Saturday, August 06, 2016

Saturday Afternoon Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Rachel West charts how higher wages and improved social supports can reduce crime rates and their resulting costs.

- Lana Payne comments on the glass ceiling still limiting the wages and opportunities available to women in the workplace. And Stephanie Langton highlights how a combination of student loan rules and income support clawbacks can stand in the way of students seeking to improve their education and career prospects. 

- Pam Palmater discusses some of the more important areas where the Libs' planned inquiry into murdered and missing indigenous women looks to fall short of what's needed. And Jonathan Sas recognizes that there's far more to be done to respond to the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission on residential schools and repair the damage from a legacy of discrimination against First Nations.

- Carol Linnitt writes that two years after the Mount Polley tailings pond spill, British Columbia is far behind where it should be both in making up for the damage, and in preventing similar disasters from happening again. And Tara Scurr wonders why the province doesn't have any interest in protecting people's rights against corporate contamination. 

- Meanwhile, D.C. Fraser reports that Saskatchewan's pattern of regular oil spills has continued this week - and that once again, a major operator's leak detection system did nothing to identify the problem. And Mike De Souza exposes the National Energy Board's undisclosed meetings with multiple corporate leaders to grease the skids for Energy East, while Jesse Feith notes that Montreal has no plans to deal with the aftermath of a major oil spill.

- Finally, Fran Quigley discusses the unconscionable prices being charged for prescription drugs which drive massive rents to big pharma for the product of research funded by the public.

Friday, August 05, 2016

Musical interlude

Tycoos - The Road Less Traveled (Derek Palmer Remix)

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Melisa Foster points out why millennials should be strongly interested in a national pharmacare program:
Today, young Canadians are searching for jobs in an economy with high levels of precarious employment, unemployment or underemployment. According to a recent Statistics Canada labour force survey, approximately 39% of workers 15 to 29 are precariously employed. That means that almost half of millennials between 15 and 29 are part-time, temporary or self-employed workers, and likely don’t have access to employer-run private health insurance plans. An estimated one out of every four Canadians who are uninsured cannot afford their prescriptions.

Canada’s patchwork pharmacare system compounds these obstacles further. Provinces, territories and the federal government each fund drug therapies for a distinct portion of the population. Your postal code and socioeconomic status continue to dictate your ability to access the medication you need, making drug coverage highly inequitable. Too many are forced to pay out of pocket for prescription drugs they can’t afford to go without.
Understandably, prescription drug coverage only becomes a concern for many individuals when high costs limit their access. But if you haven’t personally experienced problems with drug coverage or the consequent poor health outcomes that far too many Canadians have, there is a high probability that your friend or loved one has.

Millennials must begin to understand who is involved in the decision making process and how we can work together to close the gaps in access. Parents and children have a responsibility to voice their concerns and demonstrate the struggles that arise as a result of the patchwork system.
- Bruce Sherman examines the role the health care system can play in addressing the social determininants of health. Owen Davis highlights the importance of addressing inequality in order to improve mental health. And Araz Rawshani, Ann-Marie Svensson, Björn Zethelius, Björn Eliasson, Annika Rosengren, and Soffia Gudbjörnsdottir study the connection between low incomes and mortality from diseases including diabetes and cancer.

- Linda McQuaig argues that the Ontario Libs' privatization of Hydro One is indefensible - particularly based on the excuse of "broadening" ownership in a utility shared in by every citizen of the province. David Bush points out that Canada Post's bargaining strategy seems to be intended to allow it to sell itself off for parts before a government review of its future is complete. And Duncan Kinney discusses how Alberta is trying to remedy the damage from a power purchasing scheme which allowed corporations to take easy profits then leave the province holding the bag during lean times.

- Finally, Paul Dechene examines the state of pipeline regulation in Saskatchewan, featuring Emily Eaton's observation that "almost no oil and gas infrastructure in the province undergoes an environmental impact assessment". Julie Dermansky points out that Saskatchewan is far from the only jurisdiction with an epidemic of spills arising out of lax regulation, as a single Louisiana parish has been hit by three in ten days. Robyn Allan notes that British Columbia is picking up much of the tab for the cleanup from the Mount Polley mine disaster. And Mike De Souza reports on the National Energy Board's deception about its meeting with Jean Charest while he was under contract with TransCanada.

Thursday, August 04, 2016

New column day

Here, on the continuing obstacles to pay equity and other gender equality in the workplace.

