Saturday, August 12, 2017

On banked support

A couple of weeks back, I examined the role of endorsements in the federal NDP's leadership race. Now, I'll take a quick look at where the current fund-raising numbers and distribution stand - and how they figure to relate to the NDP's previous leadership campaigns.

The closest comparison to this campaign is of course the 2012 leadership race. There, the final fund-raising totals for the candidates who stayed in the race ranged from Niki Ashton's $86,806.70 (from 1,163 contributors) to Tom Mulcair's $522,788.00 (from 3,482 contributors). And the contributor numbers ranged from Ashton's 1,163 to Martin Singh's 7,965. 

But of course, the final numbers weren't known when people actually voted. And there were some noteworthy changes over the home stretch of the campaign: Mulcair overtook Brian Topp as the top fund-raiser after trailing in the previous quarterly report, while Singh drastically increased his number of donors even while raising relatively little compared to the pre-convention numbers.

In general, total donations proved to be a strong indicator of voting support. (In contrast, donor numbers were far less reliable, with Singh's total serving as the obvious outlier.)

The connection between donations and votes was even stronger in the 2003 campaign: then, every candidate's vote share was within 1.5% of his or her fund-raising share. So there's certainly some precedent to suggest that NDP vote totals may closely track donations.

What's more, as I've noted, the connection between fund-raising and voting outcomes could be stronger this time out since there's far more room to convert an advantage in fund-raising capacity into campaign outcomes. 

In 2012, it's possible that Mulcair in particular could have raised more than he did. But a $500,000 spending limit provided him with no particular incentive to raise substantially more than that amount. 

In contrast, with the spending limit tripled this time around, the ability to raise more money can lead to a far stronger campaign operation. And with candidates needing to reach voters over multiple separate voting windows, a campaign's financial resources may be particularly crucial when members make their final decision.

So how much attention should we pay to fund-raising - particularly when it may conflict with some other normally-reliable indicators?

Since this time there actually is a meaningful difference in how the race projects based on various factors, I'd be surprised if the first ballot doesn't end up somewhere in the middle. 

We certainly shouldn't look at the 2003 precedent and assume Jagmeet Singh's vote share will match his proportion of funds raised, particularly given the poll results released so far. But nor should we ignore either the importance of Singh's fund-raising lead as an indicator of support, or his ability to use donations to change the course of the campaign. And that advantage may be especially important if the race comes down to the wire. 

Leadership 2017 Links

The latest from the federal NDP leadership campaign as the August 17 membership deadline approaches. (And for those wondering, it's possible to both check one's membership status and sign up online.)

- Kyle Duggan reports on a new Mainstreet poll showing Charlie Angus with a substantial lead among identified members - confirming where the candidates appear to rank among existing members, but raising the question of whether new members might change the picture on the first ballot.

- On the endorsement front, Angus' labour endorsements reflect a noteworthy grouping of support. And all of the candidates have announced support among current or former politicians, including Eugene Kostyra and Jennifer Howard for Angus; Raymond Cote, Joe Comartin and Georgina Jolibois for Niki Ashton; Anne Minh Thu Quach, Howard Hampton and Peter Tabuns for Guy Caron; and Brian Masse, Tracey Ramsey and a bevy of Ontario MPPs for Jagmeet Singh.

- Caron has unveiled his climate justice plan, which notably addresses the international implications of climate change both by planning to recognize climate migrants and by proposing a carbon border adjustment tax. 

- Kristy Kirkup reports that Singh won't plan to run in a byelection if he wins the leadership - which some voters may see as a problem, but which strikes me as having at least as much upside as downside given how important engagement outside of Ottawa is to building a leader's reputation and connecting with the public.

- Charlie Smith discusses the strengthening left across Canada, and theorizes that it might allow Ashton to win with a promise to be our equivalent to Jeremy Corbyn and Bernie Sanders. And Gerard Di Trolio interviews Ashton about her goals as leader.

- Nora Loreto offers her take on what she hopes to see from the candidates in order to succeed in Quebec.

- Finally, Tom Parkin makes his case to ensure that the disagreements between the candidates stay clean and civil. But I would take issue with where he draws the line - as the debate over how social programs should be structured is surely a legitimate one (particularly on the part of candidates merely defending party policy).

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.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Musical interlude

Greg Benz - The Depths

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Noah Smith offers a reminder that market principles don't work for everything. And Amelie Quesnel-Vallee and Miles Taylor note that in the health sector in particular, the use of private providers to supplement an underfunded public system is leading to inequitable disparities in accessibility.

