Saturday, September 06, 2014

Saturday Morning Links

This and that for your weekend reading.

- Andrew Jackson writes that public investment is needed as part of a healthy economy, particularly when it's clear that the private sector isn't going to put massive accumulated savings to use. Bob McDonald notes that we'd be far better off using public money to fund basic research instead of funnelling it toward the business sector. And Ed Keenan looks to Ontario for examples of how far more money is flowing into questionable corporate handouts than toward basic human needs.

- Meanwhile, Lana Payne exposes the Cons' efforts to both downplay and reduce the federal funds available to improve both economic and social conditions if they had any interest in getting things done:
Martin serially underestimated the size of federal surpluses, surpluses the Conservatives quickly spent when they took power, mostly on reckless corporate tax cuts. The Conservatives then continued the trend started by Martin, who had reduced federal corporate taxes to historic lows. Apparently not low enough for the Conservatives, who lowered them again and again.

This has been the extent of Canada’s tax debate for a generation: tax cuts. Even the political left has bought into the mantra, to a certain extent. Political parties, for the most part, want to avoid having an adult conversation on what a fair tax system in Canada would look like.And, as a result, there is little to no fiscal room to build and deliver on the needs of the next generation of Canadians or to meet the demands of an aging population.

The Conservatives have continued the austerity agenda, slashing programs and services and laying off more than 20,000 employees.  They have overstated the size of the deficit. Indeed, for the first three months of fiscal year 2014-15, the federal government has been in official surplus.

The parliamentary budget officer (PBO) has been critical of the federal government’s continued austerity, noting that the measures have slowed economic growth and resulted in fewer jobs. The PBO has also predicted a $7-billion surplus for 2015.

These slash-and-burn austerity policies have served to keep the expectations of Canadians low, but they have also fundamentally changed and diminished the role the federal government has played in Canadian society.

This, of course, has been the point and some of the rationale behind the reckless tax cuts — empty the federal coffers, strangle the expectations of Canadians and then repeat.
- Linda McQuaig writes about the costs of allowing corporations to engage in tax-evasion maneuvers like the Burger King/Tim Hortons takeover:
We’re always told we should try to lure corporations here with low taxes. But such a strategy — even if it did result in some benefit to Canada — is ultimately self-defeating.

The more we cut our tax rates, the more other countries feel obliged to cut theirs. Round and round it goes, with less and less revenue for vital public programs everywhere. It’s a race to the bottom only corporations can win.

Instead, we should be supporting the Obama administration in its efforts to stop international corporate tax dodging. The White House is now locked in a fierce battle with powerful corporations over tax inversion schemes and also over the U.S. corporate tax rate, which — at 35 per cent — is one of the highest in the world. Corporations want it slashed.

The outcome of this showdown will affect us all. If the multinationals succeed in coercing the mighty United States government to cut its corporate tax rate, it will be much harder for less powerful countries to resist the corporate tax-cutting juggernaut.

The race to the bottom will be on in earnest — with the corporate world happily handing out steroids.
- Mike De Souza reports that the Cons refuse to let Health Canada or its scientists talk about the effects of oil-industry toxins on Alberta residents (other than to dismiss out of hand the research which actually shows harm to human health caused by the tar sands).

- Finally, Rick Salutin highlights the foreign policy that's actually threatening us at home at abroad:
Yes, there’s a threat of domestic 9/11-type attacks by ISIS: either in the name of global proselytization or to teach the West what it’s like to be bombarded at home. But it’s the predictable result of western policies since 9/11: invasions, occupations, brutalizations in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere. Western leaders and policy mavens knew these would elicit further 9/11s. That’s what I find despicable. They surely try to stop them but eventually some will probably get through — and they’re prepared to accept those, along with the terrorization of their own populations, as the price of their agenda.

In other words, they don’t invade or attack to stop future 9/11s. They accept future 9/11s as the cost for invasions and attacks with other purposes.

Such retaliations can arise in any society that’s been buffeted by outsiders, though they’re easier to mount in the globalized era. They already occurred in Ireland and Algeria. They often come from religion-based groups because those have deep roots and seem better able to survive repression than secular resistance movements. Occupiers like the U.S. are willing to risk the retaliation since, though terrifying and barbaric, it doesn’t menace them existentially: neither economically nor militarily. They’ll survive, and meanwhile have an excuse to tighten the screws on domestic dissent, further eroding personal security.

