Friday, February 21, 2014

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Rick Smith hopes that the Cons' backtracking on income splitting means that they won't go quite as far out of their way to exacerbate income inequality in the future:
(T)he unfortunate reality is that we are still becoming ever more unequal, a trend due in large measure to political choices. Many countries have found ways to mitigate the growth of income inequality, while in Canada the policy response has tended to reinforce rather than offset the trend.

We know that since the mid-1990s, the social role of government has been dramatically cut back and its redistributive impact has faded. According to the OECD, government taxes and transfers lowered the gap between rich and poor most in Canada, Denmark, Finland, and Sweden in the late 1980s and the early 1990s. By the early 2000s, we joined Switzerland and the U.S. as the countries with the smallest redistributive impact.

That’s why I take caution not to overstate things here. But I do believe Mr. Flaherty’s remarks signal some hope that there is growing public support and political will to address income inequality. At the very least, important public policy will now be tested against a simple and compelling principle: Does this make income inequality better or worse?
- Meanwhile, Trish Hennessy asks people to consider what they'd want to see done if they were finance minister - rather than accepting that we're stuck with the Cons' warped priorities. And Michael Laxer has some suggestions for Andrea Horwath as to how to genuinely make life more affordable for most Ontarians.

- Darcy Henton reports that Alberta's P3 school construction fiasco is only getting worse - as a government-commissioned study makes clear that the schools intended to be turned into corporate profit centres might never get built at all since they might not quite be lucrative enough.

- Finally, Karen Foster offers some important advice for young workers:
(N)early every public voice is telling you that you need to change. As Trish Hennessy put it on the CBC’s Bottom Line panel, we’ve individualized the problems of underemployment and skills mismatches and student debt. Our societal problem has become your personal problem. That’s why everyone’s turning themselves into knots to offer you advice.

My advice to you? Get angry.

Channel your anxiety about getting a job into frustration that we’re back here, again, talking about a “lost generation”, just like we were in the 1980s and 1990s.

Be indignant. When someone tells you it’s your fault for doing sociology instead of welding, tell them to stuff it.

When someone assures you it’ll get better in 10-15 years when the boomers retire, try repeating it back to them so they can hear how ludicrous it is.
The real injustice is not that you are overqualified for or mismatched to the jobs available to you, but that the career you’re shooting for is probably being dismantled into a set of lower-wage, no-benefits, no-security jobs. This is the trend in government, where temporary contracts are the new junior position; it’s also the trend in universities, where contract instructors are taking on more and more of the teaching once performed by tenured faculty. It’s even happening in other unionized workplaces, where collective agreements are being amended to allow for two-tier wage and benefit systems (you can guess who’s in the bottom tier). The situation, in other words, is grim.
Everyone is pressing you to adapt to the present. But you can not adapt. You can not re-train for a job that might just disappear like the first one you trained for. You can not work for minimum wage when you graduate. You can not mold yourself into the perfect worker so that corporations can escape the cost of training you.

This is all a bit rich, coming from me. Barring catastrophe, there’s a full-time, permanent job awaiting me after my current short-term post is up. But I count myself among those whose duty is to push back on contractualization, precarious work, devalued labour, and market fundamentalism. If you get a good job, good for you. But it will be your duty to ally yourself with the growing legions of young workers who are exploited—and underemployment is exploitation—just because they can be.

Whatever you do, don’t simply figure things out for yourself. If we keep on figuring things out individually, we will never figure things out collectively.


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