Saturday, September 16, 2017

Leadership 2017 Links

The latest from the federal NDP's leadership campaign as tomorrow's showcases approach - and as members begin to fill out their ballots.

- The Star's editorial board has been meeting with the candidates, resulting in articles about Niki Ashton's determination that the NDP not be outflanked by Liberal rhetoric on the left and Guy Caron's pitch as the candidate who can win in Quebec, as well as Martin Regg Cohn's column arguing that Jagmeet Singh stands above his fellow candidates. Canadaland is interviewing the candidates, beginning with Guy Caron. Andrew Autio reports on Charlie Angus' take on the campaign so far and his position as voting begins. And Joanna Smith discusses Jagmeet Singh's familiarity with racism (and the need to respond with grace and purpose).

- Caron has released his nation-to-nation platform for reconciliation with Indigenous peoples. And the Star's editorial board offers its support for decriminalizing drug possession as mentioned by Singh - though it neglects to note that both Ashton and Caron also expressed interest in the idea.

- Eric Grenier follows up on the significance of the endorsements made so far, while Campbell Clark picks up on Angus' surprising lack of support within the current caucus. Angus did add a potentially significant endorsement from Libby Davies as one of the NDP's most-admired voices from the left.  And Joel-Denis Bellavance reports on Alexandre Boulerice's decision to stay neutral - which is particularly interesting based on the view of one of the NDP's most prominent Quebec MPs that any of the candidates can succeed in his home province.

- Maura Forrest reports on a glitch which saw some members receive more than one ballot.

- Christo Aivalis offers his review of all of the candidates, while Alex Ballingall offers profiles from the Star.

- Finally, Ballingall discusses how the leadership candidates fit into the NDP's overarching goals as a party, while Jeremy Appel offers his take as to the impact of each candidate on the 2019 campaign. And Dennis Gruending highlights how the leadership campaign will affect Canada's broader political scene.

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Phillip Inman reports on a new UN study (PDF) showing that the inequality caused by austerity results in particular harm to women who are forced to take on more unpaid labour.

- David Sloan Wilson interviews Sigrun Aasland about the mix and balance of public and private development that has led to Norway's combination of wealth and wellness. And David Suzuki discusses the importance of identifying and applying better indicators of progress than GDP alone.

- But Adair Turner worries that we've come to accept a distorted and dangerous economic model (with debt taking the place of shared prosperity) as our new normal. And Sheila Block examines how the 1% is pulling away from the rest of Canada.

- Meanwhile, Justin Ling reports on the Cons' deliberate plan to further distort public discussion about tax policy by misleading Canadians about the effect of closing high-end loopholes. And Lana Payne comments on the importance of following through on the commitment to develop a more fair and progressive tax system.

- Brent Patterson points out how the Libs' talk about changing NAFTA's dispute resolution mechanisms serves little useful purpose.

- Finally, Steven Chase reports on polling showing a strong majority of Canadians opposed to the sale of weapons to Saudi Arabia.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Musical interlude

Watchmen - Say Something

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Leslie McCall and Jennifer Richeson offer another look at what happens when Americans are properly informed about the level of inequality in their country:
What effect did this information have? First, more respondents came to believe that “coming from a wealthy family” and “having well educated parents” were essential or very important to “getting ahead” (43 percent, compared with 27 percent among those who did not get the information).

Conversely, fewer respondents who saw information about inequality said that individual factors, such as “having ambition” and “hard work,” were essential or very important (81 percent vs. 90 percent).

In short, being told about rising inequality made Americans a bit less likely to believe that economic success was about individual effort and much more likely to think it was about luck.

Information about rising inequality also changed people’s views of economic policy. In particular, we asked separate questions about whether “the government ought to reduce the income gap between the rich and the poor” and “major companies ought to reduce the pay gap between employees with high pay and those with low pay.” Respondents could answer on a scale of 1 to 7, ranging from strong opposition to strong support. Among the people who read about inequality, 53 percent indicated some degree of support for government efforts to reduce the income gap, compared with 43 percent among those who did not read about inequality. Similarly, people became more likely to support efforts by major companies to reduce pay gaps (58 percent vs. 51 percent).
(I)nforming Americans about the extent of economic inequality, or simply making the issue salient, can change attitudes about economic opportunity by foregrounding the role of luck in getting ahead — and that in turn tends to increase support for policies designed to reduce inequality. For this reason, the instinct to focus on economic opportunity instead of inequality seems misplaced. In the minds of Americans, the two can be linked quite readily.
- Matt Bruenig examines who is poor in the U.S. and why - with the lack of an adequate welfare state serving as the overwhelming cause of poverty. Luke Williams writes about the connection between low incomes, precarious work and suicide. And Leslie Young notes that Canada's latest census shows 1.2 million children living below the poverty line, while Roderick Benns offers a look at poverty in action while asking why we continue to put up with it.

