Sunday, January 20, 2019

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Penney Kome writes about the importance of treating poverty as a social disease rather than a purely individual circumstance. And Jackie Esmonde and Todd Gordon discuss how Doug Ford is using the social effects of poverty to force workers to put up with whatever treatment employers see fit to inflict:
While the severity of poverty in Canada in 2018 is less than a century ago, today’s austerity agenda broadly follows a similar pattern: attaching poverty conditions to social assistance and promoting the general vulnerability of workers. These conditions are, of course, experienced in different ways by different people. Women who rely on social assistance, for example, face a punishing level of surveillance of their relationships and reproductive choices. Women, particularly racialized women, also face a level of discrimination in the labour market that makes them most likely be amongst the working poor.

Legal coercion is also a key component of the austerity agenda, notably in Ontario’s legal prohibitions on panhandling through legislation such as the Safe Streets Act and more aggressive law-and-order police practices.

However politicians may frame their actions towards social assistance as being in the best interests of the poor, it is clear their intention lies elsewhere. They are well-aware that social assistance rates are grossly inadequate, that welfare is punitive and degrading and that the consequences are terrible: homelessness, illness, reliance on shelters and food banks, and stagnation of wages for many workers. And as the inquests into the deaths of Kimberly Rogers and Grant Faulkner show, people die as a direct result of Ontario’s miserable social assistance programs.
Driving these political decisions is the desire to continue re-making labour markets by deepening and extending precarity in order to contain labour costs while boosting labour productivity – to set the conditions, in other words, for strengthened capitalist profitability on the backs of workers. With the unravelling of the relative economic stability of the post-World War Two period, a new urgency was felt by capital to reset labour relations, shift the balance of power in favour of employers, and drive down the expectations of workers and the unemployed. But, despite definite success with this agenda, economic volatility and intensified competition between corporations (from both domestic and international sources) are the new norm of the neoliberal period. So too, therefore, is the constant attack on workers.
Forced into the labour market, former benefits recipients are likely to end up at its bottom end, where work is the most unsafe, precarious, and low paying. While the expansion of the labour market with more extremely desperate workers may not immediately affect the conditions of workers with better wages and working conditions, especially if they have the benefit of a union, this nevertheless marks another move by governments in their ongoing and longer-term project of re-engineering working-class expectations for good jobs and a decent life. But expanding the layer of extremely desperate and vulnerable workers could over time also translate into a further softening of working conditions for other workers, as bad jobs continue to become the norm, more companies turn to this expanding pool of workers to stay competitive, and workers with better working conditions are willing to make concessions in order to avoid the growing bottom end of the labour market.
- Alison Pennington comments on the connection between stagnant wages and the decreased effectiveness of sectoral bargaining in Australia. And Leo Gerard highlights the indignity of forcing people to work without pay - as the Trump administration is doing to hundreds of thousands of federal workers during the course of its shutdown.

- Stephen Gandel writes that the Trump tax scheme which was already recognized as a massive transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich has proven even more regressive and costly than advertised. Mark Engler and Andrew Elrod point out the need for a tax system which prevents (rather than encouraging) the undue accumulation of wealth. And John Rapley offers a reminder as to why we can't count on the charity of the obscenely rich to meet social needs.

- The Australia Institute studies how consumers have paid the price for the ideological privatization of their electricity sector.

- Finally, Ethan Lou discusses the environmental impacts of Bitcoin as a classic conflict between artificial value and real-world harms to the public.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Linda McQuaig writes that Canada's federal government should look at buying the soon-to-be-vacated GM plant in Oshawa to begin production of electric vehicles. But Nav Persaud notes that even when the Trudeau Libs make promises about using government power and resources for the public good, they ultimately end up going along with the wishes of the corporate sector.

- E. Tammy Kim writes that instead of relying on corporations to address housing shortages, cities should ensure the actors who cause and profit from rising rents are taxed to cover the cost.

- Ivana Kottasova reports on a new study showing how the global environment can't handle the damage caused by the U.S.' increase in fossil fuel production and consumption. And Fatima Syed reports on Doug Ford's extension of anti-government dogma to the treatment of endangered species in Ontario.

- Meanwhile, Erika Shaker examines the predictable effects of Ford's plan to undermine student newspapers and organizations as part of a more general attack on post-secondary education, while Nora Loreto points out that it particularly stands to weaken students' voices in the general public. And Martin Regg Cohn views the false promise of tuition cuts as following in the PCs' buck-a-beer tradition of counterproductive, faux-populist policies.