- Andrew Jackson challenges the Bank of Canada's decision to focus on reducing future growth at a point when job quality and wages still have ample room (and a desperate need) for improvement. And Richard Wolff argues that while a higher minimum wage is a plus, we ultimately need to address more fundamental imbalances between capital and labour.

- George Eaton points out how the UK Cons' turn toward austerity is set to result in skyrocketing inequality. And Ben Chu reports on new research showing that the income gap is becoming more likely to be locked in between generations.

- Kate McInturff offers some suggestions to promote women's equality in the next federal budget. And Scott Sinclair, Stuart Trew and Hadrian Metrins-Kirkwood list a few options to prioritize in any NAFTA renegotiation.

- Finally, Christopher Cheung reports on the Columbia Institute's study showing that a conversion to green energy would create millions of Canadian construction jobs over the next few decades.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

New column day

Here, on Yvonne Boyer and Judith Bartlett's report (PDF) on how Indigenous women were pushed toward tubal ligations within the Saskatoon Health Region - and how the now-departing Brad Wall bears responsibility to decide whether the system discrimination they identified will be dealt with.

For further reading...
- I've previously linked to the Star's editorial on the shameful forced sterilizations. And Colby Cosh has also weighed in, while the Canadian Press reported on federal Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett's response.
- Postmedia reported on the initial response from Dustin Duncan and Wall when the issue first surfaced.
- CBC reported on the ongoing amalgamation of Saskatchewan's health regions.
- Meanwhile, examples of the Saskatchewan Party's attitude toward First Nations can be found in their messages on resource revenue sharing. 
- Finally, Jennifer Ackerman reports on the Saskatchewan NDP's call for Wall to follow through on a promised apology for the Sixties Scoop - and Wall's demurral.

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- David Leonhardt looks at the glaring growth of inequality in the U.S., while Matt Bruening charts how that trend is based entirely on capital ownership. And in the face of the Republicans' plan for another round of giveaways to the rich, the New York Times' editorial board discusses what tax reform could (and should) mean.

- Torsten Bell argues that the 2007 financial crisis represented a lost opportunity to build an economy that works for workers. And Ann Pettifor laments that the political response to a global financial crisis was limited to lining the pockets of the wealthy, while reminding us that people ultimately hold the power to set the terms of market operations:
In the real economy, those who do not own and rent out income-earning assets like rental property, bonds (government debt), stocks and shares (that earn dividends) have become poorer, and inequality has rocketed. To raise incomes many have joined the rentier economy by renting out their homes (Airbnb) their cars (Uber, Lyft) or bikes (Deliveroo and other couriers). This is an extraordinary development. Workers invest in the ownership, maintenance and insurance of the capital asset (the home, car or cycle) – while the rentier class based in Silicon Valley, having invested in, borrowed or stolen open source software, almost effortlessly extract rent from the worker and her asset. It is these developments that in my view have led to the dramatic rise in inequality worldwide.
So what is to be done? Challenging and dismantling gargantuan financial markets that operate beyond democratic regulatory oversight will not be easy, but it is long overdue. Some believe that the management of financial markets by governments will never be restored. I do not agree. Because of global imbalances, economic and financial tensions could lead to the onset of wars. These could dismantle global financial markets just as the two world wars did.

There is a more peaceful way of restoring finance to the role of servant to, and not master of, economies and regions. For that to happen the public must realise that citizens can exercise economic power over global financial markets. The global ‘House of Finance’ is almost entirely dependent, and indeed largely parasitic, on the public sector. In other words, private finance is largely dependent for its capital gains on taxpayers like you and me.

Neither politicians nor mainstream economists will hold the out-of-control finance sector to account until citizens make that case. The people must lead, so that leaders can follow. We must use the powers of taxpayer-backed central banks and finance ministries to demand a transformation of the global financial system. If our demands are ignored, then we must demand the withdrawal of massive subsidies provided to the private finance sector by our publicly-financed and taxpayer-backed institutions.

Nothing less will do if we are serious about creating an economy that works for people and the planet.
- Andrea Bellemare reports on the ubiquity of Airbnb and other short-term rental services - and how they're leading to needed rental housing being diverted to the app market. And James McCandless points out the end result of anti-government zealotry run amok by writing about the failed libertarian experiment in Von Ormy, Texas.

- Kristian Foden-Vencil discusses the importance of social factors in affecting individual health.

