Monday, May 05, 2014

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- David Atkins highlights how public policy and corporate strategy have both instead been directed toward squeezing every possible dime out of the public:
The less noticed but potentially more consequential way that policymakers across the industrialized world set about accomplishing this goal was to push their middle classes to invest their wealth into assets, especially stocks and real estate, then use the levers of public policy to inflate the values of those assets in order to disguise the inevitable declines in wages. There was also a concerted effort to hide wage losses by lowering the prices of non-perishable goods — even if doing so meant domestic job losses. These goals were accomplished in several ways...
All of these moves toward increasing the value of assets do directly benefit the wealthy. But more important, they have served to create a more purely capitalist society, hide the decline of the middle class and mitigate public discontent over stagnant wages. There are many problems with this, of course. The first is that the vast preponderance of wealth will accrue to the very top incomes in an economy where assets inflate while wages deflate. The second is that a purely asset-based economy is bubble-prone, deeply unstable and given to sharp and painful boom-bust cycles. The story of the last half-decade is in part the removal of the blindfold that has been hiding wage losses over the last half-century. Housing prices have skyrocketed beyond the ability of most people under 40 to afford, even as household debt nears record highs. Nearly half of Americans have no retirement savings at all, while much of the rest of the developed world faces a pension obligation crisis. 
The tools policymakers have used to distract the public from the raw deal of low wages are no longer working. And that may more than anything else help usher in a new era of populist progressivism in the U.S. — if, that is, the Democratic Party can shift itself away from reinforcing the asset-based economy toward rebuilding a sustainable model that encourages wage growth and a strong labor market.
- Of course, that proposed theme is utterly antithetical to the Cons and their corporate benefactors. Which means it's no surprise they're continuing to defend - and indeed try to further push - the temporary foreign worker model in the face of more and more stories of abuse.

On that front, Geoff Leo reports on a TFW broker's advice to employers that it use the threat of deportation to prevent new workers from developing expectations that they might be allowed to have some life outside of work; Kathy Tomlinson finds workers being subjected to death threats and coercion while effectively trapped in indentured servitude; and Claire Brownell exposes the use of the TWFP to create a massive, underground migrant economy in agricultural workers. But I'm sure the CFIB will be happy to tell us the real problem is that Canadian workers aren't willing to accept that type of abuse for themselves.

- Jacob Soll notes that a propensity to destroy impartial oversight (in the form of reliable and well-resourced auditing) is equally obvious in the U.S.' corporate and government establishments. And Jared Milne points out that there's plenty of reason for concern about the Cons' fiscal mismanagement even based on what's been revealed publicly.

- Michael Harris discusses Stephen Harper's attacks on the Supreme Court as just the latest example of a government bent on eliminating any possible checks on absolute power:
The train wreck of the Harper government continues to roll down the mountainside, crushing body after body, yet no one utters the right word. Allow me. Canada is a dictatorship in the making.

Did you ever know a person who just kept taking more and more from a relationship until you had to draw a line? A person for whom there are no rules, just a bottomless appetite to have it all their own way?

If so, you know exactly what I’m talking about. I give you our prime minister — a man who needs to be stopped before he starts appearing on the money. Either that, or we all better practise the curtsey.
- Finally, Stephen Maher weighs in on the Cons' continued refusal to do anything about the 1,186 missing or murdered aboriginal women in Canada. 

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