- Claire Clancy reports on recent findings of Alberta's Elections Commissioner concluding that Rebel Media and the Canadian Taxpayers Federation have broken election laws. And Elizabeth Thompson reports that a single guilty plea and small fine looks like it may close the door on any public knowledge of SNC Lavalin's system of illegal federal political donations to the Libs and Cons.

- Finally, Trish Hennessy discusses some trends to watch for - and positive change to pursue - in the year ahead.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Simon Ducatel discusses how wealth inequality is at the root of continued poverty and deprivation, while Charles Plante notes that anti-poverty strategies in Canada currently serve mostly to capture credit for existing policies rather than to guide the development of new ones.

- Grace Blakely points out the role that capital controls should play in ensuring that the wealthy pay their fair share toward social development and increased equality. And Duncan Cameron writes about Olivier Blanchard's recognition that public debt is entirely acceptable as long as it results from worthwhile investments.

- Cindy Blackstock highlights how the continued lack of progress on Indigenous child welfare is entirely the result of governments failing to act on policies which they know to be effective.

- Andrew Longhurst makes the case for a move away from fee-for-service payment of physicians.

- Finally, Rick Smith challenges Macleans' attempt to equate the left and right in their contributions to Canada's political scene:

On all of the major questions facing humanity today—climate change, inequality, defending and deepening pluralism in an age of globalization —the left is working to find answers. True, in some areas we are still coming up short. For all the achievements of left movements in the 20th century, from the welfare state to universal healthcare to progressive labour legislation, inequality remains a deep and abiding fact of Canadian life. Despite successfully making the environment a major issue of public concern, there is still much work to be done if we are to avert the coming climate crisis. Racism and the discriminatory treatment of racialized Canadians are still tragic realities, human rights and equity laws notwithstanding.

Challenges like these and the moral necessity of tackling them is precisely what animates today’s left in Canada and abroad. Yes, their urgency may inspire impassioned, even angry critiques of the political status quo and what can sometimes be difficult, needlessly fractious debates within our own ranks. Some believe this makes the left and right fellow travelers amid the ongoing crisis of liberal democracy. Nothing could be further from the truth.

While prominent left-wing figures like Bernie Sanders or Jagmeet Singh indeed give expression to anger, its targets are corporations who exploit their workers or extremely wealthy people who don’t pay their fair share of taxes. The ultimate goal of this anger is to overcome visible injustices and make material gains for working people, young and old, across all sections of society. The same can be said for groups like Black Lives Matter or #MeToo, which are giving constructive expression to justified anger at discrimination and bigotry on both sides of the border.

The right is not, to put it kindly, either doing the same or searching for answers to the major challenges facing our societies today. In conservative parties across the country, climate change denialism (or its close cousin foot-dragging-ism) runs rampant—as evidenced by the recent actions of the Ford government in Ontario and the persistent hostility of the conservative movement to common-sense environmental policies such as cleaning up electricity production, or electric vehicle mandates or carbon pricing.

With the stakes being as high as they are in politics today, debates will inevitably prove divisive and difficult. But in their attempts to grapple with our anxious political moment, pundits and commentators alike should be careful not to conflate individuals and movements fighting injustice with those pursuing it as their animating principle.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Damian Carrington reports on new research showing that it's possible to stop climate change in its tracks - but only by beginning to phase out fossil fuel infrastructure immediately. And Ryan Cooper comments on the problems in responding to an immediate crisis with mushy centrism rather than a determination to act:
America can't afford another eight years of a moderate party fiddling while the climate burns, or even making things worse, which is exactly what happened during the Obama years. Democrats in those days failed to pass a climate bill that wasn't even that great, and it took the administration five years after that to put out an executive order that was just as inadequate. In the meantime, the Obama administration ushered in a massive expansion of American oil and gas drilling that has made the U.S. the biggest producer of both oil and natural gas in the world. Part of the motivation was that natural gas is cleaner fuel than coal climate-wise, but methane (the main component of natural gas) itself is much more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, and it turns out leaks more than cancel out the relative climate benefit. Whoops!

