Saturday, June 10, 2017

On selective sacrifice

Brad Wall's definition of shared sacrifice:

Public service workers are expected to do their jobs plus more to cover for a hiring freeze, while also getting hit with a 3.5% pay cut.

At the same time, specially-selected Saskatchewan Party MLAs get handed new titles without any accompanying work, plus $3,000 free to go with it.

Somehow this looks familiar as Wall's corporate cronies take large tax breaks while people are asked to pay more. And in both cases, there's every reason for the public to put an end to the one-sided demands.

Saturday Afternoon Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Larry Elliott is optimistic that the UK's election result will lead to an end of destructive austerity. James Downie comments on the example Jeremy Corbyn's campaign provides for progressives in the U.S. (and elsewhere). And Karl Nerenberg writes about the importance of youth turnout in boosting Labour's fortunes.

- But Polly Toynbee offers a reminder as to how a first-past-the-post electoral system prevents voters' interests from translating fully into government decision-making.

- Gareth Hutchins reports on a new study showing that in Australia like in many other countries, any economic growth has been more than skimmed off the top by a well-connected few. And Jordan Brennan offers this chart on the similar effect in Ontario:

- Lana Payne discusses how a $15 minimum wage (and a living wage generally) would change workers' lives for the better. Meagan Gilmore highlights how unions are leading the way in pursuing domestic violence leave to ensure that work demands don't trap people in abusive relationships. And Nora Loreto points out the importance of building social movements in order bring about political change.

- Finally, Ed Finn writes that the business lobby's knee-jerk anti-government position misses the vital role of a strong public sector in building a functional economy and society:
The public and private sectors have become so interdependent that one cannot be attacked or diminished without hurting the other. Public expenditures often stimulate private sector activities. Many industries could not get started or keep going without government services and infrastructure. And of course governments need a robust economy to boost employment and generate the revenue they need to provide social services.

Public funds spent on making workers healthier and better educated provide the private sector with a more efficient work force. Public funds spent on roads, airports, and other utilities are essential to the operation of private industry.
That's the absurdity of the neoliberal assault on the public sector. Somehow more private industrial development is supposed to flow from less public education and research. More private X-ray machines, MRIs, and other hardware is supposed to be made for fewer public hospitals. More private cars and trucks are supposed to be driven on fewer public highways. A smaller public police force is supposed to guard larger private fortunes.

What is more likely to happen -- and what in fact has happened in recent years -- is that restraints on growth in the public sector cause overall national production to be slowed down, rather than causing a shift in growth from the public to the private sector.

You would think that, by this time, our political leaders would realize just how illogical, inequitable, and impracticable this self-defeating business dogma really is. Instead, they submissively continue to aid and abet the corporate kingpins in their deranged attacks on the public sector and public employees.

As long as this ignorance of public and private sector interdependence prevails, so will the cancers of social and economic deprivation, inequality, poverty, deregulation, privatization, crumbling infrastructure, and environmental degradation.

Friday, June 09, 2017

Musical interlude

CHVRCHES - Now is Not The Time

Friday Afternoon Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Owen Jones writes that UK Labour's bold and progressive platform was crucial to its improved electoral results. Bhaksar Sunkara rightly sees Labour's campaign - in both its firm defence of the common good, and its determination to reach young and marginalized voters rather than assuming they won't turn out - as a blueprint to be copied elsewhere. And Charlie Smith suggests that the federal NDP in particular should look to follow in Labour's footsteps.

- Daniel Tencer reports on Evelyn Forget's estimate of the cost of a basic income at a reasonable $15 billion per year nationally. And Rosana Salvaterra writes about the health benefits of a stable and secure income for everybody. But Jared Knoll interviews Armine Yalnizyan about the opportunity costs of a basic income as opposed to other policy options aimed at equalizing access to actual goods and services, rather than income alone.

- Meanwhile, Donald Hirsch discusses the reemergence of living wage as a widely recognized policy goal. And Michael McKnight highlights the value of Vancouver's living wage as a step toward reducing poverty and inequality.

- Bernie Sanders offers a look (PDF) at how Donald Trump's privatized infrastructure plan figures to enrich Wall Street at the expense of the American public. And Pedro Nicolaci da Costa reports that many other U.S. Democrats are offering the same necessary critique - signalling that the Justin Trudeau Libs' copycat Canadian version is taking them far past the level of corporatism of a party which is itself subject to valid criticism as driven too much by appeasing the financial sector.

- Finally, Andrew Nikiforuk laments Trudeau's decision to facilitate years of avoidable methane pollution.

Thursday, June 08, 2017

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Christopher Hoy reminds us that as much as people are already outraged by inequality, we tend to underestimate its severity. And Faiza Shaheen writes about the dangers of unchecked inequality which erodes social bonds.

- Meanwhile, Andrea Hopkins discusses how Canadians are taking significant financial risks in borrowing against home values in order to paper over a continued lack of wage gains.

