Sunday, April 05, 2020

Sunday Afternoon Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Jim Stanford writes about the need for a new Marshall Plan to rebuild once we've won the fight against COVID-19:
For many years to come, Canada’s economy will rely on public service, public investment and public entrepreneurship as the main drivers of growth. They will lead us in recovering from the immediate downturn, preparing for future health and environmental crises and addressing the desperate conditions in our communities. The chronic weakness of private business capital spending in recent years was already indicating a growing need for public investment to lead the way. After COVID-19, it is impossible to imagine that private capital spending could somehow lead the reconstruction of a shattered national economy.

What form will this public-led reconstruction plan take? There are many priorities for public resources and economic leadership. Any and all of them would create needed jobs, provide essential services and rebuild our capacity to work, produce and spend:
  • Healthcare services and facilities. Canada’s public health infrastructure has responded courageously to the demands of COVID-19, but the crisis highlights long-standing weaknesses in our health system. We will need to invest tens of billions in repairing and improving health facilities (including related services like aged care and community health), training and employing more healthcare workers — and being better prepared for the next pandemic.
  • Transportation. Airlines and other public transportation providers have been among the hardest hit by the pandemic. They will need injections of public capital and other direct measures to recover and rebuild.
  • Public infrastructure. Underinvestment in public infrastructure since the 1980s has badly undermined Canadian productivity and well-being. This is the time to commit to a sustained public investment program: increasing public capital spending by at least half (from under 4 percent of GDP today to 6 percent or higher).
  • Other public services. All attention is on healthcare services at present, for good reason. But other public services are also in need of investment and expansion: including aged care, early childhood education, disability services and vocational training. As the post-pandemic economy works off an enormous overhang of underutilized labour, expanded public services will be an engine of growth, not just a “cost.”
  • Energy and climate transitions. With the price of Western Canada Select oil falling to close to zero (and no reason to expect any sustained rebound to levels that would justify new investment), it is clear that fossil fuel developments will never lead Canadian growth again. Politicians and their “war rooms” can rage at this state of affairs, but they can’t change it: they might as well pray for a revival in prices for beaver pelts or other bygone Canadian staple exports. However, the other side of this gloomy coin is the enormous investment and employment opportunity associated with building out renewable energy systems and networks (which are now the cheapest energy option anyway). This effort must be led by forceful, consistent government policy, including direct regulation and public investment (in addition to carbon pricing). Another big job creator, already identified by Ottawa and Alberta, will be investment in remediation of former petroleum and mining sites.
In short, there’s no shortage of urgent rebuilding tasks in our economy and our communities. The case for mobilizing resources to meet those needs, under the leadership of governments and other public institutions, is compelling. We can put people to work, repair the damage of this crisis (and better prepare for the next one) and deliver essential and valuable services. All we need is a different model of organizing and leading economic activity — and some modern-day C.D. Howes – to help us imagine and implement that vision.
- David Suzuki takes note of the opportunity to change the way we live for the better. And the Financial Times' editorial board recognizes the need for more public planning and investment in the new economy.

- Meanwhile, Geoff Dembicki calls out Jason Kenney's foolhardy bet on a dying fossil fuel industry.

- Andrew Jackson discusses our options to finance the relief and recovery efforts, with emphasis on both the need to get past any obsession with deficits now and the importance of looking to wealth taxes rather than austerity once we've moved past that stage. And Camille Landais, Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman comment on the need for a wealth tax in particular.

- Cam Holmstrom is rightly outraged at the Trump administration's order that 3M and other U.S. suppliers renege on their contracts to provide personal protective equipment to Canada and other purchasers. 

- Finally, Nicholas Casey discusses how COVID-19 has exposed the glaring inequalities underlying the seeming uniformity of college life. And Branko Milanovic examines the possible impact of the pandemic on inequality.

Saturday, April 04, 2020

On stitches in time

It’s no secret that Canadians’ individual finances have been getting perpetually more precarious, with most people lacking the ability to fund even a single urgent expense.

But the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed what happens when the fragile finances of large numbers of individuals shatter all at once. And while our short-term attention is rightly directed toward limiting the damage, our longer-term view should include working on both increased individual stability as a baseline expectation, and greater social capacity to respond in case of emergency.

At the individual level, the COVID-19 panic started with a combination of massive job losses, and large-scale panic buying as fears about the availability of essential goods became a self-fulfilling prophecy. And the latest stressor has arrived this week, as rent has come due for large numbers of workers who have lost jobs through no fault of their own.

For the moment, the best far too many people have been able to do is to keep the bare essentials in place, and try to plan toward the end of the crisis. But we’ll eventually need to reckon on a wider scale with lifestyles built on debt which is barely manageable at the best of times, and the assumption of ongoing income which has proven illusory.

And that need for action is only exacerbated by the deterioration of the government apparatus which should insure against what individuals can’t.

For far too long, buzzwords like “efficiency” and “lean” have been used as excuses to reduce public-sector capacity. And the lack of everything from income supports to hospital beds to personal protective equipment today can be traced to ill-fated calculations that they weren’t needed.

We’ve thus been reminded that the foundational principle of our government shouldn’t be to have the smallest possible footprint. Instead, it’s to be able to reach people who need help. And the extra effort and delay involved in trying to add capacity in the course of a public emergency does nothing but harm to the people who need help most - particularly when that means competing with other governments for the same resources.

On the federal side, the Liberals’ response has involved plenty of headline announcements by Justin Trudeau. But any actual followup has taken far too long to materialize, particularly for a government supposedly obsessed with “deliverology”.

Even the first wave of income support announced through the Employment Insurance system has yet to arrive. And while a brand-new program and application system have been developed to streamline the process, the result has been to put off even the acceptance of applications - let alone the distribution of benefits - until long after people have had to face severe losses of income.

