Sunday, December 31, 2017

Sunday Afternoon Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Tom Parkin discusses how the growing pile of Liberal disappointments is creating opportunities for Canada's opposition parties.

- Julie Ireton reports on the continued problems being caused by the federal government's Phoenix privatization debacle - including by forcing retirement-eligible employees to hold on until their retirement income comes into focus. And Mike De Souza reports on the National Energy Board's focus on stifling any flow of accurate information to the public in the name of resource-sector corporate profits.

- Rupert Neate highlights how the extravagant bonuses paid to property developers could provide housing for large numbers of people who actually need it. And Yogi Achyara discusses Toronto's need for increased shelter resources (rather than the cuts being imposed by John Tory and right-wing councillors).

- Don Giesbrecht wonders why Canada is allowing itself to fall behind its international peers in investing in child care.

- And finally, Kendall Latimer reports on the continued fallout from the Saskatchewan Party's decision to trash STC - with rural residents having to reconsider whether they can afford to be trapped without reliable transportation, while Brad Wall's minions continue to pretend that private operators will materialize out of nowhere.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Saturday Evening Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Brian Bethune interviews Joseph Stiglitz about his longstanding recognition that an international economic system biased toward capital could lay the groundwork for Trump-style demagoguery.

- Kristin Annable reports on the Manitoba PCs' steps toward for-profit health care as an alternative to properly funding and managing the public system. But Keith Gerein notes that the Alberta NDP is instead developing public-sector senior care alternatives where the private sector is falling short of meeting people's needs.

- David Hardman defends the concept of a basic income by noting that our sleep cycles are at best an awkward fit with even standard full-time work. David Rosen discusses the end of the true 40-hour work week due a combination of undercounting work time and the need for multiple incomes to stay afloat. And Colin Gordon notes that U.S. laws have been undercutting the labour movement's ability to defend workers' rights for the past 70 years. 

- Angela Wright points out that a serious effort to combat offshore tax evasion needs to deal with prominent developed countries which choose to act as tax havens.

- Finally, Brent Richter offers a good-news story as to how a single tax return gave one marginalized citizen a chance for a genuine fresh state - while noting that many people would benefit similarly from a concerted effort to prepare returns for people who aren't currently submitting them.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Musical interlude

Wide Mouth Mason - My Old Self

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Richard Partington writes that the poorest Britons stand to bear the brunt of the next wave of technological change through further diminished employment prospects. But Peter Goodman points out that a stronger social safety net in Sweden (among other countries) tends to ensure that workers share in the gains of increased productivity.

- The Canadian Press reports on a new survey addressing the financial priorities of Canadians, with rising personal debt ranking at the top of the list.

- Sean McElwee argues that U.S. Democrats need to respond to the data showing strong public support for progressive policies, rather than looking for excuses to move to the right:
In the average DCCC target district, fifty-nine percent of the public support allowing a woman choose whether she wants to have an abortion and 57 percent support a path to citizenship. More than half of individuals in the average district either strongly or somewhat agree that white people have advantages because of their skin and 73 percent support a higher minimum wage. Less than half of the public in the average district believe that the government should prohibit spending on abortion (the so-called Hyde Amendment).
In addition, these districts are favorable towards climate policy, with 64 percent support for a renewable energy mandate and 68 percent support for the Environmental Protection Agency regulating carbon in the average district. Far from running away from gun control, Democrats can safely support an assault weapons ban, which has support among 61 percent of individuals in thes average district. Democrats can abandon “tough on crime” rhetoric, because 63 percent support for ending mandatory minimums. Even examining only the most contentious districts, a progressive Democrat would be on the right side of all ten issues modeled.

What we discovered here is along the lines of what Skovron has found in past research. In a study from March, Skovron and David Broockman found that Democratic state legislators regularly underestimate how liberal their constituents are (as do Republicans, who believe their constituents are far more conservative than they are in reality). Democrats simply aren’t confident that the voters support them on policy positions that we typically consider liberal, especially in areas like gun control and abortion, despite extensive data suggesting voters agree with Democratic positions on these issues.
After decades of watching the middle class get hollowed out by corporate interests and the Republican Party use racial divisions to [sow] resentment, it’s clear that voters are ready for something else. Democrats shouldn’t be afraid to offer it. The good news is that there are candidates are throwing out the centrist playbook and charting their own course.
- And in an important example of the popularity of progressive politics in Canada, the Angus Reid Institute's latest polling shows strong support for a $15 minimum wage in Ontario.

- Meanwhile, David Hopkins writes that big business has been the main beneficiary of the U.S.' political culture war. And Jessica Corbett reports on Bloomberg's analysis showing the U.S. with the worst gap between CEOs and workers in the world even before the latest round of corporate giveaways takes hold.

- Finally, Brian Sullivan and Jim Efstathiou Jr. take note of the growing cost of weather disasters linked to climate change.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

New column day

Here, on how Donald Trump is just one of far too many politicians trying to undercut needed counterbalances in the media, political systems and civil society.

For further reading...
- Rem Reider's story offers a few examples of Trump's attacks on the press.
- Althia Raj reported on Bill Morneau's complaints about opposition MPs doing their job, while Andy Blatchford addressed his claim that he doesn't report to journalists.
- John Paul Tasker discussed Jane Philpott's attempt to silence critics of the Libs' failures on Indigenous issues (and particularly the implementation of Jordan's principle).
- And Keith Baldrey's year-end interview with John Horgan included the latter's comment on setting activism aside.

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Rupert Neate reports on the latest numbers showing the world's 500 richest people adding a full trillion dollars to their wealth in 2017. And Will Fitzgibbon and Dean Starkman highlight how offshore tax avoidance schemes are sucking prosperity out of the rest of the world.

- Noah Smith discusses how the cost of rent really is too high for people living in poverty. And Jamie Doward reports on the soaring rates of homelessness among vulnerable groups in the UK.

