Saturday, July 01, 2017

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Alan Freeman discusses the real costs of ideologically-driven deregulation:
The idea that “the market” will root out bad actors in any industry and that regulations are just a hindrance to economic vitality is a dangerous concept. Companies, like individuals, will do what they can get with. If there were no costly traffic tickets or demerit points, some drivers would speed along residential streets at 100 kilometres an hour and routinely jump red lights. It’s no different for corporate behaviour, whether it’s banks making risky loans, companies selling flammable cladding or meatpackers taking shortcuts on hygiene.

Only strong laws backed up by robust enforcement and big penalties for offenders, including jail time if necessary, can truly protect society. When it came to the poor residents of Grenfell Tower, light regulation proved to be a death sentence.
- Pierre Laliberte and Scott Sinclair examine the effects of NAFTA and its possible termination, and find that there's no reason for Canada to make significant concessions in the name of preserving continental free trade. And given Canada's woeful track record in NAFTA challenges (as pointed out by Mia Rabson), there may in fact be plenty to gain by removing one particularly damaging restraint on democratic governance.

- Meanwhile, Andy Crosby points out how the same federal government which has gone so far out of its way to sell out the public interest in corporate trade deals has taken a brutally hard and cynical line in dealing with First Nations on issues of treaty rights. Ben Parfitt focuses on how the fossil fuel lobby has run roughshod over British Columbia First Nations whose water is endangered by fracking operations. And the CCPA highlights the role of long-overdue reconciliation in building a more fair and sustainable Canada. 

- Paul Wells writes that the Libs are following in the Cons' footsteps by pushing politicized and corporate-oriented funding models for research - even as scientists tell them that's exactly the wrong approach.

- Finally, Michal Rozworski is among many economists signing on to support a $15 minimum wage based on its economic and social benefits. And Lars Osberg, Craig Riddell, Rozworski and Jim Stanford explain their support in more detail.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Thursday Afternoon Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Des Cohen discusses how economic inequality has developed - and how it's now rewarding people for doing nothing more than worsening its effects. And Chase Burghgrave interviews Elizabeth Anderson about the employer-based power which is used to keep American workers in line:
You describe the authority of employers as like that of dictators, capable of micromanaging employees’ actions at the workplace as well as reprimanding them for their off-hour activities. Many conservatives and libertarians would probably take issue with workplaces being described in this way, citing the employee’s agreement to the employment contract as evidence of no wrongdoing on the part of the employer. Why should we see authority in the workplace as a form of governance and not as a contractual agreement between equals?

The case of the employer-employee relation is similar [to historical marriage contracts]. The state has determined the default terms of the employment relation through employment law. These establish a regime of “employment at will“: the employer can fire the employee for any or no reason, with very few exceptions, mostly having to do with discrimination. This grants bosses almost complete authority over workers, not only on the job but off duty as well.

Since the state has already put its thumbs very heavily on the scales in favor of employers, it is absurd to suppose that the employment contract is a product of negotiation between equals. Very few employees get a chance to negotiate at all.

While it is technically possible for the worker to negotiate better terms, in practice employers reject negotiation over the scope of employer authority out of hand, except for employees at the very top of the worker hierarchy and those represented by labor unions. Since they, like nineteenth-century husbands, have been dealt all the authority cards by default, why would they negotiate to give any of them to their employees?
- Joe Mihevc rightly argues that anger is an entirely justified response to the continued acceptance of poverty by political leaders. And Geoff Tily writes about the Bank of England's recognition that perpetually rising consumer debt can't be the foundation of a sustainable economy.

- Jacquie Maund and Hazel Stewart point out how a lack of public dental coverage leads to health and social harms.

- Shiri Pasternak writes that the Trudeau Libs are looking to impose a cultural of permanent austerity on First Nations (while dressing it up in rhetoric about self-governance). And Nancy Macdonald tells the story of Barb Kentner, who faces imminent death after a racist attack in Thunder Bay.

- Finally, Andrew Nikiforuk discusses the dangerous abandoned wells left behind by decades of Alberta PC fealty to the oil industry. And Sharon Kelly notes that  Saskatchewan isn't the only jurisdiction which has sunk billions into the false promise of "clean coal", as a Mississippi power plant initially designed as another attempt to whitewash coal power is instead converting entirely to natural gas (at a $3.4 billion loss).

New column day

Here, on how the historical competition between the NDP and the Greens hasn't precluded cooperation where it counts in British Columbia - and how the governing accord there might offer an example of cross-party collaboration for all levels of government.