Friday, September 05, 2014

Musical interlude

Orjan Nilsen feat. Kate Louise Smith - The Thunder

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Jordan Brennan examines the close links between strong organized labour and improved wages for all types of workers:
U.S. scholars have found that higher rates of state-level unionization help reduce working poverty in unionized and non-unionized households and that the effects of unionization are larger than macro performance and social policies in those states. Research shows that the decline of U.S. unions between 1973 and 2007 explains one-fifth to one-third of the growth in U.S. wage inequality—a magnitude comparable to the growing stratification of wages by education. A 2010 study used data from 14,000 respondents in 14 countries and found that life satisfaction is directly related to the level of unionization and that union members report higher life satisfaction than non-union members.

Given the foregoing, ‘unionization’ provides an answer to two questions: ‘What drives income inequality?’ and ‘What can we do about it?’

Union renewal will be difficult in the current political climate, given the hostility governments currently express to the very idea of collective bargaining. The optimistic assessment is that governments are attacking unions despite the fact that unions play a progressive role in middle class formation. The more cynical assessment is that governments are attacking unions (cheered on by factions in the corporate sector) because they understand the role that unions play in building a shared prosperity.

In either case, if unions are going to continue their historic role as elevators of working conditions and lifters of living standards, governments must cease their attacks. But the absence of government hostility will not be enough for unions to flourish in the future. Instead, a supportive policy environment where union security is not only tolerated but nurtured is a crucial ingredient in union renewal.
- Meanwhile, David Dayen notes that U.S. incomes are still increasing only at the very top - and that the result figures to be a burgeoning social movement reviving the concept of forcing change through collective action.

- The Alberta Federation of Labour points out how negligent enforcement of rules governing temporary foreign workers has been putting Alberta at risk. And Bill Tieleman's commentary on the B.C. Libs' school shutdown points out that the teacher's union is simply fighting for class size and composition standards which ultimately benefit students.

- William Marsden reports that Canada's growing list of international embarrassments includes the title of greatest destroyer of natural forests on the planet since 2000. Andrea Germanos discusses a U.S. court's decision on liability for BP's massive Gulf of Mexico oil spill - just in time for oil giants to start drilling in Canada's Arctic region with lax spill response standards. And PressProgress reveals that the oil sector is far from finished demanding that Canada's laws be rewritten to place its interests ahead of the environment (and all other considerations).

- Finally, Denise Balkissoon writes about the need to actively change politics as part of a functioning democratic system, rather than merely complaining about them as something inflicted from outside. And Don Braid's take on Alberta's PC leadership race looks to offer a truly sad example of what happens when all policies and ideals are purged from an electoral process.

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Ethan Corey and Jessica Corbett offer five lessons for progressives from Naomi Klein's forthcoming This Changes Everything.

- Following up on this post, Andrew Jackson fact-checks the Fraser Institute on its hostility toward the CPP. And the Winnipeg Free Press goes further in challenging the motives behind the "study":
Since the authors started out believing that the Canada Pension Plan and its investment arm are a "self-serving bureaucracy," it was predictable that they would find something objectionable about CPP administration. The surprise in the study is that the authors produced no evidence that private-sector pensions are more efficient. It is possible that they found evidence on that point but left it out of the published paper. Either way, their silence on the comparison suggests that the CPP stands up well to scrutiny.

A more useful study would produce evidence both from the public and private spheres. That study would have to be written by authors who gather the evidence first and then draw their conclusions. The study published this week seems more like the work of an agency with a narrow agenda -- what you might call a self-serving bureaucracy.
- Krishna Pendakur points out that the background to the B.C. Libs' latest war against teachers is several bargaining cycles worth of abuses of power which have left public educators with the lowest pay and the largest class sizes in the country. And Emma Graney reports that the Wall government's meddling with Saskatchewan's education system was based on precisely zero thought or consultation as to how shiny announcements would affect students in reality.

- Joel-Denis Bellavance and Hugo Grandpre break the story that the federal Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development assembled an internal list of people requesting information about Jim Prentice's expenses.

- Finally, Carol Goar discusses how we need our health care system to be more inclusive rather than putting up barriers for marginalized people. And Scott Stelmaschuk makes the case for a guaranteed annual income.

New column day

Here, questioning whether Canadians share Stephen Harper's newly-professed aspiration to spend tens of billions of dollars more every year to prop up U.S. and U.K. military contractors.

