Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Andray Domise discusses both the U.S.' choice to be an intentionally safe destination for refugees, and Canada's complicity in validating that choice and other policies of dehumanization rather than speaking out against even such obvious abuses as the imprisonment of children. And the Canadian Labour Congress calls for Canada to live up to its responsibility to refugees by stopping the classification of the U.S. as a "safe third country".

- Alan Broadbent and Kevin Page write about the need to recognize and give effect to the right to housing as a step toward eliminating homelessness in Canada. And Geoff Dembicki reports on Gary McKenna's research showing the influence of developers in Vancouver as a prime example as to how the greed of the wealthy few has taken precedence over the needs of the many.

- Meanwhile, Catherine McIntyre exposes the continued presence of discriminatory ads for housing and other services on social media platforms.

- John Arlidge reviews Richard Brooks' Bean Counters as to the role of major accounting firms in consolidating corporate power.

- Finally, Andrew Jackson discusses the inevitable reality that Doug Ford's anti-social populism will only make matters worse for many of the voters who elected him.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Braced cats.

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- David Ball offers a reminder that Canada's immigration system includes the needless detention of children - and that we should be working on ensuring families can stay together, rather than claiming any virtue in merely falling short of the scale being implemented by the Trump administration.

- Neil MacDonald writes that ruthlessness and dehumanization are exactly what Trump's voters wanted - and that they're sadly not at all out of line with the U.S. history. And Andre Picard discusses the long term health ramifications of the U.S.' policies of family separation and child incarceration. 

- Meanwhile, Sally Weale reports on a new survey showing the large number of children in the UK going without basic hygiene due to poverty.

- David Leonhardt charts the perpetually-increasing size and power of big business in the U.S. And Gordon Laxer argues that Canada shouldn't hesitate to say goodbye to NAFTA due to its similar effects at home.

- Finally, Mark Winfield points out that a typical right-wing prescription of less regulation and free money for the corporate sector will only exacerbate Ontario's problems:
Getting rid of cap-and-trade and reducing the provincial gas tax will not make the increasingly evident impacts of climate change go away.

If Ford attempts to make cuts to hydro rates without first addressing the underlying drivers of increasing electricity costs, Ontarians might see even higher costs in the future. Key among the underlying drivers of those cost increases are the life-extensions and refurbishments for the province’s aging nuclear power plants they Wynne government committed to.
A simple economic strategy focused on tax cuts and deregulation will be hopelessly inadequate to deal with the regional impacts of the transition from manufacturing to service and knowledge-based economic activities, to say nothing of the challenges presented by the Trump administration’s US actions in agriculture, steel and auto manufacturing.
(R)esponding to these various dynamics will require a more sophisticated economic strategy than tax cuts and further deregulation, that in a province that had already declared itself “open for business” under the Liberal government. Indeed, the approach outlined in the PC platform runs a very real risk of undermining the basis of the province’s economic success.

The losses in provincial revenues from tax cuts will undermine the quality of services and infrastructure the province is able to offer. Deregulation around the environment carries risks that would undermine the quality of life the province offers its residents, to say nothing of threats it would pose to their health and safety.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Matt Bruening comments on the National Low Income Housing Coalition's research showing that minimum-wage workers are unable to afford basic housing across the U.S.

- Sarah Butler reports on the UK's latest parliamentary study of precarious work. Jordan Press reports on the state of child poverty in Canada - with Bill Morneau's riding including one of the highest concentrations of children living in poverty in the country. And Larry Elliott discusses how the new default expectation of insecurity has fed into the rise of demagogues willing to offer someone to blame in lieu of any solutions.

- PressProgress exposes the big money and Liberal connections behind an astroturf group trying to undermine electoral reform in British Columbia.

