Saturday, January 26, 2013

#skndpldr Roundup

One of the more important dates of the Saskatchewan NDP leadership campaign passed yesterday, as the membership deadline will close the list of members eligible to vote for the party's next leader.

We'll find out the official numbers before too long, but for now two of the campaigns have given an indication what we can expect. 2,000 new or renewed memberships were sold through Ryan Meili's campaign according to Aaron Genest (in a post which is well worth a read generally in discussing the background work needed to make a social media campaign effective). And Trent Wotherspoon had already sold "several hundred new memberships" according to Friday's final membership appeal on his campaign's Facebook page.

Barring a surprise either from the remaining candidates or from new members signing up through other means, those numbers figure to include most of the new supporters in the leadership voter pool.

In other news, a few relatively significant late-campaign endorsements were revealed over the past week. Athabasca MLA and deputy leader Buckley Belanger endorsed Wotherspoon, allowing him to claim additional support from a well-respected member of the NDP's current caucus while also boosting his apparent geographic base.

Meanwhile, Broten unveiled two endorsements of particular note. A nod from the United Steelworkers serves as both his first labour endorsement (at least to my recollection) and somewhat of a coup in light of Erin Weir's work for the union. And his endorsement by Anne Blakeney lends some weight to Broten's regular invocations of Allan Blakeney's legacy, while also highlighting his establishment support in Saskatoon.

Of course, it's the members rather than the endorsers who will ultimately vote on the leadership. And  now that one of the great unknowns of the campaign (the composition of the eligible membership) is settled, we can expect to see the campaigns focus entirely on targetting voters as the convention approaches.

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Susan Delacourt comments on the role of robocalls in turning citizens away from politics - though it's worth pointing out that the Cons may well see that as a desirable result to capitalize on a modest base of support:
What may need more testing, however, is how robocalls work as a tool to suppress votes. Sure, they don’t make people any more likely to turn out at the polls, or vote for a particular party.

But they may just be annoying enough to turn people off politics or voting — and, from all accounts, that seemed to be the motive behind the rash of robocalls in the 2011 campaign. Robocalls are the political equivalent of telemarketers; the scourge of Canadian households, especially around dinnertime.

If you were trying to find a way to make people mad or cynical about politics, it would be hard to find a better medium than the irksome telephone.
- Meanwhile, Nanos' latest polling shows both the NDP and the Libs with a significantly greater pool of potential voters than the Cons in Quebec and elsewhere. And while most of the related commentary has focused on the fact that potential support is somewhat dispersed among various first choices, I'd have to think any party would prefer a larger universe of potential supporters rather than a smaller one.

On that front, the fact that the Cons haven't expanded their pool of possible support in the slightest since winning a majority looks to signal that their hold on power is in fact fairly precarious. But then, they're far from the party with the greatest contraction in possible support - as Nanos shows the Bloc's potential support in Quebec lower than the actual support held in the party's 2011 wipeout.

- The Guardian discusses how needless austerity has been tested in the UK - and has failed miserably. Better Way Alberta notes that an obsession with eliminating tax and royalty revenue has led to Alberta being stuck in the red even as its resources are exploited. Paul Krugman catches anti-equality spinmeisters trying to pass off increased wealth disparity as evidence that there's any benefit to the middle class in further divergence. And Andrew Jackson makes the case for taxes on accumulated wealth as a means of fostering both greater equality and increased economic development.

- Finally, David McNally writes about the role of the labour movement in addressing inequality:
When Chicago teachers waged their highly successful strike in September, many commentators rightly noted the enormous significance of the wide public support they garnered. But few appreciated that this support was a result of years of community-based organizing by the Coalition of Rank and File Educators (CORE), a progressive caucus in the teachers union, to prevent school closures in poor, racialized neighbourhoods. In 2010, activists from CORE won the executive elections in the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU). So, when the union struck in the fall of 2012, it could credibly claim it was striking as much for the needs of students as for the jobs and wages of teachers. Throughout the walkout, the CTU continued to foreground its commitments to challenging racism and poverty. The result was an outpouring of community support for the union, including solidarity rallies at schools throughout working class neighbourhoods. So shaken by this groundswell were city officials, that the CTU won important victories – for students and poor communities as much as the teachers themselves.

