Saturday, December 31, 2016

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your year.

- Michelle Chen writes that wealth inequality and social stratification are only getting worse in the U.S. And Edwin Rios and Dave Gilson chart the diverging fates of the top .01% which is seeing massive gains, and the rest of the U.S.' population facing continued income and wealth stagnation.

- Noah Smith offers his theory as to why low interest rates haven't resulted in promised corporate investment, noting that capital has effectively been rationed by entry barriers rather than going to new development where it might have served some useful purpose.

- Markham Hislop's wish for the new year is for Canada's fossil fuel industry to respect people enough to engage with political and environmental reality, rather than insulting the public by glossing over our changing energy options. Derek Leahy discusses how a modernized transportation system could make substantial progress in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

- Joan Bryden reports on the federal government's underfunding of First Nations mental health services which is forcing some families to give up their children in order to allow for access to needed treatment. And Monika Dutt comments on the dangers of federal health care funding being a matter of province-by-province fragmentation rather than national standards.

- Finally, Ben Kentish reports on the UK's increase in homelessness caused by a combination of austerian housing policy and soaring rental rates. And Leilani Farha discusses why housing should be treated as a matter of needs and rights rather than profit opportunities:
What animates those in the business of housing is the idea that housing is a matter for the financial elite: a place to park surplus capital to maximise wealth, with little concern or return for people struggling to live in dignity with a decent, affordable roof over their head. This engenders inequality and exclusion and takes out the social function of housing from the equation.

The virtual silence about this type of opportunism and its implications reflects the world in which we live. The more housing is dominated by corporate and financial elites who interact with it as an asset from which to reap a profit, with scant regulations, the more people who most need human rights protections are denied access: pushed to the peripheries because they cannot afford to live in cities, or removed from their homes and rendered homeless to make way for those with economic clout.

For those pushed out, housing is not about financial securitisation. It’s about securing the right to life. They describe their experiences in terms of their struggle for dignity; they articulate their circumstances as a denial of their humanity and their human rights.
In so many ways housing is about human life, dignity and humanity. Fundamental human rights. How do we reconcile that with the dominant idea of housing as a commodity owned by faceless, nameless corporate elites who are left unaccountable to human rights obligations?

As we say goodbye to 2016 and look forward to a new year, we need to re-embrace housing for its fundamental dimensions – its social value as a place necessary for human wellbeing, where people raise families, build communities and participate in civic life. And we need to sell that notion of housing back to our governments to derail the collision course between human rights and investor interests.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Musical interlude

Delerium feat. JES - Stay

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Sam Gindin discusses the future of labour organizing in the course of reviewing Jane McAlevey’s No Shortcuts: Organizing for Power in the New Guilded Age:
(W)e have been struggling with how to combine building the union with raising larger, more political questions. One modest element of this, especially but not only in the public sector, is to confront the apparent constraint of fiscal budgets on what is possible and run educationals for workers on how to read budgets technically and how to understand them politically.

But the larger point is that even the best and most community-rooted unions cannot change the world by themselves and so are confined to the limits of operating under capitalism. Unions can educate about elite and local power but focusing their education on capitalism as a system rarely occurs. They can create organic leaders but not necessarily lead them to the next step of becoming organic socialist leaders. They can support political parties but do not ask what role workers and unions might have in transforming capital states to socialist states. Such things — all vital to dealing with working-class power — can only be tackled within or alongside an institution with a broader and longer-term perspective: a coherent socialist tendency or party.
- Andrew Mitrovica laments the spread of right-wing populism over the past year. And Keman Dervis warns about the dangers of corporate short-term thinking, while Frank Clemente points out the futility of relying on corporate handouts as a basis for economic development.

- But on the brighter side, Harry Leslie Smith offers a hopeful perspective that collective decency will win out over anti-social impulses in the end.

- Peter Goffin reports on the urgent need to make mental health supports available to Canadians without a price tag. And Trevor Young sets out a few suggestions from doctors to improve our current health care system.

- Finally, Idealistic Pragmatist makes a welcome (if brief) return to highlight the need to take people's public contributions seriously regardless of whether they need to use a pseudonym in offering them.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

New column day

Here, on the need for progressive leaders and activists alike to build connections beyond borders and party lines to combat a reactionary movement which spans the globe.

For further reading...
- Sam Kriss discusses how the systematic stifling of the left has given rise to the toxic politics of the right.
- Demi Lee points out why the environmental movement has every reason to fear the new pipeline alliance of Justin Trudeau and Donald Trump.
- Rowena Mason and Peter Walker report on Barack Obama's potshots at Jeremy Corbyn, together with Corbyn's response.
- Andrew Prokop examines the contest between Keith Ellison and Tom Perez for chair of the Democratic National Committee - and notes that it largely stands to exacerbate the divide between primary supporters of Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton.
- Julia Rampen highlights some of the connections between Trump, Nigel Farage and the rest of the right-wing echo chamber spanning both sides of the Atlantic.
- Finally, in pointing out the importance of working collectively toward common goals, I'll also note the danger of letting outside voices create splits where none exist - and Gillian Steward's attempt to paint disagreement on a single policy as an irreparable faultline within the NDP fits into that category. 

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Wednesday Afternoon Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Jonathan Chait sees Larry Kudlow's claim that "Wealthy folks have no need to steal or engage in corruption!" as an all-too-accurate statement of the belief system underlying Donald Trump's presidency:
What has been exposed is not only the lie at the heart of Trump’s campaign, but a delusion embedded in conservatism itself. Conservatives like to imagine that their policy represents a challenge to the power structure, which they see as “crony capitalism,” a form of corruption threatened by their free-market ideas. The failures of the Bush administration (which, in fact, followed the tax-cutting, deregulatory agenda that conservatives had promised would usher in prosperity) were dismissed as the byproduct of the administration’s departures from market purism. Bush and the Washington Republicans allowed power and wealth to corrupt them, the argument went. As Bush’s popularity plunged, conservatives lacerated their party with polemics like Matthew Continetti’s “The K Street Gang,” which depicted the GOP as a self-enriching elite.

The conceptual distinction between the good kind of wealth, earned through the free market, and the bad kind, earned through political favoritism, is an absolutely vital one for right-wing intellectuals. And yet Trump is showing how easily it collapses in practice. Conservatives have treated a first family using the powers of office to enrich itself — not theoretically or in the future but right now, on an ongoing basis — as, at worst, a distraction or a problem of optics. In practice, conservatives share Kudlow’s belief that a government of and by the rich is necessarily virtuous.
- And Alana Semuels notes that Trump's victory may represent an end to the theory that the economy largely dictates electoral results, as partisanship seems to have far outweighed economic realities in influencing a decisive number of votes.

