Saturday, November 25, 2017

Saturday Morning Links

This and that for your weekend reading.

- David Climenhaga comments on the tendency of even progressive governments to unduly accept neoliberal frames and theories - with Rachel Notley's talk of "compassionate belt tightening" sadly serving as the latest example:
Premier Notley told reporters that her government spent money on infrastructure and services during the recession caused by the international collapse in oil prices, but now that the economy seems to be perking up at last, it's time to alter course.

This seems to make sense in a classic John Maynard Keynes, Economics 101, sort of way -- you know, spend in bad times, save in good. A couple of things are wrong with this explanation, however:

First, it's too soon. The recession isn't over. Spending is still needed to keep the economy off life support.

Second, and more important in the Alberta context, taxes here are artificially kept at nonsensically low levels -- too low to run a modern economy in a jurisdiction of this size and complexity -- because we refuse to tax individuals and corporations at a level that makes sense.

Everybody understands this. Certainly Notley does, as does her caucus. NDP supporters do too.
If ever there was a discredited economic doctrine, it's the harsh austerity, privatization, deregulation, government spending cuts, and lowest-common-denominator trade policies of the neoliberal counter-revolution that has sought to destroy the post-World War II welfare state, which resulted in the highest levels of prosperity in human history, and turn the clock back to the 19th Century.

And yet here we go again -- led by an NDP government no less -- down the rabbit hole of neoliberal prescriptions, which never work, always make things worse, and sow chaos and destruction for ordinary people while undermining democracy by making the uber-wealthy richer and more powerful.

It's a tribute to the success of the international neoliberal propaganda machine, I suppose, that doing the sensible thing and implementing modest increases to Alberta's taxes is simply not on, even for a well-intentioned social democratic government.
Alas, the modest common-sense tax increases Alberta needed from the NDP never came. Instead, the best we can hope for now is compassionate austerity, which when it doesn't work, risks becoming the conservative entrĂ©e to something harsher, and even less effective.
- And the Equality Trust offers its response to yet another UK budget which inflicts austerity rather than ameliorating inequality.

- Noah Smith writes about the crucial role of social redistribution in ensuring the prosperity is shared beyond the luckiest few. And Judy Paul writes that a basic income could go much further in allowing people to make positive life choices like finishing high school as adults, rather than being trapped by the need to scratch out subsistence-level incomes.

- Finally, Steven Greenhouse discusses the need for better scheduling protections for U.S. workers - and the developing movement to fight for them.

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