Monday, February 16, 2015

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Jim Stanford highlights the fact that a deficit obsession may have little to do with economic development - and calls out the B.C. Libs for pretending that the former is the same as the latter:
I found especially objectionable the article’s uncritical cheerleading for expenditure restraint, praising the government for below-average per capita spending on health care and education, and for welfare rates that are “frozen in time.”  Why are these things assumed to be “good”? To the contrary, the lasting debts that B.C. is accumulating by underinvesting so badly in its people, its infrastructure, and its environment belie the government’s phony claims about living within its means and protecting future generations.  The article included just one critical quote (from the NDP finance critic) versus seven bullish quotes from Mr. de Jong (along with a gratuitous depiction of his “famously thrifty” personal habits).

B.C.’s relative economic performance has in fact been slowly fading throughout the Liberal government’s tenure.  It turns out that just balancing a budget does not imply automatic prosperity after all (and if deficit elimination is achieved through austerity, it hurts prosperity, not helps it).

Maximizing GDP per capita is not the goal of economic policy, and perhaps I shouldn’t worry so much about one article that so objectionably internalizes the ideology of austerity (accentuated by a wildly inaccurate headline).  But I do think this article constitutes an extreme and cautionary example of how the assumptions of deficit elimination have been so deeply swallowed in our national economic discourse, that people actually think “deficit reduction” and “prosperity” are synonymous.  Remember: a government can eliminate its deficit, or even shut down entirely, but that hardly implies that society is richer.
- Scott Clark and Peter DeVries criticize the Harper Cons for lacking either a budgetary or an economic Plan B other than to count on high oil prices to cover up for mismanagement. Barrie McKenna discusses Canada's largest-ever Ponzi scheme - which predictably fed off of investors who believed they couldn't lose in an Alberta oil bubble. And Donald Gutstein writes that the Fraser Institute is going out of its way to train the media to substitute laissez-faire dogmatism for actual economics.

- Geordan Omand reports on the work of B.C.'s labour movement in pursuing a $15 minimum wage. But Iglika Ivanova rightly argues that we also need social protections in place to address the shift toward on-demand work rather than stable employment relationships:
(W)orkers’ compensation, pensions, extended health benefits, paid sick time, parental leave, etc. — these are all employer-provided benefits in Canada too. If you are a contractor, or you recently changed employers you often aren’t eligible (with some exceptions like CPP but that’s currently not large enough be a sufficient pension on its own; it was meant supplement workplace pension plans).

The job market has changed and it’s time for our social policy models to change with it. In my view, Reich’s proposal of trying to force today’s job market relationships into the old employer-provided benefits model is a bit like forcing a square peg into a round hole. It doesn’t quite fit.

Here’s a better idea: let’s shift to providing labour protections by the state. This way every worker would be eligible, regardless of who they work for.

And while we’re at it, it’s time to move to European-style sectoral bargaining, where workers are able to collectively organize by industry (instead of workplace by workplace) and bargain with major employers together.
- Finally, Haroon Siddiqui highlights the Cons' politics of hate against Muslims. And Haaretz offers a case in point as to terror politics can overtake democratic choices, as a candidate is set to be barred from running in Israel's general election merely for having failed to buy into jingoistic war-on-terror language.

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