- Nick Falvo discusses the importance of taking social factors into account in developing housing policy. And Jay Walljasper highlights the importance of place as a determinant of health, while recognizing that some fairly simple steps can make a substantial difference improving how one's location influences one's well-being

- Erik Loomis highlights how garment workers in Bangladesh are trying to push for some of the minimal gains promised to be the result of globalized supply chains - and being met with state violence and firings as a result. And Deirdre Fernandes writes about the link between unemployment rates and suicide levels.

- Finally, Jerry Dias offers his take on what we can try to accomplish in 2017 after a year all too often marked by disappointments and worse.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Elephantine cats.

Tuesday Afternoon Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- David Brin examines the crucial role the public sector plays in driving economic development - as well as the disturbingly large movement seeking to end any further progress.

- Anna Gorman reports on California's ambitious plans to improve the health and social welfare of its most vulnerable residents. And Kate Porter reports on a citizen-driven effort to bring Ontario's basic income pilot to Smiths Falls - though it's sad that the effort is needed as a response to a dismissive town council vote.

- Mike De Souza, Robert Cribb and Marco Oved point out that in addition to allowing a bank which systematically broke the law to remain anonymous, FINTRAC gave the lobbying arm of Canada's financial industry a heads-up to prepare for the public fallout.

- Steven Chase reports on Daniel Turp's much-needed court challenge to the Libs' claim to the power to approve arms sales (such as the export of tanks to Saudi Arabia) with no regard for the human rights consequences. And it's telling that the government response is not just to claim to have considered the abuses expected to follow from the Saudi sale, but to argue that Stephane Dion is fully entitled to ignore them.

- Finally, Bal Brach reports on the sudden cut in privately-sponsored Syrian refugees being allowed to enter Canada in 2017 - signalling that the Libs' interest in the well-being of people fleeing a war zone was limited to their post-election PR campaign.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your Monday reading.

- Jared Bernstein argues that the limited stimulus provided by tax cuts for the rich is far from worth the overall costs of exacerbating inequality and damaging public revenues:
I’m encountering progressives who are compelled to be at least somewhat supportive of wasteful, regressive tax cuts, like those proposed by Trump, or the ones I just wrote about in Kansas, that happen to spin off some positive fiscal impulse. While we’re closing in on full employment, there’s still slack in the job market, such FI could help absorb remaining slack.

That’s true, but there are two relevant questions: bang for the buck (multipliers), and the impacts of the cost of the tax cuts.

The Kansas cuts–particularly the zeroing out of the pass-through income–are instructive as these cuts have very low bang-for-buck in terms of jobs or incomes for middle and lower income folks. They just lower taxes for those who are already “highly liquid,” i.e., they’ve got a bunch of money already and giving them more shouldn’t be expected to boost spending (C) or investment (I) much. And since states must balance their budgets, they constrain G as well.

In terms of poor targeting, Trump-style cuts are similarly lame in terms of growth effects, as I discussed recently re the GW Bush tax cuts in the early 2000s. However, because they involve deficit spending–as I’m sure you’ve seen, the federal gov’t can run deficits–they will generate some positive FI, which we could use.

But at what cost? The opportunity costs are twofold. First, there’s the cost of tapping small versus larger multipliers: were team Trump to spend the money on infrastructure or target those with high consumption propensities, the FI would be stronger (btw, it should be noted that multipliers are smaller when the Fed’s raising rates, albeit slowly and by small increments, than when they’re lowering them).

Second, “permanent” tax cuts will mean a worsening of the revenue shortfall I’ve long worried about (the scare quotes are there because the R’s may build some BS cliff into their tax plan to accommodate arcane budget rules, but the intention is permanence). That will provide an excuse for whacking Medicaid, Medicare, Social Sec, and much other spending that’s important to the poor and middle-class. And yes, those folks are income constrained, so that part of ‘G’ gets spent and feeds back into growth.
- Danielle Ivory, Ben Protess and Griff Palmer point out how the public interest suffers when necessary infrastructure is turned into a corporate profit centre.

- Judith Lavoie discusses how the secrecy around the tar sands has made it nearly impossible for communities to plan for effective spill responses. And Genesee Keevil explores the truly unmitigated disaster that is the Yukon's Faro mine site as an example of what's left behind when a poorly-regulated resource extraction industry leaves the public with the bill to clean up behind it.

- Craig Offman and Nathan Vanderklippe report that the Libs' cash-for-access schemes look to include massive profits for the bundlers involved, as the asking price for face time with Justin Trudeau far exceeds the individual donation limit. And Dermod Travis discusses the big-money politics which the Clark Libs want to continue in British Columbia.

- Finally, Lana Payne writes about the need to push back against bullying politics in order to change them.

[Edit: fixed typo.]

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Saturday Afternoon Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Anatole Kaletsky discusses the gross failures of market fundamentalism. And William Easterly points out that the risks to democratic governance which now seem to be materializing can be traced to the lack of a values-based defence of empowering people to decide their own future at the societal level.

- Julien Gignac reports on the glaring lack of comprehensive information about the state of homelessness in Canada, while also noting that what we do know shows the consequences of homelessness to be as much a problem in smaller communities as in big cities.

- Gary Mason discusses British Columbia's epidemic of drug overdose deaths, including the appalling lack of public interest to date.

- CBC notes that the introduction of private pay-for-plasma operators has cut into the volunteer donor base of Canadian Blood Services. 

- Finally, Andrew Jackson examines the possible effects of Donald Trump's trade policy - and notes in particular that a focus on protecting some established U.S. industries such as autos and steel might have significant spinoff benefits for Canada (even if that type of smart protection may be well beyond what we can expect from Trump himself).

