Monday, February 15, 2016

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Claire Provost writes that corporate trade agreements are designed to make it more difficult to pursue fair tax systems:
Governments must be able to change their tax systems to ensure multinationals pay their fair share and to ensure that critical public services are well funded. States must also be able to reconsider and withdraw tax breaks previously granted to multinationals if they no longer fit with national priorities.

But their ability to do so, to change tax laws and pursue progressive tax policies, is limited, thanks to trade and investments agreements. In rapidly developing ‘corporate courts’, formally known as investor-state dispute settlement system (or ISDS), foreign investors can sue states directly at international tribunals.
Because control over taxes is seen as core to a country’s sovereignty, many states have included tax-related ‘carve-out’ clauses in these trade and investment treaties to limit ability of corporations and other investors to sue over such disputes. But a growing number of investor-state cases have in fact challenged government tax decisions – from the withdrawal of previously granted tax breaks to multinationals to the imposition of higher taxes on profits from oil and mining.
(E)ven the prospect of an ISDS case can be a powerful deterrent for states considering actions against multinationals. These cases can drag on for years, and are extremely expensive. Even if a state successfully defends itself, it often ends up facing million dollar legal bills regardless. The only safe course of action is to never challenge multinational corporations - a dangerous prospect for the public interest that could thwart necessary, progressive action for tax justice.
- Michael Winship interviews Naomi Klein about the inability of markets to deal with the threat of climate change. And Mike De Souza reports on the complete imbalance between corporate and public interests at the moment by pointing out how thoroughly Stephen Harper's National Energy Board appointees have undermined any attempt to enforce pipeline safety rules.

- Christina Pazzanese examines the connection between economic inequality and democratic disenfranchisement in the U.S. And Tom Mulcair writes about a few of the ways the federal budget could lessen inequality in Canada.

- Finally, John Oliver duly slams the spread of voter ID laws as a means of rigging elections at the expense of voting rights:

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