- Meanwhile, Danielle Larivee offers her take on the value of publicly-supported child care.

- Peter Loftus reports on the inflated price of the cancer drug Lomustine, as the expiry of a patent hasn't prevented its maker from continuing to hold a monopoly.

- Finally, Tom Parkin discusses how most Canadians have seen little but stagnation under Justin Trudeau's Libs - meaning it's no surprise that Trudeau's popularity is deflating. And Stephen Maher takes a look at Trudeau's lack of recognition of a problem with mooching off billionaires as a symptom of broader judgment issues.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Eduardo Porter examines how high-end tax cuts create gains for only the wealthy few. And Lydia DePillis points out that decades of increases to top-end incomes haven't translated into anything close to proportional spending which would share the gains with society at large.

- Juan Williams writes that U.S. voters are getting the message that a Republican party obsessed with further enriching corporate elites can't be trusted even on what it claims as signature issues:
The bigger news on Capitol Hill was that Americans now trust Democrats more than Republicans to handle taxes and the economy, according to a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll.

For the last 40 years, Republicans have consistently outperformed Democrats when voters were asked which party is the better steward of taxes and the economy.

Now, the Journal poll has voters favoring Democrats by 33 percent to 29 percent on taxes, and by 35 percent to 30 percent on the economy.
With so much money concentrated in the hands of so few Americans, it is no wonder that polls show this law is wildly unpopular, with support ranging in major polls only from 26 to 32 percent.

"Don't let your Uncle Bob be fooled: Republicans are voting for this because their wealthy patrons demand it," former Clinton Labor Secretary Robert Reich wrote last week on his website. "Their tax plan will weaken our economy for years - reducing demand, widening inequality, and increasing the national debt by at least $1.5 trillion over the next decade."

And now for the political fall-out:

Before the tax cut vote, Democrats led Republicans on the generic Congressional preference ballot question by 15 points. Fifty-one percent said they would vote or lean towards voting Democratic, while just 36 percent said the same about Republicans, according to Monmouth University.

Look for those numbers to sink even lower when Trump voters realize they've been had. They were sold a bill of goods by his party when they voted for Trump-style economic populism in 2016.
- Sarah Jaffe writes that poverty represents a failing of the society which enables its existence, not the people who get trapped in it. And Brad Chilcott argues that a renewed sense of solidarity is the best gift we can ask for - and offer - over the holidays.

- Philip Stephens discusses the temporary stall of populism due in no small part to Donald Trump's buffoonery, while noting that the structural factors which have allowed it to develop remain unaddressed. And John Nichols comments on Paul Ryan's Scrooge-like tendencies which have been given free rein under Trump.

- Finally, Ian Bickis points out a few of the ways in which people predictably deviate from the assumptions of laissez-faire zealots.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Festive cats.

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- The Economic Policy Institute charts how inequality and precarity are growing in the U.S. - and how that can be directly traced to the erosion of organized labour. And the World Inequality Report examines the trend toward increasing inequality on a global scale.

- Meanwhile, Kemal Dervis wonders whether another debt crisis is on the way - particularly as short-term gains are skimmed off the top or gifted to the wealthy rather than being used to build a stable economy.

- Dirk Meissner reports on new research showing the damage even small amounts of diluted bitumen can do to migrating salmon.

- Sean Fleming makes the case for proportional representation on the provincial level to avoid the wild swings in seat counts and governing authority which otherwise tend to be the norm. And David Moscrop comments on the important of public participation in building and maintaining democratic government, while wondering whether 2018 will bring more evidence that we're falling short.

- Finally, Michael Harris sees 2017 as having been defined by government by dilettantes - including both Donald Trump and Justin Trudeau. Jordan Press notes that Trudeau's dismissive response to serious ethical questions about his trading off his celebrity and power to win favours from plutocrats speaks volumes about his view of a leader's role. And Tim Harper discusses how Trudeau has chosen to silence Canada on the world stage in order to keep Trump happy.

[Edit: fixed wording.]

Monday, December 25, 2017

Monday Afternoon Links

Assorted content for your holiday reading.

- The Star tells the stories of a few of the people working to make sure Christmas runs smoothly. And Erin McCormick points out other workers stuck in precarious (and largely care-related) positions who don't have a choice but to take on holiday shifts in order to try to stay afloat.

- Meanwhile, David Cay Johnston weighs in on the disparate treatment of corporate tycoons and working people in the U.S.' tax scam:
This year cops and other first responders can write off the costs of buying uniforms and dry cleaning them. But in 2018, cops who buy their uniforms or are required to buy their own guns and ammunition will no longer be able to deduct those costs as reasonable and necessary expenses to support their earning a paycheck, thanks to Trump and Congressional Republicans.

But that’s not all. Cops and anyone else who belongs to a union will no longer be allowed to deduct their union dues. People who must bear travel costs without reimbursement from their employers will just have to suck it up starting in January.

The new law takes special aim at teachers who seek advanced degrees, which typically qualifies them for more pay. Tuition, books and related costs of getting advanced degrees will not be deductible after the end of this year.

Why are Trump and Congressional Republicans dinging first responders, teachers, nurses, traveling salespeople and even those who pay someone to prepare their income tax returns? So the rich can get bigger tax breaks, of course.
- Michael Savage and Dulcie Lee discuss the widening health gap between the rich and poor in the UK, while also noting the return of Victorian-era diseases among its poorest children. 

- Vinay Menon offers his take on how the bread price-fixing scandal which has recently surfaced likely reflects only the tip of the iceberg in consumer exploitation.

- Finally, Jane Mayer writes about the conservative scheme to suppress progressive organizing on campuses based on laughable claims about free speech for bigots.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Leadership 2018 Links

The latest from the Saskatchewan NDP leadership campaign.

- Devin Tasa reported on the Nipawin debate, while the Estevan Mercury covered Ryan Meili's visit. Adam Hunter reported on Trent Wotherspoon's mistaken province-wide television ad. And Alex MacPherson and D.C. Fraser's notebook continues to offer some coverage, including the latest on the candidates' fund-raising totals.

