Saturday, March 31, 2018

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Lee Drutman points out that Donald Trump's presidency represents an entirely foreseeable result of a two-party, first-past-the-post electoral system:
(C)ontrary to claims that American political parties have to appeal broadly to win, they only need to win a quarter of the voting-age population to gain unified control of government in Washington, and their presidential nominee needs to win far less than that. Lest you think I’m picking on Republicans, the same was true (roughly) of Democrats in 2008.

Part of this is because unlike in Germany, where voter turnout hovers closer to 80 percent, American voter turnout is usually in the mid-50s in presidential elections, and closer to 40 percent in midterms (an international laggard). Many US voters don’t bother to vote because neither of the two parties appeals to them, or because they live in a safe state where their vote doesn’t matter, or because by comparative standards, there are significant hurdles to voting in the United States (such as more complicated registration, or voting being on a workday instead of on a weekend).

In short, there is nothing structural about a two-party system that guarantees moderate parties that have to appeal broadly.
In the debate about whether democracy is in decline in the West, there’s some important cross-national variance. In a response to the widely discussed democratic decline findings of Roberto Foa and Yascha Mounk, Pippa Norris compared support for democracy across Western democracies and found whatever cohort decline existed, it was largely limited to Anglo-American democracies, which tend toward two-party systems.

By contrast, in parliamentary democracies with proportional voting, there has been no consistent erosion in support for democracy. As Norris argues by way of explanation, “parliamentary democracies with PR elections and stable multiparty coalition governments, typical of the Nordic region, generate a broader consensus about welfare policies addressing inequality, exclusion, and social justice, and this avoids the adversarial winner-take-all divisive politics and social inequality more characteristic of majoritarian systems.”
- Joe Romm notes that any business case for fossil fuel power continues to crumble based on the decreasing cost of both solar and wind power, and the battery storage needed to use them most effectively.

- Ben Parfitt highlights the illegal building of 92 fracking dams in British Columbia - along with the province's disappointing response which seems limited trying to validate their construction.

- Susan Delacourt discusses the potentially large - but difficult-to-verify - role that big data plays in Canadian politics. And Colin Horgan offers an unnerving look at the type of personal information collected by Facebook and Google.

- Finally, Sandy Hudson comments on the unfair and racially-tinged burden the corporate press has placed on Jagmeet Singh (but not on his fellow federal leaders). But it's particularly worth noting - contrary to the spin being placed on Singh's leadership by other commentators - that Singh has the highest net public impression among the leaders of the official federal parties, and that the NDP is near the upper end of its typical polling range.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Musical interlude

Arty & Mat Zo - Rebound

Friday Afternoon Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Benjamin Austin, Edward Glaeser and Lawrence Summers make the case for economic policy focused on reducing regional disparities. And Chad Shearer and Isha Shah highlight how inclusion is a necessary element of sustainable economic development:
(B)etter performance on one measure [out of growth, prosperity and inclusion] is associated with better performance on the other two measures in all three time periods. Gains in one category, like growth, are typically accompanied by gains in others, like prosperity and inclusion, and vice versa. For example, Table 1 shows that over the one year from 2015 to 2016, each one-unit increase in metro areas’ composite growth score was associated with a nearly half-unit increase in composite prosperity scores, on average. This relationship is moderately strong: growth scores explain about one-quarter of the variance in prosperity scores. The magnitude and strength of this relationship is relatively consistent over each of the time periods.

Growth and prosperity’s relationship to inclusion, however, grows larger and stronger with time. Table 1 shows that over the one-year period, each one-unit increase in metro areas’ composite growth score was associated with less than a quarter-unit increase in their composite inclusion scores. This relationship is tenuous: composite growth scores explain just 8.9 percent of the variance in their inclusion scores over a year. But the magnitude and strength of this relationship are greater over the five-year period and even greater over 10 years. Prosperity and inclusion, similarly, show little relationship over a one-year period, but exhibit an even stronger relationship over 10 years than prosperity and growth.
(P)rogress on inclusion seems to stand out even despite the unevenness noted above. Of the 38 metro areas that achieved above-average performance on growth from 2006 to 2016, 28 also achieved above-average performance on inclusion. Twenty-five (25) of the 38 also performed above average on prosperity. Of the 45 metro areas that achieved above-average performance on prosperity during that period, 32 also achieved above-average performance on inclusion. Twenty-five (25) of the 45 also performed above average on growth.

This admittedly wonkish analysis thus points to a simple insight that should guide regional economic development efforts: although it may be elusive from year to year, in the long run, inclusion may provide the key to true economic success.
- Meanwhile, Naomi Jagoda and Niv Elis write that the Trump Republicans have realized they can't claim with a straight face that their tax scam helped anybody other than the wealthiest Americans.

- The Chicago Sun-Times examines the disastrous results of privatized custodial work in public schools. And the Canadian Press reports on the Parliamentary Budget Office's conclusion that the Trudeau Libs' capital-focused infrastructure scheme is already delivering far less than promised.

- Michelle Chen discusses how co-operatives are more productive than corporations designed solely to exploit workers and consumers in the name of shareholders.

- Finally, Doug Saunders rightly argues that the only speech crisis on campuses is the disproportionate attention being paid to people laughably claiming that their already-privileged positions should be granted even more deference.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Mitchell Thompson discusses the absurdity of setting up Canada's banks for collapses and bailouts, rather than ensuring they serve the public interest. And Colin Butler reports on CUPW's continued push for a postal banking option to provide better service to far more people and communities.

- Barry Saxifrage writes about the glaring gap between Canada's supposed greenhouse gas emission reduction targets, and the minimal policies actually in place. And Emily Pasiuk notes that Saskatchewan is the worst offender in lacking even a willingness to take the first step of setting meaningful targets.

- Meanwhile, Geoff Leo reports on Andrew Stevens' concerns that Scott Moe will leave Regina on the hook for the waste and scandal linked to the Global Transportation Hub after already exploiting the city for a la carte services.

