Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Diana Carney discusses the public's growing recognition of inequality in Canada:
I see three root causes of our concern with inequality in Canada (three seems to be the magic number).

First, there is a general lack of confidence in our economic future, as a country and as individuals. In March 2012, polling by Ekos found that 57 per cent of Canadians felt that they would be worse off in 25 years than they are today. This is a staggeringly large number of people in a country that has been an outlier (on the positive side) in terms of economic mobility — the decoupling of one’s own prospects from those of one’s parents.

Related to this is a lack of vision for the future at a political level. Even our supposed destiny as an energy superpower seems hard to grasp and if we fail in that regard it is not clear what the back-up plan is. Without an alternative vision, it is reasonable to expect that trends around income consolidation at the top of the spectrum will continue, to the detriment of the majority.

Second, the politics of division are coming home to roost. The grass is always greener on the other side and the Occupy movement has provided a voice to many unhappy people. The visibility and excess of the top 0.1 per cent — the group that has been almost solely responsible for shifts in Canada’s overall inequality rate since 2000 — play a part. (The share of income going to the top 0.1 per cent increased from 2 per cent in 1980 to 5.3 per cent immediately pre-recession in 2007: the share going to the top 1 per cent is up from about 7 per cent to 10 per cent over a similar period.) So does the bursting of the credit bubble that previously masked some of the inequality. Another big factor in Canada is regional inequality, but there is no space to go into details about that here.

Third, I perceive a fear that the institutions that underpin our country and the global system are either threatened, rotten or inadequate to face down the challenges of the future. The global financial system comes first to mind, but with so many recent scandals in the worlds of politics and business it’s no wonder people are nervous.  
- Meanwhile, Nicholas Kristof rightly labels the U.S.' half-century of giveaways to the wealthy as a failed experiment - resulting in both deteriorating public services, and greater costs to individuals trying to work around the lack of social cohesion.

- Julia Belluz discusses several issues surrounding prescription drugs in Canada - with particular emphasis on the desperate need for a national pharmacare plan:
Did you know that Canada’s is the only health system in the OECD that is universal but excludes public and universal coverage for prescription drugs? And yet, we’re filling more prescriptions than ever, pharmaceuticals make up our second largest health-care cost, and we are second only to the U.S. when it comes to per capita spending on medicines.

According to UBC’s Morgan, this suggests there’s something rotten with our pharmaceutical policy. The provinces have come up with a patchwork approach to covering drugs for some citizens—mostly seniors and social assistance recipients. Employers fill in the gaps. If governments, unions and employers all negotiate drug benefits, Canadians lose out on the efficiencies and bargaining power that comes with a universal, single-payer system.
If every other universal system in the OECD figured out a better way, we can too. “You either see prescription drugs as part of the health-care system, or you don’t,” says Morgan. He added that when Obamacare is fully implemented south of the border, “it’s likely more Americans will have prescription drug insurance than Canadians, so in a sense, we may become the worst country in the world on pharmacare.” Indeed, a pretty serious drug problem.
- Meanwhile, the NDP is working on identifying and addressing the proliferation of "pay-to-pay" fees which serve as glaring examples of service providers simply seeking additional rents on top of the price of their actual services.

- Finally, Thomas Walkom comments on how the McGuinty Libs' needless choice to privatize power generation may result in their entire green energy initiative being struck down by the WTO.

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