Sunday, August 07, 2016

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Michael Wasser comments on the importance of unions - and the need to ensure that corporate-dominated politics don't stand in the way of worker organization. And Ben Sichel rightly argues that Ontario's widespread violations of employment standards demonstrate the need for unions to protect workers' rights even when there's some theoretical legal protection in place.

- Neil Irwin discusses how decades of neoliberal economics have left most of the developed world with stagnant development:
This slow growth is not some new phenomenon, but rather the way it has been for 15 years and counting. In the United States, per-person gross domestic product rose by an average of 2.2 percent a year from 1947 through 2000 — but starting in 2001 has averaged only 0.9 percent. The economies of Western Europe and Japan have done worse than that.

Over long periods, that shift implies a radically slower improvement in living standards. In the year 2000, per-person G.D.P. — which generally tracks with the average American’s income — was about $45,000. But if growth in the second half of the 20th century had been as weak as it has been since then, that number would have been only about $20,000.

To make matters worse, fewer and fewer people are seeing the spoils of what growth there is. According to a new analysis by the McKinsey Global Institute, 81 percent of the United States population is in an income bracket with flat or declining income over the last decade. That number was 97 percent in Italy, 70 percent in Britain, and 63 percent in France.

Like most things in economics, the slowdown boils down to supply and demand: the ability of the global economy to produce goods and services, and the desire of consumers and businesses to buy them. What’s worrisome is that weakness in global supply and demand seems to be pushing each other in a vicious circle.

It increasingly looks as if something fundamental is broken in the global growth machine — and that the usual menu of policies, like interest rate cuts and modest fiscal stimulus, aren’t up to the task of fixing it (though some well-devised policies could help).
- Meanwhile, Josh Bivens and Hunter Blair examine how a financial transactions tax would both redirect economic activity toward actual productivity, and provide significantly more funding for social benefits.

- Alison Brownlee discusses a thoughtful proposal to fix the twin problems of retiree isolation and unemployment by funding personal support for seniors by low-income individuals.

- Finally, Robin McKie reports on new climate data showing that we're already on the verge of exceeding the 1.5 degree Celsius target set at the Paris climate change talks.

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