Saturday, November 12, 2016

New column day

Here, a rare Saturday column on the lessons we should draw from the election of Donald Trump in how we organize and work within our political system.

For further reading (beyond the writing already linked here)...
- Others offering similar thoughts include Murray Dobbin, Rick Salutin, Kai Nagata and Robert Reich.
- Tabatha Southey highlights how racism fed into Trump's win, and argues that we shouldn't minimize its effect simply because of the election's result. Ari Berman comments on the desperately under-reported role of Republican vote suppression in electing Trump. And Gary Younge offers a thorough (and thoroughly disturbing) summary of the forces behind the election results.
- Joseph Heath offers his take on what we can expect from Trump's election - with the strengthening of anti-democratic sentiment around the globe rivaling any of the other types of damage.
- Finally, Paul Waldman describes the blatant con behind Trump's claim to the mantle of populism - and it's taken only days for Trump to make clear that anybody hoping for a break from a culture of insider self-dealing is in for a major disappointment.

Saturday Afternoon Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Arancha González Laya distinguishes between international trade and corporatism - arguing that we should be looking to ensure people benefit from the former by reining in the latter:
Making trade more inclusive requires action on three broad policy fronts: trade rules, domestic social protection, and international cooperation to complement the first two.

1. Negotiate trade agreements that work for most people

Governments should concentrate political capital on issues in trade negotiations that deliver broad-based benefits. Improving purchasing power is one key. Another lies in greater participation by small and medium-sized enterprises, which account for the majority of firms and jobs in any economy. Reducing fixed costs related to trade – from complex border procedures to the regulatory burden arising from product standards and other non-tariff measures – would yield disproportionate gains for smaller firms. Done right, it would not undermine product quality or consumer health and safety protections. All countries, not just developing economies, may need to make more investments on the supply side to help smaller businesses connect to world markets.

2. Domestic social policy to help those displaced by imports and machines

To address the disruptions and the distributional effects of trade and technology, governments need to respond across the board with investments in human capital, education, skills and vocational training to better match people with job opportunities. Active labour market policies will need to be coupled with measures to soften the blow of under- or unemployment, from higher minimum wages and wage top-ups to universal basic incomes. Redistributive policy is not solely an issue for advanced economies. As Martin Ravallion has shown, for all of the progress in reducing extreme poverty, the biggest income gains in developing countries have gone to the better off. Unless governments act effectively to expand opportunities for all, they too may eventually face a backlash of frustrated ambitions.

3. Cooperate internationally to support the first two objectives

Neither of these agendas will be cheap. Cooperation to curb corporate tax avoidance is one example of how governments could usefully work together at the international level to raise the revenue they need to keep citizens on board with globalization. Global companies with a long-term view should support this agenda.

Essential in all of this will be political honesty. While reviving growth would do much to ease economic angst, shoring up the fragile social license on which open markets rest requires government and business leaders to be up front with people. Trade, like technology, is good for most of us, but not everyone. More market opening needs to come with more redistributive social policy. That has a cost. And if anyone thinks it’s not worth paying – consider the costs of a backlash.
- Lana Payne discusses how greater gender equality at work and elsewhere would represent a major economic boon. And Jerry Dias criticizes Brian Pallister's Manitoba PCs for engaging in the latest round of gratuitous legislative attacks on union organizing.

- Michael Mann and Susan Joy Hassol note that most of the supposed goals of even the likes of Donald Trump are best served by a concerted push against climate change, while Kai Nagata suggests that the election of another major national leader who will serve as an obstacle to climate progress should push us to work on protecting the environment at the local level. And Andrew Nikiforuk highlights how Christy Clark's B.C. Libs are positively Trumpesque in their use of public money to back dirty fossil fuel development. 

- Finally, Laura Stone exposes how the RCMP decided to give Nigel Wright a free pass on potential corruption charges in the hope that it would better serve the cause of security convictions against Mike Duffy - which looks particularly dubious since the absence of any charges against any "bribers" managed to serve as a point in Duffy's successful defence.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Musical interlude

Non Tiq - Quiet

Friday Afternoon Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Anthony Hilton writes that stronger protections for workers tend to increase productivity. And Fiona McQuarrie makes clear that we don't have to settle for an economy where workers face constant fear and insecurity as a result of precarious work:
(J)ob churn and precarious employment incur other costs. High turnover requires employers to continually invest in recruiting, hiring and training. Employees relying on part-time or precarious work suffer stress from struggling to meet living expenses; they are usually unable to make major financial investments such as buying real estate or saving for retirement.