- Nathan Laurie warns of Doug Ford's plans to send Ontario over a fiscal cliff. And Chris Selley points out that voters looking for an alternative would be best served voting for the Andrea Horwath's NDP rather than the party cynically copying its plans.

- Finally, the Globe and Mail wonders why the Trudeau Libs are dragging their feet on any improvements to Canada's electoral system - not to mention appointing somebody to oversee it.

New column day

Here, on Canada's failure to live up to our self-image as a generous and compassionate country - and the reality that we have plenty of fiscal capacity to close the gap.

For further reading...
- The abstract for the JAMA article referenced in the column is here, and has already been the subject of comment by Andre Picard.
- Meanwhile, PressProgress has weighed in on the OECD's latest data (PDF).
- Finally, the OECD's Society at a Glance reports - such as this one (PDF) - help place Canada's social outcomes in context.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Nathaniel Lewis laments the state of the U.S.' woefully insufficient social supports, while emphasizing the importance of public social spending in particular:
(P)rivate “social spending” is, for the most part, regressive and narrowly distributed. Households are bearing the cost directly for the goods and services that they themselves consume (like health care).

Public social spending is different. Often (though not always), it is a transfer of funds from the better-off to the worse-off. Think of a progressively funded, single-payer system. You get health insurance whether you have a job or not, and if you have a low-paying job, it will cost proportionally less than if you had a high-paying job.
There is a strong, direct relationship between public social spending and poverty reduction. This is even more impressive when you consider that “public social spending” does not automatically mean “progressive.”
...(P)ublic social spending does not just reduce poverty. It also creates a more equitable environment for society as a whole.
(I)t follows fairly obviously from the above that the US should be making large outlays on social welfare that it currently is not making. While other wealthy countries apparently view their inhabitants as part of a society with universal needs, the US largely leaves its people to fend for themselves.
- Elizabeth McIsaac writes that social assistance should be a key point of comparison for Ontario voters in this year's election. And David Pfrimmer points out that the federal Libs are again kicking the can down the road rather than putting any meaningful resources into fighting poverty.

- Meanwhile, Peter Martin reports on new research estimating the cost of Australia's tax giveaways to the rich at $68 billion per year. And Andrew Leigh notes that the current government's plan is only to make matters worse - even in the face of opposition from four out of five citizens.

- Marshall Steinbaum, Eric Harris Bernstein and John Sturm study (PDF) the economic and social harms resulting from corporate monopolies.

- Jia Tolentino highlights the perversity of a gig economy which treats the eradication of "life" from any attempt at work-life balance as a plus. 

- Finally, Ian Capstick offers a worthwhile read on the dangers of looking at politics solely through a partisan lens - particularly to the extent the result is to limit empathy toward political competitors.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Reaching cats.

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- James Wallace calls out the Ontario Libs' track record of consistent cuts to health care and other vital public services (with the exception of election-year promotional items). And Tom Parkin contrasts that pattern against Rachel Notley's protection of public services from the cuts threatened by her competitors.

- Meanwhile, Andre Picard writes about the need to deal with social inequalities in order to bring a long-overdue end to tuberculosis in Canada:
The rate of tuberculosis among the Inuit is 300 times higher than among Canadian-born non-Indigenous Canadians not because they are more susceptible to illness, but because they lack adequate housing, malnutrition is commonplace due to a lack of affordable food and scant employment opportunities mean too many families have trouble making ends meet.

Going forward, we cannot underestimate the size of the challenge. But the way to tackle public-health problems is with precise goals and concrete plans and, to its credit, Ottawa is taking that approach.
Dealing with chronic housing problems, punishingly high food prices and financial challenges in the part of Canada with the fastest-growing population is going to require much more money and visionary plans that extend well beyond tackling one disease by 2030.

TB is a symptom of social inequity. It is also an opportunity to demonstrate what reconciliation means in practical terms.

The litmus test for success will not be if the bacterium stops spreading, but whether the conditions that have allowed it to spread for so long disappear.
- Eryk Bagshaw highlights the tens of billions of dollars Australia loses every year by electing not to get full value for resource extraction.

- Finally, Laurin Liu examines the new wage gap facing young workers. And Gaby Hinsliff points out that organized labour and citizen activism is already shaping a gig economy which to date had done little but make work more precarious.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Vanessa Brcic offers some observations on the connection between poverty and health, including the importance of ensuring marginalized people are treated with respect:
The economic argument for poverty reduction is clear, but we see in health care what is more plainly obvious and compelling: the argument for human dignity. The deeply colonial, broken and inaccessible “poverty policing” that occurs in the current welfare and disability support systems have negative health impacts. Various papers and reports describe the impact of discriminatory systems, which for too long have perpetuated the shameful trend of labeling the poor and marginalized as undeserving. I invite anyone who believes that any person is undeserving of food, housing, or opportunity to thrive and contribute to contact me for a conversation: let’s talk.
A fair income program must not allow governments off the hook for, or take the place of, other universal programs that patients depend on for their health (pharmacare, primary care and mental health), for their families (child care, elder and caregiver support, and housing), and for belonging (community and cultural programs, and so much more). If we dare look beyond a four-year political term, these public programs are cost-saving and economy-boosting measures. Further progressive policy (such as fair taxation and increasing private sector accountability for social and environmental externalities) can also help with this.

Support for people marginalized by current policies of oppression and colonization must include person-to-person support. People must be seen, heard and respected. Systemic change—including essential public services and basic income support—must provide the foundation for this support so that people can live with dignity, rather than systemically endorsed shame and isolation.
- Nicole Mortarillo reports on new research showing that the Great Pacific Garbage Patch includes 16 times more plastic waste than previously known. And Graham Readfearn points out the World Health Organization's concerns about large amounts of plastic in tap and (especially) bottled water.

- Meanwhile, Julia Belluz reports on the U.S.' use of NAFTA to try to prevent Canada and Mexico from warning citizens about unhealthy food.

