Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Thomas Walkom points out that many Canadians can expect to lose jobs without any social supports due to the Cons' focus on political messages over real-life impacts. And Blake Zeff offers a reminder that while progressive economic policy may be receiving more attention over the last year, it's always been extremely popular among the public (even as it's been ruled out by policy-makers who focus primarily on serving corporate interests):
Way back in 1992, President Clinton ran an explicitly populist campaign, telling voters, “The rich get the gold mine and the middle class gets the shaft. It’s wrong and it’s going to ruin the country.” Clinton didn’t always govern as an economic liberal — nor did Obama, for that matter — but that’s precisely the point. To know what’s popular, look at which messages politicians use to sell themselves to voters during campaigns. That’s when Americans exert some control in the process, and demonstrate what they want.

Governing, of course, is a different story; we don’t make most laws based on initiatives and referenda. Congress often does its real business behind closed doors, sneaking provisions into law via fine print — so when the legislative process is worked out, many voters are not engaged in each development. But corporate lobbyists and wealthy contributors, who don’t necessarily share the same agenda as the electorate, are. The result: campaign messages approved by the broad electorate don’t always translate to governmental results. So, if you want to know what the American people actually want and support, don’t always look at what was enacted, but what they voted for during campaigns.
(E)ven if Americans haven’t necessarily embraced the label “liberal,” a government that seeks shared prosperity by ensuring living wages for its workers, and basic assistance for those looking for work has been popular for a long time...

Why has the myth persisted, then, that economic progressivism was until now in popular remission? One possibility is that there are many powerful groups — from Republicans to business-backed Democrats to financial interests, and the corporate media that covers them —  that benefit from (and have little cause to discourage) such a misconception.

Either way, the languid economy has propelled the need for strong government action now. But those who think that the nation’s support for that approach is either new or confined to the far left, are missing what’s really been going on in America.
- Meanwhile, Emily Badger discusses what an increase in the minimum wage could do to reduce poverty in the U.S.:
By economist Arindrajit Dube's calculation, [a minimum wage increase to $10 US] could lift as many as 4.6 million non-elderly people out of poverty in the United States. As a result, the population living below the federal poverty line would drop by nearly 10 percent. Most compelling: The change would have the greatest impact on the families that struggle the most, those living in "extreme poverty" below half of the poverty line.

This graph, from Dube's latest research, shows that the largest proportionate increases in income from a higher minimum wage would go to the families living in the 10th and 20th percentiles of family income...
"What that's telling you is you're pulling up the bottom of the family income distribution," Dube says. "And that is reducing inequality. That’s very clear from that graph – you're going to reduce inequality, by almost any measure of inequality. "

The relationship between poverty, the minimum wage, and inequality is complex. But Dube's research (and the work of many other economists) points to a few keys points about how they're intertwined: The declining real value of the minimum wage over the last three decades is at least part of the story of why income inequality has widened. And elected officials struggling with the limited policy levers available to curb inequality might at least consider this one.
- APTN reveals that Chuck Strahl's lobbying oil lobbying isn't limited to Enbridge, but includes pushing Alberta's government on behalf of a First Nations developer with Chinese backing. And Dr. Dawg rightly points out what Strahl's oil ties and party loyalties mean for his ability to oversee a spy agency known to be engaged in dubious corporate operations.

- CBC reports on yet another oil-by-rail disaster, this one resulting in a fire near Plaster Rock, NB. And Bill Curry highlights an internal audit showing how the Cons' combination of outsourcing and mismanagement has led Transport Canada to pay far more money for far less effective regulation than it could deliver on its own.

- Finally, Adrienne Silnicki discusses how private clinic result in longer wait times for everybody - and warns that we may soon face a serious fight to preserve an equitable, universal health care system in Canada.

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