It’s been argued that workers, particularly millennials, want flexibility in jobs and careers – but workers taking part-time or short-term jobs may be doing so because they have no alternative.
Governments cannot dictate the kinds of jobs employers offer, but governments can certainly incentivize employer behaviour that facilitates stable employment. For example, tax benefits or subsidies for employers can be linked not only to the numbers but the types of jobs created.

Strong labour codes and employment standards legislation, and adequate support for the monitoring and enforcement, can discourage employers from using temporary or part-time work arrangements to undercut permanent full-time jobs, or from unduly exploiting precarious workers.

There will always be a need for flexibility. It’s unrealistic to expect job churn and precarious employment to completely disappear. But telling workers to get used to these arrangements is the wrong approach. Governments can make choices that will support stable, reliable jobs. Doing so will improve Canadians’ working lives, build healthy communities and economies and make a better society.
- Pamela Cowan reports on the difficulty many Saskatchewan citizens face trying to put healthy food on the table due to high costs and limited availability. 

- Ian Johnston discusses the new research showing how catastrophic climate change may be developing sooner and more quickly than previously anticipated. And David Roberts writes that Donald Trump's election may end any hope of limiting the damage to 2 degrees Celsius. But if anything, that reality should push the rest of the world to recognize the need for an economic transformation - and Celine Bak points out that decarbonization figures to offer an important competitive advantage in the long run (in addition to creating massive numbers of jobs in the short term).

- Finally, Thomas Walkom points out that Canada could well end up in a better position if Donald Trump pulls the U.S. out of NAFTA - which raises the question of why Justin Trudeau is going out of his way to ensure that tariff-free trade is paired with corporate control over public policy.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Wolfgang Munchau writes that the rise of right-wing insurrectionism can be traced largely to "centre-left" parties who have focused most of their attention on imposing austerity and catering to the corporate sector while offering little to citizens, while Naomi Klein comments on the role of neoliberal politics in laying the groundwork for Donald Trump's election. Owen Jones discusses the need for a new populist movement on the left - with particular emphasis on the importance of including working-class citizens. And Craig Scott and Nora Loreto each off some lessons we should learn from Trump's election, while David Cay Johnston makes clear that Trump will only make matters worse for the people who saw him as an agent of poorly-defined change.

- Emmanuel Saez examines (PDF) the results of the U.S.' 2013 top-end tax increase, and finds that aside from temporary tax avoidance at the point of the change it's proven to be a highly efficient and progressive way to raise revenue. 

- Stephen Tapp assesses the Trudeau Libs' fall economic statement, and notes that their massive infrastructure privatization scheme merely echoes a failed Con plan to the same effect. Jeff Spross notes that the promise of having private operators pay for infrastructure projects in exchange for turning public services into profit centres is just as empty coming from Trump. And Donald Cohen points out how past privatization is already responsible for the growth of inequality.

- Ted Bruce and David Peters discuss the potentially massive gains to be made by investing in population health - while noting that research in the area is all too often treated as an afterthought. And Jim Bender reports on new recommendations from Winnipeg's Social Planning Council as to how to develop and implement a poverty reduction strategy.

- Finally, Micheal Vonn offers some reasons for skepticism about the Libs' plans to hand still more surveillance mechanisms to the state, particularly given how regularly existing powers have been abused.

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Burning questions

How does a new U.S. president focusing on actual protectionism (not "trade barriers" in the form of the incidental effects of governance in the public interest) affect the viability of Brad Wall's GTH and bypass projects which depend on perpetually expanding trade?

And are we stuck with the multi-billion-dollar costs the Saskatchewan Party has tried to lock us into even if we'd otherwise be best served reexamining what's being developed?

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Michal Rozworski writes that the Trudeau Libs' economic model has come into view, and that we should be fighting back against what it means for the public:
I’ve long argued that the Liberals are at the leading edge of rebuilding a centrist, neoliberal consensus for a low-growth world. This is mere tinkering at the edges of a rotting, fragile equilibrium. Rising debt, run-away housing costs, shitty jobs, a growing climate emergency—any solutions that would truly start to redistribute power and resources to deal with any of these pressing issues are out of bounds. Trudeau is showing what the global elite thinks is the perfect play for the moment. Poverty, inequality and precarity liberally pepper speeches and marketing materials, only problem is that the underlying phenomena stay the same.