Closer to home, the last couple of years have seen the emergence of a vigourous alliance between the Ontario division of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) and the feisty, Toronto-based Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP). Together, CUPE and OCAP have spearheaded an energetic “Raise the Rates” campaign devoted to increasing social assistance rates in Ontario – something absolutely indispensable to alleviating poverty. Combining education and grassroots activism, the Raise the Rates campaign has been a genuine example of a community-labour alliance that transcends conventional collective bargaining. By creating an authentic and activist solidarity between poor people and trade unionists it offers a refreshing alternative to business style unionism.

There are reasons to believe, therefore, that a reinvigorated trade unionism is possible – one committed to gender, racial and generational justice. And such a trade unionism, mobilizing communities in a way labour has not done for generations, could become a powerful force in reversing the rampant social inequality promoted by neoliberalism.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Musical interlude

Kaskade feat. Marcus Bently - Let Me Go

#skndpldr - Weyburn Debate Notes

In principle, we might have expected the first debate after the holiday break to signal any change in direction from Saskatchewan's NDP leadership candidates. But it was instead the Weyburn debate which saw a couple of significant changes in tone and strategy (on top of the usual number of noteworthy developments).

While the candidates' opening statements have mostly seen only modest changes throughout the campaign, two new developments stand out from the above.

Erin Weir's opening featured far more discussion of principles as opposed to talking points than we've seen from him in the past. Yes, Weir continued to highlight costing and planning as central themes - but he did so only after emphasizing the importance of collective ownership and equal distribution of resources as the end goals to be pursued. And that explanation and advocacy as to what he's trying to accomplish set out a much-needed foundation for the message he's chosen to get there.

Meanwhile, Ryan Meili's strategy seems to have taken a noteworthy turn from merely introducing himself as an individual, to presenting a preview of how he'd deal with the Saskatchewan Party as leader of the opposition. Rather than emphasizing his well-worn metaphor of an "outside voice" within the NDP, Meili's opening honed in on the zero-dissent corporatism being preached by the Wall government and emphasized both the importance of actually being able to speak up in response to business demands, and some of the issues where there's the greatest opportunity to succeed with an alternative vision.

Those look to be the developments with the most potential impact on the balance of the campaign - as they reflect conscious choices on the part of the candidates as to what we'll see emphasized in the weeks to come. But as usual, there were also a few interesting exchanges within the candidate questions and answers.

In the first round of questioning, Trent Wotherspoon tried to replicate his success in challenging Cam Broten on outside ownership of Saskatchewan farmland. But not surprisingly, Broten was fully prepared to answer the issue this time - meaning that Wotherspoon wasn't able to create the gap in perspectives that worked to his advantage in the previous debate.

In turn, Wotherspoon faced some questions seeking specifics - including one set from Meili on greenhouse gas emissions, and one from Broten on party and policy structures. And in both cases, he stuck with his more general positions rather than rising to the challenge to go into more detail.

Wotherspoon did offer the most noteworthy response to any of the audience questions, noting the connection between an Idle No More rally and a party event dealing with inequality and poverty held the same day and acknowledging he could have done more to connect the two. But we'll see how many opportunities he has to put that type of recognition into action in the rest of the leadership campaign - as there's obviously less value in noticing a missed opening than actually putting the opportunity to good use.

Finally, the second round of questioning included a new challenge from Meili to Broten about his involvement in movement politics. And the issue looks to provide a valuable counter for Meili as both Broten and Wotherspoon play up the value of experience on the electoral scene.

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content for your Friday reading.

- In addition to providing my latest tagline, Alex Himelfarb takes aim at the austerians who seem happy to attack social well-being and economic development alike in the name of government-slashing:
(A)usterity had never been driven by fiscal policy or economics or evidence.  It was driven by ideology.  Market fundamentalism.  A desire to make government much smaller, eliminate or reduce, as much as politics allowed, so-called entitlements, create a “pro-business” climate of less regulation, less government, and, above all, lower taxes.

Think about the irony of this: that the huge recession-induced deficits that were largely the result of tax cuts and deregulation were now the justification to renew the commitment to that same failed ideology. Deficits were a gift – cover to do what many had wanted to do all along.  Cut government down to size.  Cut services. Cut. It seems that every failure of this neoconservative approach is used by its advocates to justify doing more of the same. That’s kind of nuts.

How about Canada? I left the Privy Council and Canada for a few years in 2006. At that time Canada had a $16 billion surplus. That’s a real problem for those who might share Cameron’s ideology because without big deficits it’s harder to argue for the urgency to cut programs, reduce government. Instead, the decision was made to cut taxes, for example, taking two cents out of GST. Today those two cents cost the federal government about $14 billion annually. That’s on top of continuing the corporate tax cuts the Liberals had already launched and on top of numerous “boutique tax cuts” and on top of Liberal tax cuts in 2000 that were the biggest in Canadian history.

