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.

No comments:

Post a Comment