Saturday, December 31, 2016

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your year.

- Michelle Chen writes that wealth inequality and social stratification are only getting worse in the U.S. And Edwin Rios and Dave Gilson chart the diverging fates of the top .01% which is seeing massive gains, and the rest of the U.S.' population facing continued income and wealth stagnation.

- Noah Smith offers his theory as to why low interest rates haven't resulted in promised corporate investment, noting that capital has effectively been rationed by entry barriers rather than going to new development where it might have served some useful purpose.

- Markham Hislop's wish for the new year is for Canada's fossil fuel industry to respect people enough to engage with political and environmental reality, rather than insulting the public by glossing over our changing energy options. Derek Leahy discusses how a modernized transportation system could make substantial progress in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

- Joan Bryden reports on the federal government's underfunding of First Nations mental health services which is forcing some families to give up their children in order to allow for access to needed treatment. And Monika Dutt comments on the dangers of federal health care funding being a matter of province-by-province fragmentation rather than national standards.

- Finally, Ben Kentish reports on the UK's increase in homelessness caused by a combination of austerian housing policy and soaring rental rates. And Leilani Farha discusses why housing should be treated as a matter of needs and rights rather than profit opportunities:
What animates those in the business of housing is the idea that housing is a matter for the financial elite: a place to park surplus capital to maximise wealth, with little concern or return for people struggling to live in dignity with a decent, affordable roof over their head. This engenders inequality and exclusion and takes out the social function of housing from the equation.

The virtual silence about this type of opportunism and its implications reflects the world in which we live. The more housing is dominated by corporate and financial elites who interact with it as an asset from which to reap a profit, with scant regulations, the more people who most need human rights protections are denied access: pushed to the peripheries because they cannot afford to live in cities, or removed from their homes and rendered homeless to make way for those with economic clout.

For those pushed out, housing is not about financial securitisation. It’s about securing the right to life. They describe their experiences in terms of their struggle for dignity; they articulate their circumstances as a denial of their humanity and their human rights.
In so many ways housing is about human life, dignity and humanity. Fundamental human rights. How do we reconcile that with the dominant idea of housing as a commodity owned by faceless, nameless corporate elites who are left unaccountable to human rights obligations?

As we say goodbye to 2016 and look forward to a new year, we need to re-embrace housing for its fundamental dimensions – its social value as a place necessary for human wellbeing, where people raise families, build communities and participate in civic life. And we need to sell that notion of housing back to our governments to derail the collision course between human rights and investor interests.

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