Meanwhile, at the provincial level, we’ve seen a focus primarily on punishment rather than assistance. The Saskatchewan Party has eventually encouraged physical distancing backed by increasingly strong rules. But it’s punted any income support to the federal level, and taken only the tiniest of steps to even acknowledge how we’re all put at risk by failing access to housing and health services.

Eventually, voters will be able to draw our own conclusions as to who’s quickly and accurately identified what needs to be done, and who’s put off needed action at the price of human health and well-being.

And in the process, we should also expect our leaders to have the foresight to prepare for the worst before it’s too late. COVID-19 has radically disrupted the old normal - and we shouldn’t tolerate a return to the individual precarity and government decay that’s made it so difficult to respond.

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Grace Blakeley points out the importance of putting our relief and recovery funding toward public investments, rather than the further enrichment of people with already-appalling concentrations of wealth:
We cannot rely on this crisis to undermine the ideology of shareholder value, which has become so entrenched within the UK’s – and indeed the world’s – largest corporations over the last several decades. If we want corporations to behave well – to treat their staff and suppliers well, to operate sustainably and to invest productively – then we must organise to demand more from both businesses and the state. 
...
(W)e must also organise to demand more from the state. At present, the government is simply dishing out free money to some of the country’s largest businesses with no strings attached – much as it did to the largest banks in the wake of the financial crisis. The government’s refusal to stipulate that the banks must lend to the rest of the economy in the wake of the crisis undoubtedly exacerbated the credit crunch. 

Government action is unlikely to stop at subsidies and loans – we will see a wave of corporate bailouts as this crisis progresses. We must demand that conditions be attached. Any companies in receipt of government support should be expected to retain as many of their workers as possible, cutting dividends payouts and senior salaries before undertaking layoffs. Longer term, they should be tasked with reducing pay differentials, promoting environmental sustainability and undertaking productive, rather than speculative, investment.

However this crisis plays out it is likely to transform both the UK’s corporate environment, and the governance of its major corporations. Either we will see the deepening of the logic of shareholder value, rendered much more powerful by the substantial support provided to large corporations by the state; or, we could lay the foundations for a new model of corporate governance – one that places the interests of stakeholders alongside, or even before, those of creditors and shareholders.
- Angela Carter and Keith Stewart extend the same logic to the fossil fuel sector, where we should be looking to support workers and communities rather than oil barons. But Kieran Levitt and Alex Boyd write about Jason Kenney's blinkered insistence on pouring money into shareholders' pockets, while Mitchell Anderson calls out the willingness of so many governments to facilitate the spread of the coronavirus through cramped work camps in the name of resource extraction.

- Kristen Pue writes that having failed to act to end homelessness before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, we should be redoubling our efforts to make sure everybody has a secure place to stay (and distance themselves) now.

- On the bright side, Moira Wyton reports on British Columbia's move to boost the pay of long-term care workers.

- And finally, Jordan Himelfarb weighs in on the hopeful signs of improved social cohesion as we respond to a crisis.

Friday, April 03, 2020

Musical interlude

Texas King - Drifter

Friday Afternoon Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Paul Wells highlights the futility in telling people to stay home when they lack a home to stay in. And Robyn Urback discusses the simple test of character involved in the choice of some leaders to abandon people at sea.

- Megan Linton discusses how neoliberal health care treats people as disposable. The Star's editorial board points out how we're currently sending our health care workers to war without adequate equipment, while Catharine Tunney reports on the federal government's recognition only after the fact that it didn't have sufficient personal protective equipment. And Jane Philpott comments on the need to protect the health workers working to care for people through the course of the pandemic.

- Michael Enright interviews Hugh Segal about the prospect of a basic income - and the extra value it would carry in a crisis (particularly as the federal government makes excuses about lacking information to distribute even the barest of benefits to people who need them). And Mark Blyth points out how the U.S.' debt-driven economy with few social supports or shock absorbers makes it particularly vulnerable to the COVID-19 pandemic, while Madison Hoff notes that a shutdown is calling needed attention to the U.S.' obsession with work over welfare.

- Owen Jones writes about the need to fight to ensure the new world which emerges from COVID-19 is actually an improvement on the one that's allowed it to cause so much damage. And Dorothee Benz takes note of the corporate media focused primarily on profits rather than lives.


- Finally, Ian Welsh offers a needed warning against the impulse to rally around bad leaders in a time of crisis.

Thursday, April 02, 2020

Thursday Afternoon Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Jeet Heer writes about the class war already emerging in competing responses to the coronavirus epidemic. Ricardo Tranjan makes the case for rent forgiveness as part of COVID-19 relief based on the reality as to who owns the bulk of Canada's private rental housing stock. And Zoe Williams highlights why we need to focus on bailing out people rather than corporations, while Laurie Macfarlane discusses the dangers of replicating or even exacerbating existing inequalities.

- Nora Loreto and Alex Hemingway each point out their concerns with the Libs' wage subsidy plan. And David Macdonald finds that nearly a million unemployed Canadians have been excluded from any federal relief.

- PressProgress points out how refugees stuck in detention are especially vulnerable to the harm of a contagious disease. And Jane Philpott and Kim Pate argue that we're running out of time to avoid a disastrous outbreak among incarcerated people in Canada. 

- Eric Holthaus discusses how the choices we make in rebuilding from the shock of a pandemic will shape the world to come. And Damian Carrington, Jillian Ambrose and Matthew Taylor explore the possibility of a rapid transition to a clean economy.

- But then, Erica Cirino notes that dirty extractive industries are being treated as "essential" even as large segments of business as usual is shut down. And Sarah Cox reports on calls to shut down work camps which are thus far going unheeded.

