Monday, October 15, 2018

Monday Morning Links

Assorted content to start your week.

- Chris Turner rightly recognizes the urgency in implementing effective policies to avert climate breakdown - though he does set the bar too low in the process. The Star's editorial board highlights how the latest IPCC report confirms the danger of politicians fighting against climate action rather than exercising power responsibly. And Rebecca Solnit reminds us that the most important chapters in our fight against climate breakdown remain to be written.

- Lana Payne writes that the benefits of a more fair and proportional electoral system would set up needed incentives for leaders to think past the next election cycle on issues such as climate change.

- Alex Himelfarb discusses the need for an antidote to apathy and despair - both to encourage participation by people now disenchanted with politics, and to prevent those who do remain engaged from falling prey to demagoguery.

- Finally, Noah Smith comments on the difficulties associated with uncertain incomes, particularly for people already facing the risks associated with poverty:
If risk is scary for the rich, think how much more terrifying it is for the poor. The kind of event that causes a low-income American to suddenly need money isn’t a wedding or college or a comfy retirement — it’s coping with an eviction, or getting robbed, or a broken pipe in their house, or their car breaking down. The life of a poor American is a nonstop sequence of sudden disasters and looming threats. If you don’t understand this, read “Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City” by Matthew Desmond. For a middle-class American, the situation is less awful, but big medical bills and other surprise expenses are still a very significant risk, and many Americans have little savings in the bank to cushion the blows life throws at them.

Given the risks of life in America, and the paucity of savings, a consistent income is very important. The more you live paycheck to paycheck, the more you need to be sure that the paychecks won’t stop coming — and that their size will be relatively constant from month to month and year to year. Unfortunately, during the past 40 years, income volatility has risen for the average American.
So what’s to be done about income volatility? A big part of the job, of course, is avoiding repeats of the Great Recession. Beyond that, financialization, especially private equity’s practice of taking over companies and imposing mass layoffs, has to be thoroughly reexamined. And it may also be useful to encourage the creation of new kinds of work contracts that offer more long-term stability. In any case, though, it seems clear that income volatility is a problem that has received too little attention.

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