If they are to take the moral responsibilities of governing the United States seriously, moderates can't just hide behind "better than Trump." The scientists say we have about a decade to cut our emissions by 45 percent. If lefty ideas like a Green New Deal are too radical for moderates, then by God they better come up with something that achieves the same objective.
- George Lakoff discusses the need to counter the language of hate which underlies Donald Trump's demand for a wall (along with so much other right-wing political strategy internationally).

- Meanwhile, Tanya Talaga notes that Justin Trudeau's cabinet shuffle is an ominous sign for Indigenous peoples. And Susan Delacourt points out that it will also likely serve as an excuse to delay any national pharmacare program.

- Finally, Natalie Mehra warns Doug Ford against following through on his apparent plans to privatize Ontario health care.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Erlend Sandoy and Saskia Kerkvliet offer a graphic explainer of the causes and costs of high-end tax avoidance. And Eric Rankin reports on the scope of money laundering through casinos in British Columbia (which was ten times larger than official estimates), while ProPublica exposes the IRS' propensity for auditing the working poor rather than upper-income individuals.

- Meanwhile, George Tyler writes about a growing push toward co-determination which can help to make sure that corporate structures aren't dedicated solely toward enriching shareholders and executives at the expense of everybody else. 

- Melissa Jeltsen reports on the U.S. domestic violence centres which are cutting services and supports as a result of Donald Trump's government shutdown. While there's good news to be taken from the YWCA's announcement of a new Regina shelter, the number of women and children being turned away in the meantime indicates that Saskatchewan falls short of providing basic services even in the absence of a political crisis. And Jino Distasio weighs in on the need to fight structural poverty and deprivation, rather than focusing only on symptoms such as dangerous donation bins.

- Doug Cuthand rightly argues that it's impossible to build a sustainable future on fossil fuel dependence.

- Finally, Chris Glover asks who will stop Doug Ford's autocracy in Ontario, while pointing out how a proportional electoral system would significantly reduce the risk of one-man minority rule.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Sunday Afternoon Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Talia Lavin writes about the value of shifting the Overton window to enable serious discussion of higher tax rates on the people who have far more money than they could possibly need:
I think about how we view the rich, so often born into the aeries of luxury, as inherently deserving of their station. They’re coddled by their birth and by our tax code. They’re buoyed by our admiration: They’re “makers” and “doers” and winners of philanthropy awards, because they have enough money ― parked in ways such that it swells and effloresces into yet more money ― that they can throw their pocket change at the rest of us and be feted for it. We clap and call them “job creators,” even when the only jobs involved are for lawyers and the kind of accountants who know the differential tax-sheltering benefits between the Cayman Islands and Cyprus.
I think of the old, cracked windows on public trains that swelter in summer and freeze in winter and are beset with ever-longer delays. The ruts in our roads, the poison in our water, the fires in our forests, the plastic in our seas. I think of the things all that hoarded cash could heal and build and fix.
That’s when I’m grateful for even the smallest breath of air in our political discourse, a way to sweep away some of the poisonous rhetoric that blames the poor for their poverty and lauds the wealthy for circumstances most of them had no hand in creating.
I am sick of it, I am so sick of it I could scream an unending scream that might shatter even the reinforced imported Italian glass of a hedge-fund manager’s midcentury modern gut-renovated Manhattan penthouse that once belonged to an old woman whose rent control died when she did. With my own stubby hands, I want to break open the myth that those who outearn us are our betters. I want to break open the coffers of the wealthy and let us use it to save ourselves.
I’m so angry I want to smash the Overton Window that some courageous politicians are shoving at with their shoulders. Outside it the air is cool, and heavy with promise.
- Andrea Flynn and Susan Holmberg comment on the need to finally live up to FDR's rights-based vision in ensuring that people's basic material needs are met. Lori Culbert reports on Vancouver's attempts to wrestle with child poverty, while Hadlen Freeman observes that the longstanding problem of homelessness affects people doing precarious work in the new economy. And Kelly Crowe discusses how the revamping of Canada's food guide does nothing to help people who are unable to afford to follow it.

- Leyland Cecco highlights how pipeline protests are calling needed attention to the rights still held over unceded territory.

- Meanwhile, Charlie Taylor notes that Ireland's Strategic Investment Fund has joined the ranks of major public investors who have decided they can do better than to fund fossil fuel development.