- Finally, Susan Delacourt examines personal examples of people changing their minds on some of the big issues in Canadian politics.

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Linda McQuaig makes the case as to why any NAFTA renegotiation needs to focus on workers' rights:
NAFTA has been key to the transformation of Canada over the last two decades, enabling corporations to become ever more dominant economically and politically, while rendering our labour force increasingly vulnerable and insecure.

Indeed, the much-lamented rise in income inequality and feelings of powerlessness among working Canadians aren’t mysterious consequences of participating in the global economy. Rather, they’re the predictable consequences of our country signing a trade deal that greatly empowers corporations and their investors at the expense of everyone else.
ISDS, which has now been adopted in other international trade deals, has created an extraordinary set of legal rights for corporate investors. “If anyone doesn’t need to be protected it’s these guys,” notes Toronto trade lawyer Steven Shrybman.

Yet “these guys” enjoy legal protections much stronger than the protections available, for instance, under international human rights laws — for victims of torture and wrongful imprisonment.

Furthermore, NAFTA gives corporations rights — but no responsibilities, Van Harten says. Governments can’t bring a claim against a corporation for breaching NAFTA, and affected individuals and groups have no right to standing at the tribunals.

Indeed, NAFTA provides few rights for citizens or workers to counter all this corporate power, only “side deals” on labour and the environment that are weak and largely unenforceable.
The NAFTA renegotiation should be an opportunity to revise the trade deal to include rights for workers and citizens, not just corporate investors.
- Meanwhile, Jessica Elgot discusses a UK push to develop organized bargaining structures for self-employed workers.

- Andy Beckett traces how both of the UK's main parties have come around to recognizing the dangers of unfettered corporate control. And Matt Bruenig comments on the need to confront capital in order to rein in inequality.

- Trish Audette-Longo points out Greenpeace's work documenting the track record of pipeline operators - who are regularly spilling while demanding approvals for new projects based on their supposed concern about safety. And Damian Carrington reports on new research showing how the effects of climate change will be extremely dangerous even for healthy people. 

- Finally, Jerry Dias writes that it's time to call out Brad Wall as a liar for his deception about Saskatchewan's Crown corporations. John Conway explores what's become of the CCF's plans for public ownership as a central aspect of economic development. And Pamela Cowan discusses Saskatchewan's persistent racial divide.

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Cuddle-seeking cats.

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Noah Smith makes the case for the U.S. Democrats to emphasize trust-busting as a means of restoring power to people rather than the business lobby:
Big companies often argue that mergers will allow increased economies of scale, whose efficiencies will more than cancel out any price rise from increased market power. Corporate acquirers hire expensive consultants to make that case to regulators -- the Chicago school means big money for economists willing to theorize that bigger equals better. But that idea runs counter to the basic theory of market power, which warns that when companies get dominant enough in their industry they raise prices and cut production. That tends to hurt economic efficiency, while simultaneously gouging consumers.

Evidence is piling up that the basic econ theory holds true more often than not. Economists Bruce Blonigen and Justin Pierce, for example, found that mergers tend to increase prices and profits without boosting productivity. In an era where outsourcing to low-cost countries has held prices down for many consumer goods, most Americans may not notice the creeping effects of oligopoly, but they are there nonetheless.

And economists are also starting to realize that industrial concentration may harm the economy in other ways as well. The Democrats’ new plan recognizes that big dominant companies may act not just as monopolists but as monopsonists as well, squeezing suppliers while increasing inefficiency. And research by top labor economists suggests that the profits of quasi-monopolists come out of the pockets of American workers in the form of stagnant or falling wages. The rise of big market players may even play a role in the declining rate of startup formation. Industrial concentration, in other words, might be one of the big culprits in U.S. economic sclerosis.

So it’s good that Democrats are trying to resurrect Teddy Roosevelt’s trust-busting crusade. The trend toward big dominant companies has been allowed to go on too long. A more competitive, dynamic economy would benefit American consumers, workers and small businesses alike.
- Meanwhile, David Penado interviews Ann Pettifor about the political power held by bankers rather than voters. And John Light exposes the Republicans' attempt to prevent authorities from enforcing what few laws still limit the influence of secret corporate money in U.S. politics.

- Kate Aronoff interviews Naomi Klein about the dangers of politics based on corporate branding rather than movement-building, while Bernd Riexinger writes about the importance of connective political parties. And Ian Welsh discusses the dangers of trying to rely on people's vices to shape incentives, rather than treating people with kindness and respect.

