Saturday, August 26, 2017

Saturday Afternoon Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Owen Jones points out Portugal's example as a demonstration that that there is indeed an alternative to austerity - and that it's better for public finances as well as for social progress:
During the years of cuts, charities warned of a “social emergency”. Now the Portuguese government can offer itself as a model to the rest of the continent. “Europe chose the line of austerity and had much worse results,” declared the economy minister Manuel Caldeira Cabral. “What we are showing is that with a policy that restitutes income to the people in a moderate way, people get more confidence and investment returns.”

Portugal has increased public investment, reduced the deficit, slashed unemployment and sustained economic growth. We were told this was impossible and, frankly, delusional. And so British workers endured the longest squeeze in wages since the 19th century, while the coalition did not even come close to meeting its commitment to eradicate the deficit by 2015. Why? In part, because low pay means workers paying less tax, receiving more in-work benefits, and spending less money. Portugal is increasing demand; the Tories suppressed it.

Portugal’s success is both inspiring and frustrating. All that human misery in Europe – and for what? What of Greece, where over half of young people languished in unemployment, where health services were decimated, where infant mortality and suicide increased? What of Spain, where hundreds of thousands were evicted from their homes? What of France, where economic insecurity fuelled the rise of the far right?
Europe’s austerity has been justified with the mantra “there is no alternative”, intended to push the population into submission: we have to be grownups, and live in the real world, after all.

Portugal offers a powerful rebuke. Europe’s left should use the Portuguese experience to reshape the European Union and bring austerity across the eurozone to a halt. In Britain, Labour can feel more emboldened in breaking with the Tories’ economic order.

Throughout Europe’s lost decade, millions of us held that there was indeed an alternative. Now we have the proof.
- Meanwhile, Sharon Murphy discusses the growth of inequality in Canada as a result of deliberate policy choices favouring the wealthy over the rest of us.

- Lindsey Rose Bullinger and Kerri Raissian study how a higher minimum wage reduces the incidence of child neglect. And Dawn Foster highlights how precarious and low-paying jobs increase stress and create health problems.

- Emily Mathieu offers a look at Toronto through the eyes of some of its homeless residents.

- Finally, Jeremy Nuttall discusses the alt-right problem of Canadian conservatives who have nurtured a movement of hate. And Tabatha Southey rightly asks why it took so long for politicians to acknowledge and denounce it.

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