Saturday, July 29, 2017

Leadership 2017 Links

The latest from the federal NDP's leadership campaign.

- Alex Ballingall reports on Guy Caron's infrastructure and jobs plan which features both a large investment in public works, and substantial improvements in both wages and working conditions under federal jurisdiction.

- Thomas Walkom criticizes Singh's plan to roll Old Age Security into a means-tested benefit. And Stephen Tweedale responds to Walkom directly, then takes a more general look at the politics and economics of universal vs. targeted programs (while recognizing that a fully functional social safety net requires a mix of both).

- Niki Ashton has released her proposals to pursue racial justice - which are noteworthy both in their details, and in being presented to explicitly connect multiple forms of current discrimination as a single issue demanding a response. 

- Charlie Angus writes about the importance of having a party which is both built on a foundation of internal democracy, and oriented toward organizing the unorganized. And Nora Loreto examines the connection between social movements and political parties, while noting (with a particular focus on Singh and Ashton) that movement activists may need to focus on different types of roles depending on the outcome of the leadership campaign.

- Erin Weir takes note of the Libs' plan to close a few tax loopholes for incorporated professionals, and encourages the leadership candidates to keep the NDP in a leadership role in pushing for tax fairness.

- Finally, Kristy Kirkup writes about the candidates' push to sign up supporters as the August 17 membership deadline approaches.

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Mariana Valverde examines how P3 schemes are putting financiers in charge of deciding what public infrastructure to build, while leaving future generations of citizens with massive bills to pay. And the Star Phoenix' editorial board rightly warns Brad Wall against selling off Saskatchewan's public assets - no matter proud his mentor and political appointee Grant Devine is of having done the same.

- Meanwhile, in light of Wall's sudden admission that Devine's judgment is exactly what he wants to put in charge of Saskatchewan institutions, Tammy Robert offers a thorough reminder of Devine's legacy of scandal and destruction - along with the sordid background to his new appointment.

- The Star's editorial board reviews and endorses the case for a $15 minimum wage due to its economic and social benefits. Damin Starr offers an employer perspective on why fair wages make for better business. And Carolyn Egan discusses the work organized labour is doing - and needs to continue - to ensure a reasonable living for all workers.

- Sam Morgan points out a new report showing the health costs of fossil fuel use - and the subsidies which serve only to force the public to pay even more to address the effects of dirty energy.

- Finally, Steven Chase and Robert Fife report that to the surprise only of a government whose export review process was based on wilful blindness and laughable assurances, military vehicles sold to an abusive Saudi regime are being used to abuse human rights.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Musical interlude

Fluke - Atom Bomb

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Joseph Stiglitz offers a reminder that tax giveaways to the rich and the corporate sector accomplish zero - or worse - when it comes to economic development:
If corporate tax reform happens at all, it will be a hodge-podge brokered behind closed doors. More likely is a token across-the-board tax cut: the losers will be future generations, out-lobbied by today’s avaricious moguls, the greediest of whom include those who owe their fortunes to scummy activities, like gambling.

The sordidness of all of this will be sugarcoated with the hoary claim that lower tax rates will spur growth. There is simply no theoretical or empirical basis for this, especially in countries like the US, where most investment (at the margin) is financed by debt and interest is tax deductible. The marginal return and marginal cost are reduced proportionately, leaving investment largely unchanged. In fact, a closer look, taking into account accelerated depreciation and the effects on risk sharing, shows that lowering the tax rate likely reduces investment. 

Small countries are the sole exception, because they can pursue beggar-thy-neighbor policies aimed at poaching corporations from their neighbors. But global growth is largely unchanged – the distributive effects actually impede it slightly – as one gains at the expense of the other. (And this assumes that the other does not respond and fuel a race to the bottom.) 

In a country with so many problems – especially inequality – tax cuts for rich corporations will not solve any of them. This is a lesson for all countries contemplating corporate tax breaks – even those without the misfortune of being led by a callow, craven plutocrat.
- Meanwhile, George Monbiot points out how trade deals too are leaving us worse off even in terms of raw economic outcomes. And Michael Brune and Leo Gerard write about the popular demand for trade rules and other policy choices which aren't biased toward corporate interests.

- Melinda Anderson discusses how the myth of meritocracy can lead poorer children to lash out and give up. And Dawn Foster wonders why there isn't more outcry over the reality of children needlessly going hungry.

