Saturday, November 12, 2011

Saturday Afternoon Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Paul Wells speculates as to what comes next for the Harper Cons once their first set of legislation is rammed through a majority Parliament. But as Wells notes, we shouldn't get sidetracked as to where those decisions will actually be made:
The Cabinet committee on priorities and planning meets on Tuesdays, usually with Stephen Harper as chairman. He calls a lot of decisions on the spot. But not all. Sometimes decision is reserved pending the Prime Minister’s private decision.

When it came time to decide how many seats each province would get in an enlarged House of Commons, a senior source close to the government says, the Prime Minister took the briefing books and spreadsheets and sat alone for hours, juggling options, weighing the political fallout from every scenario.
The first priority is the ambitious spending-reduction exercise now under way. There’s a nine-member cabinet subcommittee meeting regularly and for long hours to find things to cut. But refer back to the Commons seat reallocation. “Everybody knows that the final decisions are made by the PM,” Senior Source Close to Government told me. “This silly committee is not the real game. The game is to get out of this round and into the real game, which is the [Prime Minister’s Office].”

Meanwhile, the “silly committee” is gently rigged. Ministers make proposals to it on options for cuts. But the PMO hasn’t been shy about calling into ministers’ offices to discourage some options from going to committee. Ministers’ staffs take those suggestions seriously, since it’s the PMO that decides where they work, and whether they continue. “Ministers’ presentations to cabinet are the ones the PMO has written for them, or approved, or weeded out stuff they don’t like,” Senior Source said.

With inputs vetted and unpleasant ideas pre-screened, the only surprises are the ones that come from the outside world. More than once lately the PM has responded to surprising news with, “Why wasn’t I told?” Because your staff ensured you wouldn’t be, sir.
- Meanwhile, it shouldn't come as news that the Cons' hatred for the CBC is utterly out of touch with most Canadians. But I'd still be careful about complacency when it comes to the danger that they'll decide to launch an all-out attack anyway.

- Naturally there's every reason to disagree with Con MP Jeff Watson's argument that the federal government should only be involved in profit-making activities. But I'd think Watson's statement is noteworthy on another front: after all, since when have the Harper Cons shown any particular interest in identifying and funding actual profit-making opportunities? And if the answer is "they haven't", then isn't that a fairly damning indictment of a government whose area of strength is supposed to be the economy?

- Finally, on the subject of investments worth making, Michael Rachlis points out that a lack of investment in public-sector health care represents a major problem with our current system (rather than a solution as the profiteering right incessantly argues).

Saturday Morning 'Rider Blogging

While the rest of the CFL gets ready for the playoffs, the 'Riders are facing plenty of questions at the start of a longer-than-usual offseason. And the final defeat of the season left more of those questions up in the air than should have been the case, as plenty of playing time for veterans on the verge of anticipated retirement left the team with little opportunity to evaluate its newer arrivals.

But one point should have been put to rest.

Yes, Ryan Dinwiddie managed a couple of big plays against the Eskimos. But how he accomplished them speaks as much to his future in the CFL as his poor completion percentage.

A number of Dinwiddie's completions - including his first touchdown to Chris Getzlaf - were completed only by inches when a better-placed throw would have given the 'Riders' receiver far more room to operate. And most of Dinwiddie's other deep passes saw a slightly worse fate, with the game log offering a litany of "pass knocked down" whenever Dinwiddie went downfield.

That doesn't look to be an issue of Dinwiddie lacking the physical skills to play quarterback in the CFL. But it does signal that at the age of 30 - and after five years in the league - he still hasn't learned how to time and place his deliveries to avoid the waiting hands of CFL-level defensive backs. Which makes a result like last week's about the best a team can hope for with him at the helm - while at the worst, regular throws into contested areas can easily result in the turnovers that have plagued Dinwiddie thorough his career.

So if nothing else, the end of 2011 should have told the 'Riders that the backup quarterback position is one of the areas in dire need of improvement. And while it may not be the top priority for a team lacking a head coach and young blood throughout the lineup, Brendan Taman's willingness to learn what he can from the end of this past season may speak volumes about where the 'Riders are headed in the years to come.

Parliament In Review: October 21, 2011

Friday, October 21 saw another day of debate focused largely on the Cons' anti-consumer copyright legislation.