- Finally, Dr. A.J. discusses how deliberate and avoidable austerity has left Nova Scotia with a crumbling health care system - while opening the door for profit-based health services which will only exacerbate the problem.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Saturday Afternoon Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- The Economic Policy Institute charts how government policy is exacerbating inequality in the U.S. And Sam Pizzigati discusses how Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is leading a much-needed discussion about ensuring that wealthy people pay their fair share - and notes that the arguments against a more progressive tax system are as empty as ever.

- Greg Marchildon and Andrew Jackson map out a path toward a national pharmacare program, concluding that a single national program would be both easier to implement and more beneficial in the long run compared to a more fragmented system. 

- Tanya Talaga highlights how Justin Trudeau is laughably downplaying his government's choice to fight Indigenous communities in the name of fossil fuel development rather than making any good faith effort toward reconciliation. And Sarah Petz reports on the sudden and inexplicable apprehension of an Indigenous child from a Winnipeg hospital - and the threats that any continued will only result in further difficulty trying to reunite the baby with her family.

- Meanwhile, Damian Carrington reports on a new study showing that air pollution common in urban areas around the work is just as dangerous to as smoking.

- Finally, Gaby Hinsliff argues that a focus on "make do and mend" rather than constant new consumption would have both environmental and economic benefits for the general public.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Musical interlude

Philosopher Kings - Hurts To Love You

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Jonathan Malesic writes that while millennials may be facing the worst of an economy set up to push workers into precarity, the workforce as a whole is dealing with high levels of burnout. And Jacques Marcoux and Katie Nicholson report on research showing that work-related deaths in Canada are severely underestimated in official statistics.

- Bloomberg News reports on the growing number of Canadians who can't meet their financial obligations. And Andrew Jackson points out that the problem is one of private exploitation, not taxes which are actually entirely manageable:
In 2016, the “average Canadian” paid an effective combined federal-provincial income tax rate of just 9.0 per cent – just nine cents for every dollar of income from employment, investments and government transfers. While that figure does not include sales taxes and social insurance contributions, it will surely strike most as quite a modest amount considering all of the benefits of public spending in the form of income support programs, social programs and public services.
The data also rebut the common view that the income tax “burden” has been increasing. In fact, the average effective rate has fallen from a peak of 11.3 per cent in 1997, two decades ago, to 9.0 per cent in 2016, and the effective rate on the top 1 per cent has fallen from 34.5 per cent at the peak in 2007 to 30.6 per cent in 2016. The effective tax rate on the 75th percentile has fallen from 19.1 per cent to 15.8 per cent over the same period.

So why all of the populist tax rage? One can only speculate, but perceptions are clearly not being shaped by the facts. Stagnant or falling real incomes for many Canadians are the result of low rates of growth of earnings and other forms of income, not rising income taxes.
- John McDonnell makes the case to make a definitive turn away from Thatcherism and austerity in 2019. 

- And finally, Bob Hepburn discusses the Ford government's moves behind the scenes to push privatized health care.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Thursday Evening Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Colin McAuliffe charts the increasing share of U.S. income going to profits and the already-wealthy. And Dani Rodrik writes about the importance of a progressive movement which seeks to shift the balance of power in how our economy functions, rather than settling for trying to redistribute wealth concentrated in the hands of a few:
There is now growing recognition that tax-and-transfer policies can go only so far. While there is much room for improving social insurance and tax regimes, especially in the US, deeper reforms are needed to help level playing fields in favor of ordinary workers and families across a broad range of domains. That means focusing on product, labor, and financial markets, on technology policies, and on the rules of the political game.

Inclusive prosperity cannot be achieved by simply redistributing income from the rich to the poor, or from the most productive parts of the economy to less productive sectors. It requires less-skilled workers, smaller firms, and lagging regions to be more fully integrated with the most advanced parts of the economy.

In other words, we must start with productive re-integration of the domestic economy. Large and productive firms have a critical role to play here. They must recognize that their success depends on the public goods that their national and sub-national governments supply – everything from law and order and intellectual property rules to infrastructure and public investment in skills and research and development. In exchange, they must invest in their local communities, suppliers, and workforce – not as corporate social responsibility, but as a mainline activity.
- David Sirota examines how Wall Street funds exacerbated the housing crisis arising from the 2008 financial crash. Alexander Sammon points out the plight of communities which offer massive incentives based on the promise of corporate jobs - only to find that those fall far short of producing any security or prosperity for residents. And David Macdonald writes that while Canada's first social impact bonds predictably produced plenty of profits for consultants and advisors, they were grossly inefficient in trying to improve social outcomes (with 60% of funding getting diverted from the supposed end goal).

