Saturday, December 02, 2017

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Toby Sanger discusses how the Trudeau Libs' obsession with privatized infrastructure only stands to put control over public services in the hands of corporate predators:
Corporations are sitting on hundreds of billions of excess cash in Canada and trillions worldwide — money they aren’t putting into productive investments. So corporations and other investors (including pension funds) desperately want to achieve higher returns. But economic growth is slow (because wage increases are so low and profits so high), which leads to fewer private-sector investment opportunities. So corporations are now turning to the cannibalization of public-sector assets and infrastructure through public-private partnerships or other forms of privatization, including the new infrastructure bank.

The great attraction of these public infrastructure investments for private finance is that high returns are effectively guaranteed for decades through ongoing government payments, and/or through tolls and other user fees. Most forms of public infrastructure involve some form of natural monopoly. This allows private owners to exploit them for monopoly profits — which is why they were established as public assets in the first place!

In another sordid twist, the briefing notes and presentation about the bank that were prepared for delivery by Trudeau and his ministers at a session for foreign investors were developed in conjunction with Blackrock officials, as Globe and Mail reporter Bill Curry revealed, using documents obtained through access to information. In effect, the Liberal government turned over the design and development of this bank to the very people who will profit most from it: the largest private sector and pension investment funds in the world.
Numerous critics have outlined major problems with the proposed bank
  • it will lead to massive privatization of public infrastructure;
  • projects will cost much more, so Canadians will get less bang for their buck;
  • projects will require significant increases in user fees, which will restrict access, and punish middle and lower-income earners;
  • there will be little transparency and public accountability required of the bank and its projects or for its use of public funds. Information will be kept secret and will not be subject to the more stringent transparency and accountability rules that govern public projects, while those who disclose information could be subject to fines and jail time;
  • the bank is restricted from having any representation on the board from the federal or any other governments, which means the bank will be controlled by private-sector interests, even though the legislation claims it will act in the public interest.
It is important to resist each privatization proposal and expose each project for who it will benefit and who it will hurt, but ultimately the pressure to privatize and cannibalize the public sector won’t abate until we achieve a more profound shift of power from concentrated private capital to a much more equitable economic order.
- Meanwhile, Rick Smith highlights the importance of modernizing our social programs to fit an economy in which workers are treated as disposable. And PressProgress examines how some of the same businesses extracting more profits than they know what to do with are simultaneously underfunding the pensions they've promised their workers.

- Miriam Katawazi reports on the persistent and widespread gender pay gap in Canada. And while the Star's editorial board hopes that transparency will make a difference, it's well worth noting that mere awareness of the gap has done little to reduce it in the absence of meaningful policy steps.

- Paul Krugman writes about the fundamental dishonesty behind the Republicans' looting of the U.S.' 99%. But on the bright side, Dogwood notes that British Columbia's NDP/Green majority has ended the type of disproportionate donor influence which has polluted American politics.

- Finally, Tabatha Southey comments on the reactionary right's false assumption that media outlets (and people in general) are as uninformed as its audience.

[Edit: fixed typo.]

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