- Finally, Kate Aronoff writes about the difficulties advocates have faced in pursuing even first steps toward combating climate change in the U.S. And Robson Fletcher and Brooks DeCillia discuss how Jason Kenney and other right-wing politicians have muddied the waters on climate policy - and how the few measures they're occasionally willing to tolerate are particularly inefficient.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Musical interlude

Big Wreck - Come What May

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Owen Jones discusses the need for wealth taxes as part of any plan to meaningfully reduce economic inequality:
Much is made of income inequality, and rightly so. Labour’s 2017 manifesto, which proved the tombstone for a neoliberal political consensus that has prevailed for a generation, pledged modest rises in income tax for the top 5% and in corporation tax. Those proposals, while welcome, did not go far enough. On taxing wealth, there is a far greater lack of ambition. This may smack of a lack of gratitude: “Come back when you’ve written a manifesto that buried New Labour’s acquiescence to neoliberalism,” a Labour staffer could justifiably respond. But even if it was the most radical manifesto of my lifetime, that does not mean it was radical enough, given the multiple social crises confronting us. It was a start. Wealth inequality, after all, is about twice as great as income inequality. While wealth inequality fell in the decade following 1995, that trend has since shuffled into reverse. And, according to the Resolution Foundation, while wealth has more than doubled as a percentage of the economy since the 1980s, we still raise only 4% of our tax from it.
So what are the solutions? The first is a radical overhaul of property tax. When a mass movement of civil disobedience and protest in the early 1990s succeeded in defeating the poll tax – in which all households paid the same amount regardless of their economic circumstances – a new council tax came into force. Not only is council tax calculated on valuations that are now more than a quarter of a century out of date, but it is also profoundly regressive. According to the Resolution Foundation, in some areas it has become almost a flat rate, like the despised poll tax. Labour did, in fairness, pledge to review council tax and business rates and to consider a land value tax, but with no firmer commitment than that. The party needs to commit to either a land value tax or at least to an overhauled property tax – one levied as a percentage of current property values, for instance.

Then there’s inheritance tax. The inheritance tax paradox is that it is the most progressive and fair tax of all – arguably it is a tax on the class system – and yet is the most reviled, probably because it is hard to separate from the loss of a loved one. One suggestion floated by the Green party is to replace it with a levy on the recipient, rather than the deceased donor – that would make it harder to caricature the charge as a “death tax”. Portes goes further: why not replace inheritance tax with a principle that any money received from any source is treated as income unless it can be proven otherwise, whether it’s a £10,000 gift from a grandfather or £10,000 left in his will.

And then there’s capital gains tax: Labour promised to reverse Conservative cuts to it, but why not go even further? The IPPR’s commission floats other possible game changers, such as establishing a British sovereign wealth fund, much like Norway’s. One of the many tragedies of Thatcherism was the shameful waste of North Sea oil revenues as it built a fractured society, in contrast to the more prosperous and equal social-democratic Norway, where the state owns nearly 60% of wealth and 76% of non-household wealth. There’s also the proposal to give workers stronger shares in the ownership of companies, and the creation of workers’ ownership funds – as well as a monthly pay cheque employees would also get an annual dividend. We should go even further: why not an annual wealth tax on the top 2% or 5% of households?
...(I)f Labour wishes to enact a truly transformative programme it may have to raise wealth taxes on, say, the most affluent quarter of society. This is certainly fraught with political risk. Yet consider the challenges: a struggling NHS, public services under strain, an ageing population, a national housing crisis, creaking infrastructure. If a new Britain is to be built, Labour will surely have to be more ambitious.
- And Marc Lee argues that British Columbia's new tax on empty homes represents at least a step in the right direction. 

- Meanwhile, Emily Stewart examines how the Republicans' tax scam has served only to make inequality worse in the U.S.

- Meagan Day points out how a few private operators are making a killing abusing the needs of health care systems - including by exploiting their own supply failures to raise prices. And CBC reports that misguided attempts by past Alberta PC governments to outsource operations to Carillion have resulted in the province having to funnel money into a failed corporate entity to maintain basic infrastructure.

- Finally, Noah Smith highlights how non-compete agreements not only damage the bargaining power of the workers bound by them, but also undermine economic development generally. And Terry Gerstein rightly criticizes Donald Trump's plan to make sure that employers who get caught stealing wages  are no worse off for taking money out of the hands of their workers.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Dylan Walsh interviews Jeffrey Pfeffer about his book Dying for a Paycheck, and the ways in which employer demands make people worse off:
Has this connection always been there, or has there been an evolution in workplace culture that got us to this point?

I think the connection as just described has always been there, because the physiology and etiology of disease have not really changed. But I would say that with all the evidence I’ve encountered — and it’s not perfect evidence — I’ve seen nothing inconsistent with the statement that the workplace has generally gotten worse.

Job engagement, according to Gallup, is low. Distrust in management, according to the Edelman trust index, is high. Job satisfaction, according to the Conference Board, is low and has been in continual decline. The gig economy is growing, economic insecurity is growing, and wage growth overall has stagnated. Fewer people are covered by employer-sponsored health insurance than in the past, according to Kaiser Foundation surveys. And a strikingly high percentage of people, even those covered by insurance, say they forgo treatment and medications because of cost issues.

I look out at the workplace and I see stress, layoffs, longer hours, work-family conflict, enormous amounts of economic insecurity. I see a workplace that has become shockingly inhumane.
- Sarah Anderson and Sam Pizzigati take note of the movement building to ensure reasonable balance between the compensation handed to top executives, and the wages paid to workers generally. And Dana Goldstein writes that Oklahoma's teachers may be the next to hit the picket lines in response to grossly inadequate pay.

- Paul Buchheit discusses how a modest tax on U.S. financial wealth could ensure a substantial basic income for everybody.

- CUPE highlights a new study showing how P3s have proven to be an unacceptable model for public infrastructure through painful experience in Europe. And Andrew Longhurst, Marcy Cohen and Margaret McGregor approve of British Columbia's plan to deal with surgical waiting times through effective investments in the public health care system.