- Wanyee Li rightly notes that in the wake of a series of deaths of homeless people trying to find warm clothing in donation bins, the core solution is to work on reducing poverty and homelessness - not to merely restrict access to the bins.

- Finally, Andre Picard discusses the predictable breakdowns in a health care system which is understaffed over the holidays when resources are needed most.

New column day

Here, on Scott Moe's apparent view that the only voice which deserves to be heard or amplified is that of the oil industry.

For further reading...
- Jie Jenny Zou is among many to have discussed the oil industry's track record of funding science denial in the interest of being able to pollute freely and take short-term profits while leaving long-term liabilities.
- And in case one didn't think there was enough astroturf around already, John Ivison has highlighted one new propaganda outlet connected to Brad Wall and the Sask Party's donors, while David Climenhaga pointed out another under development.
- Climenhaga has also written about both the Alberta NDP's publicly-funded PR work on behalf of the oil industry, and the UCP's even more extreme demands. And he's also noted how the University of Calgary has served as a mouthpiece for big oil.
- Finally, Arthur White-Crummet reported on Scott Moe's direct intervention to push for police to silence the Justice for our Stolen Children camp. Stephanie Taylor reported on Moe's explanation for selecting a fossil fuel rally alone as one to receive his participation and attention after previously claiming to consider himself above protests. And Charles Smith discusses how galling that was this week in particular, following as it did on the heels of both an empty Sixties Scoop apology and the advent of national protests against violations of Indigenous sovereignty in the name of fossil fuel development.

Wednesday, January 09, 2019

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Roderick Benns points out the disruptive effect of the cancellation of Ontario's basic income trial - signalling the importance of being able to plan on a stable source of income. And Jessica Chin reports on an anticipated wave of renovictions to push tenants out of their homes in an effort to goose property rents.

- George Monbiot discusses the devastating health effects of air pollution - and the roadblocks the fossil fuel lobby has put up to try to avoid a shift toward cleaner air and improved public health. But Umair Irfan notes that the U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear Exxon's attempt to suppress its own knowledge of the dangers of climate change now that some states are seeking to hold it accountable.

- Tom Parkin highlights how the Libs are more focused on playing games with by-elections than on accomplishing anything progressive voters would have expected from them as a government. And Murray Mandryk contrasts Scott Moe's words about the Sixties Scoop against his continued refusal to work even on such basic injustices as the systematic removal of Indigenous children from their families and communities.

- Finally, Seth Klein writes about the need to move past cynicism and participate in building the change which people both want and need:
(T)he truth is any of us as progressive activists, with the courage to see the world as it is and the conviction to seek to remake the world as it should be, walk a razor’s edge between hope and despair. We feel and know both. And maybe we should be more open about that.

And yet, I do see hope. I see it in the slow but sure progress of our movements. I see it in our research, which tells us that the world we want is possible given the political will. I see it in the activism and good will of people I’ve gotten to meet around the province in this job. I see it in the values of our fellow British Columbians and Canadians. From time to time, we at CCPA do polling on values (not much, it’s expensive). And when we do I’m always struck that, as a society, whenever we are given a choice between a private gain like a tax cut and a public good like spending on enhanced public services or tacking homelessness and poverty, for most people, the public good wins every time.

And so, here’s what I believe after 22 years in this job: the values of British Columbians are — in the main — good and progressive and caring. We just need a politics that allows people to give those positive values proper expression.

Tuesday, January 08, 2019

Tuesday Evening Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Matt Bruenig discusses how Sweden's 70% tax rate on its top income bracket fits into an economy with high incomes along with lower inequality than the U.S. among other countries.

- Roland Tanner rightfully argues that the proliferation of high turnover, low pay jobs doesn't ultimately serve employers' interests - even as Rocco Rossi and his ilk lobby furiously to preserve the ability to treat workers poorly. And Maria Hangeveld writes about the "purpose paradigm" as a means to push workers to accept the corporate framework which allows for their continued exploitation.

- Dan Gearino points out the emergence of clean energy in the U.S.' Midwest region. But Sharon Riley reports on one of the subsidies that's keeping the fossil fuel industry and its associated pollution at an artificially high share of Canada's economy, as the Alberta public is on the hook to reimburse landowners for the money owed by delinquent oil operators.