Friday, December 23, 2016

Musical interlude

Radical Face - Always Gold

Friday Afternoon Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Christo Aivalis offers some suggestions for a set of progressive and effective tax policies:
My view is that the Left has to combine the general philosophy of economic redistribution with the practical needs of getting the money to preserve existing social programs and build new ones. We have to make greater peace with forms of taxation that are currently deemed regressive, because they can offer efficient paths to revenue collection. This doesn’t mean, however, that we can’t also explore means to make existing tax models more progressive.
My suggestion is that we could consider raising sales taxes by a few percentage points, but increasing the maximum income at which one can access a GST/HST rebate. And to ensure that very low-income Canadians are not unduly shocked by increased sales taxes, you can make the payouts larger and more frequent than the quarterly payments we have now.
Seldom discussed today is the 1966 Carter Report on Taxation, which concluded that the government did not tax all forms of income equally; that you paid more tax on income earned through labour than income earned through capital gains. Carter’s suggestions—which were strongly supported by labour and the NDP at the time, and mused about by Brian Topp in recent years — was that all income be taxed on a buck-is-a-buck basis, meaning that if you made $50,000 selling stocks, you would pay the same tax as you would making $50,000 working. But despite the importance of this report, the buck-is-a-buck principle never became reality. As it stands, income made from investments and capital gains has an exemption level and, even after this, is taxed at only half the rate of labour-based income.

The Left should commit to the buck-is-a-buck principle, both ideologically, and because it is an effective tactic to shift a tax burden onto the sorts of people who typically make more than negligible incomes on investments and capital gains. Of course, some exemptions could still persist which protect selling a family home or dealing with small inheritances. And some potential pitfalls exist with this suggestion in our current tax code, as do some complications when we consider things like RRSP, RESP and TFSA accounts. Still, a system where flipping stocks for $100,000 nets you significantly lower taxes than working isn’t one conducive to progressive taxation, and could be addressed via a tax policy that has an effective populist edge that seeks a fair deal for Canadians who earn the vast majority of their income through work, unlike the “boys on Bay Street.”
- And Scott Santens notes that to the extent income gains are disproportionately being enjoyed by capital rather than labour, we should be particularly interested in pursuing opportunities to increase the public revenue taken in from that income.

- Martin Regg Cohn discusses the political hot potato that is health care funding - though we should expect the politics to be second to a commitment from all levels of government to the availability of effective care.

- Gordon Price writes about the "phantom affordability" of housing which places massive transportation burdens on commuters.

- Henry Fountain and John Schwartz discuss the latest evidence that global warming has taken hold to an extent exceeding the worst fears of climate scientists. And Kiley Kroh points out John Holdren's suggestions as to how subnational governments can lead the fight against climate change even as the likes of Donald Trump take power at the national level.

- Finally, Rick Smith argues that in addition to offering the promise of far more fair and democratic elections, proportional representation could also substantially improve our governance.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Linda McQuaig writes about the dangerous spread of privatized health care which threatens to undermine our universal system:
Privatization advocates want us to believe public health care is no longer affordable. But in fact, it’s private, for-profit medicine that’s unaffordable.

The publicly funded portion of our health care spending – doctors’ fees and hospital stays – has remained fairly stable as a percentage of GDP for more than 30 years. What is out of control is the part controlled by the private sector – drugs, home care, physiotherapy, etc.

If we want to control health care costs, we should extend the publicly funded portion, not open more services to the private sector. But that would require more public funding, which provincial and federal governments, after years of deep tax cutting, are reluctant to commit to.

High drug prices, for instance, are a major contributor to rising costs. The solution, as many studies have shown, would be a national universal pharmacare program, which would cost money to get started but ultimately save Canadians billions of dollars a year.
In an age when the rich demand a fast lane to the front of every line, it will require resolve and determination to preserve our medicare system, a bastion of equality sharply at odds with the heartless corporate world we inhabit.
- Noah Smith discusses the connection between work and dignity, while noting that there's no reason to pretend there's any lack of work to be done by people who would like the opportunity to do it. But Van Badham notes that workers are instead being treated as disposable, with new challenges to employment and life security surfacing regularly. And Vincent McDermott highlights a Canadian example, as 170 camp workers near Fort McMurray are being terminated on Boxing Day for not agreeing to forfeit half of their income.

- Meanwhile, Elizabeth Thompson points out how the requirement of a high-speed Internet connection may freeze applicants from rural areas out of federal tribunal positions. And while the CRTC's steps to declare broadband Internet a "basic service" may help in the long run, they represent cold comfort for anybody whose employment prospects are limited now.

- The Australian Associated Press reports on research showing the minimal costs of paid domestic violence leave - such that there's no excuse for forcing anybody to suffer an abusive relationship in order to avoid employment consequences.

- Finally, Jennifer Graham, Jordan Pearson and Alex MacPherson each discuss the Wall government's refusal to be honest or accountable about past pipeline inspections. And Keith Leslie reports that Ontario's government has been tampering with document receipt dates in order to pretend to comply with its access-to-information obligations.

New column day

Here, on Justin Trudeau's broken health care promises - and the need for a concerted provincial push for an equal partnership in maintaining and enhancing a universal health care system for all Canadians.

For further reading...
- The Liberal and NDP 2015 election platforms (PDF) offer a useful indication of the expectations Canadian voters had of any replacement for the Harper Cons.
- Joan Bryden has already compared the Libs' platform to their current rewriting of history, while Campbell Clark calls out the games the Libs are playing. 
- But this exchange from the September 17 leaders' debate more clearly highlights Trudeau's dishonesty now in claiming to have campaigned on capping health funding:

Hon. Justin Trudeau:         Mr. Harper, Mr. Mulcair has talked about health care transfers ––
Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper:  –– and the financial (crosstalk) government to make (crosstalk).
Hon. Justin Trudeau:         –– but he just stepped back from that promise. He promised to increase health care transfers, and now has said oh no, balancing the books is more important.
Hon. Thomas Mulcair:       We are increasing ––
Hon. Justin Trudeau:         That’s not what Canadians need.
Hon. Thomas Mulcair:       — investments, we are increasing them.
Needless to say, that couldn't be much less reconcilable with Trudeau's current position:
“Canadians voted, in part, for our commitment to increase health care transfers by three per cent,” he said in French.
“And yes, we were well aware we would be criticized for that during the election campaign but it’s a promise we made in terms of priorities. People should not be surprised that we are staying faithful to our election promises.”
- Finally, Thomas Walkom notes the need for both an expanded view of health care, and increased federal funding to support it, while providing background on the development of our national Medicare system. And my mention of current funding levels is based on Teresa Boyle's report on this week's meeting.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Vincent Bevins interviews Branko Milanovic about the economic roots of the working-class revolt against neoliberalism, while pointing out that there's nothing inevitable about globalization harming large numbers of people in the developed world:
Let’s start with the obvious question. Does the elephant graph explain Brexit and Trump? 