- Finally, George Monbiot writes that contrary to the script presumed to apply in case of a crisis, the COVID-19 pandemic has seen a surge in caring and cooperation as part of people's daily routine.

Wednesday, April 01, 2020

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Michael Valpy and Frank Graves take a look at public opinion in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, and conclude that Canadians are rightly eager to see our leaders do whatever is necessary to ensure our survival and health. And Laila Yuile notes that the failure to act quickly and strongly enough is far from a new one - as many of the difficulties we're facing in responding to COVID-19 were studied then ignored in the wake of the SARS outbreak.

- Leigh Phillips and Michal Rozworski discuss how the pandemic shows the importance of central planning toward the public good.

- Sheila Block and Simran Dhunna argue that we need to be doing far more to protect the frontline workers providing us with the essentials of life in a public health emergency. And Steven Greenhouse reports on the workers taking matters into their own hands by walking off the job to ensure their health and safety are respected by employers.

- Meanwhile, Toby Sanger points out some of the risks involved in the federal government's wage subsidy program.

- Karen Howlett reports on the provinces which are setting up temporary hospitals to deal with the rise of COVID-19. Drew Anderson reports on Alberta's stunning refusal to allow people in need of housing to have even a modicum of privacy, deliberately choosing convention centres over hotels in the midst of a contagious disease crisis. And Zak Vescera reports on the insufficiency of the Saskatchewan Party's belated response to the need for secure housing and incomes.

- Finally, Annie Lowrey makes the case for governments to provide income using a helicopter drop model, rather than delaying and restricting needed support when people can't afford to wait.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Active act.




FEEL THE COMPASSION!!!

Finally, a provincial announcement about how Saskatchewan's most vulnerable can meet their basic needs in a public health emergency which is depriving thousands upon thousands of people of income...
Individuals who have, or are suspected of having, COVID-19 and lack money to meet their basic needs should apply for any Federal Benefits they would be eligible for. 
And if the federal government isn't even taking applications for its main benefit program until next week - nor making payments until mid-April...

Well, that gets a hearty ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.

Tuesday Afternoon Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Anton Jager and Steven Klein discuss how the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a particularly strong clash in rhetoric between people advocating for human lives and capital interests, while Siva Vaidhyanathan notes that the choice is a false one in any event due to the foreseeable social fallout from leaving large numbers of people to face avoidable deaths. And Paul Krugman points out some of the familiar zombie arguments being used to minimize social interests in the name of serving the corporate sector.

- Meanwhile, Patricia Callahan reports on a publicly-funded effort to develop affordable ventilators for the U.S. which was instead turned into a profit centre following a corporate buyout. And Paris Marx proposes that nationalizing Amazon may be the type of step needed to repurpose existing logistical infrastructure for the public good.

- The International Labour Organization sets out (PDF) some of the key labour obligations relevant to the pandemic, including income security, occupational health and safety and leave entitlements. And Zaid Noorsumar discusses how Canada's federal response thus far falls short of providing a full safety net for workers.

- The Globe and Mail's editorial board argues for an economic response which provides everybody with a bridge to the point where it's possible to resume a full-employment economy.

- Katharine Scott highlights how a pandemic has shown the weaknesses in a largely private and profit-driven system of long-term care. And Martha Friendly and Morna Ballantyne write that COVID-19 has demonstrated how child care is an essential service.

- Finally, PressProgress exposes the property management companies threatening renters with eviction even as the public good demands that people have secure homes. And CBC News reports on the desperate need for supports for homeless populations.

Monday, March 30, 2020

Monday Afternoon Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Noam Scheiber, Nelson Schwartz and Tiffany Hsu point out how the social isolation required in response to COVID-19 is only confirming and exacerbating the U.S.' class divide. And Shawn Micallef highlights the vast difference between social isolation in a large home as opposed to a confined living space.

- David Naylor and Tim Evans offer their suggestions for a path back to normalcy. CBC News reports on the wake-up call the pandemic represents for Canada's prescription drug supply. Danyaal Raza and Hasan Sheikh discuss the importance of strengthening our health care system as part of our rescue from the coronavirus pandemic. And Miles Corak argues that the delay in responding to COVID-19 should push us to maintain more government capacity at all times - rather than relying on a "just in time" relief apparatus to assemble only once a crisis is already underway.

- Sara Birrell takes note of the extremely limited help for workers on offer from Scott Moe's Saskatchewan Party government. And David Macdonald examines the all-too-gradually-improving federal relief package.

- David Dayen exposes a few of the U.S. lobbyists looking to turn a public emergency into a windfall for their well-connected corporate clients. Reuven Avi-Yonah makes the case for a war effort to include excess profit taxes of the type applied during World War II. And George Turner is rightly concerned about tax avoiders who have callously refused to contribute to society now cutting to the front of the line in the midst of a crisis. 

- Finally, Jonathan Watts looks at the lessons of the COVID-19 pandemic which apply equally to our climate crisis.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Sunday Afternoon Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- David Bush reminds us that the hoarders worth being concerned about are the ones accumulating obscene amounts of wealth at the expense of our society's ability to provide everybody with the necessities of life.

- Matthew Green makes the case that Canada's response to the coronavirus needs to focus more on the people who already had the least. And Tom Cooper points out how payday lenders are exploiting the pandemic (along with a lack of regulation and alternative income sources) to push people further into debt.

- Jonathan Freedland writes that Donald Trump's narcissism has definitively reached the point of costing the lives of his citizens. And Richard Wolffe comments on Trump's eagerness to sacrifice those lives for his own political ends.

- Kathleen Martens reports on the risk that ongoing pipeline construction will spread COVID-19 to communities along the way. And Paul McKay discusses why a fossil fuel bailout is the wrong response to the crisis.

