Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Alex Himelfarb and Jordan Himelfarb write about the growing appetite for stronger public services and the taxes needed to fund them in 2014 - even if we're a long way from having that translated into real policy changes:
Certainly tax phobia has framed our politics and shaped our governments. Our politicians of every stripe seem to believe that Canadians want tax cuts, whatever the costs, and won’t accept tax increases, whatever the benefits. This austerity mindset stunts the political imagination, making us doubt that we can do great things or much of anything together just when more imagination is exactly what we need.

But the costs of decades of tax cuts and austerity are piling up and there’s a growing chorus arguing that reversing course on taxes is key to our future well-being.
Over this past year, however, some unexpected voices have started to talk about taxes not as a burden, part of the problem, but as a key part of the solution to our challenges. Even some organizations that have always embraced and promoted the low-tax austerity agenda have started to wonder out loud whether this has all gone too far. The IMF, the OECD, bond rating agency Standard and Poor’s — past champions of austerity — have all published reports this year making the case that the costs of tax cuts now outweigh whatever benefits they were supposed to deliver.
(T)hese business-friendly organizations are also worried that reduced revenue for public investment is undermining economic growth in other ways. What does business really need? Better transportation and communications infrastructure or more tax cuts? And are we making the investments in science and technology essential to our future health and prosperity?

Most important, these studies show that higher and more progressive taxes are not the job killer that we are constantly warned about. Inequality is. Growing inequality strangles demand for goods and services, depletes our human capital and diverts needed resources to tackling its adverse consequences — crime, illness, social disruption. Of course, we have to take into account the behavioural consequences of tax increases, but, we are warned, if we don’t turn things around soon, our problems will just get worse. And with aging infrastructure and aging populations, much worse.
- Meanwhile, Suzanne Daley discusses the continued disastrous effects of austerity in Greece. And Peter Newcomb and Alex Sazanov document the concentration of wealth, as the world's 400 richest people added $92 billion to their already-preposterous fortunes in 2014.

- Meteor Blades highlights the reality of low-paying work in the U.S. (with Canada also ranking among the developed countries with the most low-paying jobs), while Sarah Petrescu's series on poverty notes how multiple jobs may not keep a worker afloat.

- Finally, Stan Sorscher comments on the effect of the new generation of corporate rights agreements:
Opposition has been raised on many issues important to regular people. Those objections have been brushed aside.

Clearly, these aren't "trade" deals. They are really about global governance. Corporate lawyers will sit on shadowy tribunals and hear cases about the environment, labor rights, human rights, public health, food security, internet freedom and financial regulation. But they will base their decisions on the corporate values and corporate-friendly language in the trade deals. They will take no account of the Constitutions or legal traditions of the US, Canada, Australia, Japan or any other country. Language in these "trade" deals becomes the new governance standard for the world.

These deals consolidate power relationships that favor global investors. The values and priorities in these deals bring more wealth and power to those who already have plenty.

These deals will determine how life is organized in 2050.

Every President since Gerald Ford has promised prosperity from each new trade deal. In our lived experience, we've lost millions of jobs, de-industrialized our economy, weakened bargaining power for every worker in America, run a cumulative trade debt approaching $10 trillion and we've lost our strategic advantage in manufacturing to Korea, Japan, Singapore, Germany, Denmark and China.
It is ironic that President Obama, speaking to CEOs from the Business Roundtable, tells the rest of America to trust him. It makes much more sense for him to speak to environmentalists, workers, communities and companies trying to manufacture in the US. Show us why these deals will be good for us, when the opposite has been true up to now.

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