- Finally, Make Votes Matter points out how the disproportionate effect of a few swing votes makes first-past-the-post electoral systems particularly vulnerable to manipulation and disinformation.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Wednesday Evening Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Andre Picard notes that contrary to our self-image, Canada actually lags behind international peers in health and social spending. And PressProgress points out the same conclusion in new OECD research.

- Andrew Mitrovica writes that Doug Ford's ascendancy in Ontario politics suggests that Canada is catching the Trump virus - and not for the first time given his brother's history. And Jim Stanford highlights how Ford's planned austerity would affect the people who rely on strong public services:
The People’s Guarantee pledged to balance the provincial budget by 2020, and then run a small surplus. With no carbon tax, and no concrete plan for “efficiency” savings, how will Mr. Ford square that same circle?

Arithmetically, he has three options: increase taxes; tolerate a deficit; or cut spending. At door one, Mr. Ford could seek other sources of tax revenue. That’s a non-starter, given his rhetoric about long-suffering taxpayers. Door two is to tolerate deficits, converting lost carbon-tax revenue and the likely failure of the efficiency audit into higher debt. That also clashes painfully with Mr. Ford’s pledge to wrestle the debt to the ground.

Almost certainly, Mr. Ford will choose door number three: still-deeper cuts in provincial spending. He needs $10-billion in cuts over three years to offset carbon tax revenue; $6-billion more to meet the efficiency target; and still more to pay for any additional tax cut promises. All that’s on top of $1.9-billion in annual spending cuts from cancelling cap and trade. All told, he will need to cut spending by close to $25-billion over three years – and around $10-billion in the third year alone. Cuts of this magnitude would significantly damage government services (all the more so given continual inflation and population growth).
Mr. Ford won the leadership by stoking populist resentment against government, taxes, sex-ed and environmentalism. That mobilized enough grassroots party support to put him over the top. Completing a similar journey from centrism to austerity in a provincial budget, however, will be much harder. And many Ontarians will pay a steep price for the trip.
- Meanwhile, Cindy Blackstock offers a reminder of the fundamental injustice of forcing Indigenous children to keep waiting for their basic public services to be incrementally brought up to par.

- Adam Gartrell discusses the Australian Council of Trade Unions' plan to ensure that casual workers have a predictable path to stable employment after six months. And Sean McElwee, Colin McAuliffe and Jon Green argue that a jobs guarantee (already backed by Kirsten Gillibrand) would make for both a highly desirable public policy step, and a political winner for U.S. Democrats.

- Finally, the National Post's database of political contributions across Canada looks to make for an essential resource in tracking the influence of money on our political choices.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Tuesday Evening Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Dick Bryan argues that the minimum wage should reflect the financial risks faced by low-wage workers, while Nick Day offers some lessons in successful economic activism from the $15 and Fairness movement. And Yasemin Besen-Cassino points out that gender-based pay inequity starts from the moment people enter the workforce.

- Tom Wall notes that an attempt to provide housing for corporate benefit result in the UK's government paying wealthy landlords to exploit poor tenants. And Bertrand Badre discusses the need for the financial system to serve people, not the other way around.

- Meanwhile, Keith Spencer's observation that younger workers are increasingly anticipating that they have a better chance of retiring through a renewed social safety net than through individual savings. And Jasmin Gray explores the price of unpaid internships which preclude anybody who isn't already dependently wealthy from finding a place in the job market.

- Irene Mathyssen makes the case for Canada Post to add postal banking to its range of public services.

- Finally, D.C. Fraser reports on the continued failure of the Global Transportation Hub to accomplish anything other than enriching a few lucky corporations and Saskatchewan Party cronies. And Jason Warick highlights the Wall government's utter failure to save anything during boom times as setting Saskatchewan apart in lacking sovereign wealth.

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Cuddled cats.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Jim Stanford discusses what can be done to make international terms of trade serve the public, rather than merely offering multinational corporations control over all participants:
 Acknowledging that globalisation produces losers as well as winners, allows us to imagine policies to moderate the downsides of trade – and purposefully share the upsides. The next step is to make a crucial distinction between trade and “free trade”. The former is the pragmatic day-to-day flow of goods and services between countries. The latter is the set of specific, lopsided rules embodied in the plethora of trade and investment agreements enacted over the last generation.

These “free trade” rules often have very little to do with actual trade: describing tariff elimination, for example, usually takes up just a tiny part of the text of each trade deal. The rest is devoted to a raft of provisions securing and protecting the rights of private companies to do business anywhere they want, on predictable and favourable terms.

Proof of the dissonance between trade and “free trade” is provided by Australia’s lacklustre trade performance over the last two decades. Exports of actual goods and services constitute a smaller share of total GDP today, than at the turn of the century. Sure, the volume of resource exports has surged – not surprisingly, since that’s what our trading partners wanted. But resource prices have been shaky, and meanwhile our other value-added exports flagged badly. If the goal of all the free trade agreements signed since then (a dozen) was to boost Australia’s exports, they failed miserably. But of course, that wasn’t the goal: the deals were actually intended to cement a business-friendly policy environment, even in sectors that have nothing to do with international trade.

Progressives can endorse mutually beneficial international trade, and even international flows of direct investment, without accepting the lopsided, business-dominated vision of “free trade” agreements. In fact, a progressive approach to managing globalisation would actually boost real trade more effectively: by supporting purchasing power on all sides, and avoiding the contractionary race-to-the-bottom unleashed by current free trade rules.
- And Tom Parkin comments on the need for Canada to use its own trade negotiations to improve labour standards and job prospects.

- Ryan Tute reports on the UK's parliamentary inquiry into P3 schemes which have resulted in both inflated costs and public services being put at risk.

- Jeff Spross points out how Toys R Us has been stripped bare by vulture capitalists, leaving tens of thousands of workers to pay the price for corporate greed.

