- Robert Reich offers a long-form look at the relationship between inequality and policies designed to extract riches for the wealthy at everybody else's expense:
The underlying problem, then, is not that most Americans are “worth” less in the market than they had been, or that they have been living beyond their means. Nor is it that they lack enough education to be sufficiently productive. The more basic problem is that the market itself has become tilted ever more in the direction of moneyed interests that have exerted disproportionate influence over it, while average workers have steadily lost bargaining power—both economic and political—to receive as large a portion of the economy’s gains as they commanded in the first three decades after World War II. As a result, their means have not kept up with what the economy could otherwise provide them. To attribute this to the impersonal workings of the “free market” is to disregard the power of large corporations and the financial sector, which have received a steadily larger share of economic gains as a result of that power. As their gains have continued to accumulate, so has their power to accumulate even more.- Meanwhile, Katrina vanden Heuvel worries that the Trans-Pacific Partnership only stands to further entrench corporate domination over democratic politics. David Dayen observes that the Obama administration's arguments for the TPP are entirely recycled from broken promises surrounding NAFTA. And Dave Johnson observes that unenforceable token mentions of labour and environmental issues can't come close to making it worth handing further power to business.
The answer to this conundrum is not found in economics. It is found in politics. The changes in the organization of the economy have been reinforcing and cumulative: As more of the nation’s income flows to large corporations and Wall Street and to those whose earnings and wealth derive directly from them, the greater is their political influence over the rules of the market, which in turn enlarges their share of total income. The more dependent politicians become on their financial favors, the greater is the willingness of such politicians and their appointees to reorganize the market to the benefit of these moneyed interests. The weaker unions and other traditional sources of countervailing power become economically, the less able they are to exert political influence over the rules of the market, which causes the playing field to tilt even further against average workers and the poor.
Ultimately, the trend toward widening inequality in America, as elsewhere, can be reversed only if the vast majority, whose incomes have stagnated and whose wealth has failed to increase, join together to demand fundamental change. The most important political competition over the next decades will not be between the right and left, or between Republicans and Democrats. It will be between a majority of Americans who have been losing ground, and an economic elite that refuses to recognize or respond to its growing distress.
- Julia Smith notes that the Cons have utterly abandoned any principles in their foreign policy as they chase profits through arms sales and human rights abuses.
- Don Curren writes that economists think Bank of Canada governor Stephen Poloz is being too optimistic in presuming Canada's economy will improve in the absence of any evidence. Which naturally means the Cons are spending every available opportunity trying to badger Poloz into declaring that all is rainbows and ice cream.
- Finally, Chris Hannay interviews Joseph Heath about the messaging challenge facing Canadian progressives. And Geoff Dembicki reports that there's plenty of work to be done in rallying young voters behind the best possible alternative.