Saturday, April 29, 2017

Leadership 2017 Links

The latest from the federal NDP's leadership campaign.

- Sid Ryan's endorsement of Niki Ashton both answers one of the more persistent questions as to possible additional entries into the race, and offers some helpful institutional support for Ashton's campaign.

- Mick Sweetman interviews each of the MPs in the race about their plans in general, and for Toronto in particular. And Charlie Angus discusses the need for Canadians to benefit more from the resources extracted from our country.

- Karl Belanger asks whether Pat Stogran fits the bill for an outsider candidate in the race, while Gloria Galloway examines how Stogran might change the course of the campaign.

- Finally, Tom Parkin discusses how the leadership campaign fits into a wider pattern of NDP momentum across Canada. And Murray Dobbin examines the NDP's role in movement-building rather than mere partisan interactions, while lamenting the lack of a stronger set of social movements today:
In this context it is interesting to watch the NDP leadership race to test for signs that the candidates understand what they are up against in rebuilding the party. Two of them, Niki Ashton and Peter Julian, have spoken of the importance of social movements in creating a newly robust progressive party...

The difficulty with this recognition of social movements is that it comes too late. The sad reality is that there are almost no social movements in Canada...

Simone Weil wrote that "[t]o be rooted is perhaps the most important and least recognized need of the human soul." The lesson here for the NDP leadership candidates genuinely open to "social movements" is the need to shift their attention inwards: a renewed NDP must itself become a movement rooted in community (like its predecessor, the CCF), going beyond a list of policies and pledging to help build a society which offers people meaning in their lives.
[Edit: fixed wording.]

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Gillian White highlights Peter Temin's work on poverty and inequality - including the standard which a person trapped in poverty needs to meet in order to have any meaningful hope of escaping:
Temin then divides workers into groups that can trace their family line in the U.S. back to before 1970 (when productivity growth began to outpace wage growth) and groups that immigrated later, and notes that race plays a pretty big role in how both groups fare in the American economy. “In the group that has been here longer, white Americans dominate both the FTE sector and the low-wage sector, while African Americans are located almost entirely in the low-wage sector,” he writes. “In the group of recent immigrants, Asians predominantly entered the FTE sector, while Latino immigrants joined African Americans in the low-wage sector.”

After divvying up workers like this (and perhaps he does so with too broad of strokes), Temin explains why there are such stark divisions between them. He focuses on how the construction of class and race, and racial prejudice, have created a system that keeps members of the lower classes precisely where they are. He writes that the upper class of FTE workers, who make up just one-fifth of the population, has strategically pushed for policies—such as relatively low minimum wages and business-friendly deregulation—to bolster the economic success of some groups and not others, largely along racial lines. “The choices made in the United States include keeping the low-wage sector quiet by mass incarceration, housing segregation and disenfranchisement,” Temin writes.

And how is one to move up from the lower group to the higher one? Education is key, Temin writes, but notes that this means plotting, starting in early childhood, a successful path to, and through, college. That’s a 16-year (or longer) plan that, as Temin compellingly observes, can be easily upended. For minorities especially, this means contending with the racially fraught trends Temin identifies earlier in his book, such as mass incarceration and institutional disinvestment in students, for example. Many cities, which house a disproportionate portion of the black (and increasingly, Latino) population, lack adequate funding for schools. And decrepit infrastructure and lackluster public transit can make it difficult for residents to get out of their communities to places with better educational or work opportunities. Temin argues that these impediments exist by design. 
- Vickiie Oliphant writes that inequality is looming as a major issue in Germany's upcoming election. And Justine Hunter notes that the growing gap between the privileged few and the general public is shaping British Columbia's provincial campaign.

- Meanwhile, the Tyee introduces readers to Christy Clark's club of lobbyists. And Emma Gilchrist points out how the fossil fuel sector has turned substantial donations to the B.C. Libs into massive public subsidies and policy favours.

- Mike Crawley writes about Ontario's limited introduction of pharmacare for young people, while Thomas Walkom points out the limitations of the Libs' hastily-assembled scheme. And Meagan Fitzpatrick discusses the hope that Ontario's first step will lead to a national pharmacare plan - though the more important analogy seems to be that just like Kathleen Wynne, Justin Trudeau will start implementing progressive policy if and only if he recognizes that it's his only hope of avoiding being overtaken by the NDP.