- John Nichols writes that U.S. Democrats should follow the example of Conor Lamb's successful run for Congress in proudly and unapologetically advocating for the importance of unions. And Greg Jericho approves of Australian Labor's plan to eliminate boutique tax credits which primarily benefit the wealthy from their existing tax system.

- Finally, Murray Mandryk discusses the importance of apologizing for the Sixties Scoop as just one part of a desperately-needed effort toward reconciliation which will necessarily include challenging the racist attitudes the Saskatchewan Party has regularly fomented. And Kendall Latimer notes that the word "reconciliation" itself may be inaccurate in implying thre's some past state worth restoring.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Spencer Piston argues that it's unreasonable to blame people living in poverty for not participating in political structures designed to exclude them - while noting that many Americans want to see a far more progressive tax system which politicians have made no effort to pursue.

- And Sean Murphy notes that Oklahoma has joined Kansas as cautionary tales about the dangers of  regressive fiscal and economic policy.

- Peter Gowan discusses Rudolf Meidner's model of public ownership as a needed step to ensure people can chart their own future rather than being constrained by capital interests. And Lex highlights the importance of public equity as a check against corporate takeovers.

- Richard Wiles writes that time is running out to start taking meaningful action after 50 years of procrastination in addressing greenhouse gas emissions. But Carol Linnitt points out that a British Columbia inquiry into fracking will deliberately avoid addressing public health risks and climate change. 

- Finally, Tabatha Southey offers a reminder as to what Doug Ford's brand of governance looks like - featuring a complete lack of coherent planning, and a distaste for the public interest. And Kristin Rushowy reports on the better alternative on offer from Andrea Horwath and the NDP, including universal pharmacare, expanded dental coverage, and a needed prioritization of public investments over private profits.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Lana Payne writes about the need for real wage increases to relieve the financial stress on Canadian workers.

- Sheila Block examines the relative effects of tax cuts and minimum wage increases on lower-income workers, and finds that people are far better off receiving fair pay for their work than being told they'll be cut off of provincial tax rolls. And Elise Gould studies the experience of U.S. states to the effect that minimum-wage increases improve incomes for a large number of workers.

- Meanwhile, Alec Schierenbeck points out the obvious unfairness involved in applying fines of the same dollar amount for regulatory infractions with no regard for a person's ability to pay.

- Joel Lexchin discusses the need for a pharmacare plan to address exorbitant costs for particular prescription drugs. And Timothy Sawa, Lisa Ellenwood and Mark Kelley report on the continued inducements by big pharma to push their drugs.

- Finally, Douglas Todd offers five key reasons not to buy into the hysterical opposition to proportional representation in British Columbia. And Gary Mason is optimistic that electoral reform in B.C. will set a needed precedent for the rest of Canada.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Musical interlude

Unknown Mortal Orchestra - Necessary Evil

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Faiza Shaheen discusses the UK Cons' attempts to paper over the harmful effects of austerity. And Amir Fleischmann points out that while the human cost of cuts to public services is all too real, the supposed fiscal benefits are usually illusory:
Many social programs that fiscal conservatives advocate cutting have been shown to actually save the government money in the long run.

Let’s take providing affordable housing and adequate shelters in order to end homelessness as an example. In the rare moments such policies are even discussed, we are told that public affordable housing provision and shelters are too expensive to be feasible.

But academic research has shown that homelessness is actually very expensive, because homeless people tend to cost the government a great deal of money in healthcare and criminal justice system services. In fact, people experiencing homelessness tend to cost $3,810 per person per year greater than the average citizen in terms of justice services and $10,217 per person greater than the average citizen in terms of healthcare services. The cost of homelessness support programs range from a couple thousand dollars to just over $14,000 per person annually.

Set aside any moral obligation we might have to help the homeless — failing to meaningfully address homelessness is the more costly policy. We simply cannot afford austerity.

The same logic applies to universal early childcare. While fiscal conservatives tell us that we cannot afford quality universal early childcare, the truth is that we can’t afford not to have it.

- Charles Hugh Smith comments on the difference between free trade generally, and the capital-biased agreements which are sold using its rhetoric. But then, Jonathan Chait points out that right-wing corporatist dogma only seems to become further entrenched no matter how many times it proves to be utterly detached from reality. 

- Damon Matthews and Daniel Horen Greenford write that it's impossible to reconcile a rational climate change policy with continued fossil fuel expansion. But Paul Jay reports on the oil money and influence which has pushed Canada's public policy discussion away from that reality.

- Meanwhile, Graham Readfearn reports on new research showing high concentrations of plastic particles in bottled water.

- Finally, Adam Serwer discusses the culture of impunity surrounding the U.S.' use of torture - which he also sees as applying to a wide range of other activity by privileged people as well.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

New column day

Here, on how the Boundary Dam carbon capture and storage project - cited incessantly by Scott Moe and the Saskatchewan Party as a substitute for a climate change action plan - has in fact proven a costly failure both as a power source and a means of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

For further reading...
- I've previously written about the Saskatchewan Party's entirely hollow excuse for a climate change plan.
- Sean Kavanagh reported on Manitoba's agreement to participate in the Canada-wide climate policy framework which leaves Saskatchewan alone among Canadian provinces in doing nothing to deal with greenhouse gas emissions generally.
- Stefani Langenegger reported on the cost difference between coal (in any form) and wind power at least as far back as 2016. And the Canadian Press pointed out how much further renewable prices have dropped in Alberta.

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Matt Bruenig highlights Norway's high level of social ownership, with 76% of non-home wealth in public hands in an extremely prosperous country. And Patrick Collinson reports on the latest World Happiness Survey, showing Norway within a group of relatively equal Nordic countries at the very top.

- Christo Aivalis discusses the elements of economic democracy, as well as the need for the NDP to offer voters a clear option of social ownership:
(H)owever important things like Medicare, education, and social security were, they did not constitute the outer boundaries of the social-democratic project. Put another way, what fundamentally distinguished social democracy from liberalism was a conviction of who should control the economy, with liberals saying it should be within largely private control, and social democrats claiming that, through various means, the economy should be controlled publicly.

