Thursday, March 07, 2019

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Tim Wu writes that the U.S.' political system is serving to allow a privileged few to ignore the policy preferences and interests of the vast majority of citizens:
About 75 percent of Americans favor higher taxes for the ultrawealthy. The idea of a federal law that would guarantee paid maternity leave attracts 67 percent support. Eighty-three percent favor strong net neutrality rules for broadband, and more than 60 percent want stronger privacy laws. Seventy-one percent think we should be able to buy drugs imported from Canada, and 92 percent want Medicare to negotiate for lower drug prices. The list goes on.

The defining political fact of our time is not polarization. It’s the inability of even large bipartisan majorities to get what they want on issues like these. Call it the oppression of the supermajority. Ignoring what most of the country wants — as much as demagogy and political divisiveness — is what is making the public so angry.
In our era, it is primarily Congress that prevents popular laws from being passed or getting serious consideration. (Holding an occasional hearing does not count as “doing something.”) Entire categories of public policy options are effectively off-limits because of the combined influence of industry groups and donor interests. There is no principled defense of this state of affairs — and indeed, no one attempts to offer such a justification. Instead, legislative stagnation is cynically defended by those who benefit from it with an unconvincing invocation of the rigors of our system of checks and balances.
As the United States begins the process of choosing the next president and Congress, we need to talk more openly about which candidates are most likely to deliver the economic policies that the supermajority wants. Yes, the people can be wrong about things, but so too can experts, embedded industry groups and divisive political factions. It is not a concession to populism, but rather a respect for democracy, to suggest that two-thirds of the population should usually get what they ask for.
- Meanwhile, Jen Gerson discusses how the SNC Lavalin scandal shows the corruption underlying far too much of Canadian politics. Andrew Coyne comments on the Libs' attempt to exercise political control while insisting Jody Wilson-Raybould was free to decide - as long as she did so in favour of their donors and political allies. And Craig Scott highlights the dangers of normalizing political interference in prosecutorial discretion as the Libs are now trying to do.

- David Climenhaga points out how the Libs' attempt to change the channel with an announcement on prescription drugs fell short of an actual pharmacare program. And indeed, Kelly Grant notes that the distraction tactic didn't include any meaningful details.

- Damian Carrington points out new research showing the wide reach of the unintended spread of microplastics. And Tiffany Lizee reports on the role fracking is playing in causing earthquakes in Alberta.

- Finally, John Cassidy discusses how the principles behind the Green New Deal can be met with technology that's already readily available - as long as petropolitics don't stand in the way.

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