- Mark Suzman reviews how greater financial equality for women leads to overall economic and social progress. And Lizzie Buchan reports on a push by UK unions to punish employers for perpetuating pay inequity.

- Michael Harris warns Justin Trudeau and his entourage that they are supposed to be accountable public servants, not royalty to be catered to at public expense. And Stephen Maher writes that Dean Del Mastro is now in jail due in large part to his bringing political hubris to his defence for election law violations.

- Finally, Brent Patterson points out how Trudeau is falling short on his promises to rebuild Canada's environmental regulatory structure. And Helena Bottemiller Evich discusses how soaring greenhouse gas emissions are making our food less healthy.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Andrew Jackson, Tavia Grant et al, Kate McInturff and Trish Hennessy each look at Statistics Canada's new income data which shows worsening inequality and persistent poverty over the past decade.

- Jordan Brennan offers a needed response to a Financial Accountability Office of Ontario report which is being torqued to attack a fair minimum wage. And Alia Karim talks to Malka Paracha about the role organizing around wages has played in fighting prejudice in Ontario workplaces.

- The Star's editorial board discusses the need for legislation to protect temporary workers from systemic abuses.

- Charles Smith writes about the dangers of mixing big money with politics. And Alex Soloducha reports on the lack of both competence and ethics from the Saskatchewan Party government bought and paid for largely by the corporate sector, as the Global Transportation Hub has turned into a money sink as well as a scandal. 

- Finally, Bill McKibben writes that it's far too late to talk about catastrophic climate change as a hypothetical threat rather than a current reality. And George Monbiot writes that Hurricane Irma should leave no doubt that unfettered capitalism is the problem, not part of the solution.

New column day

Here, on how the Libs' weakness in closing even modest loopholes is allowing tax entitlement to win out over tax fairness.

For further reading...
- Justin Ling offers a useful look at the minor moves to rein in the abuse of private corporations in this year's budget. Konrad Yakabuski rightly argues that the entire fight is primarily over politics rather than revenue. And Susan Delacourt speculates that such a minor change affecting a small number of incorporated businesses will result in as much controversy as the GST.
- James Laxer discusses how the reaction to the Libs' proposed changes represents class warfare by the wealthy. And Don Pittis writes about the clash between the public's desire for a fair tax system, and entrenched interests looking to preserve their perks.
- For a reminder, David MacDonald studied Canada's unfair tax expenditures, including the billion-dollar stock option loophole. And Dennis Howlett lamented the Libs' decision to leave that wide open for exploitation.
- Finally, for examples of the type of revenue options on the table in the NDP's leadership campaign, Niki Ashton, Guy Caron and Jagmeet Singh have each proposed substantial revenue increases to fund needed social spending, while Charlie Angus' plan includes targeting corporate tax havens.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Ben Steverman examines the unfairness of the U.S.' tax system - which, like Canada's, offers gratuitous giveaways to wealthy investors which force workers to pay more:
Politicians have intentionally set tax rates on wages much higher than those on long-term investment returns. The U.S. has a progressive tax system in the sense that well-paid workers sacrifice much more than poor workers on their “ordinary income.” But Americans with so-called unearned income—qualified dividends and long-term capital gains—get a break. A billionaire investor can pay about the same marginal rate as a $40,000-a-year worker, a fact Warren Buffett has famously lamented.
There’s a big flaw, though, in the argument that lower taxes on the rich stimulate longer-term investment, and thus jobs, famously labeled as “trickle-down economics.” While tax rates might affect the timing of some investor decisions in the medium term, it’s much harder to see how they affect long-term behavior. No matter the tax rate, investors ultimately look for opportunities to get richer.

“There is little empirical evidence showing that taxing investors less stimulates savings and growth,” said Emmanuel Saez, an economist at the University of California at Berkeley.