- Finally, the Globe and Mail's editorial board argues that 2019 should be the year when Canada implements a national pharmacare system:
When it comes to getting medical treatment from a doctor or a hospital, Canada has universal health insurance. In the United States, it’s what the Democratic Party’s presidential aspirants are about to start pitching to American voters, under the banner of “Medicare for All.”

But when it comes to drugs, the Canadian system is the broken American system. If you’re hospitalized and you’re given prescription meds, it’s free. But once you walk out of the hospital with a prescription to fill, you may be on your own. Coverage is a mix of private insurance and out-of-pocket spending, with the provinces and territories filling some of the gaps with a grab bag of local programs, each unique to its jurisdiction, for groups such as seniors and the poor.

In terms of pharmaceutical coverage, Canada in 2019 still looks a lot like Canada circa 1964.
...While most Canadians have workplace drug insurance, part-time workers, the self-employed and the precariously employed or unemployed usually aren’t among them. Even for those with insurance, it’s contingent on remaining with the same employer. Government programs are limited and selective, creating a safety net that’s filled with holes.
In a largely privatized system, the government has little ability to control costs. That’s true across the U.S. health-care system and in Canada when it comes to meds. Canadians are the world’s third-highest spenders on drugs, at nearly $1,100 per person in 2017. The British, in contrast, spend barely more than half as much. Their public system gives them the ability to negotiate better deals and put downward pressure on drug prices. 

Canada has the opportunity to do better; to improve the average Canadian’s access to necessary medicines while lowering the bill for businesses, taxpayers and citizens.

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Playtime cats.

Monday, January 07, 2019

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Henry Bewicke charts the worst offenders when it comes to per-capita carbon pollution - with the U.S. and Canada sharing an ignominious place at the top of the list. And the Star's editorial board points out that we shouldn't trust politicians who claim there's some free magic bullet to fight climate breakdown without a cost - though we should pay attention to the offsetting benefits of a just transition to a clean energy economy.

- George Monbiot writes about the role of advertising both in shaping preferences, and in causing stress and dissatisfaction. And John Ivison and David Climenhaga each point out new additions to what was already a blaring right-wing noise machine in Canadian politics.

- Anne Helen Petersen discusses how a combination of relentless stressors and limited opportunities for stability has resulted in widespread burnout among millennials. 

- Finally, Tom Parkin comments on the connection between the Libs' attitude that younger workers can't expect anything but precarious lives, and their cynical choice to put off by-elections which could force them to answer for their failings.

Sunday, January 06, 2019

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Paul Krugman examines the economics of a higher tax rate on extreme high-income individuals:
Diamond, in work with Emmanuel Saez — one of our leading experts on inequality — estimated the optimal top tax rate to be 73 percent. Some put it higher: Christina Romer, top macroeconomist and former head of President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers, estimates it at more than 80 percent.

Where do these numbers come from? Underlying the Diamond-Saez analysis are two propositions: Diminishing marginal utility and competitive markets.

Diminishing marginal utility is the common-sense notion that an extra dollar is worth a lot less in satisfaction to people with very high incomes than to those with low incomes. Give a family with an annual income of $20,000 an extra $1,000 and it will make a big difference to their lives. Give a guy who makes $1 million an extra thousand and he’ll barely notice it.

What this implies for economic policy is that we shouldn’t care what a policy does to the incomes of the very rich. A policy that makes the rich a bit poorer will affect only a handful of people, and will barely affect their life satisfaction, since they will still be able to buy whatever they want.
(W)hen taxing the rich, all we should care about is how much revenue we raise. The optimal tax rate on people with very high incomes is the rate that raises the maximum possible revenue.

And that’s something we can estimate, given evidence on how responsive the pre-tax income of the wealthy actually is to tax rates. As I said, Diamond and Saez put the optimal rate at 73 percent, Romer at over 80 percent — which is consistent with what AOC said.
- Lana Payne writes about the continued class war being waged by the rich, while Sharmini Peries interviews Cornel West about the need to build a stronger collective movement to fight back. And Lynne Fernandez and Shauna MacKinnon discuss the connection between a "right to the city" movement and social justice generally.

- Jonathon Schuldt and Y. Connie Yuan write that the vast majority of Americans are far more favourable toward fighting climate change than their political leaders, while David Akin notes that same holds true in Canada. David Roberts warns that right-wing blather about "innovation" doesn't reflect any serious attempt to address the climate crisis, particularly where it's aimed primarily at shoveling free money toward polluters. And even as the Sask Party's waste of billions of dollars on CCS technology fits squarely into that category, D.C. Fraser reports that Scott Moe is pushing any emission reduction enforcement whatsoever into 2021 at the earliest. 

