Saturday, June 11, 2016

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Yvan Guillemette discusses the need for public-sector investment in economic development to make up for the massive amounts of private capital sitting idle. And Daniel Kahnemann challenges the theory that corporate decision-making is either rational or directed toward optimal outcomes:
“You look at large organizations that are supposed to be optimal, rational. And the amount of folly in the way these places are run, the stupid procedures that they have, the really, really poor thinking you see all around you, is actually fairly troubling,” he said, noting that there is much that could be improved.
- Meanwhile, James Hutt rightly argues that a transition toward a cleaner economy would offer an ideal opportunity to develop more and better jobs. 

- But of course that would require some interest in the well-being of workers. And Sara Mojtehedzadeh reports on how Ontario is slashing health services for people who have suffered injuries on the job, while frequently forcing people back to work before they're ready.

- Bryce Covert writes that San Francisco is the latest city to learn that it's even in terms of bare dollars and cents, it's more efficient to provide housing to people who need it than to deal with the social costs of homelessness.

 - Finally, Michael Harris slams the Cons' manufactured outrage over Niki Ashton's daring to campaign for Bernie Sanders. But it's worth noting as well that we should fully expect our political leaders to have some interest in issues and campaigns beyond their own level of government (and in some cases borders).

Friday, June 10, 2016

Musical interlude

Government Town - Home

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Jim Tankersley interviews Joshua Bivens about the relative effects of economic growth and income inequality - and particularly his evidence showing that more people are far better off with more modest growth fairly distributed than with greater nominal growth concentrated at the top:
Tankersley: How do we know that a lot more growth would not have been enough by itself to help the workers who have been left behind in this period?

Bivens: There’s a bunch of ways you can do this, but there’s no way you can do it where inequality is not a huge part of the problem. The way I do it in the paper is really a simple look at average household income in the two periods — say, what if we had let the bottom 90 percent grow over the past 30 years at the rate of average growth; so basically, no rise in inequality but the average growth stays the same? That has a bigger effect on their incomes than if we did a counterfactual that says, let’s let the overall rate of growth go with the faster immediate prewar period but inequality still happens. The inequality effect is larger than the growth effect in keeping their incomes lower.

Tankersley: There is an argument that many liberals make that if we could reduce inequality, we could improve growth. You’re arguing that might be true but needs not be to justify fighting inequality?

Bivens: It’s a little bit dangerous to accept the burden of proof in the debate that says, if we stop the rise in inequality we will boost overall growth. Because even if we don’t, it will still be a worthwhile thing to do for my political goal of raising incomes for the bottom 90 percent.
- Meanwhile, Dennis Rasmussen reminds us that the theorist whose name is often invoked as a defence of unfettered greed actually had significant ethical concerns with the concentration of wealth.

- Canadians for Tax Fairness comments on the absurdity of Members of Parliament and expert witnesses being prohibited from even saying KPMG's name when discussing its tax offshoring. And Linda McQuaig notes that the Libs generally aren't lifting a finger to ensure that the people and corporations with the most spare capacity to fund a functional society actually do so.

- Meanwhile, on the long list of areas where Canadians who voted for change have every reason to be disappointed in the Libs, Andrew Mitrovica reminds us that C-51 is still in full effect without any hint of restraint or oversight. Janice Dickson points out that the NDP is having to prod the Libs to remember the need for pay equity. Kristy Kirkup reports that there's little indication the Libs are living up to the acknowledged obligation to stop discriminating against First Nations in funding child welfare programs. And Ryan Moore notes that Stephen Harper's edifice of dumb-on-crime legislation has been left standing except for the parts which had already been dismantled by the courts.

- Finally, Paul Wells reports on Justin Trudeau's pathetic excuses for selling arms to human rights violators - based on the laughable theory that it's somehow more a mark of a banana republic to prioritize human rights over immediate economic convenience rather than the opposite. And Somini Sengupta notes that Saudi Arabia's intimidation of anybody daring to even mention its human rights abuses extends to the U.N. as a whole - meaning that the community of nations would seem to have a strong interest in reversing course.

Thursday, June 09, 2016

New column day

Here, on the Wall government's move to push poor Saskatchewan residents into social programs with counterproductive work requirements.

For further reading...
- Again, Betty Ann Adam reported here on the changes to social assistance in Saskatchewan's budget. Pamela Cowan highlighted the damage to health care, including through cuts to prescription drug funding and a complete lack of resources for mental health and addictions. And the list of other areas being subjected to jarring overhauls in the wake of a campaign against change includes education both primary/secondary and post-secondary, along with health care.
- LaDonna Pavetti's research mentioned in the column is found here and here.
- Finally, Toni Pickard's case for a basic income as a means to stop micromanaging people's lives looks particularly timely given the terms of the program (PDF) being pushed by the Sask Party.

[Edit: updated link.]

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Andrew Coyne argues that the Senate's role in overruling elected representatives - which only seems to be growing under the Trudeau Libs - represents an affront to democracy. And Duncan Cameron has some suggestions beyond proportional representation as to how our electoral system can better live up to a democratic ideal.