For further reading...
- For background on the current state of the gender pay gap in Canada, see the Canada Women's Foundation's fact sheet, as well as Mary Cornish's study (PDF) showing a continuing gap in every industry examined. And the OECD's data allows for comparisons both between countries and over time.
- The Education Policy Research Initiative's study by Ross Finnie, Kaveh Afshar, Eda Bozkurt, Masashi Miyairi and Dejan Pavlic cited in the column is here (PDF). And Sarah Kliff's must-read take on the ongoing pay gap is here, with particular reference to previous research (PDF) by Marianne Bertrand, Claudia Goldin and Lawrence Katz.
- Janice Dickson reports on the NDP's efforts to improve pay equity legislation at the federal level.
- Miles Corak points out the connection between inequality in general and the gender gap in particular.
- Claire Cain Miller discusses the disparate impact of a child on a male employee as opposed to a female. 
- Finally, Laura Beeston writes about a newly-released internal analysis by the federal Finance Department showing that Canadian mothers are less likely than their counterparts abroad to participate in the job market.

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Mariana Mazzucato discusses (JPG) the importance of an intelligent industrial strategy. And David Kotz argues that neoliberal capitalism has reached the point where there's no plausible path toward sustainable growth without a new economic model:
For several decades, neoliberal capitalism was able to bring a series of long economic expansions punctuated by relatively brief and mild recessions as well as a low rate of inflation. However, the programme of freeing markets and cutting taxes did not lead to a prosperity that trickled down to those in the middle and bottom. Rather than a rising tide that lifted all boats, neoliberal institutions brought stagnating or falling incomes for the majority and a remarkable upward income redistribution to the very rich.

Neoliberal transformation did not unleash the promised wave of investment, which has been sluggish compared to the era of post-war regulated capitalism, but the increasing inequality and rising profits it produced did stimulate initial economic expansion. However, a long economic expansion requires growing demand for output as well as profit incentives for expansion, and stagnating wages and state spending created a problem on the demand side. The demand problem was solved by two other features of neoliberal capitalism, large asset bubbles and a risk-seeking financial sector. Together those two features led to rising debt-fuelled consumer spending, which underpinned the long expansion of the 1990s and that of 2001-07 in the U.S.

However, under the surface the very same features that together promoted long expansions and low inflation — growing inequality, an increasingly risk-seeking financial sector, and a series of large asset bubbles – gave rise to trends that were unsustainable over the long run. In 2007-08 the unsustainable trends — growing household and financial sector debt, the spread of toxic financial assets, and increasing excess capacity in industry – interacted with the deflation of the U.S. real estate bubble to bring a financial panic and Great Recession, which quickly spread in various forms to the other developed countries.

Austerity policies in Europe and the U.S. can be interpreted as an effort to preserve the neoliberal form of capitalism. That form of capitalism has been very favourable for corporate profit and the income of the rich, and it is difficult for its beneficiaries to give it up. Austerity policies also follow logically from the dominant economic ideas of this era, which are difficult to dislodge despite the evidence that austerity only deepens the stagnation.

I argue that both theoretical considerations and historical precedents indicate that the neoliberal form of capitalism can no longer give rise to sustained economic growth.
- Kimberly Phillips-Fein discusses how a culture of fear created by U.S. employers led to a particular lack of solidarity and social strength at Ground Zero of the global economic meltdown, while Teuila Fuatai weighs in on Ontario's widespread violations of employment standards. And the New York Times editorial board points out that governments and their contractors should be expected to lead the way in ensuring fair treatment of workers.

- Rafe Mair writes that Justin Trudeau is following the Libs' traditional pattern of combining posturing about climate change with a lack of meaningful action. And Andreas Sieber and Pavlos Georgiadis point out how a new wave of trade agreements may prevent governments from giving effect to their climate change commitments.

- On that front, Brent Patterson asks why Justin Trudeau seems determined to push for the "provisional" application of CETA even when actual ratification seems unlikely.

- Finally, Elizabeth McSheffrey reports that Husky's North Saskatchewan River oil spill has predictably led to water quality failures. Jennifer Graham notes that the Provincial Auditor has long been calling for actual enforcement of pipeline regulations, only to be ignored by the Saskatchewan Party. And Brad Wall still refuses to talk about pipeline safety (and his government's associated neglect).