Canadian social democrats, simply put, need to re-embrace the value in challenging private property’s dominance over the state. This isn’t to say the party is without existing ideas on this front. Andrea Horwath’s Ontario NDP is pledging to re-nationalize Hydro Ontario, and is calling for a reversal of many contracted out public services. Similarly, Niki Ashton’s federal leadership campaign made public ownership a central plank, while Charlie Angus had specific policies that would encourage worker and community-owned enterprises. Still, much more must be done on this front, and as we’ve seen, specific lessons are found within the party’s own recent history.

Jagmeet Singh’s NDP has already made impacts on issues like overhauling our tax system with a view towards a more equitable society. But if the party wants to offer a unambiguous distinction between itself and the ostensibly progressive Trudeau Liberals, a platform predicated on democratizing workplaces and the wider economy is a fantastic start, especially when aligned with provincial NDP sections willing to promote the same objectives in those jurisdictions where they have the most power.
- Richard Poplak points out the outsized (and unaccountable) role played by Export Development Canada in financing questionable corporate activity.

- Sara Mojtehedzadeh reports on the difficulty injured workers have securing compensation in the face of abusive practices by Ontario employers. Tim Berners-Lee warns against allowing a small number of massive tech firms to dictate access to content online. And Crawford Kilian argues that a public-sector drug manufacturer is a needed cure for the problems with corporate incentives to encourage overprescription.

- Finally, Bob Ramsay writes that Canada's most privileged people are getting more antisocial with time and increased wealth, as charitable contributions as a share of income plummet among those with the most to give.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Amir Sufi and Atif Mian discuss how household debt tends to drive both the booms and busts of the business cycle. Which means there's plenty of reason for concern about a Canadian economy reliant on household debt to paper over income insecurity and inequality - and Michal Rozworski highlights how those trends are playing out even when looking only at wages.

- Meanwhile, Andy Blatchford reports on the Bank of Canada's research showing how universal affordable child care could provide an economic boost (as well as far greater career opportunities for women in particular).

- J.W. Mason traces U.S. corporate cash flows over the past six decades - including both the recent drop in the wage share (masked earlier only due to increased health care costs), and a stark jump in share repurchases even when it means going into the red. And Adam Winkler notes that the concept of corporate rights is built on a foundation as deceitful and misguided as the anti-social policies now pushed based on the valuation of corporations over people.

- PressProgress points out the public's strong desire to close tax loopholes and generally make sure that corporations pay their fair share. And Jose Antonio Campo discusses the need for international cooperation to prevent businesses from ducking any contribution to the people who make their profits possible.

- Finally, Trevor Hancock comments on the importance of incorporating nature into our urban living spaces.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Rochelle Toplensky reports that ten years after a financial meltdown based on the instability of top-down economic structures, multinational corporations are paying substantially lower effective tax rates than they did before. And Jim Tankersley and Alan Rappaport follow up on how the Trump tax giveaway to the wealthy is riddled with mistakes and unintended consequences even on its own terms due to the Republicans' desperation to further enrich those who already have the most.

- Thomas Walkom writes that Donald Trump's blackmail shows just how illusory any asserted economic benefits from NAFTA always were for Canada.

- Joe Romm discusses Rick Perry's position that any attempt to move toward cheaper and clean energy is "immoral" for failing to sacrifice the public interest to the oil industry. And Jeff Sparrow compares the slow-motion disaster of climate change to the First World War, as the failures of governments are resulting in the public failing to appreciate the consequences of its actions (and inaction).

- Meanwhile, Chelsea Gohd points out that air pollution is the greatest environmental threat to our health and well-being - whether or not the dangers are visible.

- Finally, Mike Moffatt highlights how the Ontario PCs' insistence on refusing to cut greenhouse gas emissions could cost tens of thousands of jobs directly in the public service - which is well worth keeping in mind as Scott Moe matches Doug Ford's priorities of slashing jobs while obstructing action on climate change which could also help balance the books. And Tom Parkin notes that the PCs' meltdown and elevation of Ford gives Andrea Horwath's NDP an ideal chance to offer the prospect of change for the better.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Sunday Afternoon Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Elizabeth Bruenig makes the case for the U.S. to make a much-needed turn toward democratic socialism:
In fact, both Sullivan’s and Mounk’s complaints — that Americans appear to be isolated, viciously competitive, suspicious of one another and spiritually shallow; and that we are anxiously looking for some kind of attachment to something real and profound in an age of decreasing trust and regard — seem to be emblematic of capitalism, which encourages and requires fierce individualism, self-interested disregard for the other, and resentment of arrangements into which one deposits more than he or she withdraws. (As a business-savvy friend once remarked: Nobody gets rich off of bilateral transactions where everybody knows what they’re doing.) Capitalism is an ideology that is far more encompassing than it admits, and one that turns every relationship into a calculable exchange. Bodies, time, energy, creativity, love — all become commodities to be priced and sold. Alienation reigns. There is no room for sustained contemplation and little interest in public morality; everything collapses down to the level of the atomized individual.

That capitalism is inimical to the best of liberalism isn’t a new concern: It’s a long-standing critique, present in early socialist thought. That both capitalism and liberal governance have changed since those days without displacing the criticism suggests that it’s true in a foundational way.

Not to be confused for a totalitarian nostalgist, I would support a kind of socialism that would be democratic and aimed primarily at decommodifying labor, reducing the vast inequality brought about by capitalism, and breaking capital’s stranglehold over politics and culture.

I don’t think that every problem can be traced back to capitalism: There were calamities and injustices long before capital, and I’ll venture to say there will be after. But it seems to me that it’s time for those who expected to enjoy the end of history to accept that, though they’re linked in certain respects, capitalism seems to be at odds with the harmonious, peaceful, stable liberalism of midcentury dreams. I don’t think we’ve reached the end of history yet, which means we still have the chance to shape the future we want. I suggest we take it.
- Drew Brown discusses how the Libs' perpetual attempts to equate progressivism with their interests get in the way of anything resembling the real thing, while also short-circuiting any real democratic decision-making.