- Finally, Andrew Longhurst offers some suggestions for B.C.'s new NDP government to improve citizens' health. And Jordan Press reports on a new IMF study showing that an $8 billion annual investment in a national Canadian child care program would pay for itself.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

New column day

Here, on why we should be skeptical of Donald Trump's NAFTA demands - and why it should be willing to walk away from the table if it's not possible to push for dramatic improvements to what's being offered.

For further reading:
- The U.S.' list of negotiating objectives is here (PDF). Canada's is apparently nonexistent.
- Again, Scott Sinclair, Stuart Trew and Hadrian Mertins-Kirkwood have examined the U.S.' demands. Pierre Laliberte and Sinclair have analyzed how little Canada stands to gain from maintaining NAFTA even in its current form as compared to multilateral trade rules.
- Simon Lester describes the dispute resolution mechanisms current found in NAFTA. And Patrick LeBlond notes the significance of Chapter 19 in particular - though it's also telling which areas are subject to neutral and substantial decision-making bodies and which ones aren't. 
- Finally,  the International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Develoment discusses the recent CAFTA decision which saw Guatemala's failure to protect workers from employer reprisals go unremedied because it didn't sufficiently affect trade.

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Dennis Howlett writes that a properly designed and fair tax system can reduce inequality both by ensuring support for the people with the least, and ensuring that the people capable of contributing the most actually do so:
We need to tackle inequality at both ends of the income scale. Everyone, even the rich, benefits from a more equal society with better population health, reduced crime, better educational and employment opportunities, and a more vigorous economy.

Recent progressive income tax reforms can only do so much. That’s because our tax system continues to be riddled by unfair and ineffective tax loopholes that allow the wealthy to avoid paying anything close to the top marginal rate on much of their income.

And we don’t have any real tax on wealth (as opposed to income). The Alternative Federal Budget 2017 (link is external), which CPJ and Canadians for Tax Fairnes (C4TF) have contributed to, proposed that the federal government tax wealth by introducing a minimum inheritance tax of 45 per cent on estates valued above $5 million. This would net an estimated $2 billion annually in new revenues.

C4TF has identified over $16 billion in unfair and ineffective tax loopholes that should be closed. The most egregious ones include the Stock Options Deduction, the Capital Gains Deduction, and the Business Entertainment Tax Deduction.

On the other end of the income scale, Canada’s tax system is also able to transfer benefits to low-income Canadians in a very efficient way. It has reduced poverty among seniors and families with children. But we still have high levels of poverty in Canada and we need to do much more.
More than 12 per cent of working- age Canadians live in relative poverty. Provincial minimum wages and social assistance rates fall far below the poverty line. While child and senior poverty has been the focus of government anti-poverty initiatives in recent years, very little attention has been given to addressing working age poverty. The federal government has some tools available that could tackle this problem. A very cost effective and efficient way to deliver benefits to many low-income Canadians would be to boost the GST/HST credit. This benefit now costs about $4 billion. C4TF recommends doubling this amount for an additional expenditure of $4 billion a year. All of these enhancements to current programs would cost about $6 billion a year. They could easily be funded by closing some of the $16 billion of unfair and ineffective tax loopholes.
- Stephen Roach writes that people are increasingly skeptical of globalization in a form which restricts any benefit to a privileged few. And Daniel Boffey reports on the disproportionate role the UK and the Netherlands play in providing conduits to offshore tax evasion.

- Meanwhile, Max Lawson points out that states including Namibia, Malawi and Mongolia are putting the rest of the world to shame in their policy choices to rein in inequality. 

- Christine Saulnier and Tammy Findlay examine how to develop a universal child care system in Nova Scotia. And Raisa Deber discusses what we should fund through a universal medicare system - including plenty of services not yet included in Canada's system, but not unnecessary procedures which are all too often covered by the public dime.

- Finally, Aurangzeb Qureshi asks how we can give CSIS a blank cheque with the rights of all Canadians when it can't even avoid gross discrimination against its own employees.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Louis-Philippe Rochon discusses the need for monetary policy to be better coordinated with fiscal policy to ensure both sustainable economic growth and a more fair distribution of wealth:
Monetary policy has been a failure. It has failed to encourage growth, as has been plainly obvious in this lost decade, and has been uninspiring. Not many economists dare to speak out against the wisdom of central banks and their inflation targeting quest for fear of being ridiculed or being denied tenure.  But the recent history of central banking reveals an ineffective pursuit of inflation, and at tremendous social costs.

