Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Robert Reich points out how perpetually more severe corporate rights agreements are destroying the U.S.' middle class. And Michael Geist concludes his must-read series by summarizing the dangers of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (and making the case against ratifying it).

- Jeremy Runnalls writes about the growing movement toward a basic income to combat poverty. And Carter Vance makes the case for a wealth tax to start narrowing the chasm between the wealthy few and the rest of Canada:
(I)ncome statistics from one year may not fully capture the financial state of an individual or household. One might appear "wealthy" according to year-end income, but have far less net wealth due to high debts or high living costs. Wealth measures have their flaws as well, in particular that they take into account non-liquid assets (such as a primary residence), but they are often a better guide when it comes to inequality.

Statistics Canada does not have full data prior to 1999 in terms of its Survey of Financial Security (SFS), which tracks and measures financial assets and debts within Canadian households. That said, the statistics we do have paint a rather alarming picture.

Median net worth (that is, household assets minus debts), actually dropped in absolute terms from 1999 to 2012 for the bottom 20 per cent of earners, while nearly doubling in the upper 20 per cent This means that the median net worth of the upper 20 per cent of income earners is now 25 times that of the lower-middle 20 per cent and nearly 1250 times (no, that is not a typo) the lowest 20 per cent. Commentators can deny the reality of income inequality all they want, but there's no fiddling with the hard numbers here.
Wealth inequality, then, affects everything it can touch and therefore demands a policy response all its own. Unlike many of our OECD brethren, Canada does not currently levy an inheritance, estate or wealth tax of any sort. Where they do exist, wealth taxes are increasingly under both rhetorical and technocratic threat.

Since governmental tax and transfer powers remain the only things that have taken some of the sting out of increased income inequality, it's well past time to put a similar dent in inequalities of wealth. Wealth taxes are one of strongest tools to combat the surfeit of economic and political power on the side of capital.
- Jody Porter reports on the ongoing gap in educational funding for First Nations students compared to other Canadian children. And the CP highlights the millions of dollars the federal government has spent fighting to get out of paying benefits to employees who get sick while on parental leave.

- Kathryn May notes that the Trudeau Libs are merely following the Harper Cons' plan to gut the sick leave program for federal public servants. And Elizabeth Thompson points out that there's been no change whatsoever from the Cons' push to hand hundreds of thousands of Canadians' bank records to the IRS.

- But on the side of progress, Zosia Bielski discusses the Manitoba NDP's move to ensure that paid leave is available for people fleeing domestic abuse. And Selina Chignall reports on Niki Ashton's new campaign to give a voice to young workers entering a precarious labour market.

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