- Finally, Katharine Schmidt and Michael Maidment write that food banks are taking over the function of providing social supports which should be guaranteed by government. And the Star's editorial board laments the fact that Ontario's supposed plan toward improved accessibility has gone dark - both in terms of accomplishing little, and preventing advocates from seeking out information.

Monday, August 07, 2017

Leadership 2017 Links

The latest from the federal NDP's leadership campaign.

- Peter Zimonjic, Katie Derosa and the Canadian Press each offered coverage of the Victoria debate.

- Charlie Angus unveiled Christine Moore's endorsement, providing him with some potentially crucial Quebec francophone support. Ryan Maloney examined Niki Ashton's racial justice plan. Fair Vote Canada compared the candidates' positions on electoral reform. And Kristy Kirkup offered a look at how the mainstream media is seeing the respective platforms - though there's lots more on the table than she addresses in her report.

- Campbell Clark sees Jagmeet Singh's focus being on expansion rather than the NDP's existing base. And Tim Harper theorizes that people questioning Singh sound similar to those who doubted Justin Trudeau in the course of his leadership campaign - though that comparison may not be a positive for Singh given how Trudeau has disappointed progressive Canadians on policy.

- Finally, Charlie Smith offered his take as to who the Libs and Cons prefer (and fear) out of the NDP's options. And CBC's Pollcast examined the state of the race.

Monday Morning Links

Assorted content to start your week.

- Paul Buchheit discusses the U.S.' combination of increasing inequality, systematic tax evasion and false promises of social mobility. Michael Savage reports that even UK Cons are recognizing that a refusal to ensure that the rich pay their fair share makes for bad politics. And Steven Klees highlights how full funding for the U.N.'s Sustainable Development Goals is well within our means as long as the wealthy pay their fair share:
Wealthy countries need to honor the commitment, made in 1970 and repeated ever since, to allocate 0.7% of GDP toward ODA. While a few countries already do this, most fall far short. Just by keeping past promises, wealthy countries could close the education-funding gap – and cover all of the other SDGs’ financing needs, too. The Education Commission, by contrast, lets wealthy countries off the hook, by asking them to commit just 0.5% of GDP to ODA, and not until 2030.

Second, we need a global approach to taxation. As my colleague and I point out in a report for the Education Commission, corporate-tax reforms could eliminate tax avoidance and evasion, which are costing the global economy more than $600 billion every year. To achieve the needed reforms, we need to increase the UN’s capacity instead of relying on the OECD, which has proposed only minor changes. 

We also need to institute a global wealth tax, as economist Thomas Piketty has proposed. It is obscene that the world’s eight richest people hold as much wealth as the poorest 50%. Like corporate-tax reform and fulfilling past promises to fund ODA, a 1% global wealth tax could finance all of the SDGs combined.
- Meanwhile, Gillian Tett examines the close correlation between financial deregulation and outsized pay for bankers. Paul La Monica notes that workers generally are still seeing little benefit from increased economic activity due to sluggish wages. And Ben Doherty writes about the gross exploitation of migrant farm workers in Australia.

- Gabriel Yiu discusses how the B.C. Libs handed profitable parts of ICBC over the private sector while reducing revenue from luxury cars for their own political purposes - providing an indication of the road map the Wall government seems all too likely to follow in Saskatchewan.

- John Abraham reports on new research showing that dirty fossil fuels are being implicitly subsidized at a cost of trillions of dollars annually - or roughly 6.5% of global GDP.

- Finally, Kapil Khimdas and Danyaal Raza write that a focus on genuinely putting patients first - particularly through preventative care and a prioritization of needs - can lead to far better health outcomes.

Sunday, August 06, 2017

Leadership 2017 Candidate Rankings - August 6

I've thus far held off on doing candidate rankings for the federal NDP leadership campaign - and may not end up updating them weekly as I have in past campaigns. But for now, let's put together a first set - as always, intended to reflect my impressions as to the relative likelihood of each candidate winning the leadership election (and not my own preferences between them).

I'll note as well that while the voting process is a new one for the NDP, the campaigns will need to consider how it will affect their choices as we approach the voting period.

My suspicion is that most members will again submit a full preferential ballot during the first voting window. So any inclination for one candidate's supporters to systematically support another will be an important consideration.