- Finally, Tammy Robert highlights the fact that the Saskatchewan Party's indignity being forced on people who die while on social assistance bears no resemblance to how governments across Canada handle the issue. And Scott Stelmaschuk reminds us about the federal tax implications of Brad Wall's plans to sell off chunks of Saskatchewan's Crown Corporations.

Musical interlude

Wild Strawberries - Everybody Loves you When You're Dead

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Thursday Afternoon Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Ben Kentish reports on the Equality Trust's research showing that the poorest 10% of the population in the UK actually pays a higher percentage of its income in taxes than the top 10%. Dominic Rushe, Ben Jacobs and Sabrina Siddiqui discuss how Donald Trump is going out of his way to ensure the same outcome in the U.S., while Neil Irwin highlights how Trump's tax plans could hardly be more thoroughly tailored toward further enriching himself. And Valerie Ouellet points out that an increasing number of high-income Canadians are managing to avoid paying any income tax.

- Deanna Ogle discusses the importance of a living wage in ensuring that people don't face impossible choices between necessities. And Jerry Dias views the B.C. NDP's plan for a $15 minimum wage as an example worth emulating across Canada.

- Michael Bryant and Graham Brown write that the criminalization of mental illness ends up locking people into cycles of incarceration due to what should be treated as health issues.

- Finally, Allan Moscovitch and Nick Falvo trace the history of child benefits in Canada.

New column day

Here, on the Libs' delayed climate change action as going beyond mere backloading of promises to outright destruction in the meantime.

For further reading...
- For just a few examples of the backloading in the Libs' budget, see the Northern View's interview with Nathan Cullen.
- The latest report to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change showing increased emissions until 2030 as the expected scenario for Canada is here (PDF), and reported on by Marie-Danielle Smith here.
- Margo McDiarmid reports here on the Libs' plan to delay methane emissions. And Brent Patterson discusses the impact of that delay here. (For reference, my calculation as to the number of cars the Libs are effectively putting on the road is based on Andrew Read's estimate of a 55 million tonne increase methane releases from that post, multiplied by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's estimate that methane has 86 times the impact of CO2 over a 20-year time frame, divided by the EPA's estimate (PDF) of 4.7 metric tonnes released by a vehicle annually.)
- Finally, the Star also weighs in on the problems with Justin Trudeau's broken promise of methane emission reductions. And Margo McDiarmid reports on the David Suzuki Foundation's revelations about the under-reporting of methane releases as matters stand now.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Wednesday Afternoon Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Christian Cooper discusses how poverty is like a disease in its effect on a person's mental and physical well-being. And Andre Picard highlights the reality that in order to address the damage done by centuries of systematic discrimination against Canada's indigenous people, we need to start making up the gap with ambition rather than hesitation.

- Meanwhile, the Guardian editorializes about the structural - and growing - inequities which are limiting opportunities for the younger generation in the UK.

- Alan Broadbent and Elizabeth McIsaac discuss the need for new labour and employment laws to establish enforceable standards, not mere aspirations. And Rachel Sanders points out that while every party in B.C.'s election campaign is talking about jobs, there's a drastic difference in the stability and desirability of the ones on offer.

- Pierre Fortin offers a thorough rebuttal to right-wing attacks against Quebec's universal child care system. And Alex Hemingway examines how British Columbia's government has been shrinking under the Clark Libs (along with the public services people should be able to expect), while Sarah Miller argues that B.C. voters should be far more concerned about a long-neglected social deficits than fiscal posturing.

- Finally, Murray Mandryk writes that about all that's left standing of Brad Wall's plans for the Global Transportation Hub are corporate giveaways and Saskatchewan Party scandals.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Coupled cats.

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Andre Picard talks to the Current about the need to start demanding more from our universal health care system, rather than being persuaded to put up with less. And Canadian Doctors for Medicare offers its support to the Ontario NDP's pharmacare plan, while Chris Selley writes that it looks to be a winner both in terms of policy and politics.

- Richard Lewontin points out that inequality is far from natural or inevitable - no matter how much pseudoscience is assembled to pretend otherwise.

- Meanwhile, Tara Garcia Mathewson reminds us that poverty results in entirely unnatural changes to the developing brain, while Dawn Foster recognizes its link to mental health issues. And in the wake of British Columbia's election campaign, Katie Hyslop rightly asks how anybody can trust a government to deal with poverty if it remains idle when it has money to burn.

- Kevin Carmichael discusses the risk of a Canadian financial crisis, most recently due to the lack of any meaningful policy response to real estate bubbles in Vancouver and Toronto. And Richard Florida highlights how progressive city planning is needed to avoid segregation by income.