- Finally, Fiona Harvey reports on the effort of scientists to ensure that climate change is met with as forceful a government push as the coronavirus. And Jeff Goodell writes that while we can't avoid some ongoing damage to our climate, there's still time to flatten the greenhouse gas emissions curve to reduce the eventual harm.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

On universal relief

Aside from the usual mantra that "NDP = CPC!", one of the most regularly-repeated Lib talking points criticizing the NDP's work trying to get coronavirus relief to all Canadians has been to point out that there's no single source of information available which contains the list of everybody who might receive help.

So let's talk about the real choices involved - and why the Libs' position pointing to the lack of a single source of information as a basis for limiting substantive relief is ultimately indefensible.

One of the core questions involved in any relief effort is its scope: whether the goal should be to include everybody in emergency funding, or to means-test and otherwise target what's going out. And the "not everybody's in the database!" talking point serves primarily as an excuse for saying we have no choice but to pursue the latter option.

Which, to put it simply, is asinine. If the best-case scenario is to reach 100% of the population, we're far better off starting with the best source of information available and adding recipients from there to fill in the gap, rather than starting from zero.

And that goes doubly given the obvious risks of setting up an application process outside or beyond the scope of anything else under federal jurisdiction.

The federal government has already shifted responsibility for its individual benefit away from EI after recognizing the current system wasn't set up to handle the previous iteration. But that means access to the core funding intended to keep Canadians afloat through a public health emergency will be running through a completely new and untested system. (Needless to say, the experience of federal civil servants with Phoenix should serve as a giant red flag on that front.)

So what's the effect on people in line to receive the benefit? Let's compare the Libs' scheme to an automatic helicopter drop to all Canadians in (say) the CRA's database.

For people already in the system, the Libs' scheme imposes unnecessary costs in time and effort on both the individuals applying, and the new mechanism set up to receive the applications. (And as many have pointed out, anybody who doesn't need the help can simply be taxed back next year when the system isn't so overwhelmed.)

And even for people left out of current information sources, a system of paying by default would be helpful. If you're going to need to apply to a new federal bureaucracy for benefits either way, surely it would be better to be among a relatively small number of people required to do so, rather than potentially getting stuck at the back of a backlog as millions of applications converge on the same system.

In sum, the lack of a complete list of people needing benefits doesn't represent a valid excuse for imposing either means-testing or mandatory registration under circumstances where it's possible to help people faster and more efficiently. And the people who left waiting for their emergency help will have reason to remember who's chosen to put barriers in their way.

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Derek Thompson reports on Denmark's wage subsidies which are finally being mimicked by other countries including Canada. And Duncan Cameron points out how the Libs' early response fell far short of the mark.

- Rachel Giese points out how the coronavirus response shows the ability of governments to deploy resources to meet basic needs when they're motivated enough to do so.

- Mindy Isser discusses how a pandemic is showing everybody who's actually needed as between the wealthy few and the service workers who keep our essential supports running. But Alexander Panetta observes that a crisis is only emphasizing and deepening the class divide.

- Anthony Morgan discusses how incarcerated people are particularly vulnerable to infectious diseases. And Samantha Michaels writes about the spread of COVID-19 through Rikers Island, while Kendall Latimer, Dan Zakreski and Creeden Martell report on the first apparent cases among Saskatchewan correctional workers.

- Aaron Saltzman notes that deferred mortgage payments under the privately-controlled model set up by the Libs may carry large costs, with the bank standing to benefit as a result.

- Finally, PressProgress highlights how Jason Kenney attempted to demonize renters as an excuse for refusing to provide protection against evictions.

Friday, March 27, 2020

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Wednesday Afternoon Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Brendan Kennedy reports on the massive job losses being caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Andrew Jackson offers his suggestions to provide immediate help to workers facing that urgent crisis today, while also laying the groundwork for a transition to a clean economy once we're able to start rebuilding. And Angella MacEwen highlights the need for a rescue package to be based on both speed and responsiveness to gaps in coverage.

- Ricardo Tranjan examines the financial insecurity facing people who are being told their rent obligations and other expenses aren't going away even after their incomes have disappeared. And Heather Scoffield argues that the federal government needs to step up in ensuring that renters aren't left out in the cold. 

- Maureen Callahan discusses the class implications of COVID-19 in the Hamptons.  Polly Toynbee observes that an economic collapse is forcing the middle class to confront a decimated social safety net. And Nick Shaxson writes that tax justice needs to be taken into account in designing and funding our recovery. 

- Jerome Roos weighs in on the need to deal with the massive piles of debt accumulated even before the pandemic.

- Gillian Steward writes that Alberta's relative success in responding to the coronavirus can be traced to the public health care system which Jason Kenney is so determined to dismantle.

- Finally, Tammy Robert calls out Scott Moe and the Saskatchewan Party for delaying public information about the spread of COVID-19 in order to frame their partial budget announcement.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Lounging cat.





Conventional Wisdom!

Deathly serious? Or downright hilarious? It would be rude to suggest the Saskatchewan Party government should be able to appropriately classify a pandemic.

Meanwhile, Scott Moe's entire economic plan for both the pandemic and recovery consists once again of having the federal government absorb the liabilities of the oil sector, with no mention of any other workers. But since we've heard so much about Moe's studiousness, that's presumably for entirely valid public health reasons, such as [INSERT CAPP TALKING POINT HERE].

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Kenan Malik discusses how the coronavirus pandemic has exposed the fragility of the UK's social and economic structures:
The economic burden imposed by the policy of social distancing has fallen most upon the poorest and the lowest paid, many of whom cannot work from home and have few savings on which to fall back. In response, the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, unveiled on Friday a major package of measures, including grants to businesses covering up to 80% of employees’ wages, and increases to universal credit and working tax credits.