The Big Issue

Once again, copyright was the largest issue, with Tyrone Benskin summing up what's wrong with the Cons' bill in its current form:
In its present form, Bill C-11 is an unequivocal failure. It outright fails to satisfy the two most important benchmarks we as parliamentarians use for evaluation. It fails to establish clear universally understood rules for consumers. It also fails to ensure equitable enforceable compensation rules for those people who dedicate their lives to the creative enterprise.
Meanwhile, the NDP also pushed back strongly against the Cons' "Ipod tax" spin, as Benskin, Joe Comartin and Sylvain Chicoine pointed out the difference between a tax and compensation for services. Robert Aubin noted that consumers generally have every reason to want to see creators compensated for their work, while Megan Leslie highlighted the fact that the lone beneficiary of the Cons' bill would be the corporate media. Leslie and Raymond Cote questioned the bill's massive penalties for what can be a positive action in finding ways around digital locks, while Comartin tied those penalties into the Cons' general philosophy of swamping Canada's courts and prisons with newly-declared offenders.

But for those looking to buy the Cons' spin about opposition obstruction, C-11 actually provides a rather important counterexample - as the NDP made clear its intention to have the bill considered and amended in committee rather than putting roadblocks in the way of better legislation.

In Brief

Hoang Mai cited the Canadian Index of Wellbeing in pointing out how growing inequality is making life worse for Canadian families. Scott Brison asked whether the Cons would demonstrate their supposed commitment to the "It Gets Better" campaign by reversing their malicious cuts to pride funding. Dennis Bevington pointed out a rather glaring contradiction in the Cons' spin about CanNor (with Stephen Harper declaring everything fixed even as the minister responsible said it was too early to know what had gone wrong), and noted that CanNor looks to have joined Tony Clement's G8 porkfest as an example of funding decisions being made at the political level rather than by non-partisan civil servants. Jean Crowder questioned the Cons' move to slam the door on family reunification by pointing out the importance of extended families in picking up the slack in areas like child care where the Cons have stifled any public programs. Finally, Claude Gravelle introduced a bill to ensure that the undertakings of foreign investors (given as a condition of their authorization to take over Canadian businesses based on a national interest test) be made public, while Ryan Cleary spoke to his bill seeking an inquiry into the Newfoundland cod fishery.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Friday Evening Links

This and that for your evening reading.

- Erin offers up his suggestions for the Saskatchewan NDP's renewal process:
The next NDP leader will presumably be met with a barrage of negative advertising from the Sask Party. New Democrats would do well to elect a leader who will be less vulnerable than Lingenfelter to such attacks. But it will also need a communications strategy and war chest to counter them.

Delaying the leadership vote until 2013 would prevent the Sask Party from negatively defining the NDP leader before New Democrats have the organizational and financial resources to fight back. This timeline would still leave at least two years to positively define and establish the new leader before the 2015 provincial election.
- Digby highlights the brand of plutocrat-friendly populism that Republicans are offering up in an effort to turn the Occupy movement on its head - featuring primarily an all-out attack on the idea of universal programs. And it's not hard to see parallels to what we've heard in Canada as a means of distracting from the growing problem of inequality across all income levels.

- Meanwhile, Dr. Dawg points out the Cons' willingness to let corporate spin take precedence over any semblance of accuracy in the labeling of baby food.

- Finally, it's reassuring to know that the City of Regina is finally willing to do something to encourage the building of rental space - just as long as it's to help deal with a perceived corporate housing crisis. No wonder the city won't abide any more protest on its watch.

Too close to home

Yes, the threat of a slander suit probably had something to do with Gerry Ritz' desperate retreat after attacking the Canadian Wheat Board. But more important is the significance of Ritz' allegation based on what his own party has done: if one considers it theft to use quasi-public money for unapproved purposes and to promote political ends, then surely the Cons would qualify as a full-on criminal enterprise.

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content for your Friday reading.

- Alice posts the full party spending numbers from May's election. And the story in fact looks to have been near-maximum spending by each of the four parties then in Parliament - which of course failed to produce much return in two cases.

- thwap is understandably skeptical of the effect of the Occupy protests alone. But I'd again point out that the protests are just one step in what looks to be the wider process of change: by calling public attention to inequality and corporate control, they create an opportunity for political parties and others to carry the message into the arenas where it's possible to bring about substantive change.

- Meanwhile, there's no denying thwap's point as to the importance of protecting workers' rights. And Doug Allan notes some intriguing numbers from the past few years showing a modest rise in unionization rates since the 2008 downturn.

