Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Mitchell Anderson compares the results of corporate-friendly Thatcherism to the alternative of public resource ownership and development in the interest of citizens - and finds far better results arising from the latter:
Thirty-five years after she swept to power as British prime minister, it is ironic that socialist Norway now has $830 billion in the bank and enjoys fully funded social programs that most of us can only dream of. Meanwhile the U.K. is enduring another round of wrenching austerity and owes over £1.3 trillion -- about US$2.2 trillion. That massive debt grows by about $3.8 billion each week, while every seven days Norway adds another billion dollars to their bank account.

What happened? Both countries were in dire economic straights in early 1970s. Both countries came into the financial windfall of North Sea oil around the same time, exploiting the same resource -- sometimes from the same drill rig. How could they have ended up in such vastly different places?

Rarely in history has there been such a clear-cut opportunity to explore the real world success or failure of competing world-views. Thatcherism has gone on to become an economic school of thought with true believers in positions of power around the world. The doctrine of cutting taxes, privatizing government assets and embracing deregulation continues apace around the globe to this day. But does it work?
Wealth flows from resources, and the North Sea oil represented $8 trillion of public money. Realistic governments see resource development as a hard-nosed negotiation with their private business partners. They aggressively fight for their taxpayers against outside interests who naturally want to keep as much of that money as they can for themselves. Norway did a far more competent job managing their oil wealth than the naive ideologues in the U.K. The numbers speak for themselves.
- But Alison points out that Canada is instead heading toward increasing domination by private-sector oil barons - with the Cons passing the oil lobby's wishlist without even a hint of public interest entering into the discussion, and Justin Trudeau joining Stephen Harper in putting oil lobbyists at the core of his political team.

- Meanwhile, Hugh Mackenzie studies the retirement options available to Canadians, and finds that the CPP provides a far more secure source of income without upwards of a third of one's savings being siphoned off by the financial sector. And PressProgress nicely summarizes Mackenzie's findings.

- A group of political science experts writes to suggest that the Cons not ram through their Unfair Elections Act without considering the public interest - both in making voting more rather than less accessible, and in thoroughly considering the effect of unnecessary, partisan-driven changes. And the Star's editorial board agrees.

- Finally, David Beers interviews Kevin Page about the Cons' "grotesquely wrong" priorities:
Some scientists say federal libraries and other valuable infrastructure for making decisions is being unnecessarily destroyed in the name of budget cutting, but the real goal is to silence sources of environmental criticism. The Tyee has followed the story closely, for example here. Do you think the Harper government has used budget cutting as an excuse to achieve other political aims including undercutting the work of scientists whose findings could be cited by critics of the government's policies?

"I am deeply concerned about the lack of transparency, analysis and debate on the choices and impact of government programs and operations that are being eliminated and scaled back in the name deficit reduction. This includes reductions in spending to support information and knowledge at Environment Canada, Statistics Canada and elsewhere. The government created a structural deficit problem when it cut the GST and corporate income taxes too deeply with respect to our fiscal structure and long-term economic and demographic fundamentals. It is now trying to reduce a structural deficit while our economy continues to operate below its potential. It launched an austerity program in Budget 2012 without a plan for Parliament to scrutinize.

"PBO tried to get information on the cuts in advance of decisions to scale back science and veterans support etc. but were told by the public service and cabinet ministers that we were exceeding our legislative mandate. PBO sought a reference opinion at the Federal Court on this issue. There should be a plan in place to explain to Parliament and Canadians the choices and impact analysis on the cuts. This plan does not exist. The system is broken. MPs are voting on departmental spending plans without the information they need to assess austerity impacts. We are closing veterans offices in the name of efficiency but spending more on recreation trails. MPs should debate these issues.

"One of my favourite writers, Martin Wolf of the Financial Times, wrote a piece a few weeks ago about the state of leadership. He said we 'have high quality people but weak leadership.' He said we have an implicit pact with our elites. We want them to do their best and at least get things 'partly right,' not 'grotesquely wrong.' I fear that on the management of our institutions and on the long-term issue of climate change our elites are grotesquely wrong. We should be increasing investments in environmental research, not decreasing."

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous10:35 p.m.

    Its truly depressing when you pull it all together like that in one place, we have the resources but our government under a leader whose sails are empty of wind that can blow our fortunes Canada in the right direction like Norway and instead delivers massive wealth with zero environmental responsibility to those who need it the least; the energy resource extraction robber baron elites. Neither Trudeau nor Mulcair seem to offer a real alternative to the course SS Harper has charted for our collective futures and it is a bleak one indeed.

    Austerity will wake the mass of Canadians needed to make a voting change but only when they can no longer afford things like boats, cottages or cabins, quads, 2 cars, motorcycles, internet, cable, hockey tickets and beer. (see Greece) By then it will be to late we will be mired in environmental degradation, toxic superfund sites, polluted water and a net loss of wildlife and their habitat that is priceless and irreplaceable. You don’t know what you have until it is gone forever. Perhaps this is what Canadians need to wake them up; the one real important common bond we share is the vastness, diversity and unparalleled beauty of the nature that surrounds us.

    When Canadians refuse to vote this is what they are giving up. They are giving free rein to an economist who was taught outdated economic theory using models that failed to incorporate the advances in economic theory of the past thirty five years* and who also embraces right-wing American ideals that belongs in the dark ages because the theory and ideals are inseparable in the brand of capitalism Harper embraces. We cannot share this planet any longer with this theory or these ideals because the planet is a finite space and a home for us all. The resources cannot continue to expand as the capitalist economic theories demand. We must switch over to a sustainable model based on nature as our teacher; nature knows no waste everything is reused in one fashion or another.

    Man on the other hand has created the largest garbage dumps on land everywhere we go and gigantic waste ponds of the oceans that makes it embarrassing to call oneself a member of the human race. Space itself is loaded with so much space-junk (garbage) that it is a NORAD 24/7 365.25 yearly job to manoeuvre the ISS to avoid collisions. The great pacific garbage patch is out of hand. Most of the highest peaks on the planet are littered with garbage from previous mountaineering expeditions, as are the north and south polar routes. Are you proud of that? I am not; we need a change, we need a voice in government the Harper government has outlived its welcome. Steve its time to leave.** It is time we woke up and fought for what is ours and not let the economists and the energy resource robber barons destroy it all in the name of profit for the elite.


    * https://www.google.ca/#q=failed+economic+theory+joseph+stiglitz

    ** http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iLfbp-HEylU