Friday, January 30, 2015

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- PressProgress notes that the Cons' economic track record is one of eliminating well-paying jobs in favour of lower-wage, more-precarious work. And Jim Stanford follows up on why we shouldn't believe the Cons' spin about deficits:
I think that a more fruitful and principled line of attack on the government’s approach would focus on these obvious fiscal and economic errors by the government:
  • The October tax cuts were premature; it is tax cuts, not oil prices, which have jeopardized the attainment of a balanced budget.  The Conservatives broke their own promise in implementing tax cuts before the budget was even balanced.  (Breaking their promise, not running a small deficit per se, is their key point of vulnerability.)  In fact, as I show in the Globe and Mail column, the federal budget would be balanced right now, even with lower oil prices, were it not for the accelerated first-year tax cuts which the government was so anxious to rush out the door before the election.
  • The October tax cuts are socially and economically damaging.  The CCPA’s fabulous analysis of the perverse distributional effects of income splitting (here and here) is already making this case in spades.
  • The government’s response to falling oil prices has revealed confusion and internal division.  Joe Oliver delayed his budget to some unspecified future date (April or even later); perhaps he will actually “table”the budget on the hustings .  Oliver has said that there will be no further spending cuts to offset the loss in revenue, and that the government can use its (phony) $3 billion contingency fund to protect the balanced budget.  Employment Minister Jason Kenney, in contrast, said the exact opposite in public: suggesting that incremental spending cuts might be required, and that the $3 billion cushion would not be drawn down (since it is intended, he argued, for true “emergencies”).  Treasury Board President Tony Clement, meanwhile, also hinted at surprise reductions in spending — channeling Pierre Trudeau in saying “Just watch us” reduce spending.  Clement’s record in consistently underspending authorized operational budgets (part of the government’s “austerity by stealth” strategy).  These mixed messages indicate a breakdown of discipline within Conservative ranks, and send confusing signals to consumers and investors alike.
  • Most fundamentally, the government’s macroeconomic and industrial emphasis on making Canada an “energy superpower,” investing so much fiscal and political capital to facilitate energy megaprojects (including fruitless pipeline proposals), vilifying critical voices, and inadequately responding to the negative side-effects of the oil boom on other sectors, has left Canada’s economy unduly vulnerable to an oil price decline that was always inevitable.
My response, therefore, to the question “Will low oil prices push Ottawa into a deficit,” is therefore: “Who cares? The real issue is the government’s failure to use its fiscal and other tools to strengthen the recovery and create jobs. That’s the real mismanagement.
- Jordan Press exposes the Cons' waste of tens of millions of dollars to suppress information from the Canadian public. And Paul Withers reports that while the National Energy Board has stopped allowing citizens to participate in actual assessment hearings in the name of efficiency, it has no qualms about using public money to cheerlead for the pipelines it's supposed to be regulating.

- Meanwhile, Charlie Samuda discusses the need to crack down on tax evasion to ensure the privileged few pay their fair share. And Matt Taibbi writes that the financial sector is back to its old habit of exploiting the public, while fighting the suggestion that advisers face an obligation to put clients' interests first.

- Jeffrey Simpson rightly wonders why our political debates involve little discussion about people living in poverty who have the most to gain or lose from government policy choices. And Natasha Pel comments on how Canada's wealthiest province is doing little to deal with poverty.

- Finally, Rick Salutin points to Syriza's victory in Greece as an example of how the public can overcome the supposedly-inevitable prioritization of profits over people:
Why Syriza won. The short answer is: they put people first. I know all parties say that but (a) they only say it and (b) they only say it at elections. Syriza said and did it. Because they're not just a party but a coalition of parties, groups and movements, they naturally extended into communities and helped people with real needs. This in turn proved they weren't like other parties, just in it for power. That near cliché translated into real policies.

The EU/Germany clearly put numbers (of euros owed) first, as Greece's new finance minister says. So the debate was over priorities. If people prevail, austerity fails. It turns out austerity wasn't inevitable, like a law of nature; it was a question of values.

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