Friday, February 03, 2017

Friday Evening Links

Assorted content for your Friday reading.

- Aditya Chakrabortty writes about the devastating combination of an urgent need for collective action on the key issues we face, and a deeply-entrenched political aversion to anything of the sort. And Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett highlight how the UK Cons are going out of their way to exacerbate the crisis of inequality while pointing out the only means to combat it:
Inequality is not driven by forces beyond our control but by politics and policy choices. The Resolution Foundation report says that the cuts in benefits to working-age people over the next four years are the main reason why inequality will rise. In the past, income differences widened because the incomes of the richest rose fastest. But the Resolution Foundation say that in future, living standards will fall among almost the entire bottom half of the working-age population. That will not simply make people more uncomfortable. It will damage democracy and the whole social fabric, making us a more antisocial society.
Previous major reductions of inequality have depended on powerful political movements. Inequality was very high in the 1920s but then declined – at first rapidly and then more slowly – from the 1930s until the 1970s. The modern rise in inequality started in about 1980 with neoliberal economics under Thatcher and Ronald Reagan, and has now returned us to 1920s levels of inequality. This pattern of declining inequality in the middle decades of the 20th century reflects the rise and fall of the labour movement and the fear of communism. The rise and fall of trade union membership is, in one country after another, almost a mirror image of trends in inequality. As trade unions got stronger, inequality declined and vice versa.
Studies have shown that people in more equal societies are more willing to help each other, trust each other, and to take part in community life. The evidence also suggests that they are less out for themselves and more responsive to the common good. But with rising inequality all that fades: trust and community life decline and violence increases...
Some academics argue that it takes a catastrophe to reduce inequality. But there is no shortage of solutions. What we need, and what is now beginning to emerge, is a mass movement capable of driving egalitarian policies forward. Taxes and benefits should be more redistributive than they are, but above all we need to reduce inequalities in incomes before tax. 
- Hadrian Mertins-Kirkwood examines what the Trump administration and the end of the Trans-Pacific Partnership mean for trade - particularly in creating a new opportunity to include labour and the environment in our trade discussions if anybody cares to do so.

- Rachel Grey offers ten reasons why Canada needs a national housing plan. And Adetayo Bero discusses how stable housing can be crucial to mental health treatment.

- Meanwhile, Sarah DelVillano rightly criticizes the trend toward criminalizing poverty and the poor.

- Finally, Allison Hanes warns against letting casual hate slide when it can far too easily give rise to violence. And Caroline Biotteau reminds us that the people responsible for protecting security have long been aware that the most imminent risk of that violence originates in right-wing bigotry - even as both government and media have gone out of their way to fabricate other threats.

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