Monday, July 11, 2016

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Joseph Stiglitz writes about the political consequences of economic policies which have siphoned wealth to the lucky few, and writes that it's long past time to start challenging the corporate power which has made citizens into an afterthought:
(L)arge portions of the population have not been doing well. The neoliberal agenda of the last four decades may have been good for the top 1%, but not for the rest. I had long predicted that this stagnation would eventually have political consequences. That day is now upon us.

On both sides of the Atlantic, citizens are seizing upon trade agreements as a source of their woes. While this is an over-simplification, it is understandable. Today’s trade agreements are negotiated in secret, with corporate interests well represented, but ordinary citizens or workers completely shut out. Not surprisingly, the results have been one-sided: workers’ bargaining position has been weakened further, compounding the effects of legislation undermining unions and employees’ rights. 

While trade agreements played a role in creating this inequality, much else contributed to tilting the political balance toward capital. Intellectual property rules, for example, have increased pharmaceutical companies’ power to raise prices. But any increase in corporations’ market power is de facto a lowering of real wages – an increase in the inequality that has become a hallmark of most advanced countries today. 

Across many sectors, industrial concentration is increasing – and so is market power. The effects of stagnant and declining real wages have combined with those of austerity, threatening cutbacks in public services upon which so many middle- and low-income workers depend.
The result of all this downward pressure on wages and cutbacks in public services has been the evisceration of the middle class, with similar consequences on both sides of the Atlantic. Middle- and working-class households haven’t received the benefits of economic growth. They understand that banks had caused the 2008 crisis; but then they saw billions going to save the banks, and trivial amounts to save their homes and jobs. With median real (inflation-adjusted) income for a full-time male worker in the US lower than it was four decades ago, an angry electorate should come as no surprise. 

Politicians who promised change, moreover, didn’t deliver what was expected. Ordinary citizens knew that the system was unfair, but they came to see it as even more rigged than they had imagined, losing what little trust they had left in establishment politicians’ capacity or will to correct it. That, too, is understandable: the new politicians shared the outlook of those who had promised that globalization would benefit all.
- Meanwhile, Carla Power examines the lack of social mobility in the UK as a contributing factor to the Brexit vote. And Thomas Edsall discusses how growing inequality and financial precarity have fuelled the rise of right-wing populism generally.

- Charlie Sorrel points out that U.S. municipalities are increasingly squeezing revenue from fines and penalties out of the working class rather than making any effort to collect fair taxes from those who can afford to pay them.

- Adam Allington examines the National Institute on Retirement Security's research finding that women are disproportionately likely to face poverty due to lower wages and greater care-giving responsibilities. 

- Finally, Kristy Kirkup reports on Cindy Blackstock's efforts to get the federal government to recognize that fair treatment for First Nations services is an obligation to be met immediately, not an option to be approached when it's convenient. 

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