Friday, September 09, 2016

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- David Miller weighs in on the high costs of austerity and the knowing deception of the right-wing politicians who pretend cuts don't have consequences:
It's a kind of political and economic law: these kinds of budget cuts always result in worse service. And there is a corollary: the conservative politicians who demand such cuts always refuse to accept responsibility for them, and pretend there is no connection between the actions they took and their direct repercussions.

They often get away with this because the consequences aren't immediately obvious to the general public, or only hit politically disempowered parts of the population. For example, in the 1980's and early 1990's, the TTC deferred maintenance as a way of coping with budget challenges. Deferred maintenance is another word for a cut. It's pernicious, because citizens can't easily see the cut and exercise their right to vote against it, yet it can have serious consequences. A tragic subway crash of 1995 in which three people were killed had a number of causes, the most critical of which was the failure of a fail-safe arm — a safety mechanism specifically designed to prevent an accident when a train misses a signal.  It didn't work, and if it had, the accident would not have occurred. Following the accident, a coroner’s inquest found “underfunding since the mid-1980s has contributed to the deterioration of the system and has jeopardized the safety of the TTC.”  As result, the transit commission changed its practices to make the maintenance of a state of good repair its highest spending priority.

The effect of these kind of hidden cuts is felt at all orders of government —  the Walkerton contaminated water disaster is a good example of provincial actions directly leading to a tragedy — but it is particularly challenging for cities because the vast majority of municipal spending is on actual day-to-day services...
In all of these situations, the conservative politicians advocating the cuts use euphemisms like “efficiency” to pretend their policies are not going to affect people when they know, or ought to know, that isn't true.  In the case of Toronto, any experienced elected official knows that expenditure constraint has a direct impact on services.  Yet we still see politicians calling for the TTC to provide better service at the same time as giving directions calling for significant budget cuts.  They pretend the cuts won’t have an impact and hope that the public will not notice.  But slowly and eventually, they will. 
- Katie Hafner writes about the devastating impact of social isolation on seniors. And Jonathan Charlton reports that the Saskatchewan Party's health cuts are set to exacerbate the problem in Saskatoon among other negative effects on people. 

- Douglas Campbell and Lester Lusher examine the causes of growing inequality in the U.S. and find that it can be traced largely to upper-class tax slashing rather than trade.

- Luke Harding reports that Denmark has become the first country to buy leaked data from the Panama Papers in order to fully investigate tax evasion.

- Finally, Neil MacDonald writes that while the long-awaiting inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women will represent an important opportunity to examine systemic racism, it won't have the effect it should unless all of Canada pays attention.

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