and discriminatory lending, and abusive credit card practices. Too much of the poverty at the bottom of the income spectrum is due to economic discrimination and the failure to provide adequate education and health care to the nearly one out of five children growing up poor. 
We now know that there are huge disparities even as children enter kindergarten. These grow larger over time, as the children of the rich, living in rich enclaves, get a better education than the one received by those attending schools in poorer areas. Economic segregation has become the order of the day, so much so that even those well-off and well-intentioned selective colleges that instituted programs of economic affirmative action—explicitly trying to increase the fraction of their student body from lower socioeconomic groups—have struggled to do so. The children of the poor can afford neither the advanced degrees that are increasingly required for employment nor the unpaid internships that provide the alternative route to “good” jobs.
(M)any of the distributional issues are related not to how much we spend but who we spend it on. If we include within our expenditures the “tax expenditures” buried in our tax system, we effectively spend a lot more on the housing of the rich than is generally recognized. Interest deductability on a mega-mansion could easily be worth $25,000 a year. And alone among advanced economies, the United States tends to invest more in schools with richer student bodies than in those with mostly poor students—an effect of U.S. school districts’ dependence on local tax bases for funding. Interestingly, according to some calculations, the entire deficit can be attributed to our inefficient and inequitable health care system: if we had a better health care system—of the kind that provided more equality at lower cost, such as those in so many European countries—we arguably wouldn’t even have a federal budget deficit today.

Or consider this: if we provided more opportunity to the poor, including better education and an economic system that ensured access to jobs with decent pay, then perhaps we would not spend so much on prisons—in some states spending on prisons has at times exceeded that on universities. The poor instead would be better able to seize new employment opportunities, in turn making our economy more productive. And if we had better public transportation systems that made it easier and more affordable for working-class people to commute to where jobs are available, then a higher percentage of our population would be working and paying taxes. If, like the Scandinavian countries, we provided better child care and had more active labor market policies that assisted workers in moving from one job to another, we would have a higher labor force participation rate—and the enhanced growth would yield more tax revenues. It pays to invest in people.
- Carol Goar remarkably sees reason for optimism about the possibility of social progress based on the rhetoric of Kathleen Wynne and John Tory. But sadly, Goar is in fact referring to that Kathleen Wynne and that John Tory. And Sheila Block notes that Wynne in particular is spending far more of her attention on shuffling pools of money around for accounting purposes than on improving the lives of Ontarians.

- Finally, Murray Mandryk writes that we should recognize Jerry Peequaquat's death as the result of multiple social failings.

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