- Finally, Tom Parkin points out that supposed fiscal conservatives are happily burning billions of public dollars in order to ensure that polluters don't pay for their contribution to climate change. And Mia Rabson reminds us that Canada is already subsidizing the fossil fuel industry to the tune of billions more poorly-tracked dollars every year.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Claire Connelly calls out the perennial right-wing spin that there's always money available for corporations or the security state, but that anything which would actually help people is invariably unaffordable. And Jim Pugh discusses how Republicans are looking to punish and impoverish the working class by putting up unreasonable barriers to social benefits:
While setting more unemployed Americans on a path to employment and economic self-sufficiency is a positive goal, the threat of withholding food is a highly ineffective way to encourage workforce participation. Some of the most common barriers to employment are insufficient education or skills, mental health issues, hiring biases and a lack of job opportunities. Fear of not having enough to eat does nothing to overcome those obstacles.

When people are hungry, they're frequently unable to focus, which makes it harder for them to get a job, not easier. Instead of boosting employment, this proposal would act as a barrier rather than an incentive.

The actual impact of this policy change would be to punish hungry Americans. In many regions of the country, people are struggling to find full-time work, but can't. While the overall unemployment rate sits at a low 3.8 percent, the rate of involuntary underemployment is more than twice that, and exceeds 10 percent in many states and counties. This proposal would leave those who are unable to find a job with neither income nor food assistance.

Instead of adding poorly-designed restrictions to SNAP, we should be pursuing evidence-based policy changes to increase the effectiveness of our social programs. As someone who works on universal basic income policy, I've spent years studying the effects of unconditional benefits, i.e. what happens when you offer people support without any requirements on their behavior. Every analysis has arrived at the same conclusion: When you give people benefits without strings attached, they use them for productive purposes. The vast majority of people want to do well in life, and they’ll make the most of any support they receive.
- Michael Rozworski's letter to the editor neatly summarizes the folly of reversing long-overdue increases to Ontario's minimum wage. And Kate Davidson comments on the importance of paying a fair minimum wage to service workers, rather than pointing to the illusory promise of tips as an excuse to grind people into poverty.

- Arian Taher discusses the radical difference between Adam Smith's humane ideal of capitalism, and the corporatist version which artificially concentrates wealth and power.

- Finally, James Wilt highlights how Doug Ford's false majority offers a compelling example in favour of British Columbia's electoral reform vote.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- The OECD examines the generational implications of inequality and poverty - with the descendants of poor children in some countries requiring up to nine generations to project to reach an average income.

- Dean Baker writes that the Trump administration is only seeking to further entrench class disparities by locking in exclusionary rights through international trade agreements. And Michael Geist discusses how a few corporate actors have taken over Canada's copyright consultations.

- Meanwhile, Howard Davies notes that a new IMF database shows global debt at at all-time high even after the supposed attempt to rein in unsustainable borrowing after the 2008 economic crisis.

- David Ball reports on Kinder Morgan's disregard for environmental rules in building its Trans Mountain terminal. Needless to say, nobody is expected to face any consequences as a result of that lawlessness - in contrast to David Dodge's willingness to see activists killed in the name of pipeline expansion.

- Finally, D.C. Fraser reports on the Saskatchewan Party's decision to tear down the Justice for Our Stolen Children in the name of expunging any recognition of the abuse of Indigenous peoples from Regina's Canada Day events.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Musical interlude

The Watchmen - Do It

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Ed Finn reminds us that ending child poverty makes good economic sense in addition to being a moral necessity:
The same huge financial benefit would be reaped in Canada from an equivalent investment in curbing poverty here. Based on the variance in populations and socioeconomic issues, it’s clear that, if it would save more than a trillion dollars in the U.S., it would save as much as $100 billion annually in Canadian dollars.

Unfortunately, given the deeply entrenched neoliberalism rampant in both the United States and Canada, it’s highly unlikely that Rank’s strong anti-poverty case will fare any better with politicians on either side of the border than did similar previous studies.

The prospect of saving billions in the future by spending more to alleviate child poverty today doesn’t appeal to conservative corporate CEOs or their political minions. They are fixated on maximizing profits in the next quarter, not in 10 or 20 years from now.

The same avarice-fueled capitalist myopia that keeps them plundering non-renewable resources, polluting the environment, and propagating inequality also compels them to keep on keeping children poor. The less spent on helping the poor, the higher their profits. It’s that blatant.

Blinded by greed, committed to turning their millions to billions, their billions to trillions, these modern-day robber barons remain indifferent to the poverty, misery, deprivation and distress they inflict on billions of other people.