But the more noteworthy part of Allan's analysis relates to the fact that part of that gain results from overall job losses. After all, if it's true that union jobs have been more secure than non-union employment through a period of economic turmoil (which looks like a reasonable reading of his numbers), then that looks like a great argument for workers to make the effort to unionize before the next downturn hits.

- Finally, Eric Howe documents how investment in First Nations education would produce far greater returns (both economic and otherwise) than the corporate giveaways of the Sask Party.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Everything wrong with Canadian politics in a nutshell

The Conservative Party of Canada admits to breaking the law, and describes it as a victory.

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Aaron Wherry profiles how some of the NDP's youngest MPs won a place in office, and the work they're doing now that they hold the role.

- It isn't the kind of endorsement against type that would have the largest possible effect on the leadership race. But Alexa McDonough's support for Peggy Nash nonetheless figures to solidify Nash's place in the top tier of leadership contenders.

- Yes, Sun Media's report about the Libs' campaign spending looks more like an effort to breathe life into an end-of-campaign non-story than anything of substance. But it's particularly worth noting that if there was a $1 million gap between the Libs' campaign limit and their actual spending, that's $4.5 million less than the comparable gap in 2008 - meaning that the Libs pulled out more of the stops in their 2011 fall to third place than in the previous election where they conspicuously held back.

- Meanwhile, Bob Hepburn points out that the Libs' attempt to earn attention in the midst of the NDP's leadership race really reflects nothing more than a road map to nowhere. And it's particularly worth questioning which of the policy priorities cited by Bob Rae as forming the basis of his party's existence hasn't been better dealt with by the NDP for years.

- Finally, it's great to see Occupy Regina standing firm in the face of the City's efforts to shut it down.

On mixed contributions

Having pointed out in today's column that the Saskatchewan NDP's poor election results were far more readily traced to public perceptions of Dwain Lingenfelter (along with broader party issues) rather than the party's platform, let's briefly put Lingenfelter's leadership in context.

The obvious problem for Lingenfelter was a level of negative perception which started out fairly high from day one, and only increased with each attack ad launched by the Sask Party. Lingenfelter's apparent plan to get on even terms with Brad Wall fell flat, as his early efforts to bring down Wall's popularity level through one-on-one confrontation ultimately offered more fodder for the attacks without laying a glove on Wall's approval ratings. And by the time Lingenfelter pivoted toward a much more positive message as the NDP's platform came together, too many voters had already tuned him out.

But there were also some positives to Lingenfelter's leadership which any successor would do well to emulate.

After a hotly-contested leadership race which produced a narrow win for a controversial frontrunner, one might have expected some public challenges to Lingenfelter's leadership. But that never proved to be a problem - at least in part because of a fairly successful effort to listen to all wings of the NDP and keep them working toward the same ends.

Moreover, while the election didn't produce the results anybody was hoping for, all indications are that the NDP's campaign was better managed and organized than any we've seen in quite some time. Again, the platform was a major plus, featuring plenty of creative ideas which were both nicely targeted toward key voter groups and generally connected by a coherent campaign theme. And a push toward early nominations and accountability at the candidate and EDA level meant that loads of work got done across the province which would have proved invaluable if the base levels of party support had been closer - and may still pay off in the years to come as younger candidates and activists build on what they've learned.

Unfortunately, Lingenfelter's strengths as a manager and strategist were overshadowed by his weaknesses as the public face of the NDP. But as he departs from the political scene, it's well worth recognizing not only what the next leader can learn from Lingenfelter's mistakes, but also the positives the party can draw from his time as leader.

New column day

Plenty of people who should know better - including Bruce Johnstone and David McGrane - seem eager to paint the results of Saskatchewan's election as an indication that the NDP should simply run on the Sask Party's platform rather than advocating for its own values and policies. Today's column looks to nip that narrative in the bud.

Meanwhile, those looking for some more worthwhile content on where the NDP needs to go from here should give Malcolm's latest a read.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Wednesday Evening Links

Assorted content for your evening reading.

- Murray Dobbin nicely summarizes what the Cons are hoping to do in prioritizing big-money "philanthropy" over a functional state and civil society:
Ideology is meaning in the service of power, and the Conservative government, libertarian to its core, intends to create the appearance of an increasingly volunteer society as it systematically guts the social and cultural role of government. Harper hopes to justify massive cuts to programs (and in general the role of the federal government period) by shifting responsibility to charities and foundations. This is the Americanization of Canada -- remaking the country in the image of the minimalist government that the U.S. has experienced for decades. The problem is that there is very weak tradition of foundations and corporate giving in this country, so it has to be engineered, too.
When all the social programs and the activist government that Stephen Harper seems to detest were implemented there was widespread public support for them. Governments were responding to social and labour movements pushing for these things: unemployment insurance, Medicare, subsidized university education, Family Allowances, public pensions, old age security.