- Daniel Leblanc and Steven Chase report on the Libs' plans to burn tens of billions of dollars on military equipment in the name of "hard power". And Marie-Danielle Smith reports on Justin Trudeau's preference to leave nuclear threats in place rather than lifting a finger toward disarmament.

- But Chase and Robert Fife note that even as they try to push an every-country-for-itself defence policy, the Libs are simultaneously greasing the skids for Chinese capital to take over a sensitive satellite communication network.

- Julie Know reports on the provincial auditor's criticism of the Saskatchewan Party's continued refusal to regulate pipelines. And D.C. Fraser points out that privatized health services predictably haven't led to any promised reduction in wait times.

- Finally, Julia Belluz comments on the unfairness of fee-for-service medicine, with a particular focus on price gouging in U.S. emergency rooms.

New column day

Here, on how the UK's general election should remind us that we're not beholden to establishment voices (whether in the media or within a party) in deciding who's fit to lead us.

For further reading...
- I've already pointed out John Harris and Gary Younge have written about the rise of Jeremy Corbyn's Labour Party, along with Michal Rozworski's take on the prospect of meaningfully democratizing an economy.
- Joseph Stiglitz argues that Labour's most important promise is to put an end to decades of destructive austerity.
- And finally, George Monbiot writes that Corbyn has offered the type of hope which he and other voters have never seen before.

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Leadership 2017 Links

The latest from the federal NDP's leadership campaign...

- Charlie Angus has made his pitch for a national pharmacare program as one way of reducing health care inequality.

- Guy Caron's proposal for tax reform features plenty of progressive ideas to bring in more public revenue, including through inheritance and wealth taxes. And his subsequent announcement that electoral reform will be his top priority in the next Parliament offers some needed hope for progressives who have seen the Libs break their promise yet again.

- Niki Ashton's announcement that she's expecting has attracted plenty of attention - but it's particularly worth noting (as Monique Scotti does) how it highlights the need for more parent-friendly systems both in our political system and in general.

- Jagmeet Singh's first policy proposal focuses on more fair treatment for workers under federal jurisdiction. (And yes, Kevin Milligan, they exist.)

- Jeremy Nuttall interviews Ibrahim Bruno El-Khoury about his campaign so far.

- Finally, Murray Dobbin characterizes the difference between Singh and Niki Ashton as being a clash between style and substance - though Singh seems to be working on eliminating any gap on the latter point. Rick Salutin suggests that the NDP should be looking to Bernie Sanders as an example of left populism, while seeing Angus as the best candidate on that front. And Tom Parkin examines some of the challenges and opportunities the NDP faces in Quebec.

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Dennis Howlett comments on the distortions in Canada's tax system which redistribute money upward to those who need it least:
It’s time for Mr. Morneau to deliver a comprehensive and comprehensible tax strategy that will work in 2017 and beyond because, currently, tax breaks for the richest 10 per cent amount to almost $58 billion.

That includes the nearly $1 billion a year lost to the stock option loophole that Liberals promised — and failed — to ditch after pressure from CEOs and their lobbyists. Corporate tax loopholes cost another $23 billion.

That’s $80 billion not working the way it is supposed to. That’s over $80 billion the government is giving to the very richest, making them richer.

That $80 billion could provide affordable child care, free university tuition, clean water to First Nations reserves. It could kickstart a pharmacare program, address child and seniors’ poverty, boost international development funding and allow us to invest in affordable housing and clean energy.
Imagine how much more robust our communities and democracy would be if we spent that money wisely.

Imagine how much more competitive we could be if emerging Canadian companies were on the same playing field as those that currently use tax haven subsidiaries to avoid paying their fair share.

Money talks. Many Canadians might not appreciate the message they’re getting from this preferential tax treatment.
- Meanwhile, Richard Shillington and Robin Shaban offer the strongest critique yet of the Fraser Institute's torqued "tax freedom day" spin, while also noting that our tax rates are already on the low end within the OECD. And PressProgress wonders whether Canada's media will finally apply at least some scrutiny to anti-tax spin rather than reproducing it uncritically.

- Norman Farrell comments on the scandal that is the B.C. Libs' use of power contracts to systematically enrich donors at public expense. And Chrystia Freeland's announcement that the federal Libs will be delivering billions to the military-industrial complex after breaking promises of social investment signals that Justin Trudeau too is focused mostly on further entrenching existing wealth.

- Peter Prontzos reviews Keith Payne's The Broken Ladder as a useful discussion of the relationship between economic inequality and social problems. And Andre Picard comments on Canada's continued failure to provide anything approaching a reasonable standard of living and health to Indigenous children. 

- Finally, Stephen Tweedale sets out the case as to why Christy Clark shouldn't be able to force British Columbia into another election after the one which elected a majority of MLAs for change. And David Climenhaga reveals how the Wildrose Party is telling its members they can ignore political financing laws based on a plan to change them retroactively for partisan benefit.