- Phil Tank compared the candidates from both provincial leadership campaigns in their plans for the Meewasin Valley Authority. And the Saskatchewan Teachers' Federation likewise took note of the candidates' education plans across party lines.

- While I haven't focused much on endorsements, the most prominent recent ones include an interesting divide between Wotherspoon's support from familiar Saskatchewan NDP figures including Anne Blakeney and Cam Broten, and Meili's from the broader progressive movement including Thomas Mulcair and Harry Leslie Smith.

- Finally, Ryan Meili has released a membership pitch connecting his farm background to the importance of community support for people:

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Jessica Corbett charts the U.S.' unacceptable (and worsening) inequality. Robert Reich discusses how the Republicans' tax scam represents a triumph for oligarchy. And Ben Steverman notes that the bill passed this month is ripe for abuse - and already being exploited to the fullest by the U.S.' wealthiest individuals.

- Meanwhile, Noah Smith notes that much of the U.S.' trade deficit on paper may be the result of tax avoidance - and that a scheme designed to reduce its appearance won't do anything to help the real economy.

- Joan Rush argues for the federal Libs to follow the B.C. NDP's lead in cracking down on tax avoidance. And David Pfrimmer calls for Canada's federal government to take far more action to rein in poverty and inequality.

- The Guardian studies the treatment of homeless people who are bused out of cities to be somebody else's problem - and the effect of relocation programs in hiding homelessness and the social breakdowns which cause it.

- Finally, the ILO offers some suggestions to close the gender gap in employment. And Lana Payne is hopeful that 2017's long-overdue focus on the causes and effects of sexual harassment will spur a broader movement toward workplace equality.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Saturday Afternoon Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Joan Hennessy writes that instead of limiting ourselves to holiday-season charity, we should insist on fair wages and dignity for our fellow citizens throughout the year:
ll the while, the economy has been on the mend and corporate earnings have risen, but the federal minimum wage remains $7.25 per hour, the level set in 2009. While the rate is higher in 29 states and the District of Columbia, it hovers below the $15 per hour that families need to put food on the table and pay the bills, according to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) living wage calculator.

This year, there were more ornaments on the giving tree in our parish lobby. The one we chose requested a gift for a girl, 10 to 12 years old. No word about whether this child is still at the Everything-Must-Be-Pink developmental stage or wishes to wear makeup. One thing is certain: if her parents made a living wage, she could have what she wanted for Christmas, as opposed to the crafts kit I grabbed off the shelf.

I enjoy giving. I enjoy Christmas. But no one likes being a chump, the little churchgoer who donates food and gifts, while the rich become richer and corporations fail to raise wages. It would be better for everyone, and for the economy, if that expectant mom we helped a few years back could stride into a big-box store and pick out her own stroller – in her favorite color, exactly what she had in mind.
- Phillip Inman reports on a new study of the systematic underpayment of temporary employees. Liz Alderman and Amie Tsang note that commercial piloting is just one of the many jobs being turned into a precarious "gig" rather than stable employment - though Stefan Stern offers an update that Ryanair has been forced to recognize pilots' unions to create a more workable environment. And Anelyse Weiler, Janet McLaughlin and Donald Cole write that a food strategy should include a fair shake for migrant workers.

- Meanwhile, Meagan Gillmore highlights the challenges facing people trying to find work with a criminal record.

- George Monbiot discusses the rapidly-accumulating damage we're doing to the natural world by closing our eyes to the environmental consequences of human activity.

- Finally, Lorraine Chow notes that a fully-renewable global energy system stands to be both feasible and cost-effective in the very near future. And Don Pittis points out the role that improved battery technology will play in getting the most out of renewable power sources.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Thursday, December 21, 2017

New column day

Here, on some of the economic ideas on offer from Ryan Meili and Trent Wotherspoon in Saskatchewan's NDP leadership campaign.

For further reading...
- I've talked about some of the points of commonality between the candidates' platforms here.
- And the column responds in part to Murray Mandryk's view that there's some lack of talk about economic vision and other pocketbook issues in the NDP campaign.

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Owen Jones discusses how an ideology of individualism has undermined both freedom and security for most of the UK's citizens:
There are several reasons why rampant individualism sits at the core of the Tory project. Individualism promotes the idea that our successes in life are purely down to our own efforts. That rationalises inequality, because it perpetuates the myth that the wealthiest are the brightest and hardest working while the poorest are the stupidest and the laziest. Inequality simply becomes just deserts, rather than the sign of a society rigged in favour of a lucky minority. Tax becomes a punishment for success rather than a contribution to the collective kitty.

Individualism transforms social problems such as poverty and unemployment into personality defects, rather than the ills of a poorly constructed society – to be cured by a change in an individual’s attitude rather than by collective solutions, such as a welfare state. It erodes a sense that the majority have shared interests and aspirations, which are not only different from those of the elite, but on a collision course with them. It is fatal to the logical conclusion of this sentiment: that the majority should deploy their collective strength to challenge the concentrated wealth and power of the few.

As a dogma, this form of individualism is a formidable obstacle to socialism. But in practice it has increasingly resulted in insecurity: no wonder, then, that solidarity is so hankered after by so many. Labour has an opportunity to fashion a new individualism, with the promise that only socialism can liberate the individual.
- The Guardian's editorial board weighs in on the choice between democracy and oligarchy - and the dangers of letting the latter triumph. And Lyle Jeremy Rubin writes that conservatives' affinity for unrestrained capitalism can be traced to its entrenchment of social hierarchy.