Tragically, their most traumatized victims are the young, the helpless, and the innocent – those most in need of adult love and care.
- Robert Frank notes that even billionaires are recognizing the grossly distorted distribution of income and wealth - and the social harms which result. And Jennifer Ditchburn discusses the need for genuine policy to deal with the future of work, rather than distractions from the reality that financial security is out of reach for far too many people. 

- Ben Zipperer points out how the U.S.' minimum wage has eroded to the point where it serves as a guarantee of poverty.

- The Independent reports on polling showing a strong majority of Britons looking to bring railways back under public ownership.

- Finally, Seth Klein and Vyas Saran counter any attempts to muddy the waters in British Columbia's electoral reform referendum by pointing out how simple and fair a proportional system can be.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Jonathan Amos and Victoria Gill report on Antarctica's alarming rate of melting - with three trillion tons of ice lost in the past 25 years. Peter Erickson reminds us that the avoidable greenhouse gas emissions from subsidized oil sands development will only make matters worse for the world as a whole. And Crawford Kilian previews what we can expect when the carbon bubble bursts:
Some models assume we will work hard to keep global warming to a two-degree rise or less by moving to renewable energy and cutting back on fossil fuels; others assume we won’t, and will keep burning oil and gas despite rising temperatures.
All the models end up with a “sellout” by 2035 or earlier, in which oil-producing nations put on history’s greatest bargain sale, dropping oil prices as low as possible just to get it out of the ground before demand falls to zero. After all, as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau observed not long ago, “No country would find 173 billion barrels of oil in the ground and leave them there.” Least of all when all those barrels would soon be “stranded” in the ground and $1 trillion to $4 trillion vanishes from the global economy.

Once the sellout was truly under way, what would happen?
(O)ur domestic woes will be like those of many other rich countries, only worse. Migrants and refugees will still find Canada a better option than staying home. Wars, revolutions and climate-driven disasters will make demands on us we won’t feel able to respond to. Poverty at home will trigger new problems in public health, just as it has in Venezuela.

Mercure’s forecast is unlikely to be the first; governments and fossil fuel corporations alike have probably commissioned reports with similar conclusions. With such politically ugly implications, it’s understandable that such reports have not been publicized, let alone acted upon.

But a wise government would break the news to its people, commission still more studies, and commit to acting on them: cutting losses in fossil fuels, subsidizing renewable energy companies, and promoting research in the field that might give Canada a chance to catch up with other transitioning countries.

And if we ignore Mercure’s warning, we will learn our lesson anyway, with a tuition fee of up to $4 trillion.
- Keith Reynolds studies the billions of dollars British Columbia is paying to the corporate sector due to its use of P3s rather than public ownership.

- The Guardian rightly argues that rather than limiting itself to empty words, the UK should be responding to the Grenfell Tower disaster by ensuring safe housing for everybody. And Laura Paddison examines the glaring lack of affordable housing for U.S. renters.

- Finally, Karl Nerenberg writes about Doug Ford's first-past-the-post-dependent election win. And Martin Lukacs discusses the urgent need for a strong grassroots movement to counter Ford's top-down destruction.

New column day

Here, on how NAFTA has proven wholly ineffective in deterring a destructive U.S. president from starting a gratuitous trade war - and how Canada should respond in charting a new economic course.

For further reading...
- Andrew Jackson has previously discussed the effects of NAFTA to date, as well as Canada's prospects in its absence. And the Council of Canadians' factsheet on how NAFTA has affected workers is worth a look.
- The Office of the United States Trade Representative offers up some numbers as to how much more tightly we're tied to the U.S. under NAFTA.
- Among the latest developments in the burgeoning Trump trade war, Mike Blanchfield and Andy Blatchford reported on the fallout from last weekend's G7 meeting, while Katie Simpson reported on Canada's anticipated response to another round of U.S. tariffs.
- Duncan Cameron points out the importance of building multilateral economic structures rather than relying unduly on the U.S.
- Finally, George Monbiot argues that Donald Trump is right about one aspect of trade agreements: rather than seeking to bind future governments, we should recognize the value of sunset clauses which allow for the public to once again have a say in our economic development.