Wednesday, August 03, 2016

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Atrios offers a reminder as to how means-testing tends to make social programs more vulnerable to attack without making our overall tax system more progressive:
We already means test through the tax code. It's called progressive taxation. There's no reason to add an entire additional layer of complexity and bureaucracy and verification to every new and existing government program out there. If we built the highway system today we'd probably toll it for everyone earning above, say, $100,000, but everyone earning less than that would have to get their income verified and a separate form and a special toll free card and would have to pay back the free tolls if they made too much money the next year blah blah blah. We'd have to contract out to private companies to hire "navigators" in order to guide people through the free toll application process. "Make the rich pay more" actually just means "make it harder and more costly for everybody else."

Usually this doesn't even "save" much money, even ignoring the individual cost of compliance and associated bureaucracy. Think rich people get too many nice things from the government? Raise their damn taxes. Don't use it as an excuse to make giving nice things to everyone else so complicated that it practically isn't worth bothering. The net cost of stopping a few Richie Riches from getting free state university tuition or pre-K is yuge. The cost of increasing taxes a tiny bit on rich people generally is essentially zero, except to the rich people in question of course.
- Ben Steverman highlights how the U.S.' Social Security disability benefit - like far too many other social supports - traps people in perpetual precarity by threatening to take away benefit from anybody seeking to earn income. But then, as Laura Ip notes, the norm for working Canadians is to be within two missed paycheques away from disaster - meaning that there's an urgent need to strengthen multiple strands of our social safety net.

- Sara Mojtehedzadeh reports on the pathetic level of enforcement of employment standards in Ontario which has given rise to an epidemic of wage theft.

- Elizabeth McSheffrey reports on the Saskatchewan government's admission that it likely won't be able to fully clean up the mess from Husky's North Saskatchewan River oil spill, while Allison Martell and Rob Nickel note that two previous spills from pipelines in the area went unreported in the previous year. Jordon Cooper highlights the importance of effectively regulating pipelines while contrasting that goal against the Sask Party's desire to be seen as serving the oil industry. And Tristin Hopper's story on the onetime (and future?) plan to exploit the tar sands through a nuclear explosion should remind us of the damage the oil sector is happy to inflict for a perceived cheap buck.

- Meanwhile, the Associated Press points out the myriad of unprecedented environmental measures recorded around the globe in 2015. And George Monbiot observes that it's all too rare to see the scope of our climate crisis accurately portrayed in the media.

- Finally, Nick Falvo discusses the importance of improved data to address homelessness and other social problems. And Kathleen O'Grady and Noralou Roos make the case to make academic research more accessible to the people who can use it in practice.

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Clutched cats.

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Yanis Varoufakis makes the case for an international progressive political system to ensure that social progress doesn't stop at national borders:
(T)raditional political parties are fading into irrelevance, supplanted by the emergence of two new political blocs.

One bloc represents the old troika of liberalization, globalization, and financialization. It may still be in power, but its stock is falling fast, as David Cameron, Europe’s social democrats, Hillary Clinton, the European Commission, and even Greece’s post-capitulation Syriza government can attest. 

Trump, Le Pen, Britain’s right-wing Brexiteers, Poland’s and Hungary’s illiberal governments, and Russian President Vladimir Putin are forming the second bloc. Theirs is a nationalist international – a classic creature of a deflationary period – united by contempt for liberal democracy and the ability to mobilize those who would crush it. 

The clash between these two blocs is both real and misleading. Clinton vs. Trump constitutes a genuine battle, for example, as does the European Union vs. the Brexiteers; but the two combatants are accomplices, not foes, in perpetuating an endless loop of mutual reinforcement, with each side defined by – and mobilizing its supporters on the basis of – what it opposes. 

The only way out of this political trap is progressive internationalism, based on solidarity among large majorities around the world who are prepared to rekindle democratic politics on a planetary scale. If this sounds Utopian, it is worth emphasizing that the raw materials are already available. 

Bernie Sanders’s “political revolution” in the US, Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the UK’s Labour Party, DiEM25 (the Democracy in Europe Movement) on the continent: these are the harbingers of an international progressive movement that can define the intellectual terrain upon which democratic politics must build.
- Katie Allen reports on a new study estimating the cost of public services arising out of poverty in the UK at $78 billion every year.

- Ross Finnie, Kaveh Afshar, Eda Bozkurt, Masashi Miyairi and Dejan Pavlic examine (PDF) the earnings of Canadian post-secondary education graduates, and find a gender gap in every single field studied. And Sarah Kliff discusses how the gap can be traced in substantial part to the existence of inflexible or uncertain hours of work.

