Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Roderick Benns interviews Ryan Meili about the value of a basic income in freeing people from perpetual financial stress. And Doug Cameron reminds us that we have a choice whether to show empathy toward people facing homelessness - even if far too many forces try to push us to do otherwise.

- Kadhim Shubber reports on the utter failure of the UK's attempt to privatize adult training and apprenticeships, as the corporation which received hundreds of millions of pounds of public funding ignored massive chunks of its responsibilities, then tried to suppress the evidence. And Kristin Rushowski examines an analysis of Ontario education funding which shows that grants to poorer areas are far more than outweighed by the push to rely on fund-raising in wealthier ones.

- Meanwhile, Tanara Yelland responds to Galen Weston's attempt to suppress the wages of low-income workers in order to pad his own multi-billion-dollar accumulation of wealth. And Zohra Jamasi and Michal Rozworski expose the most glaring errors and omissions from the Ontario corporate lobby's attempt to silence advocates of a fair minimum wage.

- Paul Willcocks explores what John Horgan will need to do to restore any semblance of a functional environmental regulator in British Columbia. And Sharon Lerner documents the appalling risks foisted on poorer U.S. communities through corporate environmental racism.

 - Finally, Geoff Dembicki writes that Canada's tar sands are set to become non-viable within a generation no matter what happens with pipelines or environmental regulations - making it an utter waste of public money to try to prop them up. And Don Pittis writes that Brad Wall and his ilk need to take responsibility for foolishly blowing the proceeds of a resource boom when the bust cycle is never far away.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Floored cats.

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Asher Schechter examines new studies showing how massive markups are enriching corporations at the expense of workers:
The two standard explanations for why labor’s share of output has fallen by 10 percent over the past 30 years are globalization (American workers are losing out to their counterparts in places like China and India) and automation (American workers are losing out to robots). Last year, however, a highly-cited Stigler Center paper by Simcha Barkai offered another explanation: an increase in markups. The capital share of GDP, which includes what companies spend on equipment like robots, is also declining, he found. What has gone up, significantly, is the profit share, with profits rising more than sixfold: from 2.2 percent of GDP in 1984 to 15.7 percent in 2014. This, Barkai argued, is the result of higher markups, with the trend being more pronounced in industries that experienced large increases in concentration. 

A new paper by Jan De Loecker (of KU Leuven and Princeton University) and Jan Eeckhout (of the Barcelona Graduate School of Economics UPF and University College London) echoes these results, arguing that the decline of both the labor and capital shares, as well as the decline in low-skilled wages and other economic trends, have been aided by a significant increase in markups and market power.
De Loecker and Eeckhout find that between 1950 and 1980, markups were more or less stable at around 20 percent above marginal cost, and even slightly decreased from 1960 onward. Since 1980, however, markups have increased significantly: on average, firms charged 67 percent over marginal cost in 2014, compared with 18 percent in 1980.
Markup increases, De Loecker and Eeckhout find, became more pronounced following the 2000 and 2008 recessions. Curiously, they find that economy-wide it is mainly smaller firms that have the higher markups, which according to De Loecker is indicative of widely different characteristics between various industries. Within narrowly defined industries, however, the standard prediction holds: firms with larger market shares have higher markups as well. “Most of the action happens within industries, where we see the big guys getting bigger and their markups increase,” De Loecker explains. 
- Hadrian Mertins-Kirkwood and Stuart Trew rightly question the Libs' attempt to paint platitudes and corporate giveaways as a progressive trade agenda as they sit down to renegotiate NAFTA. And David Climenhaga notes that John Horgan may be nothing but pleased with threats from Alberta Conservatives to remove British Columbia from the corporate-driven New West Partnership.

- Muhammad Hamid Zaman comments on the importance of reliable and complete data to shape public policy choices in the health sector (and elsewhere).

- Meanwhile, Andrew Seaman reports on new research suggesting that poverty can manifest itself in arterial buildup even in young children. And Jordan Press discusses the link between foster care and youth homelessness.

- Katie Hyslop highlights the importance of preparing children to bring a critical eye to manipulative media. But Tom Pride notes that the UK Cons have other ideas - instead encouraging parents to teach children not to share (and to value their property over all else) to avoid even the slightest hint of social responsibility.