For further reading...
- David Pugliese reported on this week's NATO summit.
- NATO's most recent spending calculations are here (see PDF link), showing that Canada currently spends about 1% of GDP on its military. Note that while this number pegs Canada's current spending at about $18.4 billion per year, I reference the $19 billion figure used by both government and outside sources in the previous link.
- While some of us think it's worth asking whether military spending is actually intended to accomplish anything in particular, at least some Very Serious People are arguing that there's nothing more important than spending gobs of money to prove that we're indeed Very Serious.
- By way of comparison to the price of meeting the proposed military spending standard, see here and here (PDF) for estimates of the raw cost of national child care and pharmacare plans respectively. (In the latter case, I treat the added price of additional use as reflecting the new cost of a federal plan.)
- Finally, Jim Stanford rightly highlights how Canada has ignored another international funding target in the form of a significantly smaller foreign aid commitment. But I'd think it's well worth recognizing a contrast between the two which fits the theme of my column: helping those who need it most seems to fit perfectly as something worth aspiring to, while it's hard to see what normative value there can be in arbitrary military spending numbers.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Eve-Lyne Couturier discusses the rot in the state of Canadian labour negotiations, as workers outside of the 1% are being systematically denied any of the benefit of economic growth.

- Meanwhile, Dean Baker points out that it's only by choice that the vast majority of jobs have been outsourced around the world for the sake of slashing wages, while executive and high-skilled positions have largely stayed put (with far more generous pay). And Margaret Simms highlights the effects of precarious work on workers and their families.

- Nick Carnes writes that the extremely wealthy have thus far won the U.S.' class war in terms of both representation and policy clout. And Harold Meyerson writes that burgeoning equality can be traced largely to corporations' decisions to enrich shareholders in the short term rather than investing in workers and economic development:
Lazonick looked at the 449 companies listed every year on the S&P 500 from 2003 to 2012. He found that they devoted 54 percent of their net earnings to buying back their stock on the open market — thereby reducing the number of outstanding shares, whose values rose accordingly. They devoted another 37 percent of those earnings to dividends. That’s a total of 91 percent of their profits that America’s leading corporations targeted to their shareholders, leaving a scant 9 percent for investments, research and development, expansions, cash reserves or, God forbid, raises.

As late as 1981, corporations directed a little less than half their profits to shareholders, but the shareholders’ share began rising in 1982, when Ronald Reagan’s Securities and Exchange Commission removed any limits on corporations’ ability to repurchase their own stock and when employers — emboldened by Reagan’s destruction of the federal air traffic controllers’ union — began large-scale union-busting. Buybacks really came into their own during the 1990s, when the pay of corporations’ chief executives became linked to the rise in the value of their company’s shares. From 2003 through 2012, the chief executives of the 10 companies that repurchased the most stock (totaling $859 billion in aggregate) received 58 percent of their pay in stock options or stock awards. For a CEO, getting your company to use its earnings to buy back its shares might reduce its capacity to research or expand, but it’s a sure-fire way to boost your own pay. 
What Lazonick has uncovered is the present-day American validation of Piketty’s central thesis that the rate of return on investment generally exceeds the rate of economic growth. Indeed, Lazonick has documented that wealth in the United States today comes chiefly from retarding businesses’ ability to invest in growth-engendering activity. The purpose of the modern U.S. corporation is to reward large investors and top executives with income that once was spent on expansion, research, training and employees. To restore a more socially beneficial purpose, Lazonick proposes scrapping the SEC rule that permitted rampant stock repurchases and requiring corporations to have employee and public representatives on their boards.

Lazonick’s article does nothing less than decode the Rosetta Stone of America’s economic decline. The reason only luxury and dollar stores are thriving, the reason German companies outcompete ours, the redistribution of income from workers to investors – it’s all here, in Lazonick’s numbers.

The lesson for Labor Day 2014 couldn’t be plainer: Unless we compel changes such as those Lazonick suggests to our model of capitalism, ours will remain a country for investors only, where work is a sucker’s game.
- Trish Hennessy looks at the numbers behind the Lac-Mégantic rail explosion. And Jenny Uechl reports that the public will likely be left with much of the bill for the Mount Polley spill.

- Finally, Duncan Cameron reminds us that a combination of core support and low voter turnout might well leave some opportunity for the Cons to cling to power after 2015. But in noting that possibility, it's also worth highlighting the need to counter the former, work on improving the latter, and demand change to the system which allows for false majorities, rather than merely accepting whatever seems like the easiest alternative to put a new face in the PMO.

