Thursday, October 17, 2019

New column day

Here, discussing how Justin Trudeau is campaign entirely according to the formula so thoroughly documented by Martin Lukacs - and why voters seeking change need to reject politicians committed to the preservation of power and privilege.

For further reading...
- Others have also discussed Lukacs' The Trudeau Formula, including Nora Loreto and Joel Laforest. And some of Lukacs' own analysis can be found here and here.
- David Macdonald documents the high cost and minimal benefit of the tax cuts which represent the Libs' largest platform commitment.
- Finally, Duncan Cameron writes about the need to break the cycle of Lib and Con governments in order to ensure meaningful action in response to the climate crisis. And Charlie Smith points out the risk that Trudeau will again accept putting the Cons in power - though I'd note that the most significant factor might be Trudeau's willingness to support a Scheer government as the price of preserving an electoral system which freezes the public out.

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Paul Kahnert writes that tax cuts never lead to widespread prosperity - but do further entrench the wealth and power of those who already have the most. Andrew Jackson points out how the Cons' platform follows a familiar pattern of freebies for the lucky few and austerity for the many. And Nicholas Kristof argues that there's ample reason to instead require an increased contribution from the people who profit off of the general public:
That’s the rot in our system: Great wealth has translated into immense political power, which is then leveraged to multiply that wealth and power all over again — and also multiply the suffering of those at the bottom. This is a legal corruption that President Trump magnified but that predated him and will outlast him; this is America’s cancer.

We hear protests about “class warfare” and warnings not to try to “soak the rich.” But as Warren Buffett has observed: “There’s class warfare, all right. But it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.”
...
By raising taxes on the wealthy, we could end the lead poisoning that afflicts half a million American kids, we could provide high-quality preschool for all, we could offer treatment for all people with addictions and we could ensure that virtually all kids graduate from a decent high school and at least get a crack at college.

The wealthy would still have more money than they could ever spend: Jeff Bezos would have had $87 billion in 2018 if Warren’s wealth tax had been in place all along, rather than $160 billion, according to calculations of Saez and Zucman. But we would be, I think, a fairer and better nation.

So should we soak the rich? You bet we should.
- Meanwhile, Halena Seiferling writes that an election focused on the cost of living should pay far more attention to the need for higher wages.

- Travis Lupick laments the failure of the Libs and Cons to engage at all with the known solutions to an epidemic of drug-related deaths. And Emma Davie reports on the call of the Canadian Association of Pharmacists to end medication shortages.

- Daphne Bramham discusses why Canadian voters are rightly suspicious of Andrew Scheer. And Fatima Syed and Alastair Sharp comment on Jagmeet Singh's response to a flurry of issues of race and representation in the course of the federal election campaign.

- Finally, Christopher Guly writes that electoral reform advocates have rightly refused to accept Justin Trudeau's attempt to declare fair elections an impossible goal.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Mitchell Anderson writes that personal debt may be the most important hidden issue in Canada's federal election:
The reason Canada cannot act in a more moral manner might lie in ballooning amounts of household debt. Canadians now owe an eye-watering $2.2 trillion or 178 per cent of disposable income — a measure that has doubled in the last 20 years. Personal bills now amount to more than our entire GDP, making us the most indebted citizenry in the G20 and fourth highest in the world.

Over half of Canadians report they are only $200 per month away from insolvency.

How can you care about climate change or global stability when your credit cards are maxed out or you are dodging debt collectors? Owing vast amounts of money seems now a defining Canadian characteristic and is increasingly enabled by indulgent political leaders.
...
If Canada has a financial moral injury, it is largely self-inflicted. No one forced consumers to incur such massive personal debts for the trappings of a detached house and everything that goes in it. Canadians spend $2 billion every year on lawn mowers and $85 billion on new vehicles.

What is non-consensual, however, is the pervasive pressure to borrow. Consumers are bombarded with ads from financial institutions and credit card companies encouraging them to borrow ever more. Aggressive marketing by mainstream and B-list lenders targets those least able to carry more credit. If civilization collapses due to inaction on climate change, the marketing departments of major banks should reflect on their contribution to that apocalyptic outcome.

All this debt might seem more rational if it made people happy, but evidence suggests the opposite is true. Forty-eight per cent of Canadians fret that they are on the edge on insolvency. Financial worries are the number one source of stress.

Personal debt is the elephant in the room of Canadian public policy. Decades of cheap money have undermined our national character and now prevents us from being a more principled nation. Canada remains an incredibly compassionate country but in order to meet the moral challenges of the coming century, we need to ditch our debt.
- And while Aaron Wherry takes note of the atmosphere of anxiety around the election campaign, Ed Finn rightly challenges the claim that Canada lacks the resources to address the most prominent stressors facing voters.

- Meanwhile, Health Providers Against Poverty offers (PDF) its assessment of the health platforms of Canada's federal parties.

- Larissa Atkinson examines the impact of secretive privatization schemes in building and renovating health infrastructure. And David Robertson offers ten reasons to oppose the development of Toronto's eastern waterfront as a corporate-controlled, privacy-free "smart city".

 - Finally, Yanis Varoufakis and David Alder argue that a foreseeable recession should be treated as the impetus for a Green New Deal.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Cats amid chaos.




Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Joao Medeiros writes about Mariana Mazzucato's push to have governments use collective wealth and power for the common good.

- Matt Elliott wonders why the Libs and Cons have nothing meaningful to say about housing or transit in an election where those loom as both key issues on their own, and vital parts of the solution to the climate crisis. And Aaron Saad offers a guide to the climate policies on offer from Canada's federal parties.

- Bruce Wilson writes that it's long past time to plan a just transition away from an economy dependent on fossil fuels. And Jillian Ambrose notes that renewable energy is set to replace dirtier legacy sources no matter how stubbornly any company or government tries to stay in denial.

