Tuesday, January 01, 2019

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.

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