On active demolition

Shorter Fraser Institute:
It has come to our attention that due to the Canada Pension Plan, the rabble might actually enjoy the benefit of high-return investments normally reserved to our corporate overlords. Clearly this must end.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Cuddled cats.

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Bill Maher offers some simple math and important observations about inequality:

- And Gary Engler proposes ten ways to build a better economic system.

- Vanessa Brcic points out that corporatized medicine is as unethical as it is inefficient. And Garry Patterson laments the premiers' weak response to the Harper Cons' attacks on health care.

- Dean Beeby reports that the CRA's investigation of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives is focused squarely on the question of whether the CCPA is adequately complying with the Cons' definition of rightthink, while Dr. Dawg is duly appalled. And I'll also point out that the CCPA example surely answers Matt Gurney's rhetorical questions about CRA bias: surely it can't be anything but a gross abuse of power if Canada's tax authority is conducting investigations which respond solely to the concerns of Stephen Harper's former staffers (who may themselves have had inside knowledge that such complaints would be met with new money).

- Meanwhile, Shelina Ali discusses how anti-SLAPP legislation can help to ensure a genuine exchange of ideas despite corporate attempts to silence criticism.

- Finally, the Star writes about Barack Obama's push for global action against climate change - and how that focus may finally drag Canada along for the ride despite Stephen Harper's determination to value oil profits ahead of human welfare.

Monday, September 01, 2014

On healthy proposals

Paul Wells seems quite disappointed not to have received more attention for his recent piece on Thomas Mulcair's speech to the Canadian Medical Association. So let's take a closer look at why the angle Wells took didn't seem like much of a revelation - and what might be more significant in Mulcair's plans.

At the outset, I don't see much basis for surprise that after consistently and rightly criticizing the Cons for their health-care funding choices, Mulcair would follow up by saying he'd act differently if he had the power to do so. Which means that the headline promise highlighted by Wells is best seen as the flip side of the NDP's oft-used policy currency, not some significant new discovery. 

Now to be fair, we may not be able to take for granted that a party's opposing a policy in opposition represents a commitment to reverse it while in government (see: cuts, GST, and their omission from subsequent opposition party platforms). And indeed the Libs are following that same pattern when it comes to Harper's health-care slashing: they won't hesitate to criticize the Cons' funding cuts explicitly and implicitly, but they apparently don't want to commit to doing anything differently.

But it's hardly news that the NDP has questioned the combination of cuts to anticipated health care spending, and the Cons' less equitable distribution of the money they'll deign to put into the health care system. And Mulcair is calling only for a return to the exact level of increases already offered by past Libs and Con governments alike - which, even if continued, still figured to do little more than restore the federal government to half of its past role in funding the existing health care system.

In other words, if we've defined a "big directional policy announcement" downward to the point where incrementally-increased federal funding qualifies (particularly if accompanied by no expectation of associated policy outcomes as suggested by Wells), that would say far more about how little we've been trained to expect from our federal government than about any drastic impact from Mulcair's speech.

Fortunately, it's not clear that Wells has any basis to suggest that Mulcair's plans don't involve some meaningful policy choices beyond turning on the funding taps slightly more:

Or for those who want part of the speech in writing, here's Barbara Sibbald's report from the same speech:
An anticipated budget surplus in 2015 should be used to cancel proposed cuts to health care, maintained Mulcair.

While money may not be the solution for problems facing health care, it is "definitely a necessary precondition," he said. "Mr. Harper, it's time keep your word to protect Canadian health care."

In keeping with an underlying theme of the annual meeting, Mulcair pointed to seniors care as a primary health care challenge and later told reporters that he favours a Royal Commission on physician-assisted suicide. The NDP is the only federal party with a national strategy for seniors care, including a policy on aging and palliative care.

In his speech to CMA, he quickly moved on to other challenges, criticizing federal cuts to refugee health as "cruel and thoughtless."  

He also decried the "awful" state of some First Nations' reserves and food security in Canada. "It's totally unacceptable… that 800 000 children go to school each day without having eaten." The NDP is the first federal party with a pan-Canadian food strategy.

On the topic of military health, Mulcair slammed the government for shutting down nine Veterans Affairs service centres this year and pledged to reopen them if elected. 
So no, Mulcair isn't talking about handing over more money to the provinces while otherwise following in the Cons' laissez-faire footsteps. Instead, he's treating increased funding to the provinces as only a "precondition" to systemic improvement - pointing specifically to Libby Davies' report which discusses how federal investments can be used to change health care delivery for the better by agreement with the provinces.