Supply-side economists disagree, and can point to tax cuts in the 1980s that seemed to spur the U.S. and U.K. economies. But there’s little evidence of a relationship between economic growth and investment taxes over the long term.
- Annette Alstadsæter, Niels Johannesen and Gabriel Zucman connect (PDF) the wealth hidden away in tax havens to its national sources - and then to develop a more accurate estimate of top-end wealth which has been siphoned off. And the Equality Trust offers a set of policy proposals for Labour to reduce inequality in the UK - with both regional imbalances and social ownership among the key economic priorities.

- Meanwhile, Brent Patterson examines how the oil industry - with the assistance of Lib insiders - is trying to limit public regulation of pipelines through NAFTA.

- Kevin Quigley notes that while a trial of the conductor involved in the Lac-Mégantic rail explosion will offer some testing of the causes of the disaster, more important systemic issues are going unaddressed in the absence of a broader inquiry.

- Finally, Don Pittis examines the social benefits of post-secondary education which are being lost in an effort to extract money from students. And Erika Shaker points out that Statistics Canada is making it more difficult to compare tuition across provinces.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Interactive cats.

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Penney Kome raises the question of who will be responsible for the damage wrought by climate change. And Trish Audette-Longo reports that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is set to start examining how human behaviour contributes to, and is affected by, a changing climate.

- But Adam Klesfeld notes that the IMF looks to be enforcing about the least fair assignment of responsibility possible by squeezing Barbuda at a time when it faces the need to rebuild from Hurricane Irma. And Jonathan Ford discusses how privatized water infrastructure in the UK seems aimed at little more than extracting money from citizens.

- Stephen Gordon points out how a lack of awareness as to how privileged Canada's upper middle class is contributes to an unduly narrow public discourse, while Heather Mallick notes that more progressive taxes on the wealthy are generally a political winner as well as desirable public policy. Paul Willcocks discusses how easily-exploited loopholes make it impossible to develop a fair tax system. And the Canadian Labour Congress applauds the Libs' first step in dealing with a few particularly glaring ones - while pointing out the need to go much further, including by keeping their promise to end the stock option loophole.

- Meanwhile, Shannon Rohan and Kevin Thomas write that the business lobby which is attacking a fair minimum wage is missing the forest for the trees in arguing against wages which can support a stronger economy.

- Aruna Dhara writes that Canada can learn from Australia's example in establish a national pharmacare plan.

- Finally, Roderick Benns interviews Gary Bloch about the value of a basic income in overcoming both structural barriers to access to income, and stereotypes which result in poverty being seen as acceptable.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Monday Morning Links

Assorted content to start your week.

- George Monbiot offers his suggestion for a new political narrative to build a better world than the one currently dominated by neoliberalism:
(B)y coming together to revive community life we, the heroes of this story, can break the vicious circle. Through invoking our capacity for togetherness and belonging, we can rediscover the central facts of our humanity: our altruism and mutual aid. By reviving community, built around the places in which we live, and by anchoring ourselves, our politics and parts of our economy in the life of this community, we can restore the best aspects of our nature.

Where there is atomisation, we will create a thriving civic life. Where there is alienation, we will forge a new sense of belonging: to neighbours, neighbourhood and society. Community projects will proliferate into a vibrant participatory culture. New social enterprises will strengthen our sense of attachment and ownership.

Where we find ourselves crushed between market and state, we will develop a new economics that treats both people and planet with respect. We will build it around a great, neglected economic sphere: the commons. Local resources will be owned and managed by communities, ensuring that wealth is widely shared. Using common riches to fund universal benefits will supplement state provision, granting everyone security and resilience.

Where we are ignored and exploited, we will revive democracy and retrieve politics from those who have captured it. New methods and rules for elections will ensure that every vote counts and financial power can never vanquish political power. Representative democracy will be reinforced by participatory democracy that allows us to refine our political choices. Decision-making will be returned to the smallest political units that can discharge it.

The strong, embedded cultures we develop will be robust enough to accommodate social diversity of all kinds: a diversity of people, of origins, of life experiences, of ideas and ways of living. We will no longer need to fear people who differ from ourselves; we will have the strength and confidence to reject attempts to channel hatred towards them.