- Finally, Ellen MacArthur points out the prospect of planning intended to achieve a virtuous circle of responsibly managing resources - in contrast to the current economic model based on short-term profits and disposability.

Saturday, January 05, 2019

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Dennis Gruending writes about the difference between genuine populism focused on the interests of the public at large, and the discriminatory politics of the right which are often given the same label:
The Oxford English Dictionary defines a populist as someone who is “a member or adherent of a political party seeking to represent the interests of ordinary people.” That is just what Douglas and others, such as Ontario MP Agnes Macphail, were doing in the early to middling years of the 20th century. The rural community was being exploited by banks, railroads, grain buyers and farm machinery companies, with the complicity of most politicians in the old line parties.
Populists, including Douglas and Macphail, were engaged in movements to bring about economic and social reforms which were badly needed. They were also dedicated to winning those reforms through the ballot box. As democratic socialists they pushed the limits of liberal democracy while remaining committed to its structures and practices.
There remains a need today for popular movements to challenge elites – including Canada’s 100 highest paid CEOs who, according to the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, took home salaries and benefits equal to 197 times more than the average worker in 2017. The pursuit of economic and environmental justice demands research, organization, and yes, appeals to emotion. But let’s not confuse those efforts with incitements by today’s demagogues to greed, violence and racism.
[Update: IP's Twitter response is worth a look in clarifying the academic definition of "populism" to include elements of both left and right.]

- Molly McCluskey discusses the lasting positive effects of Quebec's affordable child care program - along with the fact that there's room for improvement in ensuring that everybody has access to quality public care.

- Reuters reports on Google's offshoring of tens of billions of dollars in 2017 alone. Jeff Stein examines how much more revenue the U.S. would have to improve people's lives if it applied reasonable tax rates on extreme income and wealth, while William Horobin writes that a crackdown on tax compliance has become one of the latest achievements of France's gilets jaunes protests. And Owen Jones comments on the need for the UK's fat cats to start paying their fair share.

- Aimee Picchi reports on the thousands of U.S. drug price increases resulting from the Trump administration's willingness to let big pharma dictate the terms for access to necessary medication. And Aris Folley reports on just one tragic example of a 26-year-old diabetic who died for lack of access to insulin.

- Finally, Duane Bratt writes that while anger may be a useful tool as part of an effort to take power, it's useless as a guide to exercising it.

Friday, January 04, 2019

Musical interlude

CHVRCHES - Warning Call

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Doreen Nicoll makes the case to reinstate the basic income plan eliminated by Doug Ford in Ontario. Danielle Kurtz examines a few of the ideas being proposed by U.S. Democrats in the lead up to the 2020 presidential campaign (including their own basic income model), while Steven Vogel comments on Elizabeth Warren's arguments to reduce inequality at the predistribution phase. And Brian Dew proposes a "people's dividend" drawn from the growing concentration of unneeded corporate cash. 

- Kristin Annable reports on one Manitoba patient's discovery that chemotherapy pumps used for her treatment are regularly left uninspected. 

- Amanda Vyce discusses how a national public pharmacare program may be the only way to ensure a fair deal for Canadians in light of extended monopolies over biologic medicines.

- Finally, Takashi Tsuji and Yasu Ota report on a further push through WTO structures to hand corporations the ability to keep crucial information secret regardless of any public interest. And Rodrigo Samayoa reminds us why corporations can't be allowed to throttle neutral access to the Internet:
For years, Big Telecom has been telling us that the internet requires greater flexibility to innovate and invest in the new 5G networks that will allow us to safely ride self-driving vehicles and use remote health-care apps.

We have heard this from Verizon, AT&T, Bell, Rogers and Ajit Pai, the chairman of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission. But none of that is surprising, is it?

Of course they want greater flexibility. Wouldn't they love to charge you extra to hook up your car to the 5G network or charge insurance companies more for remote health care?
If Canada is to remain at the forefront of innovation and freedom, we need a robust net neutrality framework that doesn't benefit those with deep pockets and vested interests. How could a streaming startup or non-profit news service compete with the likes of Netflix and Google News in a world where your access to broadband is determined by how much you can pay?

