Thursday, December 20, 2018

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Anis Chowdhury highlights how industry-wide bargaining which avoids a race to the bottom on wages produces improved efficiency as well as a better standard of living for workers. But Christopher Ingraham discusses the choice of U.S. policymakers to instead pull the rug out from under 90 per cent of workers:
Bivens and Shierholz say that poor wage growth is less a function of increasing employer power and more a product of deliberate efforts to undermine worker power. Policymakers, for instance, have been reluctant to raise minimum wages, which would directly benefit workers at the bottom of the income distribution. They’ve taken steps to make it harder for workers to secure bargaining power, eroding union membership in the process. And Bivens and Shierholz maintain that the Federal Reserve has contributed to the problem by prioritizing low inflation over high employment.

Many of these policies were put in place with good intentions — to boost productivity and the health of the economy as a whole. But the data show that productivity has actually slowed since the 1970s. “Between 1973 and 2017,” Bivens and Shierholz write, “net productivity grew half as fast as it had from 1948 to 1973.”

Bivens and Shierholz conclude that if policymakers are interested in boosting wages, they should work to increase the power of workers relative to employers by prioritizing strong unions, high minimum wages and full employment. “In short, the policy movement to disempower workers not only led to less equal growth, but was also associated with significantly slower growth,” they write.
- And Brian Dew notes the result that large U.S. corporations are sitting on more cash than they know what to do with, even as workers face increasingly precarious lives.

- Brennan Neill reports on the exploitation of Canadian penitentiary inmates, who are forced to pay far more than retail prices for basic goods and personal effects due to a corporate monopoly.

- Jonathon Gatehouse rightly questions the Libs' decision to gift another $1.6 billion to the oil industry when the result is to undermine Canada's climate commitments. The Pembina Institute points out how businesses as well as citizens stand to benefit from British Columbia's transition to a lower-emission economy. And the Associated Press reports on Norway's policy-induced boom in electric vehicle sales.

- Finally, Linda Leon points out how proportional electoral systems can limit the influence of extreme parties by ensuring they can't win absolute power with a minority of support.

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