Trudeau is capably steering Canada towards a new money-manager capitalism—one that uses government to guarantee profits for global asset owners while keeping a lid on discontent from the rest with vaguely progressive messaging. It is no longer individual firms like GM or Enbridge that get the most important meetings with ministers. Blackrock, the world’s largest asset manager, and McKinsey, the world’s largest consulting firm, are the new faces of government’s closest allies. Their executives are among the government’s closest advisors, most notably Dominic Barton, McKinsey’s managing director, who chaired Morneau’s growth advisory council.

There is real change from Harper’s regime, only the change Trudeau is slowly enacting isn’t one driven by remotely progressive economics but a realignment with different economic elites. Harper’s Conservatives had close ties to narrow sections of the elite, the fossil fuel industry for one. Their economic policy was also more transparently redistributive; for example, their income splitting plan if passed would have effectively given a massive tax cut to the top 10%.

Trudeau’s Liberals are in tune with a much broader elite and they are able to keep up some appearance of a an even broader coalition of interests. For example, the “middle class tax cut” was immensely successful rhetorically despite cutting taxes most for the second-to-top 5% (90-95%) of the income distribution. In other words, the Liberals are oriented towards the entire elite, and not just in Canada, while their policies are rhetorically in line with nascent sentiment against growing inequality. In the end, the Liberals still serve narrow interests, but more global than those Harper aligned with.

Trudeau’s economic plan might not come with as big billboards as Harper’s or such easy and obvious targets for opposition. It may seen friendlier, greener or more cosmopolitan. [Its] lasting effects, however, may be much harder to undo. Trudeau is slowly working to bind the hands of future governments to an economic vision written not for us but for the few.
- Meanwhile, Jim Tankersley writes that several U.S. states along the west coast are showing how a higher-revenue government providing improved benefits to its citizens can produce real economic growth.

- Andre Picard highlights the potential health benefits of a basic income among other key elements of Hugh Segal's proposal for Ontario, while Christo Aivalis recognizes how the design of a basic income can make it either a means of entrenching a reasonable standard of living as a matter of right, or an excuse to undermine needed social benefits. And CBC reports on a push for improved parental leave in Canada.

- Martin Regg Cohn questions the cruelty behind the use of sustained solitary confinement - with Adam Capay representing just one of far too many examples.

- PressProgress calls out Prince Edward Island's government for ignoring the results of a public vote in favour of proportional representation.

- Finally, for a first set of reading on last night's disastrous U.S. election, see David Remnick, Thomas Frank, Jonathan Chait, Aditya Chakrabortty, Brent Patterson, Susan Delacourt, Ben Tarnoff and Thomas Walkom - as well as advance warning from Matt Stoller.

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Huddled cats.

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Karen Foster and Tamara Krawchenko discuss how policy can - and should - be designed to improve intergenerational equity:
Canada trails far behind other industrialized nations in its attention to intergenerational equity. The country could do far more to report on a carefully defined intergenerational equity, track progress, and target it in policy development. Studies in this area are conducted in an ad hoc manner rather than being built into a systemic and ongoing review process, but they point to growing gaps between young and old. We agree with Paul Kershaw of the lobby group Generation Squeeze, who writes: “we risk fostering intergenerational inequity if our governments continue to show less urgency in responding to challenges facing younger generations than we do in responding to challenges facing older Canadians.”

We would take it one step further and urge policy-makers in Canada to take advantage of “generation’s” multiple meanings and dimensions. They should emphasize policies that mimic the relationships (kinship) that exist between different age groups, supporting the exchange of resources that occur between the old and the young over the course of their lives. This means carefully structuring the investments that people need at distinct points in their lives: public education, public pensions, parental leave, organized recreation, and so on.

Policy-makers should be careful to ensure that whatever policies are adopted under the banner of intergenerational equity are truly, equally targeted at supporting older and younger Canadians. Finally, although they should take care when forecasting and projecting into the future that they do not write cheques that future Canadians cannot cash, policy-makers also must resist the temptation to use intergenerational justice as an excuse for austerity.
- Patrick Butler reports on a U.N. inquiry concluding that the UK's needless austerity is infringing on the basic human rights of people living with disabilities.

- Scott Sinclair debunks the spin being used to sell the Trans-Pacific Partnership to the public which will face worsening inequality, higher prices and deteriorating working conditions it if ever comes into effect.

- Yvette Brend reminds us how social conditions including geography and gender influence both opportunities and outcomes for children. And Tavia Grant reports on a massive increase in First Nation participation in Canada's census which will hopefully facilitate the development of evidence-based policy to improve living conditions, while the Ottawa Citizen weighs in on the need to stop delaying steps to end discrimination against indigenous peoples.