The measures are significant, necessary and welcome. There are holes in the package, especially for renters and the self-employed. Nevertheless, Sunak was right to call it “unprecedented”. But it also raises the question: why does it require a pandemic for the needs of low-paid and insecure workers to be taken seriously?
...
Coronavirus has exposed the fragility of social life. It has revealed, too, that a large measure of that fragility is the result not of the pandemic, or of the attempt to combat it, but rather has been built into the system through deliberate policy. The worry is that beyond the pandemic, and the temporary measures announced by the chancellor, the issues of poverty and inequality will once more be ignored.

The 2008 financial crisis was resolved with vast amounts of public cash. And then the public was made to pay for that generosity with a decade of austerity. We may need to do “whatever it takes” to bring the pandemic under control. But once it is under control, will we also then do whatever it takes to deal with low pay, insecure work and inadequate benefits?
- Sarah Jones weighs in on what the pandemic is telling us about which work is truly skilled and essential. And Robert Reich writes about the corporations exploiting COVID-19 to seek bailouts and preferential treatment while extracting even more concessions from workers and consumers. 

- Geoff Dembicki discusses some needed calls for the federal goverment to focus on helping workers, rather than subsidizing a dying oil sector. But Robert Fife, Emma Graney and Kelly Cryderman report on the Trudeau Libs' plan to funnel money toward fossil fuel operators while continuing the limited and delayed availability of help for workers. And Geoffrey Munson reports on Alberta's simultaneous decision to pay bills and assume liabilities only on behalf of the oil patch, even as public services and other industries face cuts on top of the pandemic.

- PressProgress exposes the grossly deficient response to COVID-19 in an oil field work camp. And Bryan Eneas reports on the City of Regina's belated recognition that the CCRL refinery's scab camp is creating glaring public health risks.

- Finally, Andre Picard is the latest to highlight the need for testing and tracing to accompany social distancing as part of our public health response to COVID-19.

Monday, March 23, 2020

On spin over substance

PressProgress is right to point out how many landlords are using the loud announcement of coronavirus relief - which, if you read the small print, won't be available for months - as an excuse to keep charging rent as of April 1. (Not to mention to attempt to pressure tenants out of their homes when they're unable to work due to a public health emergency.)

But it's worth noting that the same dynamic applies in the opposite direction as well. The financial sector and federal government have made a show of announcing "mortgage relief", which would suggest a widespread system of savings in the cost of housing ownership which could be passed on to renters. They haven't been so vocal about that claim hiding a cumbersome and confusing process which is ultimately designed to keep power and financial reward in the hands of the banks.

In both cases, the headline fails to reflect the limitations of the government's actual policy. And the result is to set up obvious potential for finger-pointing between parties who wrongly think the other has been bailed out - leading to both an erosion of trust, and readily-avoidable policy failures.

But there are a couple of necessary changes which can be made to avoid similar difficulties. First, we should expect our governments to take an all-of-the-above approach to getting help to Canadians immediately, rather than looking for excuses to minimize the effect of announcements. And second, we should demand they recognize that (even more than usual) lives are at stake when their talking points fall short of their actions.

Conventional Wisdom!

A public health emergency demands that we unite mindlessly behind the government which deliberately mocked it, utterly failed to prepare us, and is now prohibiting anybody from taking stronger action.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Sunday Afternoon Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Eric Doherty, and Eric Galbraith and Ross Otto, respectively write that the response to the coronavirus shows how it's possible to imagine and implement needed changes along the lines of a Green New Deal. And Heather Mallick theorizes that it can also be a first step toward living more intelligently.

- The Star's editorial board points out how the pandemic has shown gaping holes in our existing social safety net, while Martin Regg Cohn writes that many people are just now learning how precarious much work has become. And Justin Ling rightly criticizes how marginalized people including prisoners and asylum seekers are being endangered by the Libs' choices.

- Jim Stanford writes that what's needed for the future goes far beyond mere stimulus:
There is enormous need for urgent rebuilding required in our economy and our communities. Repairing and strengthening health care infrastructure comes first, but other priorities, too, are urgent: like sustainable transit, green energy, non-market housing, aged care and early child education.

The case for mobilising resources under the leadership of governments and public institutions, and employing millions of Australians to do that work, is compelling. We can repair the damage of this crisis (and better prepare for the next one), deliver valuable services, and create millions of jobs. All we need is the willingness to imagine a different model of organizing and leading economic activity.
...
The failure of financialized, neoliberal capitalism will be laid bare more clearly than ever in coming months. The private sector will definitely be unable to get the economy back on its feet after this crisis. So we need to look elsewhere for economic leadership.

Just as World War II ‘solved’ the Great Depression by mobilizing enormous resources in an urgent attempt to meet a huge threat (global fascism), we now need another, peaceful war – a war on poverty, on epidemics, and on pollution.

And by organizing ourselves as society to fight that war, we will actually make ourselves better off right now: creating jobs and incomes, providing needed care and services, generating taxes. And we will benefit in the long-run by winning those ‘wars,’ and building a safer, sustainable world.
- Finally, Anna Stansbury and Lawrence Summers examine the connection between a decline in worker bargaining power and the erosion of the U.S.' economic performance. And Thomas Piketty highlights how Bernie Sanders' campaign is making a desperately-needed attempt to give the U.S.' democracy a boost.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Saturday Afternoon Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Adam Tooze writes that the coronavirus pandemic has offered a reminder that the economy (particularly defined in terms of shareholders' interests) can't be given priority over human survival and well-being.

- John Daley discusses three possible options in responding to the coronavirus - and makes the case for a "stop then restart" plan. And Yishan Wong and Lauren Pelley and Adam Miller highlight the need to at least ensure universal testing and tracking, rather than hoping for uninformed choices to control the virus' spread.

