Friday, August 31, 2012

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Linda McQuaig highlights how attacks on workers are used to distract attention from the systematic transfer of wealth to those who need it least:
As long as the right can keep workers envious and suspicious of each other, the focus won't be on those at the top, where the benefits have actually gone. As Bank of Canada governor Mark Carney noted last week, corporations are sitting on $500 billion in cash, reflecting the growing share of business revenue in recent years that has gone to profits, not wages.

(Labour's share of Canada's national income has fallen from 65 to 60 per cent since 1990, partly because of policies like privatization and deregulation, the OECD's Employment Outlook reported last month.)
(W)hile public sector workers are bullied these days, business leaders are treated as semi-gods.

Since the Conservatives took power, business leaders have enjoyed a two-day private retreat with the finance minister each summer, just in case they hadn't already managed to communicate their views to him at other private functions, not to mention through the pages of the newspapers they own.

The business leaders used their retreat last summer to urge Jim Flaherty to adopt measures to reduce workers' pay and to implement U.S.-style right-to-work laws aimed at limiting union power, according to government documents reported in the Globe and Mail earlier this month.

So while the economy remains stalled with business leaders declining to invest their surplus $500 billion, we're encouraged to vent our anger by firing city garbage workers and making sure we catch every one of those napping TTC collectors.
- And Mike Lofgren comments on how the new plutocracy is using the distraction to try to insulate itself entirely from society at large:
Our plutocracy now lives like the British in colonial India: in the place and ruling it, but not of it. If one can afford private security, public safety is of no concern; if one owns a Gulfstream jet, crumbling bridges cause less apprehension—and viable public transportation doesn’t even show up on the radar screen. With private doctors on call and a chartered plane to get to the Mayo Clinic, why worry about Medicare?

Being in the country but not of it is what gives the contemporary American super-rich their quality of being abstracted and clueless. Perhaps that explains why Mitt Romney’s regular-guy anecdotes always seem a bit strained. I discussed this with a radio host who recounted a story about Robert Rubin, former secretary of the Treasury as well as an executive at Goldman Sachs and CitiGroup. Rubin was being chauffeured through Manhattan to reach some event whose attendees consisted of the Great and the Good such as himself. Along the way he encountered a traffic jam, and on arriving to his event—late—he complained to a city functionary with the power to look into it. “Where was the jam?” asked the functionary. Rubin, who had lived most of his life in Manhattan, a place of east-west numbered streets and north-south avenues, couldn’t tell him. The super-rich who determine our political arrangements apparently inhabit another, more refined dimension.

To some degree the rich have always secluded themselves from the gaze of the common herd; their habit for centuries has been to send their offspring to private schools. But now this habit is exacerbated by the plutocracy’s palpable animosity towards public education and public educators, as Michael Bloomberg has demonstrated. To the extent public education “reform” is popular among billionaires and their tax-exempt foundations, one suspects it is as a lever to divert the more than $500 billion dollars in annual federal, state, and local education funding into private hands—meaning themselves and their friends. What Halliburton did for U.S. Army logistics, school privatizers will do for public education. A century ago, at least we got some attractive public libraries out of Andrew Carnegie. Noblesse oblige like Carnegie’s is presently lacking among our seceding plutocracy. 
- Meanwhile, Purple Library Guy aptly points out that an increasingly complex economy provides nothing but opportunities for the unscrupulous to ensure that what we don't know benefits them at our expense:
My suspicion is that every increase in social complexity provides greater opportunity for corruption--for elements of that society to extract wealth without making a contribution, and without it being generally recognized. For parasitism, if you will. Furthermore, in any hierarchical society, whatever the general impacts of complexity, a point will be reached at which increased complexity loses more than it gains in terms of general prosperity or productivity. Past this point each addition of complexity allows more siphoning of wealth by parasites than it allows of wealth creation. In fact, I would suggest that as complexity increases the chance becomes larger and larger that any given new complexity increase will be introduced precisely for the purpose of more effective parasitism rather than for any improvement in wealth creation. Not that this will be admitted.
The world crisis we hit in 2007-ish and which in my opinion is only in temporary delay at the moment ultimately is a systemic one which goes beyond specifics of globalized production, offshored jobs, or even financialization of the economy. Ultimately, what we have is a hierarchical system which has been allowed to grow in complexity until parasitism is so easy to do (far easier than wealth creation) and so difficult to interfere with, that the system has begun to collapse. Measures to fix it, at least those introduced from above, will generally be some sort of increase in complexity; under the circumstances, the chances that despite all rhetoric the real results and even aims of such measures will be to increase the scope of parasitism still further are extremely high. So we're hooped, and any "solutions" they introduce will almost certainly just make things worse. In this sense I think the internationalist slogan that we're not against globalization we just want a different kind is probably misguided, or at least drastically overstated. I really am against globalization, and instead of trying to create one big worldwide struggle to try to compete with the globalizers' worldwide movement of money and production, I'd rather just stop them from moving the production in the first place and for that matter, keep the money and ownership out of their paws in the first place. No worker-owned factory is going to decide to put themselves out of a job by moving production to Indonesia.
- Finally, both Gareth Perry and Paul Dechene make the case for Saskatchewan citizens to speak up about the glaring need for federal boundary revisions.

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