For further reading...
- Martyn Brown wrote about the danger the Greens might have posed to a change in government early in the election campaign.
- Nancy MacDonald documented the post-election negotiations on all sides, including the common ground between John Horgan and Andrew Weaver once they got to talking. And Andrew MacLeod reported on what Horgan's NDP and Weaver's Greens were able to agree to.
- Finally, Andrew Coyne discusses Justin Trudeau's contempt for the public which has helped smooth over any differences between the NDP and Greens at the federal level. And the Greens' adoption of a preference for a mixed-member proportional electoral system offers an area where it may be possible to translate agreement between the two parties into policy change.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Colin Gordon discusses how contempt for democracy is one of the uniting principles of the right around the globe while reviewing Nancy MacLean's Democracy in Chains:
At the intersection of Buchanan’s market fundamentalism and his embrace of Jim Crow lies a fundamental reservation — nakedly evident on today’s radical right — about equal political citizenship and majority rule. This stemmed in part, from Calhoun onward, from a conviction that the polity could be cleft between “makers and takers,” and that it was the “takers” who, by employing state power to tax wealth and income, were doing the exploiting.

Buchanan’s “public choice” economics dressed this up as an iron law of both human nature and democratic rule (“a cynicism so toxic,” MacLean suggests, “that, if widely believed, it would eat like acid at the foundations of civic life”). Politically, Buchanan and his allies looked to gird the advantage enjoyed by the makers (by removing the last constraints on campaign finance, for example) while muffling the votes and the voices of the rest of us.

The combination, of course, is the hallmark of neoliberalism, whose interest is not in rolling back the state but in employing state power toward particular ends, including the protection of wealth and property and the suppression and surveillance of the poor. For all its thin distaste of “big government,” Buchanan’s radical right betrays a healthy appetite for repression.
Over time, Buchanan and his allies tacitly admitted that they had no popular constituency; that the voting public — even those who had supported Reagan and cheered the congressional “Contract with America” — hesitated “when they learned that freed markets would leave them with sole responsibility for their fates.” The solution, first floated in the early debates over Social Security privatization and starkly evident in tortuous repeal of the Affordable Care Act, is to “crab-walk” around the issues, to claim that frontal assaults on popular social insurance programs are efforts to “shore them up” rather than destroy them.

The second, and more chilling, solution is to junk the rules entirely; to tilt an already unlevel playing field decisively and irrevocably against the popular will.
- Marius Busemeyer and Erik Neimanns explore how beneficiaries of social programs tend to reject government involvement in areas other than the ones which support them personally - making benefits vulnerable to politicians who are able to play one group against another (even while intending to leave them all worse off).

- Owen Jones takes note of the fact that the same UK Conservative government which has proclaimed a lack of money to help people has been able to find plenty to buy off the DUP in order to stay in power. And Rob Shaw points out the similar turnaround from Christy Clark's B.C. Libs as they try to cling to power.

- Patrica Thille discusses how obesity is primarily the result of political choices.

- Finally, Claire Provost examines how the Trudeau Libs are choosing to do little to end Canada's persistent gender inequality.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Tuesday Evening Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Katie Allen reports on Kathleen O'Grady's look at precarious work - and how a generation of young workers is being taught to expect nothing more. Gareth Hutchens discusses Sally McManus' call for the labour movement to seek opportunities to disrupt an economic system set up to exploit workers. Andrew Jackson points out Canada's woeful job quality and severe poverty compared to international peers. And JaNay Queen offers a model for the social determinants of income security.

- Meanwhile, Martin Wolf discusses how inequality and insecurity serve to fuel populism of all kinds. Frank Graves analyzes how one definition of populism is viewed in Canada - finding that a majority of supporters of all parties are open to a message which incorporates populist themes from across the political spectrum. And John Herrman examines how the U.S.' most reactionary elements are trying to brand themselves as "alternative" in order to tap into anti-establishment sentiment.

- Lisa Windsteiger writes about the connection between shrinking social circles and growing inequality. And Jay Pitter points out how the Grenfell Tower tragedy could have been prevented if anybody near power had any interest in listening to people living in social housing.

- Finally, Clothilde Goujard highlights Naomi Klein's warning that Canada shouldn't mistake Justin Trudeau for a progressive leader - whether due to his own PR machine, or due to the contrast against Donald Trump. And Althia Raj reports on Trudeau's laughable claim that the MPs who did the work of studying potential electoral systems to blame for listening to Canadians in making recommendations rather than reading his mind as to the lone self-serving change he'd accept.

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Collapsed cats.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your Monday reading.