- Elizabeth Thompson reports on the expert consensus that tax evasion needs to be met with far stronger consequences. But Kimberly Ivany and Harvey Cashore note that the people responsible for the Isle of Man offshoring are instead (with the Libs' permission) dictating what may and may not be discussed in Parliament - even by experts invited specifically to address the scheme. And at the same time, a KPMG accountant has admitted to participating in insider trading and tipping.

- Charles Mandel reports on the lack of effective regulation of cosmetics, while highlighting the dangers of allowing the sale of unsafe products which are expected to be used regularly. And Jordan Press discusses our lack of any reliable mechanism to so much inform consumers about products made with child labour.

- Meanwhile, Fay Faraday examines how temporary foreign workers are treated in Canada. And Ian Hussey offers a useful list of facts about Alberta's minimum wage and the need to shore it up.

- Finally, Jennifer Hollett comments on the three major issues surrounding the future of work:
Armine is soon hosting a series of panels on “full employment,” which used to be a public policy priority of governments everywhere, in the post-war period. It fell off the map in the 70s, and by the mid 90s we stopped talking about it entirely.

Critical of the lure of basic income, Armine argues it is difficult to scale. “It’s not going to happen at a level that will unshackle people from the need to work.” Where full employment is everyone who wants to have a job, can have one. And then, this is the critical point she stresses, that it’s a good job.

I hope this is where all the conversations overlap. Be it precarious work, basic income, or innovation, these questions, panels, and hashtags should push us to figuring out a way to ensure the lives of everyone are better off.

Wednesday, June 08, 2016

Wednesday Afternoon Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Andre Picard writes about the devastating effects of widespread social isolation, particularly given its connection to poverty:
All told, it is estimated that about six million Canadians live an isolated existence. We have an epidemic of loneliness, and the principal underlying cause is poverty. If you’re poor, you’re six times more likely to be socially isolated than your peers. In academic circles, and increasingly in political discourse, the term “social determinants of health,” is bandied about. Sir Michael Marmot, the guru of social determinants research, defines them simply as the “causes of the causes of poor health.” What has the greatest impact on our health is not genetics or access to health care, but income, education, housing, food security and our physical environment. But there is one key health determinant that’s often forgotten: a sense of belonging. Being connected — to family, friends, neighbours, a community group, a running club, a mosque — can literally add years to your life.

The corollary is that isolation and loneliness are devastating to a person’s mental and physical health, deadly even. Isolation is, in part, a state of mind, but it is also a physical reality. So we need to ask ourselves how our surroundings, our homes and our cities contribute to the scourge of loneliness. Do we build cities — and adopt urban policies — that encourage social interaction or that breed isolation?
If we want a sense of community, and its benefits, we need to invest in services that encourage independent living, and in public spaces and programs that nurture interaction. Yet, we underfund and devalue places that bring us together like libraries, parks, recreation centres and community gardens. We often make it difficult to volunteer with all kinds of bureaucratic hurdles. Being lonely also has stigma attached to it: it’s often associated with having poor social skills or being odd. We look upon those who are reaching out to make a connection with suspicion. How often have you heard: “How can I meet people?” For most, the answer to that question is not Tinder or Grindr.
Building community takes determined effort. It takes time and money, and a conviction that it matters. It blossoms out of recreational centres, schools, places of worship, volunteer activities and in subtle gestures such as introducing yourself to your neighbours. It comes from reaching out to an old lady wandering the streets late at night, or to a boy in a wheelchair at the park. We often talk about inclusion and being senior-friendly, but what cities tend to offer are grudging accommodations — things like wheelchair ramps and discount bus passes. These gestures do not solve the problems of those who ride the bus all day because they have nothing else to do, or nowhere else to go. If we want people to be healthy — physically, mentally and emotionally — they need to be full citizens. If we want healthy cities, we need people to have a sense of belonging — not just a civic address. We need everyone to be engaged — not just the elite. We need to make a resolute effort to help each other, especially those on the margins of society, move from isolation to inclusion.
- Zack Beauchamp highlights Canada's relative acceptance and encouragement of immigrants and minority groups as being what truly sets us apart among developed countries.

- Andrea Flynn, Dorian Warren, Felicia Wong and Susan Holmberg discuss the need to restructure existing rules, practices and policies to counter entrenched racism and discrimination. Audra Williams points out that we won't achieve more inclusive political representation unless members of more privileged groups "lean out". And Gabrielle Brassard-Lecours comments on a call for an inquiry into systemic racism in Quebec.

- Finally, Megan Leslie points out that it's not too late to preserve our ocean econsystems, but that there's an urgent need to act now. And Andrew Nikiforuk points out the futility of prioritizing pipeline development over sustainable environmental and economic policies.

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Decorated cats.

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Hamilton Nolan interviews Branko Milanovic about inequality on both a national and international scale - and how there's little reason to take heart in reductions in the latter if it's paired with increases in the former:
Gawker: Is it fair for people to ask what good the reduction in global inequality is doing them, if within their nations inequality is on the rise? 