Imagine none of that had happened.  Imagine that the federal government had at least a good portion of the revenue that they gave up over the last dozen years. They would have had enough money to be far more resilient in the face of recession, to help provinces that were in trouble, to invest in science, education, in a greener, cleaner economy and to begin to transform our health and social programs so they would be there for future generations.

Instead, we’re now talking about austerity as though it’s inevitable, as though we have no choice. (When our leaders tell us that there is no alternative, it is a safe bet to assume that there is indeed an alternative and one that we would prefer were it on offer.)
- Meanwhile, Chrystia Freeland points out that many of the world's wealthiest tycoons gathered in Davos are trying to perpetuate an obsession with deficits rather than well-being. But Paul Krugman has some hope that deficit hawks are rightly being marginalized in Washington.

- At home, Kevin Page's latest report features two obvious indications that deficit talk is just as empty here as elsewhere: the CP points out that the Cons' attacks on the civil service have resulted in a shift away from providing useful services without actually saving any money.

- And finally, Hugh MacKenzie reminds us that we should be concerned about a $145 billion backlog of infrastructure neglect rather than limiting our focus to cuts and tax baubles.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

New column day

Here, on how a close Saskatchewan NDP leadership campaign makes it all the more likely that a small number of new members can make a massive difference in the race.

The most important followup link is naturally to the party's membership page - which should be the best way to connect before tomorrow afternoon. But for those interested, leftdog and Aaron Genest have both issued membership appeals beyond those of the campaigns.

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- There's plenty of reason for concern about the departure of some of the few independent officers who have successfully held the Cons to account at times - with departing environment commissioner Scott Vaughan serving as only the latest example.

- But the more important story is less the presence of watchdogs than that of effective regulators - and the fact that the Cons have limited environmental enforcement to sporadic letter-writing campaigns gives us plenty of reason for concern no matter who's in a position to point it out.

- Meanwhile, Luigi Zanasi offers up an actual proposal to deal with greenhouse gas emissions - which is particularly noteworthy as a response to the Cons' anti-environment spin since it involves up-front credits rather than costs for Canadians. But there is some reason for concern that a complex system would end up being more easily manipulated than one which focuses more directly on large emitters.

- Pat Atkinson writes about the success of community ownership of pasture land.

- Finally, Vaughn Palmer rightly approves of the B.C. NDP's proposal to eliminate publicly-funded political advertising.

On policy choices

Thomas Walkom and the Mound of Sound both note that a leadership race has only signalled how far the federal Libs are from being a progressive party. But with Walkom and Paul Adams also questioning whether Canada's political system has seen either a convergence in the middle or a drift to the right, let's note that the Libs' leadership convention may not be this spring's most important source of answers on those points.

On the same weekend the Libs choose their new leader, the NDP will be holding its first convention since last year's leadership vote which elected Tom Mulcair. And the Montreal convention website has now been updated with the basics of the NDP's policy development process - including both the current policy book (PDF), and the guidelines for convention resolutions which will have to be approved and submitted by February 11.

That doesn't leave much time to review and discuss what changes might be made to the principles agreed upon by the NDP's membership just a few years ago - either to strengthen the language to better reflect progressive values, or to water it down if the party's leadership wants more room to maneuver.

But we should be able to tell plenty about the party's future direction by watching how a convention featuring a high proportion of the NDP's new Quebec membership handles traditional party policy and proposed amendments. And the more important test for progressive politics in Canada may play out in Montreal - rather than at the Libs' putty sculpture contest down the road.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Erika Shaker rightly tears into the special brand of FAIPOF demanding that First Nations protesters focus solely on their own community leaders rather than recognizing broader and more systematic inequality:
Much is being made of Chief Spence’s Escalade (although I’m unsure if she actually owns one or if it’s urban legend) to try and mock the principled stand she has taken to call attention to the shameful conditions in which so many Indigenous peoples live. Because apparently if she had figured out how to stretch those shamefully inadequate federal transfers instead of engaging in a fast—which Barbara “just sayin’” Kay spells d-e-t-o-x—to protest the chronic underfunding of First Nations communities, Attawapiskat wouldn’t be in such a mess.