For that matter, what guarantees are there that broadband access to telehealth apps won't be determined by how much you can pay?

In the United States, evidence of throttling by ISPs is already evident, even when it comes to first responders. Just last year Verizon throttled the "unlimited" internet connection of a California fire department in the middle of a catastrophic wildfire.

Is that the flexibility we need for net neutrality?

Wednesday, January 02, 2019

Wednesday Evening Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives' annual report on CEO pay shows that executives are again being handed hundreds as much money as their employees - and that there's also a gender gap even at the executive level.

- The Economic Policy Institute charts the growth of inequality in the U.S. - as well as the role unions play in reducing it. And Maxime Quijoux and Guillaume Gourges point out how France's gilets jaunes protests (unlike their Canadian astroturf counterparts) could offer an opportunity to rejuvenate the labour movement.

- Saira Peesker reports on some of the Ontario employers who are following through on improved wages and working conditions, rather than taking Doug Ford's invitation to move backwards.

- Finally, Philip Doe argues that fracking would never be permitted if its effects approached the privileged people most likely to be pushing it for the sake of short-term profits. And Fiona Harvey offers some reasons to be optimistic about the environment in the year to come.

Tuesday, January 01, 2019

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Decorated cats.

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Glen Pearson discusses the glaring gap between what citizens actually value, and what gets done by the governments they elect through distorted political systems:
This past weekend, I wrote a column for the London Free Press, in which I stated the following:
“What polls continue to reveal is that the coming generations of leaders and voters are increasingly bent on achieving social justice, environmental reform, gender equity, affordable housing, stronger communities, and a political order in line with those values.”
A look at 2018 Pew and Gallup polls revealed some fascinating realities about American views in the midst of a white-hot Trump era.  Consider these:
  • 70% of Americans support medicare for all
  • 74% favour strong environmental laws
  • 82% want equal pay for women
  • 59% agree with free child care
  • 58% favour breaking up the big banks
  • In something of a shocker, 75% favour immigration within proper quotas
  • 62% support labour unions
  • 61% want the minimum wage increased in their respective states
  • Surprisingly, 61% wish to see cuts to the military budget
  • 71% are pro choice
This is not the America we hear about or see every day and yet it is part of the reason for the successful Democratic mid-term wave.  We are convinced that our neighbour to south is a culture of guns, but then learn that 78% of Americans don’t even own a gun.  The United States is more than we are seeing right now and what isn’t being recognized is how progressive it is.

The problem, then, is really one of politics, and much of the blame for that lies not with the politicians but with citizens themselves.  It shouldn’t surprise us to learn that 46.9% of Americans who could vote didn’t bother.  That is 106,516,046 people – almost three times the population of Canada.  With that number of citizens staying home, the majority of whom, as research and polls show, significantly support the above values, then it’s inevitable that that those of the opposite view prevail in elections and public policy.  And, yes, the electoral college in the U.S. often works against the popular vote (which conservatives lost by more than three million votes in 2016 and yet still prevailed).  What kind of democracy is it when the majority loses?  There are numerous answers to that question, but the point is that democracy itself is not served by such realities.

The other real problem is the grouping of the political, financial and corporate elites who have overseen our political and financial order and yet have failed to keep pace with the progressive instincts of their respective populations.  Voters trusted their promises, only to see jobs disappear, the environment continue under increasing threat, women still not receiving equal pay, and electoral reform frequently getting squelched.  That trust is now eroding.  The key job of the elites was to solve the primary problems of the entire citizenry, not maintain the status quo.
- Michael Sainato writes about the push toward a union by Amazon's warehouse employees seeking a more fair balance of power against an exploitative employer. And Simon Murphy exposes a UK employment agency whose appalling practices including fining workers for being sick.

- Alan Freeman comments on the combination of waste and mistreatment of employees that resulted from the Cons' and Libs' choice to impose the Phoenix pay system on the federal civil service.

- The Canadian Press reports that rural internet access is among the infrastructure which the Libs are holding hostage to the goal of finding private-sector profiteers. And Spencer Macnoughton and Conall Jones report on the desperate measures being taken by patients in need of insulin which has been priced far beyond their means.

- Finally, Paul Krugman discusses how it's possible to lay the groundwork for needed action to avert climate breakdown on an urgent basis even in the U.S.' political system where a denialist executive branch will prevent any immediate progress.