Saturday, January 07, 2012

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Brian Jones writes that we're well on our way to an only slightly-sanitized version of feudalism:
According to news reports this week, the average annual income of the Top 100 CEOs is $8.4 million. That’s less than is paid to superstar puckster Sidney Crosby, but then, the headaches one gets from running a major corporation, though significant, don’t necessarily rival “concussion-like symptoms.”

Also newsworthy was that the average Canadian earns $44,366 per year, and the average Top 100 CEO had already earned that amount by 2:30 p.m. on the first workday of the new year, Jan. 2.

This information, based on 2010 statistics, was in a report by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, it should be noted, is “left-leaning,” meaning it still clings to the quaint and antiquated notion that fairness has anything to do with economics.
Despite all the boasting about technology and progress and 21st-century this and 21st-century that, there are a lot of feudal attitudes held by those with economic power.

We are reverting to a society of lords and peasants, although a main difference is that nowadays there’s less mud.
Some shills in the business media this week defended the salaries of Top 100 CEOs. A common argument is that Canadian CEOs are brilliant, and their competence adds value to their companies.

Fair enough. But this logic must also then be extended to other employees. Their competence creates earnings for the company, so, to be consistent, they also deserve top dollar for their efforts. Instead, Canadians’ earnings, in real terms, have been falling for years.
- And John Cole's summary of Bain Capital's operations under Mitt Romney looks like an apt description of what far too many corporatists are trying to push in Canada and elsewhere as well:
Basically, what Bain Capital did to GS Technologies and their workers is a miniature model of what they want and have been doing to America - extract the resources, enrich themselves, loot the Federal treasury, then tell the people there is no money left and we’re going to have to cut your pensions, your SS, and your medical care while they run off to overseas tax havens to deposit their loot while chanting about job creation and free markets. Bain and Mitt Romney pocketed $8 million for the price of a community, all these workers pay and benefits and pension, and $44 million in federal money.
- Meanwhile, Erin Weir highlights why the attempt to equate high-income freebies with actual economic development is doomed to fail:
Erin Weir, a Toronto-based economist with the United Steelworkers union, said having such discrepancies in wealth between regular people and the elite is bad for the economy.

For one thing, he said, it's not good for creating domestic demand for goods and services.

"People generally have less propensity to spend as their income rises," he said. "Obviously, people with higher incomes are going to spend more, but they'll tend to spend a lower proportion of their income.

"If the goal is actually to increase consumer spending to drive economic demand, a more egalitarian distribution of income would be better."

Weir added that such inequality tends to drive higher levels of personal debt, which is currently running in Canada at record levels of about 150 per cent of annual disposable income.

"People's consumption decisions are often driven by looking at those a little bit ahead of them on the income scale," Weir said. "So the more inequality there is, the more people need to borrow to keep up with the Joneses."
- Lawrence Martin points out the moral bankruptcy of the Harper Cons:
Of the many remarkable political moments in 2011, one of the most telling, for me anyway, came after the prime minister was found in contempt of Parliament. That finding, which followed a probe by the Speaker of the House, was significant enough in itself. It had never happened to a prime minister before.

But even more noteworthy was Stephen Harper`s reaction to the unprecedented condemnation. He was dismissive. Canadians “don’t care” about that kind of thing, he said. What he was saying essentially was that the process doesn’t matter. The people are concerned only with the results.

This was a point Conservatives made frequently in defending their flaunting of democratic norms in 2011. But can it be the case? Do voters not really care how the system functions?

Didn’t people in this country and around the world spend decades or in some cases hundreds of years fighting for honourable process, for the establishment of democratic systems?

Following the contempt indictment and his casual dismissal of it, the prime minister led his Conservatives to their first majority victory. His view on the functioning of democracy, as cynical as it was, could be said to have been vindicated. For evidence our system is broken, it was a fine exhibit.

If the contempt charge was just a one-off thing, it wouldn’t have been so noteworthy. But there were so many other examples showing that the system no longer serves as a check on executive power. The examples and the mild public response to them are worth recalling because what they suggest is that we have a prime minister who can get away with pretty much anything.
- And Dan Gardner notes that Stephen Harper's position on federalism - as on virtually any other matter of principle - boils down to little more than backing whatever set of talking points best suits his political purposes for the moment.

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