Monday, April 22, 2013

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Paul Adams rightly points out that there's no inherent value in centrism merely for the sake of centrism - especially when the spectrum of choices is itself shaped by decades of distorted assumptions:
(T)he reality of modern politics is that the muddled middle is no answer at all to the issues facing us. On economic and social policy, what divides Canadians is their attitude towards three decades of market-liberating policies that have weakened our middle class, increased inequality, corroded social programs, undermined the ability of working people to negotiate a living wage, and left us all more vulnerable and insecure.

There is certainly a discussion to be had about how quickly and by what means these policies should be moderated, revised or reversed — and issues of priority, pace and technique may divide the Liberals and the NDP.

But first, both parties need to decide whether they really stand for a change in direction or not.

This is even more starkly true on the issue of climate change. The last time they were in office, the Liberals talked a great deal about it but did absolutely nothing. This is one issue on which finding a middle ground between action and inaction probably means not doing enough and condemning our children to an uncertain future.
- And contrary to some poorly-defined complaints, there's a clear choice between the NDP and the Libs when it comes to the FIPA - with the NDP actually challenging the deal absent some explanation as to how it's supposed to improve matters for Canadians, while the Libs hew to the line that any criticism of a free trade agreement is heresy.

- Meanwhile, Matt McClure reports on Alberta's willingness to let $120 million in corporate taxes get funnelled offshore. And Ramsey Hart and John Jacobs highlight the fact that Ontario is giving away its resources at fire-sale prices - even as the Lib government there slashes corporate taxes and services in the face of an eleven-figure deficit.

- Finally, Paul Krugman discusses how a similar focus on prioritizing corporate interests and financial markets over workers has turned out for the unemployed in the U.S.:
Mr. Ghayad then did an experiment, sending out résumés describing the qualifications and employment history of 4,800 fictitious workers. Who got called back? The answer was that workers who reported having been unemployed for six months or more got very few callbacks, even when all their other qualifications were better than those of workers who did attract employer interest.

So we are indeed creating a permanent class of jobless Americans.

And let’s be clear: this is a policy decision. The main reason our economic recovery has been so weak is that, spooked by fear-mongering over debt, we’ve been doing exactly what basic macroeconomics says you shouldn’t do — cutting government spending in the face of a depressed economy.

It’s hard to overstate how self-destructive this policy is. Indeed, the shadow of long-term unemployment means that austerity policies are counterproductive even in purely fiscal terms. Workers, after all, are taxpayers too; if our debt obsession exiles millions of Americans from productive employment, it will cut into future revenues and raise future deficits.

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