- Omar Mosleh highlights how the pandemic is proving particularly devastating for people already living with severe financial and environmental stressors. John Stapleton reminds us that support for the poor is a matter of life and death - and even more so in the midst of a public health crisis. And Manny Fernandez examines the plight of Americans trying to survive as a lockdown and loss of income is stacked on top of existing poverty and deprivation.

- Shawn Vulliez makes the case to suspend the payment of rent while the crisis is in effect, while Iglika Ivanova offers some suggestions as to what needs to follow the first wave of federal announcements. And Johnna Montgomerie writes about the debt emergency which will need to be addressed. 

- Finally, both Don Pittis and Jamelle Bouie write that the pandemic should be reminding us of the importance of effective government. But Scott Schmidt warns that we need to be prepared to push back against Jason Kenney and other reactionary leaders trying to impose further austerity. And Zolan Kanno-Youngs and Annie Karni expose how the Trump administration is trying to impose anti-social Republican policies while the public is distracted.

Friday, March 20, 2020

Musical interlude

Cake - Sinking Ship

Friday Afternoon Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Mike Konczal offers (PDF) a framework for responding to the coronavirus pandemic from a U.S. perspective. And the CCPA is providing ample analysis of the economic and social impacts of COVID-19.

- Dakshana Bascaramurty discusses how the pandemic is revealing and exacerbating Canada's class divide. And Shree Paradkar points out the difference in government reaction depending on the identity of the lives at risk.

- Michael Laxer notes that hoarding and panic buying are fully predictable within a capitalist economic framework. And Lee Fang exposes how Wall Street is putting pressure on medical suppliers to profiteer as a result of the crisis.

- James Meadway observes the need for an anti-wartime mindset which treats demobilization as the top priority. 

- Anne Gaviola makes the case for a national rent freeze to ensure that precarious housing doesn't exacerbate a public health emergency. And Nick Falvo examines the sorry state of housing policy in Canada in advance of the federal budget.

- Finally, Helen Lewis and Moira Wyton both point out how women are struggling with disproportionate burdens in the face of the pandemic.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Civility Police, Arrest This Man

Sure, it's common knowledge (at least among those not politically motivated to the contrary) that supervised consumption sites save lives.

And it's true that it's a matter of government choice whether those sites get funded.

But that doesn't mean we can abide anybody pointing out that life-and-death choices - and a leader's history in making them - represent a valid consideration in evaluating that leader's fitness. Because connecting the dots would be uncivilized.

On safety concerns

One of the great mysteries of Scott Moe’s tenure in power is how he’s evaded scrutiny for a personal track record which has demonstrated a gross lack of judgment - including getting convicted of impaired driving, causing a separate accident which killed another person, and filing for bankruptcy.

In the Saskatchewan Party’s leadership campaign, Moe managed to stay just below front-runner status which might have caused competitors to focus more on his weaknesses. And since he took power, the NDP has understandably focused on the many problems with what Moe’s government has been doing more while in office, rather than his past personal actions.

To be sure, it’s a noble impulse to presume that people can overcome and learn from their past tragedies. But there comes a point where we need to ask whether somebody is repeating the patterns which caused them to happen.

And in Moe’s case, the answer is alarming.

Moe offered a brief media tour when his fatal car crash was raised during the course of the Saskatchewan Party leadership campaign. And his responses then are telling today.

While Moe acknowledged the collision, he avoided humanizing the victim (phrasing his descriptions along the lines of “there was a fatality”). And he's equally plainly dodged any self-awareness or responsibility - recognizing that the RCMP’s investigation determined that he drove unsafely, but portraying the crash as a mere matter of whether he proceeded “a few moments earlier, a few moments later”, rather than something for which he bore any fault.

Moe’s pattern of barrelling ahead with insufficient regard for the safety of himself or others has followed him into power. And now, it’s set the tone for his government.

It would have been telling enough for Moe to pursue a snap spring election at the best of times. Even leaving aside the lack of ethics involved in manipulating a fixed election date for partisan advantage, Canadian political history is rife with leaders who received a rude awakening after indulging in enough hubris to believe that an unnecessary early election was the road to holding power indefinitely.

Even worse, though, Moe was positively gleeful in taunting the NDP and the province about calling an election at a time when any avoidable person-to-person contact exacerbates the risks of a public health emergency - while his party also mocked the NDP's well-founded efforts to point out how dangerous that would have been.

Having reluctantly ruled out the snap election plan (while again refusing to admit he could possibly have been in the wrong), Moe has continued to demonstrate a glaring lack of attention to dangerous driving conditions, insisting on presenting budget documentation for political consumption long after anybody could possibly think it bore any resemblance to reality. It was only this week that he finally and farcically decided to erase the revenue side of the ledger altogether from a spending plan - which figures to allow his party to advertise its election platform on the public dime.

That’s all consistent with the Saskatchewan Party's political strategy of making loud announcements, spending millions of corporate dollars on slanderous attack ads, and hoping to have people make surface judgments based on a lack of information. (And if Moe had been able to get his way, an election held during a pandemic might well have helped in creating that political environment.)

And the problem goes far beyond Moe himself: as he's set the example, his passengers in cabinet have chosen to egg him on. Gord Wyant has taken to shouting insults at any passer-by brazen enough to suggest that Moe keep his eyes on the road; Don Morgan and Jim Reiter have gone out of their way to moon Meili and the NDP, rather than focusing on some of the most important cabinet roles in a public health crisis.

The end result is that Moe’s reckless joyride is endangering everybody in Saskatchewan. And as a province, we need to ask how many people have to get killed by our premier’s unsafe driving before we finally wrestle the keys away.

