Friday, September 27, 2013

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Jordan Brennan and Jim Stanford put to rest any attempt to minimize the growth of inequality in Canada:
(I)ncome inequality has reached a historic extreme. Inequality was high during the 1920s and 1930s (the “gilded age”), but fell sharply during the Second World War (as Canadians got back to work and taxes were raised to pay for the war effort). The three decades after the Second World War — a “golden age” of controlled capitalism — saw further decline in inequality. The economy was booming and powerful institutions (like progressive taxation and surging unionization) ensured the wealth was broadly shared.

Since 1980, however, we’ve entered another “gilded age.” Business-friendly economic and social policies replaced the former Keynesian welfare regime. In recent years, inequality has reached levels higher than at any time since the 1930s. And it is clearly staying that way, regardless of small year-to-year fluctuations.
Does income inequality matter? There’s a growing consensus among scientists from many disciplines that it does: in complex, surprising and economically important ways. Numerous studies document a powerful relationship between income inequality and varied dimensions of social pathology.
Indicators as diverse as happiness, mental illness, infant mortality, children’s educational performance, teenage pregnancy, homicide, imprisonment, social trust and social mobility all get worse as the income gaps within society deepen.
- But David Spencer writes that corporate efforts to demonize the poor and suppress wages to minimize their freedom of choice date back centuries. And Paul Krugman comments on the selective rage of the privileged - who are happy to accept multi-billion-dollar bailouts for themselves while demanding that workers lift themselves up by their own bootstraps.

- Meanwhile, Trish Hennessy (via Diablogue) discusses Ontario's self-defeating austerity policies. And Sean Geobey studies how young workers in particular are bearing the brunt the province's failures.

- Finally, Paul Adams highlights what we lose when politics turns into a matter of mere consumer culture rather than citizen activism:
Political parties run attack ads because they don’t really care if some of us are turned off politics — so long as they turn off more of the other parties’ supporters than they do their own. It really doesn’t matter if they’re damaging the system. Election after election, fewer and fewer people trudge to the polls — but someone always wins.

The most depressing aspect of all this may be that as the parties market themselves to a largely disengaged audience, they inevitably latch on to our wispiest impulses. Those impulses, Delacourt argues, are increasingly about what can we buy and for how much, whether that’s hockey equipment for the kids or a new smartphone for ourselves — often with a credit card, of course.

As a result there’s precious little space left on the shelf for, say, climate change or the disgraceful circumstances of our native peoples. Things like that might concern citizens — but they just don’t interest shoppers.

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