Saturday, June 17, 2017

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Danny Dorling sets out how a more equal society leads to benefits for everybody. And Annie Lowrey discusses Richard Reeves' take on the separation between the top 20% of the income spectrum and the rest of the U.S. - particularly in preventing social mobility.

- Meagan Gilmore points out how the Libs' sad excuse for a child care plan falls short of the principles of universality and accessibility which would actually result in a fair start for children across Canada. And Peter Whitaker writes about Bill Morneau's plans to further erode workers' retirement security by attacking their pensions.

- Raisa Deber raises the broad question of what we should be funding through our public health care system, while Amy Corderoy looks at Australia's similar issues with medical care being treated increasingly as a profit centre rather than a matter of social justice. The CP reports on the needless prescription drug costs we're paying due largely to a failure to adequately regulate or negotiate drug prices. And Jason Chung and Kelvin Ian Afrashtehfar highlight the consequences of dental care being unaffordable for many Canadians - including the development of more serious problems due to a lack of access to preventative care.

- Ipsos examines the generally positive view Canadians have of the concept of a basic income. And Insights West surveys the public's impressions of professions - with business and political professions ranking well toward the bottom.

- Finally, Samuel Hyman comments on the need to call out tax evasion for the socially-destructive activity it is, rather than burying it in euphemisms and excuses. But Marco Chown Oved reports that the Libs are backtracking on their past promises to start coming clean about how tax havens are used to siphon money away from Canada's public purse.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Musical interlude

Queens of the Stone Age - The Way You Used to Do

Friday Afternoon Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Wanda Wyporska writes about the scandal of growing inequality and the separation of the ultra-rich from the rest of society. And Richard Reeves calls for the people with the most wealth and privilege to stop denying the advantages they enjoy compared to the vast majority of people.

- Meanwhile, Amy Minsky reports on the continued stagnation of Canadian wages - which have now been mostly stalled for a period of 40 years.

- Edwin Heathcote notes that the tragic Grenfell Tower fire provides a prime example of the dangers of thoughtless deregulation, while TLE points out that Labour's attempt to push for safer housing just last year was rejected by Theresa May's Conservatives. And Nahlah Ayed reports on the role of classism and racism in devaluing the lives of people living in social housing.

- Andrew Scattergood points out how cuts to fire services in the name of austerity also put the public at risk.

- Finally, Mitchell Cohen discusses how social procurement can ensure that corporate wealth turns into benefits for the community at large.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

New column day

Here, on the current state of the federal NDP's leadership race - and how the potential outcomes would figure to affect Canada's broader political scene.

For further reading...
- L. Ian MacDonald discusses how the NDP's campaign (unlike the Conservatives') is actually offering meaningful debate and choices. 
- Eric Grenier takes a look at what we know about the state of the race so far - though the unknowns looks to dominate the picture for the moment.
- Finally, Dan Hancox examines how UK Labour's movement politics helped to radically reshape the existing electoral map. And Colin Horgan wonders whether the UK's election signals an end to the perceived effectiveness of microtargeted ads as a means of winning over voters.

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Sarah O'Connor examines the inconsistent relationship between job quantity and quality as another example of how it's misleading to think of policy choices solely in terms of the number of jobs generated. Angela Monaghan discusses how wages continue to stagnate in the UK despite a low unemployment rate. And Patrick Butler writes about the "relentless financial tightrope" which keeps far too many households from ever avoiding the stress of imminent ruin:
Low-income families are going without beds, cookers, meals, new clothes and other essential items as they struggle to cope with huge debts run up to pay domestic bills, according to a survey highlighting the cost-of-living crisis experienced by the UK’s poorest households.

Clients of the debt charity Christians Against Poverty (CAP) had run up an average of £4,500 in debts on rent or utility bills, forcing them on to what the charity described as a “relentless financial tightrope” juggling repayments and basic living costs, leaving many acutely stressed and in deteriorating health.

The pressure of coping with low income and debt frequently triggered mental illness or exacerbated existing conditions, with more than a third of clients reporting that they had considered suicide and three-quarters visiting a GP for debt-related problems. More than half were subsequently prescribed medication or therapy.
There are widespread concerns about rising pressure on living standards for low-income households as wages fall, working-age social security benefits remain frozen and inflation rises. The survey’s findings indicate that households are increasingly turning to high-cost credit to stay afloat, which CAP said was “an unsustainable solution”.

Nearly seven out of 10 clients helped by CAP in 2016 had fallen behind with payments for gas, electricity and rent, and 90% had taken out loans, run up overdrafts or used credit cards to meet domestic bills. There was a year-on-year increase in the proportion of clients using credit cards stay afloat, from 49% to 64%.

Damon Gibbons, director of the Centre for Responsible Credit, said: “Once again this report lays bare the human costs associated with debt problems. Debt affects health, including mental health; contributes to relationship breakdown; makes it harder to get back into and sustain employment, and has a host of negative impacts for children.