Yes, I think that it largely does explain Brexit and Trump. Why? Because it shows in very stark terms that people in the lower parts of rich countries’ income distributions have seen fewer benefits of globalization compared both to the people in Asia against whom they often compete in global supply chains and compared to the people in their own countries’ tops of the distributions. You just cannot undo these two facts.
Rich world governments, in say the US and Western Europe, failed to “mop up” globalization’s mess. What could they have done differently?

Perhaps it is easy to say it with hindsight, but they could have argued for trade pacts that would pay more attention to workers’ standards rather than to the protection of intellectual property rights and patents.

Rich countries, and especially the US, could have paid more attention to the quality of education and tried to not only equalize access to the best schools but make public schools’ quality similar to the quality of private schools. You may say that it is a generally desirable policy that has little to do with globalization: I agree, but I also think that it would have reduced the number of “losers” because it would have enabled larger swaths of the population to successfully compete globally.
- George Monbiot discusses how celebrity culture has facilitated the corporate takeover of our social sphere. Katrina vanden Heuvel notes that Donald Trump's false populism has given way to pure plutocracy in the naming of nothing but corporate elites to his cabinet. And Polly Toynbee reflects on a miserable 2016 for far too many people, while highlighting the need to fight against the trends toward corporatism and austerity in the year to come.

- Malcolm Buchanan writes that the CETA is yet another bad trade deal being sold as an inevitability in the face of serious concerns.

- PressProgress points out that a million Canadian retail workers are making do with less than a living wage while catering to holiday shoppers.

- Finally, Heidi Garrett-Peltier discusses how renewable energy stands to create far more jobs than fossil fuels. And CBC reports that both Canada and the U.S. have taken some steps to rein in oil drilling in sensitive Arctic waters.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Cats with company.

Tuesday Afternoon Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Lynn Parramore interviews Mariana Mazzucato about the options available to build a more fair and inclusive economy even in the face of corporatist leaders like Donald Trump:
LP: In your earlier book, The Entrepreneurial State, you describe a model of capitalism that would address many of these problems. How does it work?
MM: My work has shown how a different understanding of the role of the state in growth can unlock private investment. Markets are not static entities that are ‘intervened’ in (for good or bad) but are outcomes of public and private interactions. In my view, the state should be active and work in cooperation with private businesses to spur growth that’s sustainable and inclusive. The policy process is about co-creating and co-shaping of markets, creating new opportunities for business investment —and negotiating a better deal for the public too.

Historically, it has been an entrepreneurial state that stimulates and gives direction to new technological opportunities. It is those opportunities that  stir the animal spirits of business to invest—and we can do that again. The examples I give in my book show that public investments are not only important for affecting the rate of growth but also its direction. And that these investments were most successful when mission driven, rather than aimed at single sectors. The venture capital industry entered biotechnology only decades after the National Institutes of Health led the way. Similarly, Apple’s i-products were only made possible due to the hefty public financing of all the technologies that make those products smart and not stupid: internet, GPS, touchscreen and SIRI. Today there are opportunities in green: indeed Germany is using its Energiewende policy as a way of envisioning a green transformation and innovation across many sectors.

If we want growth today to be more innovation-driven, more inclusive and more sustainable, then we need a more active state — not a less active one.
- And James Bloodworth argues that we should embrace the efforts of workers who are striking for better pay - particularly when the alternative is to have "emergency laws" applied to further attack already-low levels of industrial activism.

- Thomas Walkom discusses how the Libs have been little more than a more photogenic version of the Harper Cons, while Tom Parkin compares them to the Sex Pistols as having run little more than a political swindle. Althia Raj calls out the Libs' sudden belief that Parliament is no place to discuss matters of public importance, including political fund-raising and the rules associated with it. And Joan Bryden points out that Justin Trudeau seems to have long since forgotten that he ran on a platform to fund health care, not to starve it. 

- Shaurya Taran and Naheed Dosani write that Toronto's budget cuts figure to be devastating for people living in poverty.

- Finally, Lenard Monkman reports on the possibility that small and portable homes might help to address housing shortages on First Nations reserves.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Monday Afternoon Links

Miscellaneous material for your Monday reading.

- Danielle Martin highlights how investments in ending poverty including a basic income can improve health outcomes among other key social indicators:
Far more than consumption of medical care, income is the strongest predictor of health. Canadians are more likely to die at an earlier age and suffer more illnesses if they are in a low income bracket, regardless of age, sex, race, and place of residence.
There are at least two ways in which income is related to health. First, income allows people to purchase the things that are necessary to survive and thrive, such as nutritious food and safe shelter. Second, income affects health indirectly, through its effect on social participation and the ability to control life circumstances. Put another way, the biggest disease that needs to be cured in Canada is the disease of poverty, and part of the cure is to implement a big idea: A Basic Income Guarantee for all Canadians.

We can eliminate income poverty by ensuring that no one in Canada has an income below what’s needed to achieve a basic standard of living. If we did so, we’d see a considerable improvement in the health of Canadians. The Basic Income Guarantee goes by various names (such as the guaranteed annual income, the negative income tax, and the basic income), and there are different ways to design it. The version I like best works like this: if your income from all sources falls below a certain level, you get topped up to a level sufficient to meet basic needs. That’s it. A true Basic Income Guarantee would ensure that everyone in Canada has an income above the “poverty line.”

The Basic Income Guarantee can’t and mustn’t replace all social programs. We still need good public education, publicly financed health care, quality affordable child care, affordable housing, and reliable unemployment insurance. But it would eliminate the need for the kinds of income support programs that invade people’s lives and limit their choices.
- And Robin Boadway and Roderick Benns similarly argue that a basic income should be included in our set of fundamental needs in setting labour policy - though we shouldn't pretend it's a complete solution to the problems facing workers either. 

- Joseph Stiglitz discusses how workers stand to lose out from Donald Trump's combination of trickle-down and crank economics. And Alan Blinder and Alan Krueger note that Trump's preference for corporate deal-making is likely to ensure that the most important work in building and maintaining necessary but unglamourous infrastructure doesn't get done.

- The Star rightly points out that we shouldn't use prison as a solution to individuals' mental health problems.

- Tamara Khandaker writes that the Libs' idea of reexamining the already-appalling civil rights abuses in Bill C-51 seems to be to push an even more intrusive and unaccountable surveillance state.

