Thursday, September 21, 2017

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Phillip Inman and Jill Treanor write about the debt time bomb facing UK households. Jim Edwards discusses how widespread underemployment has become the norm in the UK - making unemployment alone a misleading indicator as to workers' well-being. And Owen Jones highlights how those developments are the result of deliberate policy choices by the governing Conservatives:
“Stand on your own two feet” has been a convenient rationale to redistribute wealth and power to the top, though. The individual earns money by their own efforts – a baseless myth – and therefore taxes on the rich should be slashed to reward hard effort. But it is a sincere belief among the Thatcherite true believers who designed our society that only by breaking collective bonds can the individual truly flourish, and an entrepreneurial economy be built.

That promise has never been fulfilled. Indeed, in the past five years, consumer debt has surged by nearly a fifth. That’s because we have an economic model that, even when it generates growth, is incapable of increasing living standards for millions of people. Instead, it actively breeds financial insecurity and forces millions to rely on credit.
The stripping away of secure jobs has had its impact, too, thanks to privatisation of utilities and deindustrialisation. The proliferation of zero-hours contracts, bogus self-employment and temporary and agency contracts increasingly defines modern work. This benefited employers, because casualised work is harder to unionise, and it means rights that workers once took for granted – such as a pension, or paid sick and maternity leave – can be stripped away. This is an intentional strategy by bosses, enabled by Thatcherite deregulation, and one New Labour failed to reverse. In 2009, the CBI – the bosses’ federation – called for the recession to be used to create a “flexiforce”, with a reduced core workforce and more casualised labour. And what does precarious employment mean? Sudden drops in income – and a consequent dependence on debt. The precariousness of work adds to the debt problem.
Over the past seven years, the still-hostile Tories have imposed real-terms cuts on in-work benefits, slashed disability benefits, and punished the victims of the housing crisis by taking the axe to housing benefit. The explosion of benefit sanctioning, where benefits can be stopped for the most arbitrary reasons, has left some without any money at all. Those on the receiving end have often been compelled to make up the shortfall by borrowing. A government that professes itself concerned about debt pushes poor people into it daily.
Thatcherism built our economic order on insecurity. Insecurity, we were told, was about setting the individual free. But since then we’ve learned much about insecurity, even if the Tories haven’t. It is oppressive. It leads to anxiety and stress. It forces would-be parents to delay having families. And, as we see, it saddles the individual with debt.
- Meanwhile, Chris Renwick details why a secure welfare state is more necessary now than it's ever been. And Dylan Matthews discusses new research from Mexico on the effects of a basic income - including a strong refutation of the complaint that a secure income will lead to inflation.

- Amy Wilson-Chapman charts how the wealthy around the world are hiding their cash from taxation. And Quito Maggi examines how Canada's tax system is becoming less progressive - both in the amount of revenue used for public purposes, and the source of the money collected.

- Finally, Jennifer Wells writes that limiting the use of income sprinkling is at least a small step forward toward tax fairness. But Luke Savage reminds us that the Trudeau Libs have allowed the wealthiest CEOs to avoid paying their fair share in taxes. And Jeremy Nuttall talks to Dennis Howlett about Canadians' fatigue with anti-tax rhetoric - particularly when it's being used to favour the people who already have the most.

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