But the time between ballots will also give candidates far more opportunity to persuade possible down-ballot supporters than existed in previous campaigns. A candidate will obviously be better off with enough organization resources to identify and reach specific target voters, but the increased media attention between rounds of voting will give whoever's on the ballot some chance to reach undecided voters.

And so at this point, each of the candidates seems to have a plausible path to victory. But here's where I see the candidates standing for now...

1. Jagmeet Singh

I have my doubts that the candidates' vote totals will necessarily map as closely to fund-raising as they have in the past. But Singh's massive advantage in that department (along with his campaign organization) looks to signal both a strong first-ballot showing, and the ability to reach voters if multiple ballots are needed.

The crucial variable for Singh thus figures to be the presence of a pool of persuadable voters to make up any difference between his first-ballot results and a majority of voters. And he has made a smart move on that front by speaking positively of Guy Caron's economic plan, positioning himself as an alternative option for policy-oriented members.

2. Charlie Angus

Angus is the other front-runner for the moment, ranking near the top in every poll and fund-raising list. And his combination of stature within the NDP and comfort in a campaign setting makes him a plausible magnet for enough down-ballot support to emerge victorious if he's within striking distance to start with.

But it's not certain that Angus will be able to convert as many votes as he needs to if he has a substantial gap to make up.

In particular, he's positioned himself as comparatively favourable toward pipelines, creating the possibility that environment-focused voters in other camps might drop him to the bottom of a list - or at least choose not to cast a later ballot for him. And while he's been able to win some Quebec support, his French doesn't look to have improved enough to persuade members who see the ability to persuade Quebec voters as a prerequisite for a national leader.

3. Niki Ashton

Assuming that Singh and Angus are indeed in front of the pack, Ashton and Caron face the twin challenges of trying to stay on the ballot against the other, while needing to win over a disproportionate share of the other's supporters in order to have some realistic prospect of challenging the front-runners.

The most obvious way for that to happen would be for the two to arrange a mutual support pact - which would need to be set up early enough to influence voters from the beginning of the voting period. But there's no indication the two are that closely aligned at this point.

That said, Ashton does look to be able to appeal to Caron voters on multiple fronts, including her presentation in Quebec and her orientation toward progressive economic policy. So her lead in past polling and fund-raising places her ahead of Caron for now.

On a final ballot, Ashton's rural roots and populist message would give her plenty in common with many of Angus' core supporters if she ends up matched up against Singh. And while she'd have a more difficult time finding useful approaches to voters if Singh were to drop off the ballot, she might be able to portray her movement politics as a match with Singh's growth message.

4. Guy Caron

Yet Caron too looks to have a reasonable prospect of running the table - particularly if he's able to get ahead of Ashton on the first ballot.

With Singh largely seen as the candidate of the NDP establishment and Angus positioning himself toward the centre of the spectrum, members who responded to Ashton's social-movement theme could plausibly line up behind Caron as a second option. And if Singh and Angus each spend the balance of the campaign challenging the other for position at the top of the ballot, Caron could well emerge as the preferred choice among supporters of whichever falls off the ballot first.

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- The Center for Economic Performance finds (PDF) that increased inequality and concentration among firms in an industry exacerbates disparities in wealth while putting downward pressure on wages. And Frank Partnoy warns that we may be headed for another financial crisis as loan obligations are again being repackaged as being far safer than they actually are.

- Sally Guy reviews Danielle Martin's Better Now as an important reminder of the value of universal public social programs. But Ruth Lopert and Steve Morgan offer a warning that the U.S.' plans for NAFTA include preventing Canada from building the national pharmacare program we want and deserve.

- Meanwhile, Cory Coleman reports that seniors with disabilities are the latest Saskatchewan residents to feel the brunt of the Saskatchewan Party's austerity. And Sarah Shartal points out the plight of Ontarians with disabilities who are similarly being left behind by their provincial government.

- The Saskatchewan Federation of Labour notes that Brad Wall has taken the unprecedented step of rejecting a labour nominee to the Saskatchewan Labour Relations Board.

- Bengt Petersson, Rodrigo Mariscal and Kotaro Ishi study how women's participation in the workforce is crucial for Canada's economic success. And Lana Payne discusses the need for more women in politics - particularly in leadership roles.

- Finally, Shannon Gormley rightly wonders why any politician - let alone the entirety of the Libs and Cons - would have any trouble accepting the general principle that we shouldn't sell arms to human rights abusers. And Yves Engler points out that the Libs are similarly backing corporate human rights abuses by Canadian mining firms operating around the world.