- Finally, Karl Nerenberg observes that Justin Trudeau may be creating far larger risks for himself by passing up a clear opportunity for electoral reform, rather than working with the consensus in favour of a proportional electoral system. And PressProgress muses as to what an electoral reform survey would look like if it were designed to be as slanted as the Libs', only in the opposite direction.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Ben Tarnoff discusses the two winners - and the many losers - created by the spread of neoliberalism:
Neoliberalism can mean many things, including an economic program, a political project, and a phase of capitalism dating from the 1970s. At its root, however, neoliberalism is the idea that everything should be run as a business – that market metaphors, metrics, and practices should permeate all fields of human life.

No industry has played a larger role in evangelizing the neoliberal faith than Silicon Valley. Its entrepreneurs are constantly coming up with new ways to make more of our lives into markets. A couple of decades ago, staying in touch with friends wasn’t a source of economic value – now it’s the basis for a $350bn company. Our photo albums, dating preferences, porn habits, and most random and banal thoughts have all become profitable data sets, mined for advertising revenue. We are encouraged to see ourselves as pieces of human capital that must ceaselessly enhance our value – optimizing our feeds and profiles, hustling for follows and likes and swipes.
Yet if Trump personifies neoliberal ideas, his victory also reflects a revolt against neoliberal policies. The uncaged capitalism fostered by neoliberalism has produced an era of spiraling inequality, stagnant wages, declining life expectancy, and an increasingly post-democratic political system that is more or less openly oligarchic. These things make people angry, and Trump used that anger to get himself elected.

The irony is that Trump will only intensify the crisis that put him in power. His cure for the social catastrophe of neoliberalism is a stronger strain of neoliberalism. Trump is like a lunatic doctor who, after a treatment has nearly killed his patient, decides to double the dose in the hopes of a better result.

Whether we survive depends on the political struggle ahead: not only in the streets and statehouses, but at the level of ideas. Defeating neoliberalism will require not just the creation of a movement, but the creation of a new common sense. At its heart must be the belief that democracy is a better way to organize society than markets – that some things are not for sale.
- Alex Tabarrok points out a new study showing the rapidly-diminishing returns on research within industries. And it's worth noting what that discovery means for our overall economic organization: first, we can expect better returns directing our efforts toward new fields rather than trying to prop up existing ones; and second, to the extent we've already harvested the low-hanging fruit in most current industries, we may need to focus our economic discussion more on distribution than growth.

- Meanwhile, Bruce Campion-Smith reports on PIPSC's success in negotiating a right for federally-employed scientists to share their research.

- Sherri Borden Colley reports on the difficulty social assistance recipients in Nova Scotia have making ends meet on insufficient benefits. And Iglika Ivanova writes that we should rely far less on private charity to meet basic needs, and instead use the collective power of government to ensure nobody is forced to live in poverty.

- Finally, John Whyte offers some suggestions to build a stronger participatory democracy in Saskatchewan.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Murray Dobbin highlights how our political and economic discussions are poorer for the dominance of neoliberalism:
That's it? That's the best the economics profession can come up with to explain Canadians' indebtedness catastrophe? It's all about human behaviour, written in stone, so I guess we might as well just sit back and observe the meltdown in the comfort of our economist's middle-class lifestyle.

But of course that's the very thing they should be examining -- people's determination to live the middle-class life style that our entire culture is based on and which the sophisticated marketing machine tells us we must have -- or we are losers. They need to explore this classic bait-and-switch: manipulate people to buy stuff and then suppress their incomes so they can't.

Carrick's article detailed just how serious the problem is -- repeating numbers that have been quoted numerous times: over 700,000 people would be financially stressed if interest rates rose by even a quarter of one per cent. One million would face that circumstance if they rose by one per cent. The Canadian Payroll Association regularly tracks people's financial stress and its recent survey revealed 48 per cent of people said "[i]t would be tough to meet their financial obligations if their paycheque was delayed even by a week. Almost one-quarter doubted they could come up with $2,000 for an emergency expense in the next month."

I'm sorry, but that's insane in a country that creates as much wealth as Canada does.

The fact is, those trapped within the context of neoliberal policies don't have a clue what to do.

But everyone knows it's going to get worse. The quality of jobs in Canada continues to fall with low-paid jobs making up an increasing proportion of the total (we are already second in the OECD), with those earning less than the average wage falling furthest behind. This is a continuation of a 12-year trend. Sixty-one per cent of Canadian workers have seen their wage gap increase. These are the conclusions of a recent CIBC report which also concluded that only 15 per cent of people aged 15-24 can be defined as genuinely "employed."

If economists and politicians (NDP -- please note) actually want to change this situation before it descends into full-on dystopia they must, as a UN report recently recommended, "jettison neoliberal ideology." That would include a long list of policies but let's just take one: "labour flexibility." Inequality, flat incomes, work-life imbalance and unsustainable debt can all to a large extent be traced to this deliberate government policy. Just reversing it would start a recovery. That means returning EI to an actual insurance program, reinstating the federal Canada Assistance Plan which provided strings-attached (read: humane rates) money to the provinces for social welfare, increase the minimum wage to living-wage levels, enforce and enhance labour standards and their enforcement, and make it easier, not harder, for unions to organize.
- Statistics Canada examines the gross increase in income inequality over the past three decades, as the bottom 50% of tax filers have seen their share of market income drop by over 28%.

- Iglika Ivanova offers some lessons to be learned from the CCPA's recent report on the cost of child care. And Pierre Fortin makes the case for a national child care policy, while recognizing the need for the provinces to lead the way.

- Meanwhile, Andrew MacLeod reports on the predictable results of B.C.'s privatization of health care administration - which wound up costing 50% more than the supposed price certainty found in the original contract.

- Finally, James Wilt points out that the Libs' climate change "framework" falls well short of meeting the already-inadequate targets they've adopted from the Harper Cons - and wonders whether Canada will end up having to pay for offsets rather than meeting the targets for itself.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Musical interlude

Erato - Now Go


There's plenty of ugly news coming out about the continued problems with Brad Wall's pet carbon capture and storage project - including thoroughly unimpressive output numbers, and payouts to Cenovus to make up for a failure to deliver the carbon dioxide it's supposed to be capturing.

But perhaps even more worrisome than the project's well-known failures is the limited definition of success.

