Thursday, January 22, 2015

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Amy Goodman discusses Barack Obama's call to reverse the spread of inequality in the U.S. And Seumas Milne writes that the effort will inevitably challenge the world oligarchs have built up to further their own wealth and power at everybody else's expense:
In most of the world, labour’s share of national income has fallen continuously and wages have stagnated under this regime of privatisation, deregulation and low taxes on the rich. At the same time finance has sucked wealth from the public realm into the hands of a small minority, even as it has laid waste the rest of the economy. Now the evidence has piled up that not only is such appropriation of wealth a moral and social outrage, but it is fuelling social and climate conflict, wars, mass migration and political corruption, stunting health and life chances, increasing poverty, and widening gender and ethnic divides.

Escalating inequality has also been a crucial factor in the economic crisis of the past seven years, squeezing demand and fuelling the credit boom. We don’t just know that from the research of the French economist Thomas Piketty or the British authors of the social study The Spirit Level. After years of promoting Washington orthodoxy, even the western-dominated OECD and IMF argue that the widening income and wealth gap has been key to the slow growth of the past two neoliberal decades. The British economy would have been almost 10% larger if inequality hadn’t mushroomed. Now the richest are using austerity to help themselves to an even larger share of the cake.
Perhaps a section of the worried elite might be prepared to pay a bit more tax. What they won’t accept is any change in the balance of social power – which is why, in one country after another, they resist any attempt to strengthen trade unions, even though weaker unions have been a crucial factor in the rise of inequality in the industrialised world.

It’s only through a challenge to the entrenched interests that have dined off a dysfunctional economic order that the tide of inequality will be reversed. The anti-austerity Syriza party, favourite to win the Greek elections this weekend, is attempting to do just that – as the Latin American left has succeeded in doing over the past decade and a half. Even to get to that point demands stronger social and political movements to break down or bypass the blockage in a colonised political mainstream. Crocodile tears about inequality are a symptom of a fearful elite. But change will only come from unrelenting social pressure and political challenge.
- Meanwhile, Helena Smith sees the public revolt against ill-advised austerity in Greece as the first step in pushing back.

- Lisa McKenzie discusses the vilification of the working class in the UK. And Carol Goar notes that Canada's workers of all classes see little hope of improving their lives with time and effort:
It is true that the 52 per cent of Canadians who describe themselves as middle class are concerned about their jobs, their ability to pay their bills, their lack of retirement savings and their children’s prospects. The Liberal leader has put his finger on a real problem.

But it is bigger than he thinks. A substantial chunk of the adult population — 45 per cent — is trapped below the middle class. They think they’re stuck there for life, no matter how hard they work.

“The key finding (of the poll) is that Canadians have very low confidence in their social mobility,” Worden said. “They don’t think they can move up.”
- Finally, Delavene Diaz examines some of the economic costs of climate change. And Alison shines a spotlight on the National Energy Board members recruited by the Harper Cons to impose as many of those costs as possible on Canada in the name of oil extraction, while Andy Blatchford reports on what our federal and provincial governments are losing in their bets on fossil fuels.

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