These programs were not imposed by a cabal of liberal and socialist intellectuals and bureaucrats. They were rooted in the expressed values -- and votes -- of the vast majority of Canadians. At the pinnacle of this stage of Canadian democracy in the early 1970s there was a virtual consensus on the part all three federal parties about the direction of the country. This was not a conspiracy. It was democracy as it should be.

All of these elements of Canadian political culture were the result of a democratic imperative. All the polling on these government programs and the social equality they promote suggests at least three quarters of Canadians still support an activist role for government in the interests of community, not to mention the viability of families.
- Barbara Yaffe gives far too much credence to the spin that the Cons faced some "bitter experience" in trying to pass legislation in previous minority Parliaments. So let's ask once again: what on their current legislative agenda couldn't they have passed (with at most some minor amendments) when the Libs were holding their fire over a period of several years?

- Meanwhile, Duncan Cameron highlights the Cons' strategy of insulting Quebec for fun and perceived political gain.

- But as Frances Russell notes, that may just be overcompensation for the Cons taking Canada's sad history of capitulation to the U.S. to new depths.

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Nanos confirms that even as cities are starting to crack down on the Occupy movement, the general public is highly sympathetic to the message about reining in inequality and corporate control:
The Nanos Research poll conducted for The Globe and Mail and La Presse found that 58 per cent of Canadians who are aware of the protests have a favourable or somewhat favourable impression of them.
The most significant demographic that views the Occupy movement favourably is people who are between 18 and 29 years of age, the poll found, which may be reflective of a tough job market for new workers. Nearly 73 per cent of people under 30 said they have a favourable or somewhat favourable impression of the protests.

Although respondents in their 40s view the protests less favourably than other demographics, about 50 per cent of them still expressed a favourable or somewhat favourable impression of the protests. People in their 60s had the most polarized reactions to the protests, with 34 per cent saying their impression is favourable and 32 per cent saying it is unfavourable.
- Carly Weeks points out that we may be facing shortages of needed medications simply because big pharma wants to phase out cheaping drugs for more expensive ones. Which should offer yet another reason as to why a public-sector manufacturer could do a world of good.

- The two stories are stunning enough on their own. But it's particularly galling to juxtapose the fact that employment insurance is becoming less and less accessible with the Cons' edict that the Office of Client Satisfaction that's supposed to address concerns is to be kept secret.

- Erin notes that Saskatchewan's election results don't change the fact that getting a reasonable return on our resources is a matter of competent management rather than politics alone.

- Finally, those of us interested in turning potential political involvement into the actual votes needed to bring about change may want to take a close look at Kevin Chief's example.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Packed-up cats.

And we're off...

I'll start looking at the candidates in more detail now that the NDP's leadership contestants seem to be set in the wake of Niki Ashton's entry. But before getting to that, I'll note that while a few of my initial favourite possibilities took a pass, the field should nicely cover the target groups and issues I'd hoped to see at the centre of the contest, while also adding plenty of possibilities to expand the NDP's reach.

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Dr. Dawg follows up on Stephen Harper's apology to residential school survivors, and rightly questions how sincere it can be when it's been followed up with repeated efforts to avoid either actual compensation or (more importantly) efforts to bring First Nations standards of living anywhere close to those available to most Canadians.

- Boris notes that Vancouver's recent excuse to shut down peaceful Occupy protests represents the first test for the movement. And unfortunately, Regina's Occupiers are being tested as well.

- But as Colby Cosh rightly points out, it's excessive resistance that allows a movement to build a long-term place in our political conversation. And so with the right response, a crackdown might only help to highlight how unreasonable the anti-Occupy forces are for the general public.

- And speaking of the right response to gratuitous threats, PIPSC has officially voted to join the Canadian Labour Congress. Which Tim Harper rightly sees as part of a wider labour effort to muscle up against the Cons' attacks.

The new baseline

In this year's federal election, the NDP took 32% of the vote in Saskatchewan - but didn't win a single seat as other parties dropped off the map and the Cons consolidated public support in all but one riding.