When it comes to emission standards, SaskPower's own self-declared metric is to "continue meeting federal emission regulations". (Keep this filed away for next time Wall complains about the federal government setting standards: even the single project where he's put any resources into promised emission reductions can't find any coherent provincial goals to try to meet.)

But what does it mean for a carbon capture project to comply with federal standards?

One possibility is that it means absolutely nothing for the moment. When the Harper government set up its regulations governing coal power, it made exemptions available for carbon capture and storage projects. And if it has that exemption, SaskPower can technically "continue meeting federal emission regulations" regardless of how much CO2 it dumps into the atmosphere until 2017.

Even if SaskPower is holding itself to the federal standards for coal plants regardless of any exemption, though, that's far from an ideal outcome.

The federal standards for coal plants are intended only to match the carbon output of existing natural gas plants based on 2012 technology. And those emit between ten and a hundred times as many greenhouse gases as renewable alternatives.

So based on SaskPower's self-declared goal, Wall's multi-billion-dollar gamble has a payoff no greater than the possibility of matching the output from existing fossil fuel technology - even as much cleaner alternatives have become far more affordable. (And that ignores the emission costs of increased oil output which are presumably Wall's reason for pushing CCS in the first place.)

Of course, the money spent on Boundary Dam Unit #3 can't be recouped. But there's no reason at all to keep pouring precious public resources into the CCS money pit - particularly when we can achieve a far cleaner power grid simply by matching what's already working around the world.

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Alex Hemingway reviews the evidence on two-tiered medicine from around the developed world, and concludes that a constitutional attack on universal health care would only result in our paying more for less.

- Marc Lee takes a look at the national climate change framework released last week and finds it to fall short in both its insufficient goals, and a lack of a clear plan to achieve them. 

- Erika Shaker examines the difficulties families face as a result of unavailable and unaffordable child care. 

- Martin Regg Cohn nicely highlights the two-faced Ontario PCs, who are denouncing social conservatism publicly while proclaiming it to be a top priority behind closed doors. And both Michael Den Tandt and Michael Harris point out that the NDP is nicely positioned to fill the federal vacuum created by a combination of disappointing corporatist Libs and ineffective Cons.

- Finally, Dave Seglins and Rachel Houlihan report on Dennis Molinaro's discovery of a secret 1951 Canadian cabinet memo authorizing RCMP spying against "subversives" in perpetuity. (And judging from the federal government's response complaining that disclosure would affect ongoing operations, there's reason to suspect that it's still being applied.)

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Thursday Afternoon Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Jonathan Sas highlights why we're best off having public services delivered by the public sector:
The three decades long bashing and diminishing of the redistributive capacities of the state has led to pronounced inequality, degraded infrastructure stock, and a blunted ability of government to respond to current societal challenges. Of course, this was what the right-wing wanted. We understand the attack on the public sector as part and parcel of a broader neoliberal economic program that has favored financial deregulation, the expansion of unfair trade and investment deals, the weakening of worker rights and, finally, a retrenchment of welfare state programs and public services.
In Canada, the neoliberal attack on the public sector has been used to justify austerity and to promote both the privatization of existing public assets as well as the private ownership and operation of future projects and assets through P3 agreements. We fundamentally disagree that the private sector is necessarily more efficient or more capable of owning, operating and delivering projects and services as P3 advocates, including some progressives, falsely claim.
...P3s have been shown to cost more, to leave the public without control of services and assets, and ultimately to saddle the public with the costs if and when a project doesn't work out.  It is for these reasons that we also support municipal moves to in-source or bring privatized services back in-house.
At this moment of deep political convulsion throughout the West, the fight against privatization is part of a broader struggle against the economic logic that has led to corrosive inequality and underpinned the bankrupt neoliberal economic paradigm. We must continue to dispel the myth that it is the private sector alone that drives innovation or that is capable of driving economic growth and dynamism. And we must fight to ensure that the public is equitably rewarded for the investments it makes.
- Meanwhile, PressProgress offers its take on CIBC's conclusion that Canadian jobs are
deteriorating in quality. And Thomas Piketty argues that we should focus more on ensuring a fair return for labour than on providing a basic income - though I'm not sure that his justifiable concerns about the cheap nature of existing basic income systems rules out the viability of a more generous version.

- Sean McElwee, Jesse H. Rhodes and Brian Schaffner examine the chasm between the donor class which owns U.S. politics, and the public which has to live with political decisions. And Andrew Coyne criticizes Justin Trudeau's sordid dealings with the big-money donors promised access for their cash.

- Finally, the Aurora Banner makes the case for the Libs to stop stalling on their clear promise of electoral reform, while Avvy Go notes that how we vote is just one piece of an inclusive political system. And Neil MacDonald discusses Trudeau's practice in government of emphasizing a positive face on the same old lack of accomplishment we're accustomed to seeing from his predecessors.

New column day

Here, on SaskTel's response (PDF) to the Wall government's attempt to make excuses to sell off one of Saskatchewan's core Crowns - and how its position in dealing with federal regulators may in fact only be stronger after the selloff of MTS.

For further reading...
- I've written about SaskTel's beneficial impact on us as consumers and citizens here and here
- The objectives behind the CRTC's are found here at section 7 - and as I note in the column, a Crown corporation is in a unique position to highlight its local ownership and social contributions.
- Finally, Jennifer Graham reported on SaskTel's response here.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Jacob Levy highlights the importance of "identity politics" - or more specifically, the willingness to fight against systematic inequality of all kinds - as part of an effective progressive movement. And George Monbiot writes that we should be returning to first principles when it comes to the economy, starting with a renewed commitment to rebuilding the commons. 

- Dean Burnett rebuts a UK report which attempted to detach mental health from underlying social issues including poverty.

- Karri Munn-Venn points out that last week's climate change announcement from Canada's federal government falls far short of meeting the world's commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

- Robert Fife and Steven Chase report on Justin Trudeau's galling claim that in granting pay-for-play access to billionaires, he's not only avoiding being influenced personally, but taking wealthy donors' money to lobby them. And Susan Delacourt sees the cash-for-access system as a strong indication that the Libs haven't changed an iota from their history of backroom politics.

- Finally, Daniel Tencer writes that the Libs are planning far worse systematic intrusions into Canadians' privacy than were ever included in Bill C-51, while also highlighting some needed pushback by Canada's tech industry against yet another round of unjustified and unaccountable online surveillance. And Tonda MacCharles reports on the predictable results of a security state deciding whether or not to be publicly accountable, as CSIS has scrapped a promise to open up about past (and apparently ongoing) spying on journalists.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Matted cats.

