Tuesday, May 05, 2020

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Sheila Block highlights how the COVID-19 pandemic has only amplified the profits accruing to the wealthy few while putting added pressure on everybody else. Chris Brooks notes that the corporate push for "reopening" is occurring with full knowledge that it represents a sacrifice of workers' lives. And Guy Ryder writes about the need for a new and better normal when it comes to protecting workers.

- Sara Mojtehedzadeh reports on the failure of Ontario's Ministry of Labour to uphold a single complaint about work safety in the face of COVID-19. And Richard Florida points out that workers have largely been left to themselves to demand change in the system designed to treat them as expendable.

- Meanwhile, Jason Koebler reports on Tim Bray's resignation from Amazon over its firing and smearing of workers trying to ensure the safety of themselves and their colleagues.

- Canadians for Tax Fairness notes that in addition to endangering the lives of employees and then using racial prejudice to blame them for a COVID-19 outbreak, Cargill's billionaire owners have a well-documented history of using tax havens to avoid contributing to the public good. 

- Finally, Lucas Edmonds discusses Brian Pallister's disaster capitalism as he uses a crisis to try to further undermine Manitoba's already-precarious public services. And Colin Mcaullife and Jason Ganz respond to Marc Andreesson by calling out the political barriers to building a better world:
(T)he question remains: why has the US refused to use public resources for the benefit of the public? The answer is again a matter of political power. The ruling class has made the conscious choice that every aspect of life should be a site for profit extraction, and that the public sector exists primarily to create and maintain the conditions that allow extraction to occur. While some refer to this as “unfettered capitalism”, the truth is that capitalism is itself a system of fetters that are placed on society to allow private property owners to accumulate money by taking it from the productive parts of the economy.

This is why we have ostensible social insurance programs that are designed to humiliate people who are struggling and force them to jump through hoops or else be denied their benefit. The government lacks the infrastructure to send checks to individuals, but it possesses the infrastructure to shore up the finances of banks and large corporations at the snap of a finger. State capacity exists in abundance, but it is deployed for the benefit of a small number of private property owners, not for society as a whole. The idea that this state of affairs represents a lack of desire on the part of ordinary people and not an immoral and unjustified set of priorities on the part of the small number of people in the country who are capable of setting policy is manifestly untrue.
Acknowledging the role of public investment in innovation leads to two important conclusions. The first is that we should do a lot more of it, perhaps by as much as 3-4% of GDP per year. Contrary to narratives about public spending “crowding out” private investments, there is good reason to believe that public R&D actually “crowds in” private R&D. One paper estimated that a 10% increase in public R&D spending would induce an additional 4.3% in private R&D spending. A large expansion in public R&D would also create millions of jobs, and not just for those who are highly educated. Research facilities can sustain vibrant communities with opportunities available to people from all walks of life.  

The second conclusion is that once we recognize that innovation in modern economies requires that we socialize much of the associated costs and risks, then we also must ensure that the benefits that come from projects that are ultimately successful are broadly shared. This should be accomplished both in financial terms, by using a portion of the profits generated by successful projects on social spending, as well as in nonfinancial terms, by prioritizing development of technology with high societal value.

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