Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Katie Allen reports on the growing gap between the privileged few and the working class in the UK. And Frank Elgar highlights how we all pay the price of inequality, even as our governments can't be bothered to rein it in:
For decades, the IMF, OECD, and World Bank have warned governments about its destabilising effects. Last month, the World Economic Forum in Davos reported that inequality constitutes the single greatest threat to the global economy. More than an ageing population. Even more than climate change.

And across academic disciplines, researchers have found that societies with smaller income differences between the rich and poor live longer, healthier lives with less crime, less corruption, and stronger social ties. Children too are happier, healthier, less likely to drop out of school, less likely be bullied, and more likely to move up the social ladder.
Trouble is, the rising inequality not only shortens lifespans and divides communities, it also blinds government to the needs of the most vulnerable. Despite its feel-good rhetoric about fairness and inclusiveness, the federal government seems content to double down on Conservative-era policies that will deepen inequality and send more wealth to the top income strata.

To figure out why this happens, consider this. Public spending serves the common good more than it benefits the rich, whom can probably manage fine with low taxes, private clinics, private schools, no public transit, and so on. When incomes and inequality rise together, as they are in Canada, the rich gains political influence to cut taxes and regulations and keep spending down.

The results are predictable: under-investment in health, education, and other social services, and cash transfers to low-income families, and rising relative poverty. A poor country for rich people. A plutocracy. Or, as the late economist JK Galbraith famously described it, private opulence and public squalor.
- Laura McInerney worries about the prospect that publicly-funded education might be stripped down to core subjects, leaving families who can't afford to pay without access to basic extracurricular activities. And of course that looks to be exactly where the Saskatchewan Party is headed.

- The Canadian Labour Congress offers its suggestions for today's federal budget. Paul Wells notes that the Libs' messaging about "middle class" and "innovation" hasn't been matched with any meaningful policy improvements. David MacDonald focuses on the tax loopholes the Libs should be closing rather than maintaining to enrich their donor class, while Canadians for Tax Fairness addresses the tax system as a whole. And the Huffington Post's report on Canada's declining position in the World Happiness Report should be a warning sign as to the need to at least stop falling behind the rest of the world.

- Finally, Paul Taylor's response as to how to manage the unaffordability of prescription drugs signals the need for a national pharmacare program. And Andre Picard writes that the fight against climate change is an essential public health issue.

[Edit: Added link, labels.]

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