- Greg Leiseron discusses why the abject failure of Kansas' anti-social experiment with trickle-down economics shouldn't have come as a surprise to anybody:
Claims of supply-side growth from labor income tax cuts rely on the idea that people will be more willing to work when their after-tax wages are higher. This theory posits that labor income tax cuts result in growth because people who could increase their earnings choose not to because tax rates are too high, but it does not take much to see why cutting tax rates for middle- and higher-income families does not create jobs through this mechanism. Middle- and higher-income families already have jobs, even if they are not the jobs they necessarily want.

Claims of supply-side growth from tax cuts on business profits rely on the idea that those cuts will increase the level of investment and that, in turn, will increase productivity. Under this theory, a tax cut on business profits could increase employment by spurring investment, increasing wages, and attracting people into the labor force who are not willing to take a job at current wage rates. For this theory to work, however, it would need to be the case that cutting statutory business tax rates would meaningfully reduce the effective tax rate on an incremental investment such that the tax cut causes businesses to increase investment. Second, it would need to be the case that the reduced tax rate causes businesses to increase investment in a way that increases the wages they would be willing to pay to people who currently choose not to work because wages are too low. Third, it would need to be the case that this increase in wages would be large enough to spur people who currently choose not to work to enter the labor force and seek jobs. And finally, the deficits resulting from the tax cuts would need to be small enough that they increase businesses’ cost of capital by less than the reduction resulting from the lower tax rate, as a higher cost of capital would cause businesses to reduce investment rather than increase it.

These conditions are highly unlikely to hold in practice. Businesses already pay relatively little tax on the incremental return from investments in tangible capital due to tax benefits such as accelerated depreciation and interest deductibility, and they often pay no tax—or even receive a tax subsidy—on marginal investments in intangible capital. Moreover, reducing the statutory tax rate on business income actually increases the effective tax rate on debt-financed investment, which is a common source of financing for investments in tangible capital because businesses deduct interest payments from taxable income.
- Jonathan Rauch makes the case for conservatives to support collective bargaining to ensure that social stability is possible - rather than seeking to undermine labour at every turn as right-wing parties are currently wont to do. And Stephen Tweedale comments on the value of card check certification to give effect to workers' rights to organize and bargain collectively.

- CTV reports on the limits of capital's interest in a market with full information, as Montreal landlords are complaining about tenants sharing information about the rent they're paying. And Jonathan Garber examines how markets have been consistently - and systematically - off the mark in their estimates of something as basic as bond rates.

- Rob Ferguson reports on Ontario's long-overdue limitation on employer sick note requirements - which is actually meeting little objection even from employers themselves.

- Andrew Jackson examines the relationship between increasing rents and inequality in making cities unaffordable for all but the most privileged workers.

- Finally, Morna Ballantyne writes that Ontario's latest child care announcement represents a significant step forward compared to what the federal government has on offer.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Lana Payne writes that austerity bears much of the blame for the Grenfell Tower inferno - as well as for the increased dangers facing all but the wealthiest of people:
Grenfell Tower was not an accident. It is what happens when austerity becomes entrenched government ideology.

Grenfell Tower is the tragic consequence of an economic system that no longer works for most people, but instead fuels inequality and greed.

Grenfell Tower is the tragic consequence of government indifference and arrogance and, yes, even contempt for those struggling to make ends meet every single day, working multiple jobs and still unable to move up the so-called mobility ladder.

It has nothing to do with how hard they work, because for the most part they work too much and too hard, and yet the system is stacked against them. And then governments, acting on behalf of the few rather than the many, make those circumstances worse. They push a university or college education out of reach. They slash and burn and cut back on all the programs that allow people to have a chance at a better life. And they do it while slashing taxes for the rich and global corporations.

And then they cave to the lobbies that complain that health and safety regulations are red tape.
- And Oolong argues that austerity is best viewed as today's form of human sacrifice in the name of a false religion.

- Erika Shaker examines the spread of precarious work in Ontario's education sector (as well as in the broader economy).

- Nora Loreto points out how Canada's big banks are raking in billions in profits while slashing jobs - and wonders why reporting on one of those facts seldom mentions the other. And Tom Murphy discusses how multinational corporations are lobbying to sneak implicit approval for tax evasion into the UN's sustainable development goals.

- Meanwhile, Noah Smith observes that decades of corporate giveaways have been rewarded with a decline in business investment in the U.S.

- Finally, Thomas Walkom highlights how Justin Trudeau is following in Stephen Harper's footsteps by expanding an unaccountable security state at the expense of Canadians' privacy. Jeremy Nuttall points out how the Libs have broken their promises on access to information. And Kelly McParland writes that broken promises and sudden reversals represent the main theme of Trudeau's stay in power.