Saturday, December 09, 2017

Saturday Afternoon Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Christopher Ingraham discusses the U.S.' distorted distribution of wealth - and how both existing inequality and the Republicans' plan to exacerbate it run contrary to the values of the general public:
Among rich nations, the United States stands out for the extent of its wealth inequality. The top 1 percent in the U.S. own a much larger share of the country's wealth than the 1 percent elsewhere. The American 1 percent gobble up twice as much pie (40 percent) as the 1 percent in France, the U.K., or Canada, and more than three times as much as the 1 percent in Finland.

This kind of extreme inequality is bad for the economy. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which represents a number of the world's richest countries including the United States, estimates that inequality has knocked nearly five percentage points off the economic growth in those countries between 2000 and 2015.

In high-inequality countries, people from poor households typically have less access to quality education. This leads to “large amounts of wasted potential and lower social mobility,” which directly harms economic growth, according to the OECD.

If you were designing a tax plan to reduce the extreme inequality in the United States, you'd probably try to find ways to redistribute some of the wealth from the richest households to the poorest ones. But the Senate GOP tax plan does precisely the opposite of that, according to the CBO: In the short term the richest households get the biggest tax cuts, while longer term the taxes of the poorest households actually increase.

Estate tax? Cut. Income tax rate for millionaires? Cut (at least in the Senate bill). Corporate tax rate? Biggest rate cut ever.

In the long term that probably means more of the pie for the super-rich, and less of it for everyone else.
- Noah Smith offers his suggestions as to how unions can start tilting the balance of power back toward workers, focusing on broader-based bargaining and increased direct service delivery. And Connor Wolf discusses how worker centers are already making a difference in shaping both workplaces and public policy.

- Michal Rozworski and Daniel Tseghay and Derrick O'Keefe each highlight why B.C. (among other jurisdictions) shouldn't be waiting to implement a more fair minimum wage. 

- Dean Baker makes the case for an economic system focused on forcing the rich to genuinely compete, rather than being able to rely on privileged treatment to retain and expand their wealth. And Meagan Day reminds us that class conflict is inevitable - such that the only effect of staying on the sidelines is to ensure that the upper class gets its way.

- Finally, Tim Harford discusses the dangers of "dark nudging" in the context of foreign interference in democratic politics. But it's worth noting as well how the principles behind "nudge" theory have also been adopted by the business sector to make it difficult to do anything but go along with corporate dominance and rent-seeking.

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