- Lawrence Martin comments on the Libs' broken promise to do anything at all to ameliorate the attack on civil rights found in Bill C-51, while noting that the inaction may arise out of pure political cowardice. And the Toronto Star's editorial board makes a strong case for immediate action to rein in the excesses of the surveillance and disruption state.

- Finally, Tom Parkin points out that the Greens' cynical spreading of misleading poll information represents just one more example of the warped incentives created by a first-past-the-post electoral system.

Monday, August 01, 2016

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Thomas Walkom writes that with both major U.S. presidential candidates taking an understandably skeptical view of free-trade agreements in their current form, Canada shouldn't be planning on the past trade model continuing to spread.

- Ben Guarino discusses how climate change is leading to the spread of toxic algae in bodies of water around the globe. And Alison Moodie highlights the need for Canada's corporate sector to start contributing to reining in climate change (whether or not by choice), rather than exacerbating the problem.

- Marco Chown Oved reports that for all the tax avoidance acquiesced in by far too many countries, Canada is lagging far beyond even its international peers in prosecuting offshoring:
As worldwide pressure grows to fight offshore tax evasion, new statistics obtained by the Star show the Canadian government has convicted only 49 people and levied just $13.4 million in fines for what it calls offshore activity since 2010.

These numbers are far lower than in comparable countries and show the Canada Revenue Agency recovers only a tiny fraction of the estimated $6 to $7.8 billion in taxes Canada loses to offshore tax havens each year.
The Panama Papers leak has detailed how the use of shell companies in tax havens deprives public tax coffers of billions of dollars each year. While other governments have devoted significant resources to cracking down on bank secrecy and offshore tax schemes, Canada’s efforts appear to have paled in comparison.

Australia’s Project Wickenby has collected more than $600 million from cheats using tax havens since 2006. The U.K. has recouped more than £2 billion ($3.5 billion) from offshore tax evasion since 2010. 

In contrast, Canada has only handed out fines totalling $13.4 million since 2010 — less than half the $35.7 million in taxes the cheats were caught evading. 

“This doesn’t make any sense,” said tax lawyer Jonathan Garbutt. “The law states that the minimum fine for tax evasion must be 50 per cent of the amount of tax owing. And judges often fine 75 or 100 per cent.”
- Steven Chase reports that the Libs are actually loosening Canada's rules on selling arms to human rights abusers.

- Finally, Dan DiMaggio points out how workers at Detroit Chassis were able to organize in order to turn temporary employment into permanent jobs. And Valerie Strauss discusses how unionized work environments lead to better results in educating children.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Larry Elliott discusses how the rise of Donald Trump and other exclusionary populists can be traced to the failed promises of neoliberal economics:
The fact is that the US middle class, which in Britain we would call the working class, really did enjoy more rapid increases in living standards and a much higher degree of job security three or four decades ago. It is also true that the offshoring of production has brought benefits through cheaper imports, but these gains tend to seem more nebulous than lost jobs and year after year of flat or falling pay.

A quick look at what has been happening to the US economy in recent years sheds light on the problem. As in Britain, jobs have been created but productivity has been exceptionally weak. One reason is that companies have not been investing. Rather executives have been borrowing money cheaply for share buyback schemes that boost the value of the equity they hold in their own companies. They have gorged themselves at the expense of the wider US economy and been able to do so because organised labour is so weak. There is no chance Trump will be championing new rights for unions, but he is the beneficiary of a raw form of populist politics.
- Alison points out how Christy Clark's B.C. Libs have funneled massive amounts of public money - and ceded control over crucial policy areas - to natural gas operators for no public gain. And James Wilt examines Saskatchewan's woeful lack of protection from environmental destruction due to the desire of the oil sector to avoid answering for its failures. 

- Canadians for Tax Fairness highlights just a few of the corporate behemoths which are able to structure their operations to avoid paying taxes to the countries where they derive their profits. And Josh Gordon argues that B.C.'s new tax on foreign-owned real estate represents only a minor first step in translating obscene individual wealth into social revenue.

- The Winnipeg Free Press discusses how the federal government's abdication of any responsibility for rail transportation and grain marketing is destroying the port of Churchill (among other communities).

- Finally, Max Ehrenfreund weighs in on the connection between an improved minimum wage and healthier babies - particularly for the children of mothers at the low end of the income spectrum.