Milanovic: Global inequality is such an abstract concept, simply because there is no global government. Telling people in rich countries who have had no increase in real incomes, stagnant median wages and so on, that on the other hand global inequality is going down because people who are much poorer than them are getting richer—it’s something that maybe they would like in an abstract sense, because everyone is happy there are fewer poor Chinese, but you may not be as happy if these Chinese are taking your job. So I don’t think a politically reasonable defense of the current situation is to tell the people who feel they’ve been losing economically within their own country that, on the other hand, they are contributing to some greater good externally.

Gawker: What do you think the wisest move is, for those who are not the highest earners, to mitigate inequality? 

Milanovic: If the solution were simple, we would have done it. But if you agree with that sort of description of the perils of populism and plutocracy, then the answer is really greater attention from the winners of globalization towards those who are dissatisfied. Because the well understood self-interest at the top would tell them that you cannot just continue with policies forever if you have a significant pool of people who are unhappy. So the self-interest would say, “let’s see what we can do to make their position better.” It could be higher tax on the top incomes, closing down the loopholes they have at the top that lobbyists have been very successful at making, encouraging small shareholders—broadening the ownership of capital, which is very heavily concentrated...

This is not a short term solution, because whatever change you make now is going to take five or ten years to make an impact. But you cannot just ignore it forever.
- Meanwhile, Andrew Coyne examines how a basic income could work in Canada.

- Anjuli Patil reports on a move among municipalities to resume providing services directly as they learn about the higher cost and lower effectiveness of privatization. But Andy Blatchford writes that rather than taking the public's interests into account, the Trudeau Libs are looking at large-scale plans to turn public assets into private profit engines. And Brent Patterson points out just a few of the problems with that course of action.

- Daniel Tseghay and Samantha Ponting point out that actual workers have been almost entirely excluded from a federal review of the temporary foreign worker program.

- Jason Warick reports on Roy Romanow's new role as co-chair of the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness.

- Finally, Marie-Danielle Smith highlights the disproportionate impact of climate change on First Nations communities. And Reid Southwick reports on new research showing the growing health gap between First Nations people and other residents of Alberta.

Monday, June 06, 2016

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your wek.

- Maia Szalavitz discusses the connection between unemployment, inequality and addictions, noting in particular that uncertainty and stress in other areas of an individual's life make addition recovery far more difficult:
The relationship between addiction rates and inequality has long been noted by researchers who study its health effects: countries and states with higher levels of inequality tend to have worse mental health and addiction problems than those with less dramatic differences between the 1% and everyone else.

Further, decades of survey data also show that the addiction rate among the unemployed is usually around twice as high as among those who have jobs. Some of this unemployment, of course, is addiction-related job loss. But a review of this literature suggests that in many cases, unemployment precedes addiction and that either way, it reduces the odds of recovery.
(W)hen decent jobs are not available, all of the social aspects of this process can be blocked because economic opportunity influences not only employment, but also coupling and childrearing. Accordingly, recovery without treatment is far less common among the poor and unemployed.

For over 100 years, we’ve relied on attempting to cut the drug supply by locking up dealers or restricting access to certain chemicals – and this has never remotely come close to solving the problem. If we want to fight addiction, we’ve got to look at what drives people to despair. And to do that, we can’t ignore inequality.
- Of course, there's one obvious way to make sure individuals have a secure income to fall back on - and on that front, Charles Murray makes the case for a guaranteed annual income in the U.S., while Heather Stewart reports that the Labour Party is taking a close look at a basic income in the UK.

- But Jordan Press reports that the Cons' attempts to instead fragment social services and outsource them to the corporate sector have proven to be an utter failure - even as the Libs continue down the same path. And David Shield reports that programs working on the connections between social issues are also being axed by Brad Wall.

- CAP Action points out a new Congressional Budget Office report on the risks and costs of climate change. And Patrick Cain comments on how Canada's prairies in particular will be affected - including serious risks to water supplies.

- Finally, Sean McElwee examines the U.S.' political donor class and its outsized influence on public policy.

Sunday, June 05, 2016

Sunday Afternoon Links

Miscellaneous material for your Sunday reading.

- David Korten writes that despite the trend of the past few decades, there's nothing inevitable about international agreements favouring capital over citizens rather than the other way around.

- Miles Corak examines Nicole Fortin's research showing that concentrated income at the top of the spectrum is undermining any effort to pursue pay equity. Ben Spurr points out how precarious work can be made all the worse by transportation systems which don't take into account the needs of people trapped in irregular hours. And Mary-Dan Johnston Christine Saulnier study the living wage needed for Halifax families to live in relative security.

- Bryce Covert comments on the growing influence of female leaders within the U.S.' labour movement.

- Michael Babad discusses the jarring rise in the ratio of personal debt to income in Canada, while noting that matters only figure to get worse in the foreseeable future. And Betty Ann Adam reports on the Saskatchewan Party's conscious decision to make sure people in need bear the brunt of cutbacks and benefit restrictions.

- Finally, John Ivison and L. Ian MacDonald both note that it's better late than never for the Libs' change in course to ensure multi-party cooperation on electoral reform. And Andrew Coyne points out that the actual committee will serve as an example of a more proportional Parliament in action.

[Edit: fixed wording.]