“With the continuing squeeze on household incomes and the failure of the Financial Conduct Authority to curb irresponsible lending resulting in greater indebtedness, we desperately need a national strategy to raise wages, restore the welfare safety net and provide better debt solutions.”
- G. Elijah Dann implores Canadians not to be taken in by Justin Trudeau's public relations schemes when they're being used in support of Trumpian policy. And Bob Baldwin and Richard Shillington examine how the Libs' retirement income changes may do nothing - or even be outright damaging - for low-income earners in particular.

- Brent Patterson highlights how the Libs are insisting on including corporate-biased dispute resolution provisions in trade deals even as our trading partners seek more balanced options. And Dean Beeby reports on Canada's role in facilitating tax evasion through lax disclosure requirements, while Canadians for Tax Fairness highlights how the federal government is rewarding tax haven users with public contracts.

- Meanwhile, Michael Hiltzik examines the role of tax cheating in exacerbating inequality. Annette Alstadsæter, Niels Johannesen and Gabriel Zucman discuss how global inequality is even worse than has previously been assumed once hidden wealth is included in the picture. And Robert E. Litan and Ian Hathaway comment on the U.S.' growing tendency toward rent-seeking rather than productive entrepreneurship.

- Finally, Andrew Sheng writes that our political and social systems have failed to keep up with an increasingly complex world.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Ellie Mae O'Hagan writes about Jeremy Corbyn's much-needed work in addressing the loss of hope by young people in the UK:
For the first time in a good few years, I’ve stopped worrying about money. I can imagine living somewhere nice without having to move to another country. I feel less worried about my parents, who could now be cared for by a properly funded NHS as they get older. I have hope that we may start taking climate change seriously, and people my age and younger won’t be left scooping out buckets of murky water from our living rooms every year. I may finally stop being a member of a sprawling precariat without sick pay, holiday entitlement or job security. It’s amazing to think my parents took those things for granted, and only now do I realise how low my expectations have been.

I know these things won’t happen overnight – maybe they won’t happen at all – but finally there is the possibility of them. Hoping for a better world doesn’t feel like a cruel and futile process any more. It feels rational; it feels like something we deserve.

Last night, when I was out celebrating, I met a 25-year-old woman who was in a two-year unpaid internship and still living with her parents. I spoke to a man in his 30s who said he felt like he was still living like a student. Is it any wonder that the surge for Labour was driven by people under 45? This demographic doesn’t care that Jeremy Corbyn doesn’t look like a conventional politician (they like it), or about things he did before they were even born. They just want the constant tension that pervades their lives – the tension that comes with having virtually no financial security – to be lifted.
- Meanwhile, Amy Traub highlights the widespread U.S. wage theft which transfers massive amounts of money from the workers who make the least to the corporations who already have the most. And Erik Loomis points out how the Trump administration is going out of its way to make work as hazardous as possible.

- The B.C. Health Coalition points out a new survey on the spread of private clinics and extra billing in Canada's health care system. And Andre Picard weighs in on the longstanding failure to deal with double-dipping and other practices which lead to both unfairness and poor results for patients.

- Marc-Andre Cossette reports on the Libs' painfully small first step toward child care funding.

- Finally, the Star's editorial board calls out the Trudeau Libs for their miserly attitude toward foreign aid.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Couched cats.

Tuesday Afternoon Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Martin Lukacs contrasts Justin Trudeau's hype machine against the genuine hope offered by Jeremy Corbyn, while Paul Mason sees the election result as just a first battle against the UK's ruling elite. And Thomas Walkom discusses how left populism is the real winner of the UK's general election, while Jonathan Hopkin points out how austerity and inequality can lead to all kinds of unpredictable results.

- Meanwhile, SaskForward reminds us that Saskatchewan has a choice whether to put up with Brad Wall's preference for austerity and service cuts:

- And Eugene Robinson offers the latest update on how Kansas' corporatist tax-slashing blueprint (which Brad Wall remains determined to follow) has led to nothing but ruin.

- Chuck Collins discusses the increasing amount of wealth being hidden away from governments and public responsibility. But the EU is rightly cracking down on professionals who contribute to tax dodging - in stark contrast to how the Trudeau Libs have dealt with those whose firms contribute to offshoring.

- Finally, Nicole Williams tells the story of Lize Keenan, who soon stands to be homeless in P.E.I. due to a lack of affordable housing - even as investment in new units could provide both economic and social benefits.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- The Star offers some lessons from the UK's election, including the powerful appeal of unabashed social democratic policy. Aditya Chakrabortty discusses how Jeremy Corbyn has changed his country's politics for a long time to come. And Gary Younge observes that the gains achieved by Corbyn and Labour represent a victory for hope where voters had previously been told for far too long not to expect anything to get better.

- Meanwhile, Murray Dobbin slams the Trudeau Libs for turning a mandate from voters seeking a more progressive government into a plan to ramp up spending on war.

- Doug Cuthand argues that it's long past time for Canada's federal government to start living up to Jordan's Principle and ensuring fair supports are available for Indigenous children. And the Current discusses how childhood trauma creates health repercussions which last a lifetime.