Tuesday Afternoon Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Dennis Pilon highlights how the stubborn defence of disproportional electoral systems can only be explained by a fear of voters' preferences being given effect:
The issue is not whether it’s better to have a few or a lot of parties in Parliament — that’s irrelevant. The issue is whether Parliament should reflect what Canadian voters want. They may want a few or many parties — we won’t know until they get a chance to register their preferences effectively.

People don’t care about some abstract ideal like having a lot of parties in Parliament for it’s own sake; they care about their vote having an impact. They only prefer “having a few big parties that try to appeal to a broad range of people” if they think that their party will be one of those parties. After all, the whole reason we’re discussing this issue of electoral reform is because our current ‘big parties’ have been pretty miserable failures in their efforts to “appeal to a broad range of people.”

And this is why the question is so one-sided. Where are the questions exploring the trade-offs and risks involved in keeping our current voting system — the fact that single-party governments typically come at the cost of electoral competition and inclusive representation, and seem to trigger a pronounced policy lurch with every change in government? The costs in this trade-off discussion, it would appear, only apply to the proposed alternatives — not to the status quo.
The subtext of their rhetoric, whether deliberate or not, speaks to a Liberal/Conservative majority of voters, basically asking, ‘Do you think the system that benefits you should be kept in place’? Meanwhile, their constant focus on the prospect of ‘instability’ or ‘extremism’ that might result from moving away from the status quo suggests a deep distrust of voters. The fear that voters might make poor choices (ones that these political scientists don’t agree with, in other words) sounds a lot like 19th century arguments against extending the franchise to working people generally.

You have to be a democrat to do justice to discussions of democratic reform. In Canada, a great many political scientists prefer focusing on legitimating our current governing order to empowering voters and adding substance to Canadian democracy.
- Meanwhile, Alex Boutilier points out the incoherence of the Libs' backtracking from a clear promise of electoral reform. And Alex Tyrrell reports on the consensus on proportional representation reached by Quebec's opposition parties.

- The Star makes the case for a national child care system for the good of children, parents and the overall economy alike. And Kevin Carey and Elizabeth Harris write about new research showing a clear connection between investment in education (particularly in lower-income areas) and students' economic opportunities.

- Finally, Paul Mason takes note of the obvious implications of Mark Carney's warning against inequality, particularly as it relates to the proliferation of low-wage and precarious work:
Carney’s solutions, though couched in language eviscerated in order to avoid offence, boil down as follows. First, economists have to accept that the current form of capitalism is failing the 99percent. Gains from both technological progress and globalisation flow more to the rich than the poor. Second, he says, we have to stimulate growth by relying less on creating money, and more by creating growth: governments have to start using taxpayers’ money to invest, and redesign the economy so that our dire productivity is reversed. Third we have to redistribute wealth downwards instead of upwards.

If Theresa May’s government was actually listening to Carney (instead of trying to undermine him as in reality), they should scrap Philip Hammond’s austerity targets, raise tax revenues, shut down tax havens and take decisive measures to end the creation of low-wage, low-productive jobs. To do that you would have to re-regulate the economy and hard.

It would, in short, have to be somebody’s responsibility that 20,000 low-wage cash business appear out of nowhere; somebody has to care about it other than the police, whose raids on such businesses frequently scoop up just enough trafficked migrants to hit the headlines, but never enough to actually put the traffickers out of business, nor to raise wages.

At the same time, you would have to redistribute wealth aggressively. Not all of that needs to be done through taxation. If, instead of privatising public services, you ran them as non-profit corporations, providing rail, broadband and energy at prices below the cost of production, the redistributive effect would be significant. People on rock-bottom wages would suddenly have a lot more to live on.

On top of that you need to actively raise wages. That needs more than a worker on the board: it needs a recognised union rep in every workplace. If Amazon, Pret a Manger, the courier industry and the construction firms were obliged by law to negotiate with unions, and to cease repressing them, there would be upward pressure on wages across the whole economy. Another way of creating that pressure would be for local and national government to hike public sector pay.

Call it what you will, it would no longer be globalisation as we know it, and it would reverse 30 years of free market labour reforms.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Miles Corak offers a must-read paper on the two stories most often told about inequality in Canada, reaching this conclusion on the recent accumulation of wealth at the top of the income spectrum and the readily observable inequality of opportunity based on the inheritance of social and economic capital:
(C)areful analyses lean toward the view that higher rents may be behind the greater incomes of the Canadian top 1 percent. Lemieux and Riddell (2016) conclude their detailed study by saying:
On balance, we think that our findings are more consistent with a rent-extraction story than with a market-based explanation…. Although some high incomes are surely compensation for hard work, the growth in top incomes over time has been so large that rent extraction must be the major contributing factor. (134)
They show that top earners are particularly concentrated in certain professions. For example, about one-quarter of those with top-1-percent incomes in 2011 are trained in medicine, law and jurisprudence, or business and commerce. Over a 20-year period, the fraction of the top 1 percent working in finance doubled from about 5 to 10 percent, as did the fraction working in oil and gas extraction industries, moving from less than 3 percent to more than 7 percent of all top earners. This is consistent with research by Murphy and Veall (2015), who document that the top 1 percent are disproportionately found in Toronto and Calgary. Together, these facts are all suggestive of the possibility that institutional factors—such as the capacity to negotiate the terms of compensation from governments, as in the case of doctors, or from boards of directors, as in the case of senior managers—determine pay. They are also suggestive of the possibility that factors beyond individual effort, such as commodity price and exchange rate movements, also create opportunities for higher pay.
(T)he most common way to find a job is through family and friends. That holds true for all of us, but it is immensely more likely for the kids of the very rich. Corak and Piraino (2016, 2011) show that about 40 percent of young Canadian men have at some point worked for exactly the same firm that at some point also employed their fathers. But if dad's earnings put him in the top 25 percent, these chances are above average; they start taking off if dad is in the top 5 percent and are higher still for top earners. Almost 7 out of 10 sons of top-1-percent fathers had a job with an employer that had also employed their fathers. All parents want to help their children in whatever way they can. However, top earners can do it more than others, and with more consequence: virtually guaranteeing, if not a lifetime of high earnings, at least a good start in life.