- Finally, the Star calls for the federal government to reverse the Harper Cons' punitive policy on criminal pardons. 

Monday, April 24, 2017

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Paul Krugman notes that after promising to bring some outside perspective to politics, Donald Trump is instead offering only a warmed-over version of the Republicans' typical voodoo economics. And John Cassidy highlights how Trump's plan appears to be nothing more than to wage class warfare on behalf of the rich.

- Meanwhile, Phillip Inman offers a reminder as to one of the ways in which our economy is already rigged against workers, noting that the cost of child care in the UK in some cases forces families ot effectively pay to work.

- Geoff Leo exposes the terms of the Saskatchewan Party government's land deal with CP - which features the public giving away land for free even as it was overpaying to buy it through Sask Party donors.

- Jason Hammond lists a few of the lessons Elwin Hermanson and the rest of the Saskatchewan Party could learn if they visited a library rather than merely threatening to cut funding. And CKRM highlights the Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Association's recognition that the Sask Party's contempt for local government is unprecedented. 

- Finally, Duncan Cameron points out how Justin Trudeau has followed in Stephen Harper's footsteps with a top-down, PMO-controlled government. And Tom Parkin writes that Trudeau's model for the Senate is managing to prove even more regressive than Harper's version by imposing roadblocks to a government bill intended to facilitate union organization.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Nick Bunker points out that the worst of the U.S.' growing inequality since 2000 has come from the growing share of income going to capital concentrated in the .01%. And Lynn Parramore highlights Peter Temin's case that the U.S. is regressing into a developing country for the majority of residents:
America is not one country anymore. It is becoming two, each with vastly different resources, expectations, and fates.

In one of these countries live members of what Temin calls the “FTE sector” (named for finance, technology, and electronics, the industries which largely support its growth). These are the 20 percent of Americans who enjoy college educations, have good jobs, and sleep soundly knowing that they have not only enough money to meet life’s challenges, but also social networks to bolster their success. They grow up with parents who read books to them, tutors to help with homework, and plenty of stimulating things to do and places to go. They travel in planes and drive new cars. The citizens of this country see economic growth all around them and exciting possibilities for the future. They make plans, influence policies, and count themselves as lucky to be Americans.

The FTE citizens rarely visit the country where the other 80 percent of Americans live: the low-wage sector. Here, the world of possibility is shrinking, often dramatically. People are burdened with debt and anxious about their insecure jobs if they have a job at all. Many of them are getting sicker and dying younger than they used to. They get around by crumbling public transport and cars they have trouble paying for. Family life is uncertain here; people often don’t partner for the long-term even when they have children. If they go to college, they finance it by going heavily into debt. They are not thinking about the future; they are focused on surviving the present. The world in which they reside is very different from the one they were taught to believe in. While members of the first country act, these people are acted upon.
We’ve been digging ourselves into a hole for over forty years, but Temin says that we know how to stop digging. If we spent more on domestic rather than military activities, then the middle class would not vanish as quickly. The effects of technological change and globalization could be altered by political actions. We could restore and expand education, shifting resources from policies like mass incarceration to improving the human and social capital of all Americans. We could upgrade infrastructure, forgive mortgage and educational debt in the low-wage sector, reject the notion that private entities should replace democratic government in directing society, and focus on embracing an integrated American population. We could tax not only the income of the rich, but also their capital.
Along with Thomas Piketty, whose Capital in the Twenty-First Century examines historical and modern inequality, Temin’s book has provided a giant red flag, illustrating a trajectory that will continue to accelerate as long as the 20 percent in the FTE sector are permitted to operate a country within America’s borders solely for themselves at the expense of the majority. Without a robust middle class, America is not only reverting to developing-country status, it is increasingly ripe for serious social turmoil that has not been seen in generations.
- Meanwhile, Daniel Tencer discusses the spread of precarious work in Canada - along with the temp agencies and other actors who profit from it.

- Paul Wells examines the early development of the Libs' infrastructure bank, while pointing out the risk that infrastructure designed to facilitate profits rather than benefit the public will serve only to bring lower standards to public services. And Percy Downe discusses the need for political and organizational will to match new federal funding to combat overseas tax evasion.

- Tim Fontaine reports on the multiple social factors which contribute to illnesses for indigenous people both on and off reserve. And Joshua Tepper comments on the health challenges for people living in northern Ontario.

- Finally, Natalie Bennett comments on the role a more fair electoral system could play in ensuring stronger environmental policy in the UK - and the lesson applies equally to Canada.