- Meanwhile, Ann Pettifor offers a reminder as to how citizens can use our power to rein in the excesses of the corporate sector and the privileged few:
It is time for the financial sector to serve the real economy, where people live, innovate and work. It is time for the sector to be dislodged from its position as master of the global economy. For if, in future, we want to tax the rich, to dismantle tax havens, to avoid another global financial crisis, to tackle criminality and inequality, it’s vital that we start to think differently about the global financial system. If we want a system that makes it possible for us to finance the shift of our economy away from fossil fuels, if we want to thwart the rise of nationalism and authoritarianism… we must begin to think differently about the system.

Above all, we, as taxpaying citizens, must begin to think differently about our own power to bring about change. We must think about how to use – or leverage, to use financial terminology – the powers we have. We must remind ourselves of how the private financial system depends on taxpayer-financed institutions. We need this understanding of our potential power to influence and make demands of the finance sector if we are to begin to manage offshore capitalism, to bring offshore capital back onshore.
It’s not enough to be shocked and awed by the publication of revelations such as those in the Paradise Papers. We have to learn that we are not powerless. We have to start thinking differently about tax-paying citizens’ relationships to these global corporations and incredibly wealthy individuals. We have to start understanding that we have power and political leverage over these tax evaders. That as taxpayers we prop up the systems – including the great public good that is our monetary system – without which these private capital gains would not be made. And that as taxpayers propping up the institutions from which the 1% derive huge wealth, we must insist on terms and conditions, regulations and controls over cross-border flows. 
- Finally, Tom Parkin discusses the detrimental effects on democracy arising out of a pattern of shoddy reporting - including this week's series of false reports about Jagmeet Singh's events in Scarborough. But in more accurate reporting on Singh, Ashifa Kassam takes note of his unifying progressive vision.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Tom Campbell notes that we may not be far away from seeing the world's first trillionaire - and that there's a strong likelihood it will involve a confluence of extreme wealth and concentrated political power.

- Meanwhile, Robert Reich observes that the U.S. Republicans' tax scam is reinforcing the development of a new oligarchy. Matt Yglesias discusses how the Republicans are looting the country on behalf of their donor class. And Bryan Beutler points out that the politicians who have sold out to the uber-wealthy are already planning their getaways.

- The Canadian Press reports on new research showing how retailers may be making millions off of price rounding since the penny was phased out. And Marina Strauss reports on a decade-plus scheme of bread price fixing by grocers at the expense of consumers.

- Finally, Tom Parkin writes about the importance of child care as a means of both improving overall economic performance, and closing the pay gap between men and women.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Cats at rest.

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Ryan Avent discusses how wage stagnation is harming U.S. productivity - and how a shift toward empowering workers could be the solution to both:
If low wages are indeed inhibiting productivity, what can we do about it? A large corporate tax cut is unlikely to help. In an economy in which large firms enjoy market power while workers have none, such cuts will raise stock prices and dividends rather than wages and investment. Big increases in the minimum wage would certainly give companies an incentive to automate, but at the cost of jobs for the most vulnerable workers.

A better strategy would be to shift power from companies to workers, to allow workers to bargain for a bigger share of the gains from growth. Keeping companies from getting too big and too dominant would make a difference by increasing the number of companies competing for workers and the competitive pressure they face to maximize worker output.

Making it easier for workers to unionize would improve productivity, too. A strong labor movement, were one magically to appear, could bargain for higher pay, potentially pushing firms to invest in workers and new technology.

Perhaps most important, we should not allow a low unemployment rate to fool us into thinking that labor is scarce. The Fed should wait for much faster wage growth before taking steps to slow the economy. Governments at all levels should make sure that schools and agencies are fully staffed with qualified workers. And Congress should turn its attention to public investments, rather than counting on tax cuts to motivate private ones. Large-scale infrastructure spending would increase the economy’s growth potential while creating good jobs. So would concerted efforts to make postsecondary education as accessible and affordable as possible.
- Katie McDonough reports on the confirmation from U.S. executives that they plan to hoard the proceeds of any Republican tax giveaway. And the New York Times' editorial board discusses how a bill which can't be explained as anything but a service to greedy donors reflects unacceptable inequality in both wealth and political power, while Jared Bernstein focuses on the distortionary effect of big money in politics in arguing for public financing.

- Andrew Jackson writes about Canada's own persistent wealth inequality. Zoe Williams comments on the juxtaposition of massive corporate bonuses handed to executives who have enriched themselves and their shareholders by keeping housing unaffordable for people. And James Bloodworth offers a look at some of the regions of the UK which are being left behind.

- Finally, Zaid Jilani and Evan Malmgren each discuss how the end of Net neutrality in the U.S. may represent the beginning of a push for publicly-operated internet service providers.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- The Star's editorial board calls for a reworking of Canada's tax system to make sure businesses pay their fair share:
The tax bills of most big companies have declined significantly both as a proportion of their profits and as a proportion of Ottawa’s total tax revenue. This means that shareholders of Canadian companies, a disproportionately wealthy, often foreign group, continue to get wealthier, while the average taxpayer foots a greater portion of the bill for public expenditures and governments have less to spend on programs and services that help the many and particularly the most vulnerable.

Making matters worse, the decline of corporate contributions to the public purse is greater than even our diminished corporate tax rates would suggest. A six-month joint investigation by the Star and Corporate Knights Magazine has revealed that for every dollar corporations pay to the Canadian government, individual taxpayers now pay $3.50 - a result not only of repeated cuts, but also of a slew of tax loopholes and international treaties introduced in recent decades that promote or at least facilitate corporate tax avoidance.
The corporate tax system is just one part of the problem. While it’s true that corporate taxes are a smaller portion of the total of tax revenues after years of rate cuts, ever more loopholes, and the increasing ease of moving capital globally, that’s in a context in which the top marginal income tax rate has also gone down and overall tax revenue as a percentage of the economy has declined, putting us well below the OECD average.

As Gabriel Zucman, an economist at Stanford University, told the Star, “Some countries, including Canada, have attempted to dramatically cut taxes on the wealthy and let corporate tax avoidance prosper.” This process, begun in 1980s, has yielded a clear outcome: “income and wealth have boomed for a tiny fraction of the population, but this has not benefitted the rest of the population at all.”