Meanwhile, Mulcair also highlighted a far more significant role for the federal government in meeting its own responsibilities. And he connected health funding to a number of other related issues which the Cons tend to keep in their own silos, reflecting the NDP's recognition that public health necessarily involves more than hospitals and doctors' offices alone (including a direct mention of studying the social determinants of health).

Which is to say that while restored transfer payments may reflect bigger headline numbers, they're far from the only departure from the philosophy of Canada's federal governments, in some cases dating back several decades or more. And if there's a clear point of distinction we should draw from Mulcair's speech, it's the NDP's belief that the federal government can and should play a positive role in creating a healthier society.

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your Labour Day reading.

- Andrew Jackson discusses the future of Canada's labour movement, while Gil McGowan highlights the fact that unionization can be no less important in Alberta and other booming areas than elsewhere. And Jerry Dias notes that there are some reasons for celebration this year.

- But Edward McClelland points out that far too many labourers who would benefit from organization are instead hostile to the idea of unions. And Timothy Noah finds another gap between labour and U.S. centrist liberals - which is mirrored by the relationship between unions and large-L Liberals in Canada.

- Speaking of which, Tracy Sherlock writes that disastrous past decade-plus for B.C.'s education system can be traced back to the Lib government's hostile response to the inclusion of special needs supports and other student priorities in teachers' collective bargaining agreements. 

- Kathy Tomlinson reports on how the Cons' efforts to undermine Canadian labour are leading to grossly unsafe working conditions for Canadian and imported workers alike. And Geoff Leo exposes yet another employer laying off qualified Canadian workers with help from the Cons' temporary foreign worker program.

- Steven Greenhouse addresses the epidemic of wage theft which is making living conditions all the worse for some of the U.S.' most vulnerable workers.

- Finally, Hedrick Smith (as adapted by Yes) documents how the spread of inequality in the U.S. is the result of deliberate policy choices. And Sean McElwee offers five reasons why politics haven't yet served to reduce inequality, particularly if voters have misplaced faith in upward mobility while ignoring its inevitable counterpart:
According to research from Carina Engelhardt and Andreas Wagner, around the world people overestimate the level of upward mobility in their society.

They find that redistribution is lower the when actual social mobility is [sic] but also lower where perceived mobility is higher. Even if voters perceive the level of inequality correctly, their tendency to overstate the level of mobility can undermine support for redistribution. In another study Alberto Alesina and Eliana La Ferrara find that, Americans who believe that American society offers equal opportunity (a mythology) are more likely to oppose redistribution. Using data from 33 democracies, Elvire Guillaud finds that those who believe they have experienced downward mobility in the past decade are  32% more likely to support redistribution. A relatively strong literature now supports this thesis.
[A] massive public education campaign about the extent of income inequality is neither necessary nor sufficient to achieve the kind of redistributive policies liberals favor. The real obstacles to policy action on inequality are more deeply ingrained in the structure of American politics, demographics, and interest group coalitions. Insofar as there is a role for better information to play, it likely relates not to inequality but to social mobility which remains widely misperceived and is a potent driver of feelings about the justice of economic policy. As John Steinbeck noted, "Socialism never took root in America because the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires." Stronger unions, more lower income voter turnout and policies to reduce the corrupting influence of money on the political process would all work to reduce inequality. It will take political mobilization, not simply voter education to achieve change.

Sunday, August 31, 2014


I won't claim to match Stephen Lautens' collection of #MacKayTees. But I will add a couple to the mix.

First, making using of a picture which fortuitously made its way around the Internets yesterday:

And second, encapsulating conservatism in four small words:

Sunday Morning Links

Assorted content for your Sunday reading.

- Eric Reguly examines Apple as a prime example of how supposed market successes actually reflect the private capture of public investments - and suggests the public should benefit financially from its investments which facilitate corporate growth:
Apple is such a runaway success that its profits pile up like snowdrifts in the Rockies. At last count, Apple was sitting on $165-billion (U.S.) in cash and securities. That’s more than the GDP of Hungary.

What to do with the windfall?
Here’s another idea: Give the surplus cash back to the taxpayer.

