Saturday, August 12, 2017

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Bill Kerry discusses the role of inequality in causing a global financial meltdown
Leaving aside the greed and stupidity of so many of the world's financial institutions and, particularly, their leaders, it is easy to see why poor Americans jumped at what they saw as their chance of the American Dream and why under pressure sales forces, with targets to meet and commissions to earn, pushed unsuitable products on to them. The US is the most unequal, major, developed world economy and, as a result, it is racked with status anxiety from top to bottom. Inequality forces people to compete with each other to try and scramble up the greasy pole, or at least stay where they are in the pecking order. Buying your own house rather than renting is a massive step up the social ladder as is being a success in business, even if that business is saddling poor people with crushing debt that they can never hope to repay. But inequality helps out here too. Great inequality encourages us to think of poorer people as somehow having failed anyway, so maybe it matters less what is done to them. Out of sight, out of mind.

In a wider sense the 2007 crash was the result of deep-seated changes in the world economy, not least the massive expansion of private debt that had built up in the system over recent decades. But again, inequality and status anxiety had key roles here. Real wages have not allowed us or our families to live the lives we want, the lives that advertisers sell us every day. So in order to get these lives and to preserve our status and sense of self-worth in the world around us, we borrowed to bridge the gap. A massive bubble was created and this burst in 2007, all it took was the big American sub-prime needle to do it.
- And Sahil Dutta and Paul Gilbert point out that a meaningful left response to trickle-down economics needs to address management, not only ownership.

- Jake Johnson examines how U.S. corporations already avoid most of their nominal tax obligations - and how they (assisted by the Trump administration) are pushing to contribute even less. And David Dayen and Ryan Grim report on extra fees which have been added to consumers' monthly mortgage payments through opt-out junk mail.

- Michael Coren highlights the hypocrisy of executives who never hesitate to extract every possible nickel from businesses for themselves, but cry poor over any talk of a living wage for employees. And Daniel Gross calls out employers who are complaining about a lack of workers for refusing to offer wages which would make it worth working for them.

- Finally, the Ontario NDP has unveiled a new plan for worker-friendly labour and employment law reform. And Bobbi-Jean MacKinnon reports on Jennifer McKenzie's ascent to the leadership of the New Brunswick NDP - and the expectation that it will join other provincial wings in leading the way toward progressive policy choices.

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