Saturday, June 25, 2016

Saturday Afternoon Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Albert van Senvoort points out that poverty is more difficult to escape in Canada today than it was two decades ago. And Jean Swanson discusses the desperate need for more action from all levels of government to ensure the right to housing is met in British Columbia.

- Danielle Ivory, Ben Protess and Kitty Bennett shed light on the U.S.' widespread privatization of emergency services - with its obvious implication of putting profit before the most urgent needs of citizens:
The business of driving ambulances and operating fire brigades represents just one facet of a profound shift on Wall Street and Main Street alike, a New York Times investigation has found. Since the 2008 financial crisis, private equity firms, the “corporate raiders” of an earlier era, have increasingly taken over a wide array of civic and financial services that are central to American life.

Today, people interact with private equity when they dial 911, pay their mortgage, play a round of golf or turn on the kitchen tap for a glass of water.

Private equity put a unique stamp on these businesses. Unlike other for-profit companies, which often have years of experience making a product or offering a service, private equity is primarily skilled in making money. And in many of these businesses, The Times found, private equity firms applied a sophisticated moneymaking playbook: a mix of cost cuts, price increases, lobbying and litigation.

In emergency care and firefighting, this approach creates a fundamental tension: the push to turn a profit while caring for people in their most vulnerable moments.

For governments and their citizens, the effects have often been dire. Under private equity ownership, some ambulance response times worsened, heart monitors failed and companies slid into bankruptcy, according to a Times examination of thousands of pages of internal documents and government records, as well as interviews with dozens of former employees. In at least two cases, lawsuits contend, poor service led to patient deaths.
- Michal Rozworski points out that a combination of corporate tax slashing and generous treatment of tax havens has led to massive amounts of cash being stashed offshore rather than being invested in

- Finally, Robert Reich argues that the key issue for Hillary Clinton in the midst of a tumultuous presidential campaign should be to clean up the mess that is the U.S.' political system and make democracy work for citizens. And James Wood examines the proposals on tap from Alberta's political parties to do the same at the provincial level.

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