The result of all of this is that governments have less revenue to do what’s needed, our tax system is less progressive and corporations pay a reduced share for our public goods and services even as their profits continue to break records.

Our tax system is a mess. It’s leaking resources government needs; it’s regressive, contributing to corrosive inequality; and it’s increasingly complicated and incoherent.

In response to the Trudeau government’s ongoing small-business tax reform fiasco, the Senate finance committee recommended that Canada undertake a comprehensive review of our tax system of the kind not seen since the Carter Commission of over 50 years ago. This is exactly what’s needed. The latest revelations about our leaky corporate tax system, on top of the bombshells of the Panama and Paradise Papers, make inescapable the unfairness and inefficiency of our tax system. The challenge won’t be met by mere tinkering.
- Matt Bruenig discusses how a social wealth fund could do far more than merely increased tax rates to ensure that everybody benefits from increased overall wealth. And Ann Pettifor notes that businesses which actually offer anything of use to people stand to benefit from policies oriented toward greater equality and social investment.

- The BBC reports on the findings of the Jo Cox commission, including the need to counteract social isolation. Darren McGarvey points out the reality of social immobility resulting from the stresses of poverty and insecurity. And Laura Kane reports on the effect of B.C.'s housing crisis which is forcing seniors into the streets.

- Meanwhile, Michael Fitzpatrick highlights how a focus on genuine social housing can lead to far more fair and functional communities.

- Finally, Grant Robertson and Tom Cardoso report on the lack of meaningful consequences for white-collar crime.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

On points of agreement

With both Ryan Meili and Trent Wotherspoon having run leadership campaigns before, both could be expected to have plenty to offer by way of policy. And that’s proven true - though not necessarily in a way that will give NDP members a lot of distinctions to help in sorting out their choice.

To date, both Meili and Wotherspoon have released a number of issue-specific planks, with Meili also offering a general vision statement. And there are far more similarities than differences between the general themes and proposals involved.

Before I start examining the key differences, I'll point out some of the obvious similarities - as well as a few areas where agreements in principle aren't necessarily reflected in the candidates' policy proposals to date.

Among the points in common between the two, they're in agreement on:
- a $15 minimum wage;
- restoring decision-making authority to local school boards;
- eliminating the funding gap for Indigenous students;
- requiring a referendum before privatizing any Crowns, as well as expanding the mandate and geographic reach of existing ones;
- a retrofit program for energy efficiency; 
- a new provincial transportation system to replace STC; and
- a resource royalty review. 

Meanwhile, in a few extremely prominent policy areas, there's a notable difference in the candidates' willingness to commit to specific targets or actions even while they agree on the underlying principles.

For example, while both promise made-in-Saskatchewan climate change policies, only Meili has actually set out targets to be met (a 30% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and 45% in methane emissions by 2030). In contrast, the contents of Wotherspoon's plan are entirely to be determined.

And Meili specifically promises to introduce a universal pharmacare program - while Wotherspoon stays a couple of steps removed by saying only that he'll "work to deliver on pharmacare".

Conversely, Wotherspoon sets out a specific target of a $15 per day child care program. In contrast, Meili promises "the best child care and early childhood education program in Canada", but doesn't offer any detail about what that would include.

And Wotherspoon identifies specific revenue generators, including a new $250,000 income tax bracket and the reversal of tax cuts in the current top bracket. Meanwhile, Meili leaves tax policy to be dealt with in an overall revenue review which includes royalties.

Those differences offer a starting point in identifying both the relative priorities of the candidates, and the areas where they each see more work needing to be done before they're prepared to make firm commitments. And it's worth noting those contrasts before turning to the policy proposals which look to break new ground.

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Matt Bruenig writes that the concentration of wealth and power which is largely being attributed to crony capitalism is a natural byproduct of laissez-faire economics as well:
An economy that distributes the national income based solely on the marginal productivity of each unit of capital and labor is an economy that will still feature massive levels of inequality and poverty. This is so for three reasons:
  1. Around half of the population neither works nor owns a considerable amount of capital. Their true factor income is around $0.
  2. There are considerable productivity differences between different kinds of jobs, and so wage differences would also remain very high even in the absence of rent.
  3. Capital is distributed extremely unevenly and so capital payments would remain very unequal even without rents.
No amount of increasing competition, trimming intellectual property rights, or lowering barriers to entry would solve these problems. More specifically, eradicating rent-seeking would not solve these problems because these problems are not caused by rents. Instead, we need a big welfare state to fix problem one, strong (“rent-seeking”) labor organizations to fix problem two, and the redistribution and socialization of capital to fix problem three.
- Ed Pilkington explores the widespread poverty already present in the U.S. And Heather Keller and Leah Gramlich discuss the massive costs of malnutrition beyond its direct impacts on health care.

- PressProgress exposes how the Harper Cons suppressed the federal government's own research into the connection between mental health issues and terrorism in order to demonize minorities instead.

- Vito Pelici reports on the decrease in public information about Ontario's power system due to privatization. And Beatrice Britneff notes that the Trudeau Libs don't seem to have much interest in appointing a replacement for Information Commissioner Suzanne Legault as her retirement looms in two weeks.

- Finally, Seth Klein, Shannon Daub and Alex Hemingway offer their suggestions to shape British Columbia's referendum on electoral reform.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Saturday Morning Links

This and that for your weekend reading.

- Larry Elliott suggests we shouldn't be duped into thinking that policy biased in favour of the corporate sector is a necessity rather than a choice. And John Falzon notes that inequality too is the product of political decisions rather than an inevitability, while Facundo Alvaredo, Lucas Chancel, Thomas Piketty, Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman highlight how the U.S. is going out of its way to make matters worse.

- Andrew Stevens discusses the fight for a fair minimum wage in Saskatchewan - and the fearmongering used to oppose one. And Kate McInturff writes about the persistent race and gender income gaps.