If only Chief Spence had had access to the Financial Post’s recent piece on “frugal billionaires who live like real people”. Then perhaps she would have learned some discretion when it came to her personal finances: modeling herself after Mark Zuckerberg’s “low key lifestyle” as evidenced by his recent Facebook-funded upgrade to a $7 million Palo Alto home which is “still well below his means”. Or Azim Premji, chairman of Wipro Limited with a net worth of $12.2 billion, who is so “frugal” he is said to “monitor the number of toilet paper rolls used in Wipro facilities” (which where employees are concerned seems less “frugal” than “fascist”). Oh, and Amancio Ortego, founder of Zara and worth $57.5 billion, “hasn’t let success go to his head”…except for perhaps one teensy indulgence: a private Bombardier jet that cost $45 million.

That’s how you do frugal, FP-style.

For some, wealth and reality are clearly fluid concepts—as the Financial Post and its comrades in the class struggle illustrate.
Clearly this is about perception, but more to the point, it’s about the perceptions that some people—who can afford them—impose on everyone else to either marginalize the majority of the population, or to sow seeds of division. The people who “matter”—those who make over $150,000—become the standard by which a “successful” society and the economy are judged. They deserve empathy for their hardship and a tax code that further enriches them…and facial expressions detailed in full colour.
Meanwhile, public outrage at an unworkable economic system that continues to marginalize so many of us—and some far more than others—can be directed elsewhere.

At the Theresa Spences of the world. For example.
- Meanwhile, Frances Russell discusses how the right's obsession with stripping out as much as possible from the tar sands into private hands has exacerbated inequality across Canada. Carol Goar notes that there's still a stark contrast between the reserves of cash held in corporate coffers and the lack of economic benefit for mere citizens. And CUPE questions the Cons' determination to turn social programs into yet another set of corporate profit centres.

- Hassan Arif discusses what progressive political parties need to do in order to counter the influence of big money (and all the astroturf attention it can buy):
(F)or progressive political parties, substantive policies, rooted in the concerns of party members and the general public (through genuine consultation and engagement) is key -- policies aimed at combating real problems faced by the general public, aimed at building a broad progressive coalition to defeat conservative parties which, in many cases in both Britain and Canada, are increasingly driven by rightwing neo-conservative ideology.

In Canada, this would entail building a coalition of environmentalists (including many who would normally support the Green Party), social democrats, liberals, and Red Tories who hail from the Progressive half of the old Progressive Conservative Party. This would involve emphasis on environmental conservation, poverty-reduction, a strong social safety net (both protecting and enhancing it), and an emphasis on entrepreneurship and innovation.
The Labour Party, in charting an assertively progressive path, in seeking to root policies in local concerns and to empower volunteers and elected officials, and in embarking on a genuinely consultative policy process, is offering lessons worth learning for other progressive parties, including here in Canada.
- But as Tim Harper points out, the default setting for far too many Canadian governments (of multiple partisan stripes) seems to be to limit the activity and effectiveness of elected legislative bodies. And so it may be particularly important to highlight how the link between voters, elected representatives and governments should work in order to ensure that policy actually reflects public priorities.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Side-by-side cats.

#skndpldr Candidate Rankings - January 22

Not surprisingly, there's relatively little change in this week's rankings: there have been relatively few new developments, and the most significant ones have mostly reinforced the candidates' current placements.

1. Ryan Meili (1)

Meili's December fund-raising success ensured that his top ranking wouldn't be in jeopardy. But the most important numbers for his campaign will be those which crystallize this week: new membership sales have always represented Meili's best chance to put some distance between himself and the balance of the candidates, and we'll know soon whether he's managed to achieve that.

2. Cam Broten (2)

Broten may be the other candidate with the most at stake as the membership deadline passes. While his campaign doesn't look to have as wide a reach as Meili's, Broten's targeted outreach toward immigrant communities could offer him an edge in early-ballot support which might fly under the radar. And we'll have a better idea soon whether Broten will enjoy that advantage over his competitors - or whether he'll face what could be an uphill battle for support among existing members in order to stay on the ballot.

3. Trent Wotherspoon (3)

In contrast, Wotherspoon's campaign has made a more public push to sell memberships - but with little indication as to how many people are taking up the invitation. And so Wotherspoon stays at his current position pending some indication that he's been able to bring in a substantial number of new supporters to give him an edge.

4. Erin Weir (4)

Finally, Weir has taken steps in the last couple of weeks to broaden both his general appeal, and the scope of debate within the campaign as a whole. But he still has some distance to travel to catch up to the plausible multiple-ballot support held by the top three candidates.