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Coiled cats.

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- John Harris discusses the appeal of Jeremy Corbyn's tendency toward genuine conversation rather than soundbites. And Gary Younge notes that the pundit class' dismissal of Corbyn has proven to say a lot more about their faulty assumptions than about the prospects of progressive politics:
The economic crash and the austerity that followed caused a tectonic shift in our political culture; what people wanted from a centre-left party changed. But the received wisdom about electability did not. Its high priests kept insisting elections are won in the centre, without any apparent understanding that the centre can move and, in times of extreme polarisation, disappear. The pragmatists turned dogmatic; the modernisers became conservative.

But the principal problem with the notion of electability is that it is promoted on the premise that what has not been tried cannot possibly succeed. It suggests the way people see the world at any given moment cannot be changed through argument and activism and instead erects borders for what is permissible discussion and polices them determinedly. Those who dream outside those borders are utopian; those who speak outside them are fools.

The trouble is that in times of crisis, like this, the cost of thinking outside those borders becomes lower for many than the price of living within them. While received wisdom comes with no receipt, it’s always the same people who pick up the tab. A candidate who has connected domestic terrorism and foreign wars and argued for the redistribution of wealth to shore up public services has been surging. This, we were told, was not possible. It’s why, for the first time in a long time, a significant number of people are excited about an election.

We don’t know if his party will win. We will find that out on Thursday. The only way to truly know if something is electable is to fight for it and vote for it.
- Meanwhile, Steve Thrasher argues that if we face any real threat to free speech, it's the violent reaction of reactionary elements against the prospect that women and people of colour could seek to exercise it. And CBC reports on how Regina Mayor Michael Fougere and two City Councillors are seeking to stifle civil disobedience. 

- Crawford Kilian makes the case to put terrorism in perspective as an extremely small factor compared to many other causes of avoidable harm. Which makes for a needed contrast against John Ivison, who seems outraged that anybody would look behind "but terrorism!" as an excuse for an expansive and unaccountable security state.

- Finally, Jordan Press reveals how the Libs' infrastructure bank plan is intended to include having the public bear the risk of projects even as private financiers take any profits.

Monday, June 05, 2017

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Michal Rozworski highlights how UK Labour's platform provides for a needed move toward the democratization of economic activity along with an end to gratuitous austerity. And a distinguished group of economists has signed on to support the plan.

- Charlie Skelton examines how this year's Bilderberg conference is making a mockery of issues of inclusion and fairness. And Scott Sinclair and Stuart Trew point out why there's no reason to think a free trade deal between a capital-focused Justin Trudeau and an authoritarian Chinese regime will do anything but serve corporate interests at the expense of the public.

- Meanwhile, G. Elijah Dann comments that Trudeau's legacy looks to be one of empty political theatre.

- Dean Beeby reports on the Canada Revenue Agency's calculation that the federal government lost $13.6 billion in uncollected domestic revenue in 2014 alone.

- Finally, Murray Mandryk writes that the Wall government's decision to shut down the Saskatchewan Transportation Company (among other budget cuts) looks to have caused a sea change in rural support. And the fact that the Saskatchewan Party is more focused on trying to justify continued cash-for-access fund-raisin than doing anything to benefit Saskatchewan's citizens figures to make it all the more difficult to reverse that trend.

Sunday, June 04, 2017

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Armine Yalnizyan writes that a $15 minimum wage is ultimately good for businesses as well as for people:
When higher income households see wage gains, some of it goes to savings. Additional consumption also often flows to vacations and luxury goods, often imported. In other words a non-trivial part leaks out of the local economy.

When lower income households see a sustained rise in incomes, they spend virtually all of it. Most goes to food (more nutritious food or eating out), better health care and more education. Sometimes it also goes to rent (moving to a better neighbourhood). Almost all of this spending stays in the local economy.

So boost the minimum wage and you boost the economy from the bottom up.
- Jessica Carpinone highlights how an employer can thrive while paying employees a reasonable minimum wage. And Geoff Dembicki discusses how extreme high-end retailers are raking in money compared to other businesses due to the growth of income inequality in Canada.

- Cindy Blackstock asks rhetorically why the Libs continue to discriminate against Indigenous children rather than making any effort to comply with their human rights obligations. And Kristy Kirkup reports on Charlie Angus' justified criticism of a government which is happy to spend money to deny equality, but unwilling to direct resources toward achieving it.

- Kelly Toughill exposes how the same Trudeau Lib government which is still dragging its heels on even looking at meaningful amendments to Bill C-51 wasted no time at all imposing a new and information-sharing program to make personal information about Canadians available to other countries.

- Finally, Aaron Wherry writes that while the Libs may have tried to leave any talk of electoral reform in the past, plenty of Canadians still want to see a more fair voting system - and provinces and municipalities may soon be leading the way.