Thursday Afternoon Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Frances Woolley points out how the coronavirus pandemic is exposing the effects of decades of austerity on Canada's health care system. Martin Regg Cohn discusses how the spread of the coronavirus is requiring us to seriously rethink how much of our society and economy are set up. And George Eaton highlights how COVID-19 has offered a reminder of the unique power of government to act in the social interest, while Mariana Mazzucato offers some suggestions as to how the coronavirus response can help us restore democratic governments to a lead role in shaping the economy.

- The ILO highlights the brutal impact of the pandemic on workers, while Jim Stanford points out how it has exposed the undervaluing of the people who are now ensuring the continued provision of the necessities of life even as much of our economy shuts down. Evelyn Kwong reports on the workers who are being forced to keep putting themselves and their loved ones at risk by employer demands. And both Reid Rusonik and Rebecca Long-Bailey discuss the need for a basic income to ensure personal security.

- Both Stanford and David Macdonald examine the response so far from Canada's federal government, including how it falls short both of covering all the people who need help and distributing benefits fast enough to deal with immediate needs.

- Andrew Nikiforuk offers his advice as to be an engaged citizen - rather than a selfish consumer - in a public health emergency.

- Finally, Craig Altemose examines how things would be different if we responded to the slower-moving but equally-dangerous climate crisis with the same urgency as the coronavirus. Jeff Sparrow discusses the irreconcilable conflict between growth and environmental limitations which can be seen in both crises. Kate Aronoff points out the value in making green jobs the focus of our rebuilding after the coronavirus recession. And Jason Hickel argues that a transition to a clean economy offers an opportunity to refocus on quality of life rather than GDP.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Wednesday Afternoon Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- David Roberts points out that the coronavirus has rendered it imperative to provide supports for people faced with circumstances beyond their control. And Tess Kalinowski and Laurie Monsebraaten report on the community service providers trying to ensure people's basic needs are met in the midst of a pandemic.

- Duncan Cameron discusses how COVID-19 is exposing fissures within Canada, while Doug Cuthand notes that First Nations will be particularly vulnerable to its effects.

- Eric Klinenberg writes that our response to the coronavirus needs to include social solidarity, not merely physical distancing. And Kirstie Brewer assembles some mental health tips to help through a period of social isolation.

- Stephanie Wood reports on the ten-figure liabilities facing B.C.'s public for mine cleanup and reclamation. And Wallis Snowdon reports that future loans won't make up for the damage done to Alberta landowners by the operators of derelict oil wells.

- Finally, Roger Harrabin reports on research which (not surprisingly) concludes that the richest people bear the most responsibility for contributing to climate change.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

A dearly departed Tigger...





...and a mourning feline friend.


Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Owen Jones writes that the coronavirus is offering a stark lesson in how inequality kills:
The coronavirus pandemic is about to collide with this engine of inequality. The super-rich are fleeing on private jets to luxury boltholes in foreign climes, while the well-to-do may deploy their private health insurance to circumvent our already struggling and soon to be overrun National Health Service. Meanwhile, Britain’s army of precarious workers have nowhere to hide, including from employment that puts their health at risk. Uber drivers, Deliveroo riders, cleaners: all in low-paid jobs, often with families to feed. Many will feel they have no choice but to keep working. While many middle-class professionals can protect themselves by working from home, supermarket shelves cannot be stacked remotely, and the same applies from factory workers to cleaners. How many could truly afford to live on £94.25 a week, which is our country’s paltry statutory sick pay?
...
We know that depression and stress weaken our immune systems, and the research is clear: those on low incomes are disproportionately likely to suffer from poor mental health. Poor diet is another factor, and one that is strongly linked to poverty. What, too, of our most impoverished, those who are homeless with poor nutrition, weaker immune systems and a lack of access to good hygiene? And what happens to the 1.5 million children eligible for free school meals if our education sector is temporarily closed? Many could soon find themselves with hungry bellies.
...
A decade of austerity, and a social order that deprives millions of citizens of a comfortable existence, will mean many more deaths in the coming weeks and months that could have been avoided. The government’s determination to discover a vaccine for coronavirus must be accompanied by a renewed commitment to addressing poverty. Like every crisis, this one is likely to affect working-class and poor people worst. That is not inevitable. It’s a choice – and one within our power to stop, if only we had the will to do so.
- Jon Parsons writes that our response to the pandemic needs to be based on an ethic of collective care. Ian Welsh offers his take on what we can expect from the coronavirus and its aftermath. Ella Bedard, John No and Amy Brubacher discuss the need for additional supports for workers in order for social distancing to be effective. Rossana Rodriguez, Carlos Ramirez-Rosa, Byron Sigcho Lopez, Daniel La Spata and Jeanette Taylor note that the holes in the social safety net being exposed now signal the urgent need for enduring systemic change.

- Both Campbell Clark and Jerry Dias highlight the need for our political leaders to do more rather than less in the face of a crisis which gets exponentially worse for every day it's left unaddressed. And Jacques Gallant and Alyshah Hasham point out how incarcerated populations stand to be particularly hard hit if the pandemic reaches them.

- Caroline Orr notes that the war on truth by the wealthy and powerful has made it all the more difficult to inform the public and get people to act in response to a pandemic. Andrew Nikiforuk connects corporate globalization to the spread of the coronavirus. Carl Meyer reports on the activist push to ensure that Canada's policy response doesn't focus solely on further enriching the wealthy. And Scott Duke Kominers discusses how big business is exploiting the crisis through price gouging on sanitizer and other needed products - and isn't seeing the same public opprobrium as the individuals doing the same.

- Finally, the CCPA's Alternative Federal Budget offers a plan to protect workers and the public, while transitioning to a more secure and sustainable society. And Avi Lewis points out how a Green New Deal represents an ideal plan for rebuilding and modernizing our economy in the wake of the coronavirus.

