Wednesday, March 09, 2016

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Emily Badger discusses a new study showing just how much more expensive it is to be poor:
(T)he problem isn't simply that the poor aren't savvy about sales or bulk buying. They're more likely to use these tactics closer to the beginning of the month, when they have more cash on hand from paychecks or benefits. Then, they behave more like consumers who have more money.

Of course, the poor face a lot of other obstacles to reaping savings, too. They may not have access to larger supermarkets that offer a wider variety of cheaper items. Or they may not have the car you'd need to transport home 30 rolls of toilet paper, or the closet space you'd need to store them.

The world, in fact, is full of opportunities to save money — if you just have enough money to access them. If you can afford a Costco membership, you can buy pounds and pounds of incredibly cheap canned soup. If you can afford Amazon Prime (and have a stable mailing address and credit card), you can really rack up savings on costly items like diapers. And buying diapers in bulk can mean spending hundreds of dollars at a time (or borrowing hundreds of dollars from your future self).
These results, she says, should make us reconsider how poverty can prevent people from making smart financial decisions. If we simply drop a new supermarket into a food desert, for instance, that doesn't guarantee that poor people who live right next to it will be able to take advantage of all its savings. One possible solution is that retailers could consider pushing their deals to the beginning of the month. But they'd only be incentivized to do that — to help their customers pay less per unit — if they have to compete for these shoppers.
- And James Wood reports on the Alberta NDP's move to cut down on one of the costs of poverty by cracking down on predatory payday lenders. 

- Glen Hodgson comments on the urgent need for Alberta to develop a reliable tax base rather than relying on royalty revenues to pay its bills. 

- Laurie Monsebraaten writes about the UN's report showing a persistent housing crisis in Canada. And Jeremy Nuttall points out the need for a rights-based approach to basic human needs.

- Pete Evans reports on Oxfam's finding that the gender wage gap in Canada is actually growing. And PressProgress points out a few of the policy options available to push toward pay equity.

- Finally, Tonda MacCharles reports on a Senate hearing indicating that CSIS is stealthily making use of its new powers under C-51 with no public accountability. Thomas Walkom notes that CSIS' explanation as to what's being done under those powers only highlights how unnecessary C-51 actually is. And Leadnow responds by rightly demanding that any new powers be suspended pending review - rather than allowing a secretive security state to keep trampling rights until a poorly-defined consultation process plays out.

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