- Finally, Tanara Yelland outlines the recommendations of the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness as to how to end homelessness in Canada.

Monday, November 07, 2016

Monday Evening Links

Miscellaneous material for your Monday reading.

- Brent Patterson criticizes the Libs' short-sighted plans to privatize public services in lieu of any coherent economic policy. And Tom Parkin calls out their bait-and-switch approach to infrastructure.

- Robin McKie reports on Nicholas Stern's recognition that his much-cited work on the impacts of climate change only underestimated the damage we're doing to our planed. But Carol Linnitt writes that you'd never know the Libs had agreed to the Paris climate agreement from their destructive choices while in office.

- Gordon Kent points out that for all the implausible attempts to paint the oil industry as primarily providing jobs (rather than easy returns on capital), the workers actually making a living there are asking for more sustainable alternatives. And Samantha Page highlights the devastating environmental impacts of fracking.

- Kyle Curlew discusses Bill C-51 as a byproduct of Canada's long and embarrassing history of overreacting to minimal threats with extreme restrictions on our civil rights. The CP reports on the NDP's efforts to ensure at least a somewhat more effective system of parliamentary oversight than the Libs are prepared to offer - though even that falls short of the accountability we should expect of an agency which has taken on the right to disrupt citizens without warning. And Ian MacLeod reports that in addition to setting up an additional "oversight" mechanism which sees and reports only the information which the government wants to share, the Libs are slashing resources from existing watchdogs including SIRC.

- Finally, Susan Delacourt discusses the understandable frustration many Canadian have with our electoral system. And Susan Bradley reports that Prince Edward Island voters have expressed their preference for a mixed-member proportional system in a plebiscite.

Sunday, November 06, 2016

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Andrew Jackson writes that the Libs' fall economic statement represents a massive (and unjustified) shift away from promised infrastructure funding even while planning to privatize both existing operations and future developments. And Joie Warnock highlights why it would represent nothing short of scandalous mismanagement for the Wall government to follow through on its musings about selling off SaskTel.

- The Canadian Press reports on the Assembly of First Nations' call for immediate resources to meet a need for housing on Saskatchewan and Manitoba reserves. The Star's editorial board questions why the Libs haven't matched their rhetoric about reconciliation with substantive action. And Doug Cuthand suggests that a major part of the problem is a federal department designed for a colonial model rather than one oriented toward treaty relationships.

- Jaime Porras Ferreyra discusses the atrocious reputation of Canadian mining companies around the world - and how the Trudeau government is following the Harper Conservatives' pattern of facilitating their abuses:
Mr. Trudeau has been silent when it comes to one key issue for Latin Americans, an issue that has soiled Canada’s image with thick layers of sludge: the reprehensible behavior of mining companies in the region. Mr. Harper enthusiastically promoted Canadian participation in extractive industries beyond its borders, and in the last few years, between 50 percent and 70 percent of mining projects in Latin America have been carried out by Canadian companies.

Reports by the Council on Hemispheric Affairs and the Justice and Corporate Accountability Project have shown how some Canadian companies harm the environment, ignore the interests of indigenous communities, pressure governments to write favorable local laws, and support the criminalization of social protest, among other questionable behavior.
During a recent visit to Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras, Stéphane Dion, Mr. Trudeau’s foreign affairs minister, said that the Canadian government wanted its companies to operate according to the same standards inside and outside Canada. However, there’s been no information on how it will achieve this goal.

Canadian companies are not the only ones at fault. The long list of Latin American problems contributing to this situation is well known: deficient judiciary systems, rampant bribery, an urge to create employment in spite of social, economic and environmental costs.
Recommendations in the reports to address the problems include a Canadian monitoring office that would have real power, the possibility of ensuring effective access to justice before Canadian institutions, allowing legal actions in Canada by individuals or groups harmed abroad to obtain justice and reparation, and an end to government sponsorship of companies involved in human rights violations.
- Mike Seccombe points out how cherry-picked complaints about the amount of social benefits serve only to distract from how woefully inadequate they are to begin with. And Austin Frakt highlights the high costs of depriving workers of paid sick leave.

- Finally, Ingrid Peritz reports that Quebec will be holding an inquiry into police surveillance of journalists and their sources. And Nora Loreto rightly argues that the surveillance-state mindset and unconscionable tactics used to interfere with reporters are equally inexcusable when directed at activists and the general public.