Monday, March 16, 2020

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Emmanuez Saez and Gabriel Zucman call for (PDF) governments to act as buyers of last resort to minimize the economic fallout from the coronavirus. Andrew Jackson offers his take on the appropriate public policy response to ensure that workers' incomes aren't decimated at the worst possible time, while David Macdonald points out how different types of workers stand to be affected in radically different ways. And Sara Mojtehezadeh reports on the plight of lower-income workers who lack paid sick leave.

- Anne Appelbaum discusses how the spread of the coronavirus challenges some of the U.S.' most fervently-held beliefs about itself. Robert Reich laments the destruction of the U.S.' public health system just as it's needed most. And Max Fisher and Emma Bubola point out how the crisis will both affect people differently based on existing inequality, and exacerbate that inequality.

- Andre Picard is hopeful that social solidarity will see us through. But the Globe and Mail's editorial board writes that we'll need to do everything we can to stop the spread of the virus - not delay in the hope that anything will resolve itself.

- Finally, Jenna Moon examines the many occasions risking the transmission of the coronavirus in the course of a single morning commute. And Ambrose Evans-Pritchard takes note of the obvious dangers to health care workers.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Jim Stanford offers his take on how our governments should respond to the coronavirus epidemic - including an emphasis on health, income security and debt relief, along with a plan for reconstruction. And Armine Yalnizyan and Jennifer Robson provide some more specific details toward exactly those ends.

- Meanwhile, Kelly Crowe and Charlie Warzel each discuss the importance of social distancing as the most important contribution individuals can make. And Mattia Ferraresi warns us not to make the same mistakes as Italy in continuing business as usual until it was too late.

- Taylor Scollon points out how a pandemic is exposing the glaring weaknesses in our welfare state, while Dan Kois notes that it's also demonstrating the arbitrariness of the U.S.' security theater. And Kate Aronoff, Alyssa Battistoni, Daniel Aldana Cohen and Thea Riofrancos discuss the type of transformation we should be demanding as we emerge from it.

- Finally, Andrew Leigh reviews Thomas Piketty's Capital and Ideology, with particular emphasis on how inequality in education and childhood support propagates inequality between generations.

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.


- Fernanda Tomaselli and Sandeep Pal point out that the Canadian public is well ahead of its political class in recognizing that there's far more to life and to policy than inflating GDP. And Richard Adams reports on how the UK Cons' choice to keep schools open in the face of a pandemic is based on their directly valuing a few points of GDP over people's lives and health.

- Meanwhile, PressProgress' much-needed naming and shaming of employers in the face of the coronavirus pandemic focuses in on Tim Hortons' insistence on sick notes from its service employees.

- Andrew Nikiforuk offers some lessons from past pandemics. And Sam Hester highlights the need to pull together and face the coronavirus as a shared problem.

- Peter Waldman and Lydia Mulvany report on the right to repair as it applies to farm machinery - particularly when proprietary software might otherwise serve to allow manufacturers to exercise control after they've sold a major piece of equipment.

- Finally, Mark Mazzetti and Adam Goldman report on the use of spies by Erik Prince's shady business to try to infiltrate and disrupt progressive organizations. And Erin Seatter points out the use of state authority to bar activists from expressing support for Wet’suwet’en people on social media.

Friday, March 13, 2020

Musical interlude

Seven Lions feat. Lynn Gunn - Lose Myself

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Todd Gordon and Geoffrey McCormack write about Canada's crisis of capitalism - which is only being laid bare by a coronavirus pandemic exposing the fragility of a system built on precarity and debt.

- Kim Kelly discusses how service workers will face the worst of the coronavirus in the U.S. And PressProgress calls out the corporate lobby group Restaurants Canada for insisting that sick fast food workers don't need any opportunity to stay home from work when experiencing symptoms.

- Jordan Press reports that the Libs are rightly being told that Canadians are concerned with child care, education and housing as top affordability issues - though there's little reason for optimism that the result will be anything more than the usual set of baubles and half-measures. And a group of writers calls for the UK's next budget to invest in social infrastructure.

- Steve Lambert reports on Brian Pallister's ideological insistence on privatizing social assistance in Manitoba, while Ian Froese points out his appalling refusal to examine a school meal program because he believes children should suffer for their parents' lack of means.

- Finally, Kendall Latimer discusses how a lack of shelters is forcing Saskatchewan survivors of domestic violence to stay in abusive situations.

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Amy Goodman and Denis Moynihan write about the U.S.' choice between health care for all, or the spread of disease as people can't afford to seek medical treatment.

- David Dayen highlights how the coronavirus is likely to expose the weaknesses of an economy build on debt and precarity. Mandy Pipher reminds us that far too many workers can't afford to stay home even when containment is essential at a social level. And Liz Alderman points out how Europe's comparatively strong social safety net offers far more capacity for people to avoid making a pandemic worse, while Dan Taekema reports on the health benefits of Ontario's basic income pilot project.

- John Harris writes that the UK's social breakdown has gone well past mere inequality, to the point of actively harming the health of people living in deprivation. And Jon Stone notes that ending and reversing privatization is an essential step in ensuring that public services actually serve the people who need them.

- Bas van Beek, Alexander Beunder, Jilles Mast and Merel de Buck trace how corporations including Shell and Bayer have funded climate denial while knowing it to be false. And PressProgress exposes some of big pharma's lobbying to deprive Canada of universal pharmacare.

- Finally, Canadians for Tax Fairness highlights how more progressive fiscal policy can ameliorate Canada's continued gender inequality. And Anne Karpf points out how everybody is better off when we close our persistent gender gap.