- David Weil writes about the challenging future faced by millenials stuck in increasingly volatile work arrangements. And Sam Riches offers an inside look at the realities of trying to juggle multiple gigs while lacking any income security.

- Andrew Jackson points out the continually-increasing level of consumer debt in Canada, and notes the reality that there's little apparent overlap between the many workers facing large debt loads and the privileged few who are accumulating assets.

- Finally, Adam Kassam highlights the many ways in which private dollars - in the form of both fees and donations - are papering over gaps in public funding for health care.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Musical interlude

Fluke - Pulsed

Friday Afternoon Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Marco Chown Oved, Toby Heaps and Michael Yow discuss the long-term transition away from meaningful corporate tax contributions to Canada's public purse:
For every dollar corporations pay to the Canadian government in income tax, people pay $3.50. The proportion of the public budget funded by personal income taxes has never been greater.

At a time when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has made tax fairness a centrepiece of his government, the Toronto Star and Corporate Knights magazine spent six months poring over tax data to determine how much income tax corporations are really paying.

We found the amount of tax most big companies pay has been dropping as a proportion of their profits for years, and not only because the corporate tax rate has been cut repeatedly. Canada’s largest corporations use complex techniques and tax loopholes to reduce their taxes significantly below the official corporate tax rate set by the government.
The 2011-2016 audited financial statements of all large Canadian corporations (those worth more than $2 billion) reveal they paid an average of 17.7 per cent tax.

During that time, the average official corporate tax rate in Canada for this group of companies was 26.6 per cent.

That 8.9 per cent gap translates into tens of billions of dollars that could have been used to pay for the schools, roads, hospitals, police and paramedics we all rely on.
- And Chown Oved also reports on the strong public appetite to close tax loopholes and ensure that corporations pay their fair share.

- David Macdonald and Martha Friendly study the glaring gaps in cost and availability of child care across Canada, while Randy Shore reports on the CCPA's proposed path to $10 per day child care in British Columbia.

- Erin Anderssen reports on new research showing the desperate need for improved access to mental health care in Ontario.

- Mark Hancock offers his take on what progressive trade policy should include - including a focus on what's best for workers and citizens rather than businesses alone. And Stuart Trew and Scott Sinclair discuss the possibility of seriously evaluating the effects of the many trade deals already on the books, rather than rushing into more.

- Finally, Shawn McCarthy reports on the World Bank's decision to stop lending to oil and gas projects as part of the world's transition away from dirty energy. And the CP takes note of Alberta's massive wind power savings resulting from its concerted effort to make a quick shift to renewables.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

New column day

Here, on how Quebec's latest poverty plan falls far short of the "basic income" title it's received in some national coverage - and on how we should insist on political leadership toward the genuine article.

For further reading...
- CBC has reported on the new plan and the response it's received, as well as the draconian requirements Quebec has previously placed on recipients of social assistance.
- Andre Picard asks whether the new plan provides assistance to the right people, while noting how the system remains downright punitive toward some.
- And Nicholas Keung reports on the Ontario Human Rights Commission's research showing that recipients of social assistance face prejudice from a substantial proportion of the public.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- PressProgress points out Statistics Canada's latest numbers on Canada's extreme wealth disparity - with 60% of the population owning only 10% of the wealth while a lucky few amass gigantic fortunes. 

- Jordan Brennan discusses how a lack of labour conflict has led to low levels of both wage increases and inflation while ensuring that productivity gains accrue only to the wealthy. And Harrison Samphir examines how Skip the Dishes is one of the poster children for the suppression of workers' rights and interests through precarious work arrangements.

- Darryl Greer notes that the Paradise Papers have shed new light on the use of offshore tax havens. But Marco Chown Oved and Robert Cribb report that federal and provincial finance ministers are electing not to set up a publicly-accessible register of beneficial ownership to reduce the secrecy behind corporate holdings.

- Somini Sengupta reports on the massive amount of food which gets wasted (up to a third of what's produced around the globe, and more than that in wealthier countries), as well as the greenhouse gas emissions dumped into our atmosphere in the process.

- Finally, Christo Aivalis points out how the net neutrality debate should lead us toward a broader discussion of social goods in contrast to capitalist exploitation:
(W)hy does the NN debate matter for the Canadian left specifically, and the general left more broadly? For Canadians, it matters because while NN in Canada doesn’t appear to be under assault from the current government, ISPs in Canada have been emboldened by the victories of their corporate analogues south of the border. Further, the fight against NN has been recently picked up by former Industry Minister and runner-up for the Conservative leadership Maxime Bernier. In both Bernier and the ISPs views, NN is little more than state interference into the rights of consumers and companies alike.
This is where the socialist moment reveals itself on the question of Net Neutrality. While many defenders of a free internet have made the argument that NN is actually the free-market capitalist way to run the internet, and the non-NN position is a ‘crony-capitalist’ bastardization, the reality is that opponents of NN are sincerely defending the ideals of liberal capitalism. They are quite correct—by the letter of capitalist law—that ISPs should be more than allowed to partner with certain websites to prioritize bandwidth to that site, or should be allowed to flex their market muscles to restrict access to their competitors’ holdings.

Here’s the crux of the issue: many people see capitalism as synonymous with the free market. But what this episode has shown us, more than anything else, is that the free flow of information exists not because of capitalism, but in spite of it. Capitalism is not a system of free exchange; rather, it is a system of profit maximization for those who own the capital. In some cases this may coincide with what are understood as free markets, but in a great many cases capitalists profit most by restricting the freedom of others, be it their workers, their consumers, or democratic institutions.
The fight for Net Neutrality is but the first salvo in a longer battle over the age-old debates about democracy. The left has to realize that the first stage of this battle is on easily winnable grounds. Capitalists and their ideological brethren have lined up to fight NN as a barrier towards their profit-making enterprise, and socialists can make the case that if capitalism means antagonism to the very concept that manifests a free internet, perhaps the owners of private industry shouldn’t be trusted with other important aspects of our daily lives. Winning this second stage—questioning the undemocratic ownership of major industry in general—is a harder slog altogether, but it must be won. We cannot have a democratic society where the internet is either constrained by ISPs, or dominated by a scant few companies. We cannot choose. The people—either directly or through their duly elected representatives—must control their own public venues, and in the 21st century, the internet is undeniably one of those most important public spaces... 
This is a great opportunity for democratic socialists but only if the message is cast consistently and thoroughly that the fight for Net Neutrality is in reality a battle against capitalism’s logical conclusions.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Nosy cats.

