Monday, January 17, 2011

Monday Morning Links

Assorted content to start your week.

- Jim Stanford points out the real gravy train that's been ignored thanks to the faux populism of the right:
American economist Emmanuel Saez has painstakingly assembled a century-long statistical series on U.S. income distribution. On two occasions, the share of income captured by the richest 1 per cent reached about a quarter of the national total. The first time was in 1928, the second in 2007. As we all know, both peaks in wealth concentration were followed by financial catastrophe and depression. Indeed, maldistribution clearly contributed to both meltdowns.

But there’s a startling difference in the political reverberations that followed the two conflagrations. In the 1930s, outrage at the pre-Depression extravagance of the rich, contrasting with the dislocation experienced by masses of Americans, sparked a decade of left-leaning foment. Government expanded income security, directly hired millions of unemployed, and actively supported a new generation of unions to fight for the common folk. Meantime, it reined in business excess through tough financial rules, anti-trust policies, and high taxes on the rich.

This time around, there’s been plenty of populist anger – but (so far) it’s been steered in exactly the opposite direction.
(I)n Canada, too, the political bandwagon lurches to the right. There’s been infinitely more hot air expended since the financial meltdown over the salaries of unionized garbage collectors than those of high-flying financiers. Our home-grown plutocracy, meanwhile, keeps raking it in. Bonuses at the Big Six banks alone reached $8.9-billion in 2010, the highest ever. The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives recently documented that the typical Canadian CEO made as much by 2:30 p.m. on Jan. 3 as the average worker makes all year long.

Imagine a city the size of Saskatoon hogging a third of all the new income generated by the entire country. Imagine folks who earn as much in a few hours as the rest of us do in a year – yet still lecture us on the need to tighten our belts. Imagine 25,000 families earning as much as the bottom seven million tax filers put together. How long will these excesses fly under the public’s radar, while we bicker over wage gaps between unionized garbage collectors and non-union fast-food workers? Not long, I hope.
- Meanwhile, David Akin points out how a U.S.-style system - including the Senate model the Cons are seeking to copy - only serves to make matters worse.

- The North Shore News nicely summarizes why the Harper Cons are so eager to cut off per-vote funding for political parties - and why citizens should be worried about the results:
(T)aking $1.75 out of each voter's tax bill to ensure the balance is spent for our benefit is, on the whole, a pretty good deal.

Harper wants to undo this, and it's obvious why. Reverting to a reliance on private donors is clearly most helpful to parties who serve the interests of wealthy individuals and organizations. The Tories certainly fit that description.

Harper's plan has nothing to do with fairness to taxpayers and everything to do with giving his party an edge. It should be rejected.
- Finally, Jim Travers notes why we look to be headed toward a federal election:
Conservatives are effectively locking into a self-fulfilling prophecy. While solemnly swearing they don’t want an election, the ruling party is prescribing poison pills it knows the opposition will find hard to swallow.

If Harper is rolling the dice, Ignatieff is playing Russian roulette. A restless party’s resistance to approving another budget is forcing Ignatieff to bang the drum for an election Liberals aren’t prepared to fight and that could cost core Toronto seats, perhaps even his own in always hotly contested Etobicoke-Lakeshore.
It’s entirely possible that Layton or even Duceppe could still save Harper and Ignatieff from themselves. Both the NDP and Bloc leaders have publicly priced their budget support and Layton’s is notably low. All that’s required for Conservatives to extend their stay in power is to let the NDP claim victories for helping homeowners with heating and renovation costs.

Little things help prevent accidents, but someone still has to slam on the brakes.
And as expected, Jim Flaherty is hitting the gas instead of the brakes.

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