- Kathy Tomlinson and Justine Hunter follow up on the flagrant flouting of the Canada Health Act with an expression of outrage from Jane Philpott, coupled with a claim that the federal government is powerless. But lest anybody think this is somehow a new issue which the Libs can be excused for not having recognized, it was a refusal to deal with exactly the same problem *12 years ago* which contributed to the fall of their previous government.

- Finally, Suzanne Goldenberg writes about the massive amount of food which goes wasted even as far too many people face food insecurity.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

On comparative advantages

In the federal NDP's previous leadership campaign, Tom Mulcair managed to release numerous policy proposals without offering any hint of what he'd do as leader.

Starting from the (correct) assumption that a frontrunner could likely find his way to victory simply by minimizing controversy, Mulcair released policy planks which were based almost entirely on the NDP's previous election platform.

That left little for his opponents to criticize: any direct questions about Mulcair's plans could be attacked as critiques of Jack Layton's judgment. But it also offered little information for voters who genuinely wanted to know about Mulcair's own judgment and priorities. 

This time around, there was some question as to whether Jagmeet Singh would similarly try to neutralize policy as a basis for decision rather than offering any distinctive vision. But to Singh's credit, he's making a strong effort to drive policy debate both within the NDP and in the broader political scene - most recently by releasing an income security agenda built around three guarantees.

But if Singh's latest proposal offers a valuable basis for discussion and debate, it also highlights the distinction between Singh's plans and the more ambitious ones on offer in the leadership campaign.

In particular, Singh's plans fall well short of Guy Caron's in two key ways.

First, Singh's limited guarantees leave open the implied statement that many people don't deserve a secure living, including for reasons beyond their control.

It's fair to say that nobody working full-time should live in poverty, nor any senior or person living with a disability. And Singh's plan addresses those specific circumstances.

But Caron has already offered up the much stronger - yet to my mind, also more defensible - statement that nobody should live in poverty.

In effect, Singh's plan makes the debate about poverty one which seeks to redraw the lines as to who receives support - while relying on an underlying assumption that some people aren't deserving of income security. That figures only to help other parties looking to persuade voters that income supports shouldn't be extended at all, while also offering reason for hope to far less people than Caron's. 

And even if one assumed it's better to leave some out-group on the wrong side of an anti-poverty policy, it's far from clear that Singh has drawn the line in the right place.

In particular, a wage tax benefit wouldn't seem to offer support to people who can't find traditional work due to economic or personal circumstances - meaning that the people most excluded from work opportunities might continue to be left out.

Second, Singh plans to roll more of the existing social safety net into his plan, leaving less additional supports available where they're needed based on individual circumstances.

While Caron's plan would overtake only the Guaranteed Income Supplement among existing seniors' supports, Singh's would usurp the place of several more. And Singh also explicitly plans to roll the existing Working Income Tax Benefit into his plan.

Lest there be any doubt, Singh's combined plan for improved income supports would still make for a major improvement on the status quo. And it's for the best that he's managing to get the media talking about egalitarian messages even if his policy doesn't fully give effect to them.

But it also does reflect some meaningful differences in principle and policy compared to what other candidates have put forward. And Singh will need to justify his more limited proposals in order to win over voters looking for a leader who can win on principle.

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- David MacDonald discusses the need to start tackling some of Canada's most expensive and least justifiable tax handouts to the rich:
The richest 10 per cent of Canadians enjoy an average of $20,500 a year in tax exemptions, credits, and other loopholes. That’s $6,000 more than in 1992 and it costs the federal government $58 billion—double what it paid in tax expenditures in 1992.

The cost to the federal government for all preferential personal income tax treatments, not just for the rich, has ballooned from $90 billion in 1992 to a projected $152 billion in 2018. That’s a 69 per cent cost increase since 1992.
This is about taking a clear-eyed look at how Ottawa has been prioritizing tax expenditures that disproportionately benefit a few at the expense of the many.

Meanwhile, government after government puts off making proper investments to ensure clean water and decent housing on Aboriginal reserves as well as delaying bold action on poverty reduction and homelessness.

In some Canadian cities, some working families are paying the equivalent of a second monthly mortgage just to get their children in child care.

Millennials are being asked to pay record-high tuition in order to get a university degree, only to graduate with record-high student debt and limited work opportunities.

The case for closing tax loopholes, shutting down tax credits and exemptions tilted heavily in favour of the rich and corporate Canada is really about diverting that money to pay for programs and services that benefit everyone—even the rich and corporations, because they benefit from a healthy, well-functioning society.
- Meanwhile, Benjamin Locke points out that Donald Trump's plan to favour the rich over the public includes his refusal to sign on to international efforts to combat tax evasion.

- Kathy Tomlinson exposes the widespread double-billing practices which make Canada's health care system far less universal than it's supposed to be. And Theresa Boyle reports on how medical care is influenced by secret payments from the big pharma to Canada's doctors.

- Ian Mulgrew points out that anti-SLAPP legislation is just one of the progressive steps forward British Columbia can expect once a Green-supported NDP government has a chance to get to work.

- Finally, Alex Boutilier reports on CSIS' illegal retention of all the metadata about people not under investigation which it collected without authority for a period of a decade.