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Tom Parkin duly slams the Libs for a "middle class" tax message being used to sell a giveaway to the rich:
Here’s the blunt facts: the tax cut by Finance Minister Bill Morneau gives $0 to anyone earning under about $45,000. Then the benefit starts phasing in. At $90,000, the benefit is $670. And every person earning over $90,000—even people with million dollar paycheques—gets the $670.

University of Laval economist Stephen Gordon recently pointed out that a $90,000 income is in the top 10% in Canada.

And according to Statistics Canada’s most recent full report of tax filing data, the middle point of Canadian incomes was $33,920 in 2015. That means half of all income earners are above $33,920, half are below.

The facts don’t lie. Morneau is giving $670 a year to everyone with a top 10% income. He’s giving $0 to actual middle income earners. His words are deceptive. It’s a tax cut for the affluent.

Of course, nobody would vote for an upper class cut taxes. So the Liberals said it was a middle class tax cut and hoped you wouldn’t figure it out.
- But Parkin does briefly go off the rails somewhat by focusing needlessly on debt rather than social costs. On that front, Paul Krugman offers a reminder that the right only cares about deficits as an excuse to avoid or destroy social supports. And Corey Robin's takeaways from the Republicans' plan signal the danger of allowing deficit hysteria to dominate the opposition message.

- And Gregori Galofré-Vilà, Christopher M. Meissner, Martin McKee and David Stuckler study how austerity politics were a major factor in the rise of the Nazi party.

- Patricia Aldana rightly argues that citizens need to start recognizing - and taking responsibility for - the damage Canadian-based exploitative resource companies are doing in Honduras and elsewhere.

- Finally, Brett Dolter offers his take on how the Saskatchewan Party's long-delayed excuse for a climate change strategy falls short of the mark.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Maia Szalavitz writes that the atmosphere of competition and status signalling which prevails in unequal societies is directly connected to increased homicide rates:
While on the surface, the disputes that triggered these deaths seem trivial – each involved apparently small disagreements and a sense of being seen as inferior and unworthy of respect – research suggests that inequality raises the stakes of fights for status among men.

The connection is so strong that, according to the World Bank, a simple measure of inequality predicts about half of the variance in murder rates between American states and between countries around the world. When inequality is high and strips large numbers of men of the usual markers of status – like a good job and the ability to support a family – matters of respect and disrespect loom disproportionately.

Inequality predicts homicide rates “better than any other variable”, says Martin Daly, professor emeritus of psychology and neuroscience at McMaster University in Ontario and author of Killing the Competition: Economic Inequality and Homicide.
Obviously, potential murderers don’t check the local Gini Index – the most commonly used measure of inequality that looks at how wealth is distributed – before deciding whether to get a gun. But they are keenly attuned to their own level of status in society and whether it allows them to get what they need to live a decent life. If they can’t, while others visibly bask in luxury that seems both impossible to attain and unfairly won, those far from the top often become desperate.
- Meanwhile, Dominic Rushe discusses how Donald Trump's giveaway to the rich looks to exacerbate inequality while producing the same economic devastation wrought by Sam Brownback in his failed Kansas experiment.

- Karl Nerenberg reports on the federal government's failure to budget anywhere enough money to even theoretically end boil-water advisories on First Nations reserves (let alone fund the operation of infrastructure after it's installed).

- Finally, Leilani Farha writes that we should push governments to fix the homelessness problems they've created by recognizing the right to housing. And the Star's editorial board discusses the importance of ensuring permanent homes for people facing homelessness, rather than limiting any policy response to temporary shelters.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Damian Paletta and Josh Dawsey report that cash for access is the only way for anybody to raise issues with the U.S. Republicans' tax bills. And Ronald Brownstein views the tax debacle as conclusive evidence of the closing of Republican minds.

- Meanwhile, Mark Kingwell offers a needed rebuttal to the reactionary right's efforts to falsely criticize universities for exactly the type of closed-minded attitudes underlying its own movement:
Right-wing postmodernism flourishes by bulldozing dissent. The current occupant of the White House, and those leading rhetorical crusades in his shadow, are just late-model versions of real intellectual rot. It begins with thinking you can say whatever you want, because you have power and a Twitter or YouTube account. It ends with a comprehensive sense of entitlement that you can get away with anything.

"I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn't lose voters," the current President said. Yes, he said that. He said that. It's a fact that he said it.

Universities are always easy targets. You can target this so-called useless course or that apparently trendy professor. You can mock new pronouns and novel ways of thinking. But here's what we mostly do: We insist that when people utter falsehoods and nonsense, or behave intolerably, they will be challenged, on the facts, with reasons and arguments.

It's indoctrination, sure – into critical thinking. Sorry if that upsets what you already believe. (Note: not in fact sorry.)
- Damian Carrington reports on the health effects of air pollution on fetal health. And Karl Nerenberg writes about the global connection between inequality and reproductive health.

- Ben Parfitt makes the case for an inquiry into B.C.'s fracking industry. And Paul Willcocks discusses why the Libs' Site C disaster needs to be shut down, not continued by John Horgan's government.

- Donna Borden comments on the need for low-income Canadians to have fair access to financial services. And Tamar Harris reports on a lawsuit against Rogers for breaking its promise not to subject participants in a low-income Internet service program to credit checks which could harm their credit scores.