And in last night's provincial election, the NDP again took 32% of the vote - only to lose more than half its seats as other parties dropped off the map and the Sask Party consolidated public support across the province.

Needless to say, that leaves plenty to be done over the next four years to get the NDP back on track to win seats federally and government provincially. But building from 32% is far from the worst challenge a political party can face - as long as that base is willing to do the tough work involved in winning over the next 20-30% of voters needed to succeed in what can only be seen as a de facto two-party system.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Setting the tone

We'll find out soon whether the latest Sask Party vote suppression has any impact one way or another on tonight's election results. But even if not, it may nonetheless be rather significant in setting the province's narrative for the next four years.

After all, anybody with the least bit of commitment to the idea of democracy would see vote suppression as a disqualifying factor for a person working to govern on behalf of the population at large. But Brad Wall figures to once again match the right-wing pattern of claiming his party's insiders as being above mere rules and laws - meaning that he'll have a serious ethical cloud to contend with from the moment the polls close. And if the Sask Party's work to keep mere ordinary Saskatchewan citizens from voting gets paired with continued efforts to ignore their interests in government, then today could well be a turning point in ending any talk of a dynasty even if it doesn't bring Wall's government to an immediate end.

Decision time

It's election day in Saskatchewan, and time for voters to decide based on a rather stark choice of two sets of priorities:

So please vote, and to encourage others to do so. Because by tonight, we won't be able to have a say at the ballot box until long after it's too late to make the best of our boom.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Saskatchewan Election Update

I won't reproduce the post here. But see my updated Saskatchewan Election Links for all the information you'll need for tomorrow's provincial election.

Sunday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Rick Salutin nicely describes what's behind the "charity" model of top-end wish fulfillment that the Cons are pitching in place of actual social programs:
The Old Philanthropy, aside from a few big foundations that now look modest, was embodied in wealthy people who went on boards like the United Way. They led by their own contributions, and worked with the social agencies involved, while encouraging ordinary people to give in their workplaces, schools, churches etc. That model has faded as the social gap widened. Fewer people can afford to contribute. Only 23 per cent of Canadians now report donations on their tax returns. It’s a record low. The old model really built community; the United Way was once even called Community Chest, which you still see on Monopoly (the game) boards. Community scarcely figures in the new model. You get the rich, noble few and the wretched, competing recipients.

What was bad in the old version of charity was that it reinforced the sense of distance and difference between givers and givees. What was good about it is that it injected an element into public activity not tied to the dominant economic system through the profit motive; the old charity was predicated instead on fellow feeling, human solidarity and even, gulp, love. The New Philanthropy, which is basically even older than the old kind, reintroduces an appeal to narrow self-interest in the form of greed, a jacked-up component of control, and narcissism in the form of fawning media reflections. Whoopee.
- Kevin Libin discusses the cost of the Cons' dumb-on-crime policies (which is of course being downloaded to the provinces):
Yes, I know: Boo-effin'-hoo. Don't do the crime if you can't do the time. Canadians have been warned that there's a new sheriff in town, and if they can't play by the Tories' stern new rules, then it's their own fault if they end up destroying their own families, their health, their mental stability and their economic stability. Fair enough.

But even if that's how we want to look at things, it doesn't mean the rest of us won't also have to bear some of the direct and indirect costs of higher incarceration rates and longer prison terms, too. If the Prime Minister's tough-on-crime rules end up creating more ex-cons, and more hardened ex-cons, and they end up, as they have in the United States, increasing the portion of our population with mental illnesses, poorer health, chronic unemployment and homelessness problems and family break-ups, those are costs that are going to hit the provinces harder in their health-care budgets and social support program budgets - and for years longer than the actual incarcerations.

The provinces are right to worry about the added enforcement, court and prison costs the Conservatives' new crime bill will bring. They should be just as worried about the costs they'll face further down the road.
- Kady notes that Russ Hiebert's anti-union bill was struck from the House of Commons order paper - making for at least some delay in the Cons' attacks on workers. But it's worth noting the flip side of the ruling as well to the extent the ruling reflects a more strict application of the limitations on private members' bills may also significantly restrict what the opposition parties are able to present for debate (while the Cons can simply redirect their efforts toward government bills which won't face the same obstacles).