It is time to do three things.
  • First, we need to seriously rethink monetary policy, its purpose and objectives. Is inflation a worthwhile target? If so, is monetary policy an efficient policy tool? My own research is clear: no and no. If that's the case, what role do rates really play? Well, we know they have redistributive properties, so perhaps we should focus on that. Indeed, raising rates will have an impact on wage gains, but also on rentier (money derived from natural resources) income.
  • Second, we need to explore other acceptable objectives. Economic growth, income redistribution and low unemployment are all a good start, but that would imply keeping rates low. To counter possible speculative financial activities, we need robust regulations.
  • Finally, we need to rely much more on fiscal policy and embrace its ability to deliver on economic objectives such as growth and employment. We've had three decades of favouring financial interests. It is time for the pendulum to swing back and  prioritize policies that will deliver wage gains, a higher standard of living for working Canadians, and increased focus on  ecological and environmental concerns.
- Noah Smith discusses the racial discrimination still reflected in U.S. lending policies and wealth distribution. Maia Szalavitz points out how the fundamental attribution error causes people to unduly blame less wealthy people for their circumstances. And Alexandra Mateescu writes that the gig economy is only exacerbating the mistreatment of vulnerable workers.

- Michael Kinnucan highlights the difference between marching and organizing in the pursuit ot social change, while noting that any real improvement depends on the latter.

- Finally, Tammy Robert calls out the Wall government for pretending its own excuse for a climate change program doesn't include substantial public expense. But I'll add the qualification that it's questionable whether the money blown on Boundary Dam reducing emissions, meaning that Wall may simply have us spending billions for no purpose other than to subsidize the oil industry.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Cats at rest.

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Jerry Dias and Dennis Williams write about the fundamental changes which we should be seeking to make to NAFTA in order to ensure that workers' and citizens' interests aren't left out of trade rules:
Meaningful Nafta renegotiation must comprehensively focus on balanced trade that provides real wage growth for American, Canadian and most especially Mexican workers, whose suppressed wages are harmful for all three countries.

A proper trade agreement should eliminate sweetheart provisions that allow corporations to sue governments in secretive tribunals over regulations that protect workers and the environment. It must tackle unfair trade practices like currency manipulation by countries seeking to lower the cost of their exports. Finally, all three countries must step up to the plate and make lasting commitments to invest in infrastructure, crack down on corporations that manipulate tax laws to send jobs overseas and commit to immigration laws that stop businesses from exploiting immigrant workers.
- And Stephen Tapp discusses the need for trade deals to account for inequality - though he focuses unduly on theoretical opportunities which result in a few more people exploiting trade flows, rather than actual outcomes which see broader interests represented.

- Corey Robin comments on the generation of American growing up with a healthy skepticism of capitalist dogma. And Nick Fillmore discusses the need for a stronger socialist movement in Canada.

- The UK's Office of National Statistics examines the effects of "shrinkflation", as corporations reduce the size of what they sell (and concurrently increase the relative amount of waste to product)  in order to avoid being honest about price inflation.

- Finally, Clarine Ostrove writes that all Canadians have an important stake in living up to our responsibilities to Indigenous peoples. Chief Russell Myers Ross highlights the B.C. Libs' deathbed giveaway of mining approvals to a major donor in the face of a public emergency and First Nations opposition as a prime example of disrespect for Indigenous communities. And Rachel Browne rightly points out that the recent suicide crisis among Indigenous children is far from the first - signalling the need for much more than short-term responses.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Monday Morning Links

Assorted content to start your week.

- The Star's editorial board calls for Canada to take its poor ranking among other developed countries as a prod to action in building a more secure and equitable health care system. And Abdullah Shihipar discusses the need for access to dental care in particular.

- Mike Crawley reports on the attempt by Ontario's business lobby to turn modest minimum wage increases into yet another round of corporate tax giveaways. And David Bush sets out a partial timeline of past and present attempts to cry wolf about the viability of wage increases.

- Meanwhile, Sara Mojtehedzadeh and Robert Benzie discuss the need for Ontario to do much more to protect vulnerable workers. And Ethel Tungohan writes about the Libs' choice to keep foreign live-in caregivers in Canada isolated from their families rather than processing permanent residency applications at a reasonable pace.

- The Ontario Association of Food Banks points out the reality of summer hunger (particularly in families which otherwise rely on school meal programs) as a symptom of a broken food system.

- Alex Soloducha reports on the complete lack of support for Saskatchewan fathers seeking shelter with their children. And the Press Association highlights a new study showing the large number of homeless UK children in temporary housing.

