Saturday, July 25, 2020

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Crawford Kilian examines a few crucial questions as to what Canada needs to keep, throw away and modify based on the lessons learned from COVID-19. And the Globe and Mail's editorial board agrees with Kilian that austerity belongs on the scrap heap.

- Andrew Nikiforuk writes about the need for masked crusaders to defeat the coronavirus in our communities. And Barb Konstantynowicz calls on Saskatchewan residents to keep doing everything we can to limit the spread of COVID-19 - even in the face of pressures to act as if the pandemic was behind us. 

- Amina Zafar writes about the need for precautions to keep people safe in health-care workplaces in particular. Melody Schreiber examines what's needed to reopen schools safely, while Sarah Gibbens looks at what we know so far about the impact of the coronavirus on children. And Daniella Ponticelli reports on the concerns of parents that children with intensive needs aren't being supported in the Saskatchewan Party's plan for a return to school.

- Kevin Carmichael examines the harm being done to women's careers by a pandemic which has both disproportionately affected female-dominated workplaces, and added to already-unsustainable child care burdens. Ysh Cabana discusses how COVID-19 has exposed Canada's reliance on temporary foreign workers, particular in our food supply chain. And Hayley Brown notes that the pandemic has had especially severe effects on workers with disabilities.

- Finally, Grace Blakeley discusses how the obscenely rich are only consolidating their wealth and power while the rest of the human race confronts a crisis - while noting that everybody else would be better off if we can escape from their domination:
Far from representing its social utility, Amazon’s market value – and Bezos’ personal wealth – reflects its market power. And the rising market power of a small number of larger firms has actually reduced productivity. This concentration has also constrained investment and wage growth as these firms simply don’t have to compete for labour, nor are they forced to innovate in order to out-compete their rivals. 

In fact, they’re much more likely to use their profits to buy back their own shares, or to acquire other firms that will increase their market share and give them access to more data. Amazon’s recent acquisition of grocery store Whole Foods is likely to be the first of many such moves by tech companies. Rather than the Darwinian logic of compete or die, the tech companies face a different imperative: expand or die. 

States are supporting this logic with exceptionally loose monetary policy. Low interest rates make it very easy for large companies to borrow to fund mergers and acquisitions. And quantitative easing – unleashed on an unprecedented scale to tackle the pandemic – has simply served to raise equity prices, especially for the big tech companies.

As more areas of our lives become subject to the power of big tech, the fortunes of people like Bezos will continue to mount. Their rising wealth will not represent a reward for innovation or jobs creation, but for their market power, which has allowed them to increase the exploitation of their workforces, gouge suppliers and avoid tax.  

The only real way to tackle these inequities is to democratise the ownership of the means of production, and begin to hand the key decisions in our economy back to the people. But you would expect that even social democrats, who won’t pursue transformative policies, could get behind measures such as a wealth tax.

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