- Finally, Denise Balkissoon rightly points out the problem with a white supremacist and anti-social movement built around the preservation of undeserved privilege.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Angella MacEwen and Cole Eisen challenge Galen Weston's laughable claim that he and his multi-billion-dollar empire can't afford to pay something closer to a living wage. And Jared Bernstein and Ben Spielberg connect the U.S.' growing inequality to policy choices which have facilitated the accumulation of extreme wealth.

- Meanwhile, the BBC reports on a study showing the close connection between childhood geography and university attendance in the UK.

- Patrick Smith discusses the revolving door between prison and homelessness - including the reality of people reoffending in order to secure services not available to them outside of prison walls. And Brendan Kennedy examines Canada's heavy-handed immigration detention system which locks detainees up indefinitely for little apparent reason.

- Finally, Doug Cuthand writes that Brad Wall's time in office has been marked by a lack of progress in reconciliation between Saskatchewan and First Nations.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Leadership 2017 Candidate Rankings - August 13

As I noted here, there have been a number of key developments in the NDP's leadership campaign since last week's rankings. And two in particular have changed my impression as to the relative likelihood of success for the top two candidates, I'll assemble a new set of rankings for this week - while noting that the membership numbers available after Thursday's deadline will likely give us a far better idea where the campaign is headed.

1. Charlie Angus (2)

Angus takes the lead this week for two reasons.

First, the latest Mainstreet poll shows him breaking away from the pack among at its subset of self-identified NDP members. And however much uncertainty there is in trying to assess whether a pollster is reaching the right people, it's certainly worth noting the relative change showing Angus increasing both his percentage support and his lead within a pool that's been polled before.

And second, his broad set of labour endorsements looks significant in a couple of ways. The perception that Angus is the preferred candidate for well-known labour voices may sway a few more voters into his camp early. But perhaps more importantly, but it also offers Angus some validation as a down-ballot option for Ashton and Caron supporters with labour roots.

2. Jagmeet Singh (1)

To be clear, though, there are limitations to how much we can take from any one poll. And while Mainstreet's results contribute to the swap of positions between Angus and Singh, I'd see it as a severe overreaction to put too much stock in Singh's relative placement compared to the other candidates.

That said, this week's membership totals will give us a much better indication whether Singh has assembled enough new supporters to justify the media attention his campaign has been able to secure, or whether we should be taking a much closer look at the prospect of an Angus-Ashton final ballot.

3. Niki Ashton (3)

Meanwhile, the poll results - combined with a lack of other new developments - do serve to lock in the relative positioning of Ashton and Caron for the moment. And while Ashton's campaign figures to be making a strong membership push of its own, it may soon need to reorient itself toward laying the groundwork to build support between ballots.

4. Guy Caron (4)

Finally, Caron remains a credible contender if he can get over the first hurdle of staying on the ballot. And given the importance of building first-choice support among existing members, I'd expect him to push particularly hard to win over Quebec MPs - including those who formerly supported Peter Julian - to persuade current members to decide based on their impressions as to the NDP's prospects in his home province.

Update: Tom Parkin reaches a similar conclusion as to the relative positioning of Angus and Singh, while also discussing the state of the campaign as the membership deadline approaches.

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Jerry Dias writes that corporate greed is the common thread in numerous stories about Canadian workers being left without jobs or support. And Yves Engler points out that trade agreements have ultimately served little purpose but to entrench corporate power.

- Chris Doucouliagos reminds us that inequality is ultimately bad for everybody - no matter how hard the wealthy fight to preserve it in the false expectation of personal gain. And Denis Campbell discusses how austerity has exacerbated disparities in life expectancy in the UK.

- Juan Carlos Rivillas and Fabian Dario Colonia discuss the importance of the social determinants of health in ensuring (or limiting) health inequalities. And Kelly Hodgins discusses how false assumptions about low-income people results in a lack of access to healthy food.

- Tom Gunton sets out a few lessons from the failure of the B.C. Libs' LNG scheme. And Lindsay Kines reports on the Horgan NDP government's needed move to question the Libs' reliance on corporate-funded consultants make decisions on environmental assessments.

- Finally, Tom McIntosh offers a reminder that Brad Wall's departure merely confirms that he's led his party to a point where it can't defend its own actions while in office.