- Finally, Michael Savage highlights the UK's growing housing crisis based on a combination of increasing costs and decreasing public support, while Tim Harford zeroes in on the glaring need to build more homes. Likewise, Stephen Quinn points out that Vancouver's latest housing strategy based on laneway houses falls far short of actually ensuring the construction and maintenance of adequate homes for citizens. And Mindy Esser writes about the similar disappearance of affordable rents in Philadelphia due to housing being treated solely as a commodity - and the need for collective action to reverse it.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Leadership 2017 Links

The latest from the federal NDP's leadership campaign.

- Alex Ballingall reports on Niki Ashton's environmental platform which identifies corporate greed as a major obstacle to environmental justice, and proposes a new Crown corporation to ensure public investment in response. Manishna Krishnan examines Jagmeet Singh's plan to end racial profiling, while Doug King comments on the mechanics of fulfilling the promise. And Angella MacEwen offers her take on the debate over universality and means-testing of transfers.

- Bill Tieleman offers his support to Charlie Angus while interviewing Angus about his candidacy. And Helene Laverdiere's endorsement of Singh offers his first Quebec caucus support - and likely ends any question as to whether he'd have trouble making inroads in the NDP's existing caucus.

- L. Ian Macdonald theorizes that the race will come down to Angus and Singh. But it's hard to make sense of his view that Angus is the candidate of continuity while Singh is somehow both the change and establishment candidate - and there would seem to be plenty of ways down-ballot support could end up favouring either of the other candidates.

- Meanwhile, John Ivison figures that Angus is the favourite for now barring a large number of new members signing up to support Singh.

- Finally, Dan Leger writes that while most of the candidates are new to NDP leadership campaigns, some of the choices facing members are familiar. And Eric Grenier notes that the NDP is in a relatively strong position at a time when it's choosing a new leader.

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Martin Lukacs discusses the need for collective action to fight climate change - and the dangers of allowing ourselves to be distracted by calls to focus solely on individual choices:
These pervasive exhortations to individual action — in corporate ads, school textbooks, and the campaigns of mainstream environmental groups, especially in the west — seem as natural as the air we breathe. But we could hardly be worse-served.

While we busy ourselves greening our personal lives, fossil fuel corporations are rendering these efforts irrelevant. The breakdown of carbon emissions since 1988? A hundred companies alone are responsible for an astonishing 71%. You tinker with those pens or that panel; they go on torching the planet.

The freedom of these corporations to pollute – and the fixation on a feeble lifestyle response – is no accident. It is the result of an ideological war, waged over the last 40 years, against the possibility of collective action. Devastatingly successful, it is not too late to reverse it.
Anything resembling a collective check on corporate power has become a target of the elite: lobbying and corporate donations, hollowing out democracies, have obstructed green policies and kept fossil fuel subsidies flowing; and the rights of associations like unions, the most effective means for workers to wield power together, have been undercut whenever possible.

At the very moment when climate change demands an unprecedented collective public response, neoliberal ideology stands in the way. Which is why, if we want to bring down emissions fast, we will need to overcome all of its free-market mantras: take railways and utilities and energy grids back into public control; regulate corporations to phase out fossil fuels; and raise taxes to pay for massive investment in climate-ready infrastructure and renewable energy — so that solar panels can go on everyone’s rooftop, not just on those who can afford it.
If affordable mass transit isn’t available, people will commute with cars. If local organic food is too expensive, they won’t opt out of fossil fuel-intensive super-market chains. If cheap mass produced goods flow endlessly, they will buy and buy and buy. This is the con-job of neoliberalism: to persuade us to address climate change through our pocket-books, rather than through power and politics.

Eco-consumerism may expiate your guilt. But it’s only mass movements that have the power to alter the trajectory of the climate crisis. This requires of us first a resolute mental break from the spell cast by neoliberalism: to stop thinking like individuals.
- Tim Harford argues that part of the public response to the Grenfell Tower tragedy should be to act on the desperate need for more and better-maintained social housing. And Michael Laxer connects the mindset behind the media's dutiful praise of a slapdash set of stairs in Etobicoke to the themes of deregulation and antisocialism that lead to public safety catastrophes.

- Aaron Mate interviews Kerris Cooper about the role of family income in a child's development and future prospects, while also highlighting the potential gains from a more fair income distribution.

- Rob Shaw reports on the precarious state of ICBC after it was used as a cash cow by Christy Clark and her self-serving B.C. Liberals. And Jennifer Ackerman reports that Brad Wall and the Sask Party are determined to similarly suck all the value out of Saskatchewan's Crown Corporations as quickly as they can get away with it - even as the Crowns remain a bright spot both for economic development and public revenue.

- Finally, Anjuli Patil reports on Nova Scotia's move to reverse the privatization of 10 schools due to its belated recognition that P3 schemes did nothing but cost the province money.