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Jacob Chamberlain discusses the all-too-familiar pattern of corporate insiders using their wealth and influence to try to attack basic social supports for less-privileged citizens:
CEOs from America's largest corporations—including its biggest banks, retailers, and insurance companies who helped drive the country into the worst recession in nearly a century— are now calling on Congress to punish the nation's working class and society's most vulnerable by advocating major changes to Social Security and Medicare in a new lobbying push that critics say reveal the cruelty and selfish nature of the country's corporate class. 

The Business Roundtable, comprised of more than 200 chief executives and some of the nation's wealthiest individuals, began lobbying DC lawmakers Wednesday in a press conference calling for major cuts to Social Security (including a raise in elgibility age to 70) and a new push to privatize Medicare.
Among the other 200 corporations, Roundtable members include American Express, AT&T, Bank of America, Bayer, Chevron, Conoco Phillips, Dow Chemical Company, and JPMorgan.

"Average CEO pay for S&P 500 companies is nearly $13 million," Garofalo adds. "Recent increases in life expectancy have only benefited wealthier workers in non-physical jobs. Poorer workers doing physical labor have not seen the same gains and would be most hurt by an increase in the retirement age."
- Meanwhile, the Harper Cons are using public money to make sure that Canada's equivalent business barons are able to jet-set around the globe in pursuit of their own profits.

- But while far too many Canadian governments have bought into the divine right of corporate leaders, the courts aren't quite so deferential - as evidenced by the ruling that HD Mining isn't entitled to escape scrutiny for its decade-plus "temporary" worker permits granted without any meaningful review.

- Andrew Jackson rebuts the claim that the erosion of Canadian manufacturing as anything but a sub-contractor to the tar sands is either inevitable or desirable:
In fact, there has been a huge divergence in the fortunes of Canadian and U.S. manufacturers over the past decade. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, if 2002 is set as the base year, U.S. manufacturing output grew by 23.2 per cent by 2011, while shrinking by 11.5 per cent in Canada.

The same data base shows that Canada experienced a massive loss of cost competitiveness compared to U.S. manufacturers. Canadian unit labour costs rose by 79.1 per cent on a U.S. dollar basis from 2002 to 2011, compared to a fall of 14.3 per cent in the U.S.

Most of this huge loss in cost competitiveness was due to the appreciation of the exchange rate. However, lagging productivity is also an important part of the story. Between 2002 and 2011, hourly productivity in manufacturing grew by a stunning 55.7 per cent in the U.S. compared to an abysmal 10.6 per cent in Canada.

To summarize, U.S. manufacturing output and productivity have both grown strongly since 2002, while output has shrunk in Canada and productivity has barely improved.

This picture is not one of successful restructuring. Rather the dismal state of Canadian manufacturing is the result of an over-valued exchange rate combined with the impacts of a structural regression to relatively low value-added resource extraction and processing.
- Finally, Pete McMartin rightly slams the closed-door nature of what are supposed to be public hearings into the Northern Gateway pipeline.

Monday, January 21, 2013

The litmus test

It's now the official rule of thumb for Canadian journalists: if the Harper Cons aren't attacking you for having the nerve to point out their falsehoods, then you're not doing your job.

Monday Morning Links

Assorted content to start your week.

- Dennis Gruending writes about the importance of Edgar Schmidt's whistleblowing against unconstitutional legislation:
Schmidt says that he has over a period of years raised concerns about what he considers the department’s flawed practices. He has done that through various official channels, up to the deputy minister level — in both Liberal and Conservative governments. He says he has never received a satisfactory response and that he has gone to court as a matter of last resort.

Schmidt says the consequences of the department’s failure to act appropriately are serious. The state should be ensuring that it makes laws that it believes conform to the Charter and Bill of Rights. Instead, it is left to citizens, who usually do not have the resources, to discover and challenge such offending laws.
- Michael Harris notes that the Cons' efforts to silence any criticism have now extended to attacks on individual journalists - with Stephen Maher as only the latest example:
The measure for the kind of work that Maher, McGregor, Tim Naumetz and Greg Weston do is not the metric of public relations. The question is not whether their stories are good or bad for the government.

The question is whether the stories are true. If they’re not, it doesn’t mean that the reporters hate the government — just that they’re wrong. If they’re right, they form part of the composite of facts that makes up public reality. The RCMP are now involved in the investigation and the public is entitled to know that. Thanks to Stephen Maher, it does.

At one level, no one should be surprised at this scurrilous attack on a reporter. The Harper government, and the prime minister personally, specialize in character assassination when opposed.