- Finally, Thomas Walkom writes about the costs of Ontario's power privatization, as monopoly private providers have been able to exploit the regulatory system to claim illegitimate costs.

Saturday, December 09, 2017

Saturday Afternoon Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Christopher Ingraham discusses the U.S.' distorted distribution of wealth - and how both existing inequality and the Republicans' plan to exacerbate it run contrary to the values of the general public:
Among rich nations, the United States stands out for the extent of its wealth inequality. The top 1 percent in the U.S. own a much larger share of the country's wealth than the 1 percent elsewhere. The American 1 percent gobble up twice as much pie (40 percent) as the 1 percent in France, the U.K., or Canada, and more than three times as much as the 1 percent in Finland.

This kind of extreme inequality is bad for the economy. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which represents a number of the world's richest countries including the United States, estimates that inequality has knocked nearly five percentage points off the economic growth in those countries between 2000 and 2015.

In high-inequality countries, people from poor households typically have less access to quality education. This leads to “large amounts of wasted potential and lower social mobility,” which directly harms economic growth, according to the OECD.

If you were designing a tax plan to reduce the extreme inequality in the United States, you'd probably try to find ways to redistribute some of the wealth from the richest households to the poorest ones. But the Senate GOP tax plan does precisely the opposite of that, according to the CBO: In the short term the richest households get the biggest tax cuts, while longer term the taxes of the poorest households actually increase.

Estate tax? Cut. Income tax rate for millionaires? Cut (at least in the Senate bill). Corporate tax rate? Biggest rate cut ever.

In the long term that probably means more of the pie for the super-rich, and less of it for everyone else.
- Noah Smith offers his suggestions as to how unions can start tilting the balance of power back toward workers, focusing on broader-based bargaining and increased direct service delivery. And Connor Wolf discusses how worker centers are already making a difference in shaping both workplaces and public policy.

- Michal Rozworski and Daniel Tseghay and Derrick O'Keefe each highlight why B.C. (among other jurisdictions) shouldn't be waiting to implement a more fair minimum wage. 

- Dean Baker makes the case for an economic system focused on forcing the rich to genuinely compete, rather than being able to rely on privileged treatment to retain and expand their wealth. And Meagan Day reminds us that class conflict is inevitable - such that the only effect of staying on the sidelines is to ensure that the upper class gets its way.

- Finally, Tim Harford discusses the dangers of "dark nudging" in the context of foreign interference in democratic politics. But it's worth noting as well how the principles behind "nudge" theory have also been adopted by the business sector to make it difficult to do anything but go along with corporate dominance and rent-seeking.

Friday, December 08, 2017

Thursday, December 07, 2017

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Robert Reich reminds us that sustainable economic growth is the product of bottom-up development, not a top-down trickle of wealth:
What’s the real formula for growth? Better access to education, healthcare, and transportation, all of which make workers more productive.

These more productive workers command higher wages. With higher wages, they purchase more goods and services. These purchases motivate companies to expand and invest, and create more and better jobs.

American experienced this virtuous cycle for thirty years after World War II. We invested unprecedented sums in education, healthcare, and infrastructure. We financed these investments through higher taxes on the rich and on big corporations.

The economy boomed and wages shot upward. The wages of the bottom fifth rose even faster than the wages of the top fifth. This unleashed consumer spending, which generated more growth.

The Clinton administration tried this formula on a much smaller scale in the 1990s, raising taxes on the top and investing in education and infrastructure. The economy boomed, 23 million new jobs were created, and for the first time since the late 1970s the typical American’s wage rose.
For years, Republicans have been selling tax cuts by lying that they spur growth, which trickles down to average Americans.

For just as long, Democrats have been selling fairness, but without explaining why a fairer economy is also more productive and prosperous.

It’s time for Democrats to make the case. It has the virtue of being true.
- Meanwhile, Simon Wren-Lewis comments on the importance of investing in our social and economic future, then reminds us why we shouldn't obsess over modest government deficits when human well-being is at stake.

- Norman Farrell reviews how the B.C. Libs and their corporate donors looted what had been a well-run and efficient BC Hydro.

- Finally, Juliette Garside discusses the EU's moves toward naming and blacklisting tax havens.

New column day

Here, on how the Saskatchewan Party's sad excuse for a climate change strategy (PDF) is really aimed at nothing more than excusing continued carbon pollution.

For further reading...
- I wrote just a couple of weeks ago about the Saskatchewan public's strong appetite for real action against climate change - making it all the more embarrassing to be stuck with a government which can't be bothered. And I've also written before about the problems with "intensity" emission targets - which are the only type to be found anywhere in the Sask Party's plan. 
- Andrew Leach charts the current emissions of Canadian provinces and industries. 
- Erin Flanagan offers the Pembina Institute's response.
- Murray Mandryk also sees the strategy as nothing but a sop to the oil industry. And Carl Meyer reports on the oil sector's deliberate refusal to cooperate with the global fight against climate change.

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Rick Salutin writes that Ontario's provincial election shows that nobody is prepared to defend neoliberal ideas on their merits - which should provide an opening to start challenging them in practice. And Alice Ollstein examines how Donald Trump's corporate giveaway looks like an unmitigated economic disaster in the making.

- Phillip Inman notes that financial markets are in a similar position to where they were before the 2008 meltdown. And Robert Booth notes that the less-privileged in the UK are already facing as much homelessness and housing insecurity as they did during the most recent crash.

- Meanwhile, Jordan Press reports on a much-needed effort to ensure that lower-income Canadians receive the benefits available to them.

- Kristen Sze reports on California's dramatically-increased wildfire risks arising out of climate change, while Sarah Boseley notes that pollution is undermining the health value of outdoor exercise for people over 60. And Andrea Harden Donohue warns against accepting the premise that we're stuck with pipelines and/or coal.

- Finally, Anne Karpf points out how the most privileged people have managed to silence the real victims of entrenched power structures by feigning victimhood for themselves.