Tuesday, January 07, 2020

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Martin Lukacs writes that the Trudeau Libs' attempts to put a glossier face on politics as usual may be running into a less than compliant public:
Not just in Canada, but around the world we have seen the emergence of an airbrushed, focus-grouped avatar liberalism—“yuppie simulacrum of populist breakthrough,” in Perry Anderson’s words—to face the challenge from a democratic-socialist left and an ugly resurgent right. This model of politics was ground-tested by the Obama administration and is today exemplified in the “extreme centrism” of Trudeau, French President Emanuel Macron, and U.S. Democratic politicians like Pete Buttegieg and Beto O’Rourke. What these men all share in common is an effort to forge a new consensus that can salvage the failed yet still pervasive neoliberal governing logic that counts extreme inequality and climate breakdown as its most obvious consequences.

Alongside a continued support for privatization, deregulation, corporate tax cuts, and a slow withdrawal of the welfare state, these political figures have tinkered around the edges to give their conservative economic policies a patina of emancipatory progressivism. Trudeau offered reforms, like a means-tested Canada Child Benefit, more representation of women and racialized people in cabinet and the civil service, and incremental measures on climate change. But none of Trudeau’s actions have so far threatened the authority of corporate interests to set the political agenda.

In rare moments, Trudeau has been candid about his role as a diligent manager of the status quo. Describing his government’s early achievements in a late-2016 interview with the Guardian (U.K.), the prime minister said: “We’re actually able to approve pipelines at a time when everyone wants protection of the environment. We’re being able to show that we get people’s fears and there are constructive ways of allaying them—and not just ways to lash out and give a big kick to the system.”

While the brand of the messenger of this formula has evidently been damaged since then, the formula itself lives on.
If “radical centrism” of the kind offered by Trudeau is not helping this situation, the question is whether it will be the right-wing who seizes on popular insecurity and directs it toward scapegoats, or whether a resurgent left can channel it in a movement against vested interests.

There are some hopeful signs. Class politics have made a return to western countries, however haltingly in Canada. Polls show enormous popularity for wealth taxation and programs like a Green New Deal. While the NDP under Jagmeet Singh has stopped its slow slide to the centre, its ability to advocate in opposition for the vastly ambitious policies that Canadians are evidently hungry for has yet to be seen.

The moral clarity and passion shown by a new crop of young left-wing parliamentarians suggests one way forward. But ultimately what we need is a voice for a radically different vision for the country—a vision rooted in redistribution, solidarity, and equality. Nothing less will test the Liberal government’s continued success in capturing voters by saying progressive things they may not ever mean.
- And Canadians for Tax Fairness points out that we've already reached Corporate Tax Freedom Day, with Canadian businesses having made enough money in the first work week of the year to pay all they'll be asked to contribute to a functioning country.

- Geoff Davies writes about the failure of neoliberal economics in Australia. And Royson James highlights how the Eglinton Crosstown LRT serves as a prime example of the dangers of public-private partnerships.

- Nicola Davis reports on the connection between severe childhood deprivation and permanent harm to brain development.

- Finally, John Vidal laments the loss of a decade in taking meaningful action against a global climate breakdown. And while Amanda Cahill raises the possibility that the fossil fuel sector should foot the bill for this year's calamitous bushfires, Reuters reports that Australia's Liberal government is instead responding with continued denialism.

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