Through restoring community, renewing civic life and claiming our place in the world, we build a society in which our extraordinary nature – our altruism, empathy and deep connection – is released. A kinder world stimulates and normalises our kinder values. I propose a name for this story: the Politics of Belonging.
- Nazrin Mehdiyeva reviews Sonja Zmerli and Tom W G van der Meer's Handbook on Political Trust as an important contribution to the questions of how citizens see their governments - and what can be done to rebuild the trust which once allowed for necessary collective action.

- Gerard Di Trollo discusses the importance of basing opposition to free trade deals on their favouritism toward corporations on both sides, rather than on discrimination against the citizens of other countries. And Scott Sinclair comments on the prospect that NAFTA could bad "right to work" anti-labour laws, while Steven Greenhouse offers a U.S. perspective on Canada's request to that effect.

- Finally, Shree Paradkar talks to Robyn Maynard about her book shining a light on Canada's history of racial violence (and highlighting the emptiness in trying to claim virtue in not being as bad as the U.S.).

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Leadership 2017 Candidate Rankings - September 10

No, there isn't any change in this week's rankings compare to last week's positioning. But I'll post nonetheless to discuss how the candidates performed in today's debate, and how that looks to set up the balance of the campaign.

1. Jagmeet Singh (1)

While some different metrics continue to point in various directions, all candidates seem to be operating based on the premise that Singh is ahead of the pack at this point. And today, he was able both to respond to other candidates' challenges when they arose, and to find some useful contrasts against Charlie Angus as the strongest apparent competitor. (Most notably, a stronger position on harm reduction and decriminalization than Angus was willing to offer may help Singh to win down-ballot support.)

The one possible misfire on Singh's part was a closing statement oriented solely toward identifying target regions - which seems unlikely to be new to anybody already leaning his way, while raising more questions than answers with voters looking for a core message based on principle rather than political calculation.

2. Charlie Angus (2)

That makes for a particularly unhelpful contrast in light of Angus' closing statement, which capped an effective overall performance with a strong message about his motivations and values.

Angus carried out an ideal strategy for a second-place contender looking to both extend the campaign by challenging the front-runner, and ensure that he doesn't get overtaken from behind. And in particular, conciliatory themes toward both Guy Caron and Niki Ashton may help to limit the prospect that they or their supporters will decide to reject both frontrunners.

3. Guy Caron (3)

Once again, the main basis for my ranking between the remaining two candidates is Caron's room for growth on later ballots. There 's at least a foreseeable path to victory based on the other candidates' apparent bases of support if Caron is perceived as the most progressive remaining option to Ashton voters choosing among the other three candidates, then the more grassroots-friendly option to Angus supporters on a final ballot against Singh.

4. Niki Ashton (4)

Finally, the key late-campaign problems for Ashton are minimal public growth at a point when all of the other candidates can claim substantially more public momentum, and the lack of a clear path to appeal for final-ballot support against either Singh or Angus. And while I'd still consider her a relative favourite to claim third place on the first ballot, it's looking more plausible that Caron may be able to pass her on that front.

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Janine Jackson interviews Sarah Anderson about the lack of any public return on massive U.S. corporate tax breaks. And Greg Jericho discusses a new IMF study finding the same result for high-end tax cuts in developed economies generally, as giveaways to the rich fall short of promises of paying for themselves while harming public well-being.

- Monia Mazigh comments about the infiltration of our public policy by a neoliberal ethos. And Yves Engler discusses how the fight against fair taxes on professional corporations can be traced back to a historical push by far too many doctors to treat medical care as a matter of profits rather than public interests.

- Mariana Mazzucato suggests that the elites using Caribbean islands as tax havens should foot the bill for their reconstruction in the wake of the ongoing series of hurricanes. And Peter Frumhoff and Myles Allen discuss how to quantify the specific harm major corporations have inflicted on our climate.

- Meanwhile, Ed Pilkington writes about the divide between rich and poor Miami residents in responding to impending disaster, while Elizabeth Renzetti discusses how a crisis can expose and exacerbate existing inequality. And Kiley Kroh reports that some Florida Republicans are finally asking why their party's national leaders have so recklessly contributed to climate change while doing nothing to prepare for it.

- Finally, Gerry Georgatos argues that Australia needs to move beyond mourning to take action against a suicide epidemic among Indigenous people - a lesson which applies with equal force in Canada.