Monday, November 14, 2016

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Karl Nerenberg examines new research from the Canadian Centre for the Study of Living Standards showing how workers have seen hardly any benefit from four decades of productivity gains which have filled corporate coffers:
(I)n Canada, the productivity of labour -- the amount workers produce per unit of effort -- went up by over one per cent per year over the 38 years between 1976 and 2014.

The average worker's earnings, however, barely budged over that same period. The rise in wages was less than one tenth of one per cent per year. Put differently, the rise in productivity was more than ten times that of earnings.

We do not have comparable statistics for the U.S., but it would be a fair bet they are not that different.

The anecdotal evidence that a great many Americans are working harder, but getting nowhere economically, is abundant.
Thr growth of globalization has "allowed capital to seek the highest returns globally and, at the same time, has brought workers in Canada's traded goods sector into competition with the workers of low-wage countries." In other words, trade deals do indeed benefit corporations, but they often also weaken workers' rights with a race to the bottom.

Robotics and computer technology, the study's authors note, have tended replaced people with machines, eliminating production-line work, "computation-intensive white-collar work" and other routine technical tasks that once provided good middle-income jobs. Technological change has also weakened the bargaining power of workers, leading to an increasingly part-time, über-ized world.

And one of the biggest institutional changes has been a sharp decline in the unionization of workers. That decline has been steady in Canada, but much steeper and more dramatic in the U.S.
The CSLS points out that the unequal distribution of income growth is neither an inevitable nor irreparable fact of life. The Centre's economists argue that it is not too late for "policy to be used to adjust that distribution." And the fact that productivity is growing, the study's authors say, should make the task of devising new politics easier, not harder.

"It is easier," the study says, "To ensure that everyone receives a larger slice of the pie when the pie itself is growing."

But that hopeful conclusion comes with a big caveat. The forces that cause stagnating middle incomes are, the study tells us darkly, "unlikely to disappear in the near future."
- Bill Curry follows up on Justin Trudeau's plans to exacerbate the problem by treating infrastructure as a profit centre rather than a matter of public service. Maryse Zeidler discusses the predictable cost to Canadians of selling off airports. And the CP reports that Trudeau's plans include changing the law to hand even more concessions to outside capital.

- Laurie Penny writes that the corporate establishment treated as a foil by Donald Trump's campaign message in fact stands to be the only beneficiary of his election - and that an essential part of responding to Trump's presidency will be to make clear whose voices are actually being suppressed.

- Meanwhile, Tom Parkin highlights Niki Ashton's work to engage with the young workers who are seeing the worst from an economic system designed to extract more wealth for those who already have the most.

- Finally, Andrew Mitrovica points out that a lack of historical accountability makes it obvious why Canada's security establishment seems to figure it can act with impunity - and that it's long past time for illegal actions to carry real consequences.

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