Sunday, October 22, 2017

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Richard Hill wonders whether neoliberalism is approaching its end, while noting the dangers of allowing progressive themes to be used to prop up elitist power structures. And Heather Boushey interviews Kimberly Clausing about the opportunity to raise revenue and reduce inequality by properly taxing corporations, while Marshall Steinbaum points out the connection between unfair taxes and increasing inequality of wealth and power:
(T)he point of conservative tax ideology was never to make the economy work better — it was to provide the pretext for a self-serving agenda that lets corporate shareholders (and the executives they deputize — very often, from among their number) milk the economy dry. And that’s exactly what will happen if Congress passes the current proposal to cut the corporate tax rate, “territorialize” the system to permanently exempt overseas profits, “repatriate” past overseas profits tax-free, and set a maximum rate for pass-through income.
Two nonsense economic assumptions will play a role in resolving this political dilemma. First, Republican dogma holds that cutting the corporate tax rate will cause so much economic growth that a boom in federal revenue will make up for the tax cut. Second, Republicans claim that the current corporate tax burden is ultimately borne by workers in the form of lower wages, so cutting it will actually increase wages, substantially benefitting those who rely on their labor to make a living. No serious researcher believes either of these claims, but that isn’t the point: the purpose is to give marginal votes in Congress a set of motivated economic analyses to latch onto, or just to kick up enough dust around technical issues of debt and distribution that those members can take refuge in the controversy, throw up their hands, and vote with the party.

It’s tremendously cynical — but then, so is the entirety of right-wing policymaking over the last forty years. That doesn’t mean it won’t work.
The larger point is that this decades-long assault on progressive taxes has a logic to it: the Right wants to destroy progressive taxation because it works.

It was originally enacted to tame the excesses of wealth and power that dominated the economy in the Gilded Age. The point was not to raise money, nor even, really, to shift the burden of taxation towards those better able to shoulder it (though the latter played a role). Rather, it was to fundamentally alter the distribution of power in society.
Part of the Right’s success was the removal of tax policy to elitist, technocratic grounds, where its capacity to act as a check on the accumulation of private power is entirely ignored. Even now, the broad left largely overlooks tax policy in favor of universal public programs for health and higher education — crucially important economic rights (and the haul brought in by progressive taxation will be instrumental to bringing about their reality); but the tax part of the picture should not be an afterthought. It must be a full and equal partner. We must use it to show the Left’s natural constituency the kind of world it wants to live in — one in which oppressive power is vastly curtailed.
- Sarah Turner reports that the Commonwealth Bank of Australia is recognizing the unsustainable decoupling of economic growth and wages. And the Economist examines the continued wage gap between men and women - with the absence of available child care looming as the most important culprit.

- Megan Stanley points out the combination of stagnant wages and soaring rents which is squeezing workers out of housing in the U.S. And Amy Smart notes that B.C.'s NDP government is closing a loophole which has been used to evict tenants and drive up rents.

- Ashifa Kassam is the latest to highlight how the lack of prescription drug coverage is the glaring omission in Canada's universal health care system. And Lesley Russell discusses Australia's experience with two-tiered care as an example which nobody should want to follow - as the public system is being starved to force people to overpay for private care.

- Finally, George Monbiot argues that the precipitous drop in insect populations may be the most dangerous environmental development of all.

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