- Paul Moist points out how attacks on organized labour can affect workers in general:
Over the last few decades, the salaries of CEOs have been driven higher and higher, while the wages of their workers grow at an absurdly slower rate. Defined benefit pensions have become increasingly scarce. When once we strived to work hard, save, and build a better life for our families, corporations want us to believe we are lucky to have a job at all -- but don't let that stop you from raking up thousands and thousands in consumer debt.

The myth can't go on forever, and even the most fervent Conservative supporter is bound to ask -- we keep giving corporations every advantage, why isn't it getting any better for me and my family?

Lacking any rational answer, at least one that doesn't betray Bay Street, Harper Conservatives have a long list of ideological scapegoats at the ready.

Circumstance put postal workers and Air Canada employees at the head of the queue, but every other union member in Canada knows they are next. Someone has to take the fall for failing trade policies, corporate irresponsibility, and massive deficits caused by regressive tax schemes.

So ploy after ploy is being used to undermine Canadian labour. Union members, especially public-sector union members, are being offered up as the economic boogiemen, with tired stereotypes being trotted out to portray some Canadian workers as privileged just because they have some small measure of security.

These types of tactics are not fitting of our society. They speak to a reliance on divisive political games that play to the worst fears of Canadians to gain and maintain power. While unions are the present target, union members are far from the only one being harmed by this type of politics. It's lead to a tragic erosion in many's faith in our democratic process, and the mass disenfranchisement of far too many Canadian citizens.
- And finally, Paul Krugman highlights the oligarchy which seems to be controlling the political agenda no less thoroughly in Canada than the U.S.:
If anything, the protesters are setting the cutoff too low. The recent budget office report doesn’t look inside the top 1 percent, but an earlier report, which only went up to 2005, found that almost two-thirds of the rising share of the top percentile in income actually went to the top 0.1 percent — the richest thousandth of Americans, who saw their real incomes rise more than 400 percent over the period from 1979 to 2005.

Who’s in that top 0.1 percent? Are they heroic entrepreneurs creating jobs? No, for the most part, they’re corporate executives. Recent research shows that around 60 percent of the top 0.1 percent either are executives in nonfinancial companies or make their money in finance, i.e., Wall Street broadly defined. Add in lawyers and people in real estate, and we’re talking about more than 70 percent of the lucky one-thousandth.

But why does this growing concentration of income and wealth in a few hands matter? Part of the answer is that rising inequality has meant a nation in which most families don’t share fully in economic growth. Another part of the answer is that once you realize just how much richer the rich have become, the argument that higher taxes on high incomes should be part of any long-run budget deal becomes a lot more compelling.

The larger answer, however, is that extreme concentration of income is incompatible with real democracy. Can anyone seriously deny that our political system is being warped by the influence of big money, and that the warping is getting worse as the wealth of a few grows ever larger?

Some pundits are still trying to dismiss concerns about rising inequality as somehow foolish. But the truth is that the whole nature of our society is at stake.

On virtuous choices

Margaret Wente's latest isn't that far off of my criticism of most of her reactionary pablum. And the fact-checking of her column is entirely deserved. But she does manage to highlight an important choice, even if she rhetorically assumes exactly the wrong outcome.

In fact, I'd think there's indeed a problem if large numbers of well-educated people can't find work related to their fields of expertise. And that goes doubly if students have to take out massive student loans to get an education that's setting them up for little opportunity.

Where Wente goes astray, though, is in assuming that the solution is for more people to avoid higher learning and instead train only for the jobs that best suit the interests of those with the most money to pay. And Wente's own choice of words signals how glaringly bizarre her position is: since when is "virtue" a vice to be mocked, rather than something that should be generally pursued (even if different political actors may disagree on its exact form)?

Fortunately, the gap between the projects people value most and those that are currently being funded can be bridged at least as easily by changing the funding structure as by forcing a change in values on people willing to dedicate years of training to making a better world. And in pointing out the gap between our theoretical ability to fund worthwhile social ends and the minimal amount of resources actually dedicated to them after decades of anti-tax spin, the Occupy movement is in fact right on target in highlighting a solution.

Of course, it's far beyond Wente to recognize that choice given her self-appointed role as a protector of those who already enjoy a disproportionate share of our society's wealth. But let's not pass up an opportunity to discuss the real choice - and note that the Occupy movement is exactly on track in noting that a focus on further rewarding the top end of the income and wealth scale has both increased the cost of an education, and limited the availability of careers which advance social ends rather than private profits. And it's only by making use of the tools available to us as activists and voters that we can change that state of affairs.