It will never happen, but if you believe that the stakeholders who are responsible for Apple’s success should be rewarded, taxpayers would certainly take precedence over the hedgies. Greenlight and its ilk had absolutely nothing to do with Apple’s journey from garage start-up in 1976 to the world’s most valuable tech company. They did not provide any of the capital. Apple has tapped the public markets only once, in 1980, when its initial public offering raised $97-million (U.S.). In fact, taxpayers provided the lion’s share of the funding for many of the key inventions that are built into every Apple device.
(W)hat powers the iPad, iPhone and iPod? Lithium-ion batteries developed by the U.S. Department of Energy. How about the devices’ liquid-crystal display? That came from the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation and the Department of Defense. The Internet, GPS, SIRI (the intelligent personal assistant used in Apple's operating system) and DRAM cache did not start life as Jobs’s back-of-the-envelope doodles. They came out of the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and other government bodies.

Governments also supplied much of Apple’s brainpower. Thousands of its engineers and technicians have been recruited from the finest U.S. (and Canadian and British) universities. “Operating in the United States, Apple should recognize that the knowledge base on which its success has been built can be traced back to government investments,” said academics William Lazonick, Mariana Mazzucato and Öner Tulum in a 2013 paper titled “Apple’s Changing Business Model: What Should the World’s Richest Company Do with All Those Profits?”

The concept of imposing a special fat-profits tax on a single company is legally absurd and morally dubious, but the concept of imposing taxes on the supernormal profits of companies that benefit the most from government spending (such as those in the technology and defence industries) is not.
- Kev points out how employers see even their own employees as disposable tools rather than people worthy of human dignity. And Yvonne Roberts discusses what economy built on that assumption means for far too many workers:
Entrepreneurship is the pulse of a thriving economy but, according to the thinktank the Resolution Foundation, one in four who, like Almond, became self-employed in the last five years would rather work for a boss; their situation is involuntary. As employers use ever more aggressive tactics to reduce labour costs and restrict  collective action, productivity is suffering and patterns of employment initially viewed as temporary are becoming permanent. The gap between the richest and the rest widens. This is not unique to the UK.
This story of wage stagflation and the working poor is just as applicable in Britain. Beyond chancellor George Osborne's talk of economic recovery, the stories are legion of families and communities across the whole of Britain who are only just managing to keep afloat.  No matter how often Osborne says it, it doesn't make it true. Large numbers of Britons are not in recovery. The gulf between those getting by and those getting on grows each month.

In the UK, as elsewhere, underemployment, a lack of investment in training and low pay are rife. Forty per cent of part-timers, mainly women, would like longer hours, according to one survey. At the same time, for many on low pay the last several years have seen the cost of living soar as their wage packet has shrunk.
 Huge income disparities and increased casualisation of the workforce also means higher costs for the taxpayer subsidising low wages. Research last year by Landman Economics showed that the cost to the exchequer of millions of workers paid less than the living wage – "wage dodging", as the GMB calls it – is £3.23bn a year in social security spending and lower tax receipts. In a paper published last month, academics Dr Lydia Hayes and Professor Tonia Novitz considered how the cake could be sliced more fairly. They say economic inequality was at its lowest when 58% of workers were in trade unions and 82% of wages were set by collective bargaining. By 2012, 26% of the workforce was in trade unions and only 23% covered by collective bargaining, while the gap between top earners and the lowest is higher than at any time since records began.

Among the recommendations Hayes and Novitz make is sectoral bargaining to set terms and conditions across particular industries, and the right for employees to join a union without repercussions. Other proposals from the High Pay Centre include worker representation on company boards, remuneration committees, a maximum pay ratio and a legally binding target for the reduction of inequality.
- In a similar vein, Elise Gould and Frances O'Grady make the case for wage growth (and political and economic environments which put workers in a position to demand it) in the U.S. and the U.K. respectively.

- Nicholas Kristof discusses the appalling link between race and wealth inequality in the U.S. Josh Fullan and Josh Lorinc report on a program encouraging Toronto students to see how different their city looks at varying income levels. And the AP reports that 40 per cent of Michigan's households lack enough income to meet basic needs. (Which most of us see as a problem to be solved, with the notable exception of the Fraser Institute which claims that Michigan's anti-worker policies and consequent impoverishment of its citizens make for a goal to be pursued.)

- Finally, Jeffrey Simpson highlights the absurdity of Stephen Harper making yet another publicity tour of Canada's North while refusing to so much as acknowledge climate change which is radically altering the region.