- Sara Mohtehedzadeh and Melissa Renwick report on the many ways in which migrant agricultural workers are exploited.

- Finally, Jim Stanford discusses why we should aspire to far more than a system which allows a few people to hoard massive amounts of wealth. And Tax Justice Now allows anybody to model how the U.S.' economy can be made more inclusive and equal.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your Monday reading.

- Scott Schmidt highlights how the wealthy have seized any gains in economic growth over a period of decades. Michael Hobbes discusses the "glass floor" keeping the children of rich families from facing any risk of failure. And Crawford Kilian discusses Thomas Piketty's observations about self-proclaimed left-of-centre parties who have chosen to serve the interests of the corporate elite.

- Trevor Herriot discusses the unsustainable subsidies which have resulted in far too many prairie residents prioritizing a fossil fuel economy and a car culture over sustainable alternative. And Judith Shulevitz writes about the social isolation caused by unsynchronized and unpredictable work and activity schedules. 

- Megan Leslie makes the case for Canadians to vote based on the environment. Ed Finn writes that voters looking for change should be supporting the NDP as it looks set to win the balance of power in a minority Parliament. And Charlie Smith offers a preview of the Libs' predictable attacks on Jagmeet Singh.

- Finally, Priyamvada Gopal discusses the need to call out and challenge racism by its name alongside other forms of structural inequality.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- David Moscrop writes that the Libs' choice to break the promise of electoral reform to instead lock in an unfair and unrepresentative electoral system fits with their pattern of action:
What of the strategic questions? Do the Liberals regret their decision to abandon electoral reform? Will they be able to live with themselves if they lose the popular vote, but form government? Well, have you met them? They’ll be fine.

What if they end up hoisted on their own petard, ejected from government altogether, out of power and influence despite winning more votes than the party that takes power? Given the chance, knowing what they know now, would they do things differently? History suggests not.

Since Confederation, the Liberal Party has governed more often than not. Parties that expect to form government would typically take a four or eightyear time out than shut themselves out from total power in perpetuity. Under PR, it would be unlikely for any party to form a majority government on their own. Instead, parties would be incentivized to negotiate and cooperate with other parties: to govern as a minority or form a coalition.

Parties with a history of governing would rather take all the power half the time than half the power all the time—it’s how they’re wired.
- Cillian O'Brien and Avis Favaro highlight how people struggling to get by with low incomes would benefit from pharmacare.

- Jason Antonio reports on the increasing dependence on Moose Jaw's food bank. And Stephanie Babych writes about Calgary's mobile grocery store which is making healthier options available in food deserts.

- George Monbiot writes that a fossil fuel industry which has lied to us for decades about the known consequences of carbon pollution has managed to avoid answering for its harm to our environment by pointing fingers at individual consumers, while Emma McIntosh points out that the oil lobby's wishlist for Canada's election would only make matters worse. And Robinson Meyer notes that California's recent blackouts represent a direct result of climate inaction.

- Finally, Amanda Follett Hosgood discusses how northern British Columbia can transition away from relying on oil and gas production. And Geoff Dembicki notes that Jason Kenney is deliberately destroying the transition plans which offered some more sustainable opportunities to workers in the fossil fuel sector.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Linda McQuaig writes about the myth that we have no choice but to pursue privatization - and notes that electric vehicle production represents an ideal opportunity to build public economic capacity:
Is it feasible to save the once-vibrant Oshawa complex and transform it into a publicly owned plant producing environmentally essential products, as part of a Green New Deal?

Gindin notes that during the Second World War, GM facilities were converted to produce military vehicles. He insists that the Oshawa plant be expropriated today without compensation since Canadian taxpayers have already generously subsidized GM. While he acknowledges that the project is a long shot, he adds, “it seems criminal not to at least try.”

Indeed, what is needed is some bold, out-of-the-box thinking that takes us beyond the current dogma of privatization. Given that Canada’s historic auto-making centre is about to be shut down, we should consider creating a publicly owned facility that could potentially start a transformative industry here. If that idea is ultimately rejected, the rejection should be based on something more than the notion that such a project is too ambitious for public enterprise and is best left to the private sector.

In truth, the very ambitiousness of the project seems to call out for public enterprise. For most of our history, we’ve been mere "hewers of wood and drawers of water" and operators of branch plants. When we’ve risen above that, it’s usually been because we’ve created public enterprises that served a broader public purpose than what private interests were offering. We became the country we are today in part because, at key moments our past, some visionary Canadians had bold, ambitious ideas for public enterprises and weren’t deterred by the admonitions of the business elite.

There may be reasons not to turn the Oshawa plant into a green production facility, but let’s not succumb to the ill-informed notion that Canadians aren’t up to the task or that we don’t know how to do public enterprise in this country.
- Jon Milton discusses the importance of treating housing and transit as social goods rather than profit or revenue centres as part of any viable climate plan. And Bill Blaikie writes that we should be far more concerned about a long-term environmental deficit - the extreme damage we're inflicting on our planet - than about incremental differences in budget expectations.

- Erika Shaker compares how Canada's federal parties are addressing the increasing unaffordability of post-secondary education. And Anne Gaviola examines the numerous positive spinoff effects of forgiving student debt.

- John Geddes points out the minimal differences between the tax tinkering of the Libs and Cons (at a galling cost to the federal government's fiscal capacity).

- Finally, Michal Rozworski writes that it should be a no-brainer to bring in more revenue from Canada's wealthiest few, both to fund needed programs and to try to reduce the inequality in power which comes from the concentration of wealth. And Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman write that the U.S. too should be determining how to tax its way toward increased social justice.

Friday, October 11, 2019