- Catherine McIntyre notes that women's equality is becoming ever more distant under Justin Trudeau. And Linda Nazareth rightly argues that everybody stands to benefit from child care and other policies which allow women to participate more fully in the workplace.

- Jess Bidgood and Campbell Robertson view the West Virginia teachers' strike as an important reminder of the power of collective action.

- Finally, David Chudnovsky points out the myths and misinformation being used to try to keep British Columbia stuck with an unrepresentative electoral system.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Martha Friendly, Susan Prentice and Morna Ballantyne discuss how universal child care is a necessary element of any serious push toward equality for women. Dennis Grunding notes that it will take a concerted public effort to secure the universal pharmacare program Canadians want and deserve - even though the blueprint was set out over half a century ago. And the Star's editorial board calls out the Libs for their stubborn and counterproductive refusal to consider universal social programs of any kind:
The research of Rothstein and others, drawing on numerous international examples, suggests universal programs have a number of advantages that should not be glibly dismissed by governments, especially ones concerned about the middle class and those aspiring to join it.

For instance, because everyone benefits from them and is therefore invested, universal programs have been shown to be more durable, less vulnerable to market fluctuations or political lurches. Commitment to medicare, for example, has not seriously wavered, even through major recessions and long stretches of austerity government.

Moreover, while the initial costs can seem politically prohibitive, universal programs often create significant long-term savings. A universal pharmacare program, for instance, would allow for the bulk-purchasing of drugs and the elimination of administrative bureaucracy, yielding billions of dollars in savings forgone by a more targeted approach.

Finally, and crucially for a government concerned about inequality, universal programs have been shown to promote solidarity and trust. Targeted or means-tested programs may stigmatize recipients, contributing to a sense that low-income people are apart from the rest of the community. “A welfare state built mainly on means-tested programs,” Rothstein writes, can actually “perpetuate feelings of inequality among both the poor and the more affluent.”

Such feelings should worry Trudeau. After all, the prime minister rightly observed that Donald Trump won the U.S. election in part because too many Americans felt they were not sharing in the country’s prosperity and that this was something Ottawa must also address. The evidence suggests universal programs, design depending, can be a powerful tool for doing just that.
- Meanwhile, Patrick DeRochie lists a few of the crucial social supports which are receiving substantially less federal money than the Libs are paying out in subsidies to oil and gas companies.

- Andrew Jackson points out the importance of measuring different types of poverty (including absolute and relative measures), and ensuring that public policy responds to all of them.

- Finally, Rick Salutin discusses the potentially valuable side of populism which genuinely reflects the interests of people excluded from decision-making. And commenting on the Ontario PCs' leadership campaign, Martin Regg Cohn recognizes the risks that arise when only anti-social candidates present populist messages.

Friday, March 09, 2018

Musical interlude

John O'Callaghan w/ Timmy & Tommy - Talk To Me

Friday Afternoon Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- May Boeve and Michael Brune comment on the danger that political- and court-based attacks on U.S. unions could substantially weaken the progressive movement as a whole. But Jane McAlevey writes that West Virginia's successful teachers' strike may provide an important reminder that the power of collective action can operate in the face of laws intended to isolate workers.  

- James Wilt notes that Canada's plans to transition communities away from reliance on diesel fuel fall far short of what's needed - resulting in dirty fuels continuing to be subsidized in the absence of alternatives. Andrew Ward points out the trillions of dollars being bet by the oil industry on an insufficient response to climate change. And George Monbiot writes about the facts of environmental destruction which are far too often ignored in policy discussions.

- Warren Bell discusses how a switch to a proportional electoral system in British Columbia could shift politics from a combat model to one based on cooperation.

- Meanwhile, Elvy Del Bianco, John Kay, Mary Childs, Ben Hyman and Marc Lee offer some suggestions to build B.C.'s cooperative economy.

- Finally, Tressie McMillan Cottom rightly argues that the real threat to freedom of speech and thought comes from harassment rooted in racism and sexism, not from overwrought complaints about political correctness.

Thursday, March 08, 2018

New column day

Here, expanding on these posts as to the show of strength from both Ryan Meili and Trent Wotherspoon in the NDP's leadership campaign as compared to any of the Saskatchewan Party's candidates - and how that enthusiasm gap may be important in contrasting Meili against Scott Moe in the years to come.

For further reading, the past vote totals for the respective parties' leadership campaigns are drawn from here and here, while the turnout levels were the subject of more recent reporting

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Noortje Uphoff writes about the long-term effects of growing up in poverty and the resulting stress on a child:
Our childhood affects our health across the course of our lives. Stress, it seems, is a major contributor. While a life lived with financial, educational and social security and stability may not be free of worries, a disadvantaged childhood means more exposure to a number of difficult circumstances and events. These may include social tensions, domestic abuse, neglect, food and fuel poverty, unsafe or poor quality housing, and separation from caregivers.

These life events understandably cause stress. Most of us will have personal experience of responding to pressure at work or a relationship breakdown with ice cream, cigarettes or alcohol, or giving the gym a miss. When facing financial troubles, the health benefits of vegetables can seem trivial to parents in the face of the time- and money-saving virtues of junk food. Feeling like you do not have enough food, money, time, or friends occupies the mind so that there is less space to focus on decisions with long-term pay-offs.

Experiencing these feelings over a long period of time (rather than the shorter-term stress experienced when applying for a job or studying for an exam) can make it increasingly difficult to make healthy choices. Over a lifetime, choices add up. But this latest research suggests that chronic stress impacts more than just our choices.
We already know that children suffering from long-term stress build up higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol, making the body’s response to threats from the outside world change. Chronic stress in childhood is related to a host of diseases through mechanisms such as poorer mental health, changes in the body’s immune response to infection and injury, and increased blood pressure.