Connections matter. And for the top earners this might even be nepotism. This is not a bad thing if parents pass on real skills to their children, skills that might be specific to particular occupations, industries, or even firms. If this is the case, then it makes economic sense to follow in your father's footsteps. Wayne Gretzky often talked about the role his father played in developing his skating and stick handling skills. They spent hours and hours together on the backyard rink. But not all top earners got to where they are because of this sort of investment. In fact, sons of top-earning fathers who do not work at the same employer as their fathers are much more likely to fall out of the top than those who do (Bingley, Corak, and Westergard-Nielson 2012). Bad nepotism promotes people above their abilities by virtue of connections, and it erodes rather than enhances economic productivity. Richard Reeves (2013) of the Brookings Institution encapsulates this intuition when he speaks of a “glass floor” supporting untalented rich kids, a floor that at the same time limits the degree of upward mobility for others.
- Meanwhile, Robert Reich discusses the likely effects of the Trump administration - which of course include making the U.S.' appalling income and wealth inequality all the worse. And Noah Smith highlights the needed development of economic targets to address inequality - though I'd question his implicit view that we should assume that unmeasurable factors such as "the social prestige and self-respect that come from having a job" deserve special mention, while the well-documented costs in health and welfare arising out of poverty and inequality can be ignored.

- PressProgress examines what Brad Wall has gone out of his way to avoid recognizing about climate change - though I'd consider them to be overly generous in stopping at five points.

- Finally, Thomas Levenson makes the case for far more public investment in pure scientific research.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Dani Rodrik writes that today's brand of trade agreement has little to do with economic theory as opposed to political power:
What purpose do trade agreements really serve? The answer would seem obvious: countries negotiate trade agreements to achieve freer trade. But the reality is considerably more complex. It’s not just that today’s trade agreements extend to many other policy areas, such as health and safety regulations, patents and copyrights, capital-account regulations, and investor rights. It’s also unclear whether they really have much to do with free trade.

When trade agreements were largely about import tariffs, negotiated exchange of market access generally produced lower import barriers – an example of the benefits of lobbies acting as counterweights to one another. But there are certainly plenty of examples of international collusion among special interests as well. The WTO’s prohibition on export subsidies has no real economic rationale, as I have already noted. The rules on anti-dumping are similarly explicitly protectionist in intent. 

Such perverse cases have proliferated more recently. Newer trade agreements incorporate rules on “intellectual property,” capital flows, and investment protections that are mainly designed to generate and preserve profits for financial institutions and multinational enterprises at the expense of other legitimate policy goals. These rules provide special protections to foreign investors that often come into conflict with public health or environmental regulations. They make it harder for developing countries to access technology, manage volatile capital flows, and diversify their economies through industrial policies. 

Trade policies driven by domestic political lobbying and special interests are beggar-thyself policies. They may have beggar-thy-neighbor consequences, but that is not their motive. They reflect power asymmetries and political failures within societies. International trade agreements can contribute only in limited ways to remedying such domestic political failures, and sometimes they aggravate those failures. Addressing beggar-thyself policies requires improving domestic governance, not establishing international rules. 
- The Star rightly argues that Canada can't claim to have a plan to meet its greenhouse gas emission reduction targets without actually doing the math as to how to get there.

- Lynell Anderson, Morna Ballantyne, Martha Friendly set out a plan for a national child care system - though unfortunately there's no indication that the federal government has any interest in putting the idea into action. 

- Paul Dechene highlights the disingenuousness of Brad Wall's Twitter tantrums. And David Climenhaga spreads the word about Wall's Bradsplaining, while noting that Brad Trost is exhibiting exactly the same tendencies.

- Finally, Tara Katrusiak Baran discusses the dangers of threatening violence and suppression based on political disagreement - while pointing out that economic anxiety is no excuse for dehumanizing our fellow citizens. And Danny Quah and Kishore Mahbubani theorize that the rise of the authoritarian right has more to do with a perceived loss of control than with any economic factors.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Saturday Afternoon Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Lana Payne points out the significance of even central bankers like Mark Carney recognizing the desperate need to combat inequality. And Iglika Ivanova discusses how British Columbia's election-year surplus represents a wasted opportunity to start addressing the social problems which the Libs have been exacerbating for a decade and a half:
More than half of British Columbians surveyed in a recent poll reported they were living paycheque to paycheque, and household debt is at record highs. Unemployment is on the rise outside the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island, where most job creation has been concentrated. Seniors who don’t own their own homes are living in fear of rent increases and renovictions. Over 100,000 British Columbians needed the help of food banks this year, up 3.4% from 2015. Child poverty remains stubbornly high with toxic effects on children’s health and well-being. And, our public schools are underfunded and lack the resources to properly support students with special needs.

We wouldn’t celebrate the financial management skills of parents who ended the month with money in the bank after sending their children to bed hungry. A large government surplus is much the same, and it is unconscionable given the number of people in need in our province. BC’s surplus is a wasted opportunity to make a difference in the lives of children growing up in poverty, people on disability benefits who are forced to choose between a bus pass and groceries or frail seniors who can’t access home support services and end up in hospital instead.

Instead of tackling poverty and investing in education from early childhood onwards, the BC government has earmarked $1 billion of this year’s surplus to pay down the public debt faster, and another $400 million for the so-called ‘Prosperity Fund’ that was supposed to be filled with revenues from LNG, which haven’t materialized.
Social infrastructure is the foundation upon which our economy is built. The research is clear: a healthy society is more productive, and a more-equal society is healthier and better educated. We need the talents, creativity and experience of all British Columbians to build the kind of province we all want to live in.
- Gary Bloch expands on his analysis as to how we'd all be better off in a society which eradicated poverty. And Dan Kopf points out new research showing that cash transfers to poor people tend to lead to far healthier lifestyles for the recipients - including a reduction in purchases of alcohol and tobacco products.

- Guy Dauncey offers a range of solutions to Canada's housing crisis. And Sam Cooper reports on Adam Ross' study of the widespread shell ownership of Vancouver real estate which is making it difficult to manage the housing market.

- Robin Whitaker makes the case for the Libs to keep their promise of electoral reform by delivering a system of proportional representation. Plenty of Star readers concur in the wake of Chantal Hebert's effort to spread blame elsewhere. And Andrew Coyne weighs in on the Libs' blatantly biased survey about electoral values.

- Finally, Cheryl Stadnichuk notes that Brad Wall's health care privatization is undermining universal access to care, while doing nothing to improve the province's cost picture due to the predictable loss of federal funding for pay-for-play services.