Sunday, May 27, 2018

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Laura Basu discusses the media's role in accepting and perpetuating the corporatist ideology behind privatization campaigns:
(R)esearch carried out by myself at Cardiff University has shown that while austerity has been controversial, trickle-down reforms like privatisation, deregulation and corporation tax cuts have been embraced by the media. In the sample of five UK mainstream media outlets, only one – the Guardian – took a more critical stance towards these reforms than a supportive one. Even that outlet contained almost as much favourable coverage as critical coverage. The right-wing sections of the press, which dominate the British media landscape, were unflinchingly supportive of these measures and urged the government to go even further.

The idea behind these policies is that what’s good for business is good for everyone. If businesses are handed more resources, freed from regulation and handed tax breaks, they will be encouraged to invest in the economy, creating jobs and growth. The rich are therefore ‘job creators’ and ‘wealth creators’. One exposé revealed that in the UK, business is handed £93 billion a year in this kind of corporate welfare. With a few notable exceptions, there has been a black hole around corporate welfare in public discourse.

This is despite the fact that these policies have an impressive fail rate. Business investment and productivity growth remain low, as corporations spend the savings not on training and innovation but on share buy-backs and shareholder dividends. Share buy-backs are when a company purchases its own shares, decreasing the number of its shares on the open market and thereby increasing their value. According to the Financial Times, in 2014, the top 500 US companies returned 95 per cent of their profits to shareholders in dividends and buybacks. Meanwhile, inequality is spiralling.
By the time of the 2008 crash, neoliberal ideology had become so dominant that other positions were virtually invisible. And so, the same people responsible for financial collapse were called upon to offer solutions.

In my study, business and finance representatives were the second biggest category of sources featured in the media coverage. The biggest category was politicians, who until the Corbyn shake-up have been pursuing a blindly pro-business agenda. These two groups got to set the news agenda and the terms of debate. Other voices – trade unions, campaign groups, activists and academics – were sidelined. These groups helped manufacture an amnesia that was taken up zealously by some sections of the media and passively reproduced by others.

It has taken the Grenfell fire tragedy costing the lives of at least 70 people and the collapse of Carillion for the political consensus to even begin to be questioned. If we are to build on this progress we will need to start having grown-up conversations about corporate welfare and the strengths and weaknesses of market capitalism.
- Meanwhile, Tom Wall exposes how UK landlords are exploiting the opportunity to extract millions of pounds by offering unsafe housing as publicly-funded temporary accommodation to people who can't find anywhere affordable to live on a permanent basis.

- Alex Matthews-King discusses new research on the connection between inequality and increased obesity among other health risks.

- Chris Mooney and Juliet Eilperin reveal the Trump administration's attitude toward climate change - with ignorance and deliberate undermining of scientific evidence both treated as viable options, while acting based on reality was left off the table. And Ellen Knickmeyer reports on the collusion between Trump's appointed environmental regulators and the climate change denial industry.

- Finally, Ben Choiniere reports on Rhode Island's proposal to offer employees the chance to turn layoffs or closures into a first step toward cooperative ownership.

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