Now, we have evidence that growing up in poverty has a cumulative wear-and-tear effect on the physiological systems that govern how our bodies respond to our environment, permanently disrupting the ability of affected individuals to maintain good health in old age.
- Meanwhile, Angus Deaton explores the potential and pitfalls in basing policy on self-reported well-being.

- Andre Picard comments on the advantages of a national pharmacare system - as well as the obstacles we face in pursuing it.

- Andrew Jackson discusses the missed opportunities for more progressive revenue in the federal budget despite strong public demand to ensure the wealth pay their fair share. And Rachel Gilmore reports on Romeo Saganash's recognition that the Libs are still falling short of even basic fairness for Indigenous communities.

- Finally, Murray Mandryk points out that Scott Moe's plan to slash Saskatchewan's public service is unworkable based on his own government's track record.

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Ann Pettifor rightly questions the supposed gains from austerity in belatedly balancing budgets only at the expense of avoidable social devastation. And the CCPA documents the billions of dollars in lost assets and thousands of jobs slashed in Saskatchewan even when Brad Wall was promising not to attack the province's public services (and simultaneously driving Saskatchewan into a deficit).

- Omar Khan writes about the racial and ethnic pay gap in the UK. And Stephen Buranyi points out that algorithmic recruitment practices only figure to make it more difficult for less-privileged applicants to find work, while John Harris notes that big data is creating the risk of similar issues in other areas of life.

- Stuart Trew discusses the fossilized view of energy which Canada continues to take in NAFTA negotiations. And Catherine McKenna's attempt to excuse Canada's falling far short of emission targets based on the bare hope that it will catch up later looks to signal both a lack of understanding of the underlying science of climate change which continues to get worse in the meantime, and a lack of seriousness in addressing it.

- Meanwhile, new research in the Lancet documents the massive gains in health which would be achieved by meeting the Paris climate change targets.

- Finally, Robin Sears comments on the need for government involvement in providing more basic services and supports through higher revenues - and the fit between that governing philosophy and the demands of a growing activist movement.

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Slumbering cats.

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Lucas Chancel points out the myths underlying any claim that corporate globalization does anything but voluntarily exacerbate inequality:
It is often said that rising inequality is inevitable — that it is a natural consequence of trade openness and digitalization that governments are powerless to counter. But the numbers presented above clearly demonstrate the diversity of inequality trajectories experienced by broadly comparable regions over the past decades. The U.S. and Europe, for instance, had similar population size and average income in 1980 — as well as analogous inequality levels. Both regions have also faced similar exposure to international markets and new technologies since, but their inequality trajectories have radically diverged. In the U.S., the bottom 50% income share decreased from 20% to 10% today, whereas in Europe it decreased from 24% to 22%.

Rather than openness to trade or digitalization, it is policy choices and institutional changes that explain divergences in inequality. After the neoliberal policy shift of the early 1980s, Europe resisted the impulse to turn its market economy into a market society more than the US — evidenced by differences on key policy areas concerning inequality. The progressivity of the tax code — how much more the rich pay as a percentage — was seriously undermined in the U.S., but much less so in continental Europe. The U.S. had the highest minimum wage of the world in the 1960s, but it has since decreased by 30%, whereas in France, the minimum wage has risen 300%. Access to higher education is costly and highly unequal in the U.S., whereas it is free in several European countries. Indeed, when Bavarian policymakers tried to introduce small university fees in the late 2000s, a referendum invalidated the decision. Health systems also provide universal access to good-quality healthcare in most European countries, while millions of Americans do not have access to healthcare plans.

Re-examining these pervasive beliefs around globalization and its impacts on global inequality is more important now than ever before. Using new data from the World Inequality Report is the first step in rectifying these myths and generating a new public discourse that has the potential to effect long-lasting, systemic change.
- Tonia Novitz, Alan Bogg, Katie Bales, Michael Ford and Roseanne Russell discuss the lack of good work in the gig economy.

- Marie-Danielle Smith reports on the Libs' deficient excuse for arms control legislation, whose loopholes include a failure to revisit export contracts in the face of new human rights abuses.

- Meanwhile, Marco Chown Oved reports on the some positive measures in cracking down on corporate tax avoidance - though it's worth noting that those join so many of the Libs' other progressive promises in being deferred past the next election.

- Finally, the Western Producer weighs in on the folly of pretending that gun violence is a worthwhile price for the protection of property. And James Hamblin comments on the stress and anxiety children face when confronted with active-shooter drills and other activities which normalize fear and violence.

Monday, March 05, 2018

Leadership 2018 Reference Page

A one-stop source for general links on the 2018 Saskatchewan NDP leadership campaign.

General Information
Saskatchewan NDP Constitution (PDF)
Leadership Rules (PDF)
Leadership 2018

Candidate Information
Candidate Website Twitter Facebook Profile
Ryan Meili @ryanmeili RyanMeiliNDP Profile
Trent Wotherspoon @WotherspoonT TrentWotherspoon Profile

Other Resources

All Posts By Label

Twitter: #skndpldr

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Barry Eidlin and Micah Uetricht offer a reminder that the role of unions goes beyond securing higher wages, to giving workers a voice in workplace governance. And Eric Blanc interviews Jay O'Neal about the sorely-needed sense of agency earned by West Virginia's teachers in the course of their strike against unilateral changes to contracts.

- Alan Krueger and Eric Posner suggest (PDF) greater public involvement in both economic development and social supports to protect lower-income workers from concentrated corporate power.

- Lana Payne writes that while this year's federal budget offers some improvement in gender equality, it leaves plenty more work to be done. Jen Gerson argues that any progress is more rhetorical than real. And Sendhil Mullainathan examines the hidden penalties facing women who achieve success in their careers even in the face of structural disadvantages.

- Meanwhile, PressProgress tracks the necessary backlash against the Libs' "phony" pharmacare promise. And the Globe and Mail's editorial board weighs in the Libs' immediate attempt to backtrack from a fully effective pharmacare program.

- Finally, Roberta Timothy discusses the devastating health effects of systemic racism and prejudice against Indigenous peoples in particular.