It is one of the oldest and dirtiest tricks in the book. 
 - And Tabatha Southey wonders what additional abuses of power we might see from the Harper Cons in the years to come.

- While far too many seem to be eager to turn Mali into Canada's next ill-thought-out military intervention, Thomas Walkom makes the case for caution.

- Finally, Daniel Wilson highlights why there's rather less reason for patience when it comes to the federal government's neglect of First Nations.

#skndpldr Roundup

This past weekend saw another Saskatchewan NDP leadership debate, this time in Weyburn. But oddly enough (particularly given the presence of some of the most active social media presences in the campaign), Saturday's debate was the first not to be covered live at the time - meaning that the best sources of discussion for the moment are Jason's post and Jennifer LaCharite's story. As per usual, I'll look at the debate in a bit more detail once the video is available.

Meanwhile, the campaigns were otherwise relatively quiet over the past few days. Ryan Meili did unveil his policy planks on First Nations and justice (along with a redesigned website), and Meili, Trent Wotherspoon and Cam Broten have each held events as this week's membership deadline approaches.

Finally, Very Serious People are talking about what "some people" have told them about the race. Any resemblance to observable reality is purely coincidental.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Sunday Morning Links

Assorted content for your Sunday reading.

- Joseph Stiglitz discusses how the U.S.' extreme inequality is limiting its prospects for economic recovery:
There are all kinds of excuses for inequality. Some say it’s beyond our control, pointing to market forces like globalization, trade liberalization, the technological revolution, the “rise of the rest.” Others assert that doing anything about it would make us all worse off, by stifling our already sputtering economic engine. These are self-serving, ignorant falsehoods.

Market forces don’t exist in a vacuum — we shape them. Other countries, like fast-growing Brazil, have shaped them in ways that have lowered inequality while creating more opportunity and higher growth. Countries far poorer than ours have decided that all young people should have access to food, education and health care so they can fulfill their aspirations.

Our legal framework and the way we enforce it has provided more scope here for abuses by the financial sector; for perverse compensation for chief executives; for monopolies’ ability to take unjust advantage of their concentrated power.
The good news is that our thinking has been reframed: it used to be that we asked how much growth we would be willing to sacrifice for a little more equality and opportunity. Now we realize that we are paying a high price for our inequality and that alleviating it and promoting growth are intertwined, complementary goals. It will be up to all of us — our leaders included — to muster the courage and foresight to finally treat this beleaguering malady.
- Meanwhile, The Economist's Free Exchange blog notes that cities and neighbourhoods which make the effort to fund public services tend to generate a virtuous cycle in terms of overall well-being - while those who have tried to operate on the cheap have paid the price by falling behind further:
(C)ities that hoovered up more skilled workers became more productive and paid higher wages to high and low skill workers. But cities that attracted a large share of skilled workers then experienced a major improvement in their local amenities. The quality of local schools rose, for instance. Crime fell. Cultural and entertainment opportunities expanded. Thanks to slow housing supply growth, housing costs in these places soared. And because low skill households have been less willing to pay for the improvements in amenities, they've left for cheaper cities.

And here's the kicker: once one takes into account the rising amenity values in skilled places it turns out that growth in welfare inequality has been larger than growth in income inequality.
- Benedict Carey discusses the poverty trap - where those with less money wind up paying more for necessities as immediate needs override any capacity to plan:
The usual explanations for reckless borrowing focus on people’s character, or social norms that promote free spending and instant gratification. But recent research has shown that scarcity by itself is enough to cause this kind of financial self-sabotage.

 “When we put people in situations of scarcity in experiments, they get into poverty traps,” said Eldar Shafir, a professor of psychology and public affairs at Princeton. “They borrow at high interest rates that hurt them, in ways they knew to avoid when there was less scarcity.”

The psychological burden of debt not only saps intellectual resources, it also reinforces the reckless behavior, and quickly, Dr. Shafir and other experts said. Millions of Americans have been keeping the lights on through hard times with borrowed money, running a kind of shell game to keep bill collectors away. The average debt for households earning $20,000 a year or less more than doubled to $26,000 between 2001 and 2010, according to the Urban Institute. The averages for households in slightly higher brackets grew by 50 to 90 percent in the same period. 
- Finally, the Star's editorial board salutes Edgar Schmidt's much-needed whistleblowing against the unconstitutional legislation. And Iain Hunter notes that the problem is particularly obvious when the lack of a proper review from the civil service is combined with the Cons' habit of ramming through legislation without debate (or even any particular thought).

[Edit: fixed typo.]