Saturday, August 19, 2017

Leadership 2017 Links

The latest from the federal NDP's leadership campaign.

- Bruce Anderson and David Coletto take a look at public perceptions of Canada's political parties. And the relatively small differences in public views of the NDP as compared to the Liberals may offer either a suggestion as to what grounds of distinction appear most open at the moment, or a challenge to the leadership contenders to discuss how they plan to shift public opinion.

- The Canadian Federation of Students offers the candidates' responses on post-secondary education. Arshy Mann examines Niki Ashton's LGBTQ policy proposals. Radio-Canada interviews Guy Caron about his place in the race, including the danger of focusing unduly on fund-raising totals. And Ryan Maloney reports on David Suzuki's endorsement of Charlie Angus.

- Stephen Tweedale offers a thoughtful endorsement of Jagmeet Singh, with a particular emphasis on his income security proposals. And Matthew Green discusses how Singh persuaded him to join a political party, while Jules Sherred offers his view of what the theme of "love and courage" means.

- Meanwhile, Jenn Laura Lee supports Ashton as a transformational voice for youth. And David Heap sees her as an inspiration for members of the progressive movement to re-engage in party politics.

- Aaron Wherry discusses the implications of Singh electing not to move immediately to seek out a seat in the House of Commons if he wins. Molly Kraft comments on the significance of Singh's candidacy - and some responses to it - in determining how inclusive the NDP will be as a party. And Eric Grenier offers some projected numbers as to the candidates' first-ballot placement - and the membership totals Singh would need to bring in to rank at the top.

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Stephen Metcalf discusses the meaning and effect of neoliberalism:
“(N)eoliberalism” is more than a gratifyingly righteous jibe. It is also, in its way, a pair of eyeglasses.

Peer through the lens of neoliberalism and you see more clearly how the political thinkers most admired by Thatcher and Reagan helped shape the ideal of society as a kind of universal market (and not, for example, a polis, a civil sphere or a kind of family) and of human beings as profit-and-loss calculators (and not bearers of grace, or of inalienable rights and duties). Of course the goal was to weaken the welfare state and any commitment to full employment, and – always – to cut taxes and deregulate. But “neoliberalism” indicates something more than a standard rightwing wish list. It was a way of reordering social reality, and of rethinking our status as individuals.
Still peering through the lens, you see how, no less than the welfare state, the free market is a human invention. You see how pervasively we are now urged to think of ourselves as proprietors of our own talents and initiative, how glibly we are told to compete and adapt. You see the extent to which a language formerly confined to chalkboard simplifications describing commodity markets (competition, perfect information, rational behaviour) has been applied to all of society, until it has invaded the grit of our personal lives, and how the attitude of the salesman has become enmeshed in all modes of self-expression.

In short, “neoliberalism” is not simply a name for pro-market policies, or for the compromises with finance capitalism made by failing social democratic parties. It is a name for a premise that, quietly, has come to regulate all we practise and believe: that competition is the only legitimate organising principle for human activity.
What began as a new form of intellectual authority, rooted in a devoutly apolitical worldview, nudged easily into an ultra-reactionary politics. What can’t be quantified must not be real, says the economist, and how do you measure the benefits of the core faiths of the enlightenment – namely, critical reasoning, personal autonomy and democratic self-government? When we abandoned, for its embarrassing residue of subjectivity, reason as a form of truth, and made science the sole arbiter of both the real and the true, we created a void that pseudo-science was happy to fill.

The authority of the professor, the reformer, the legislator or the jurist does not derive from the market, but from humanistic values such as public spiritedness, conscience or the longing for justice. Long before the Trump administration started demeaning them, such figures had been drained of salience by an explanatory scheme that can’t explain them. Surely there is a connection between their growing irrelevance and the election of Trump, a creature of pure whim, a man without the principles or conviction to make for a coherent self. A man without a mind, who represents the total absence of reason, is running the world; or at least ruining it. As a Manhattan real estate wiseguy, though, Trump, hey – he knows what he knows: that his sins have yet to be punished in the marketplace.
- Meanwhile, David Graeber writes that the recent push toward austerian politics and bubble economics is creating another private debt crisis.

- Lana Payne highlights the need for collective action to counter racism and hate. And Meghan Brophy interviews Tony Pecinovsky about his work building a workers' centre in St. Louis modeled on the cooperative education institutions of the early 20th century.

- Susan McReynolds talks to Alison Ronson about Canada's subpar protection for land and fresh water compared to other developed countries. And the CP reports that the damage wrought by tar sands tailings ponds is under investigation by NAFTA's environmental commission.

- Finally, Betty Ann Adam writes that after ten years of policy which regularly imposed disproportionate burdens on Indigenous people and communities, it's too late for Brad Wall to paper over his divisions with a one-time apology for the Sixties Scoop.

Musical interlude

Salvatore Ganaccia - Rocket Science

Friday, August 18, 2017

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Leo Gerard calls for an end to trade deals designed to favour the wealthy at the expense of everybody else. And Rick Salutin writes that NAFTA can't reasonably be seen as anything but:
(N)o matter how many numbers Freeland plucks to show the economy’s mighty growth in the free trade years, in those same years, most people’s lives have hardened: income stagnated; infrastructure declined; universities became debt traps — the growth was distributed entirely upward. This is politically toxic.

She said Monday, “Too many working people feel abandoned by the 21st century global economy, and have voted accordingly.” So, “We must share the fruits of trade ...” It’s “the all-important, connecting piece, the tie between free trade and equitable domestic policy … They need to advance together.”

This is not irrational, it’s just impossible. Why? Because the whole purpose of the deals was to undercut the gains of the majority, who’d benefitted since the Second World War, by shifting jobs to poorer places (like Mexico) so as to extract concessions and raise profits. Why would those who backed the deals for those reasons, give that up? Using trade deals to benefit everyone is a nice idea but, like that spider, it’s not their nature. You’re trying to reengineer their souls.
- Jeremy Nuttall explores how younger workers have been left out of any economic growth. And Angella MacEwen points out that businesses have plenty of room to offer higher wages rather than focusing solely on short-term shareholder payouts.

- Noah Smith offers a thorough set of suggestions to build a stronger and more equitable U.S. economy - with more progressive taxes and stronger social programs playing vital roles.

- But Robin Shaban highlights how the Saskatchewan Party's budget will result in a windfall for high-income residents and corporations, while forcing most workers to pay more. And Charles Hamilton reports that an emergency mental health unit funded by donations is on hold for lack of staff, forcing people with urgent mental health needs into the general emergency care system.

- Finally, Sarah Berman examines how the most basic of housing is becoming unaffordable in a large number of Canadian cities (including Regina).

Thursday, August 17, 2017

New column day

Here, following up on my recent posts as to the state of the federal NDP's leadership race as of today's membership deadline.

For much more material on the leadership campaign, I'll simply point again to the reference page here. And I'll encourage anybody interested in the NDP's place in Canadian politics to sign up and participate in the leadership votes to come.

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Owen Jones calls out the dogmatic centre for first laying the groundwork for the rise of the populist right, then trying to vilify anybody working on a progressive alternative. And Chris Dillow zeroes in on what's wrong with the neoliberal view of the world:
- Insufficient scepticism about capitalism. Centrists have failed to appreciate sufficiently that actually-existing capitalism has led to inequality, rent-seeking and stagnation. New Labour’s deference to bosses fuelled their presumption that banks were in good hands and didn’t need to be on a tight leash.
 - A blindness to the importance of inequalities of power. Centrists take it for granted that elites should be in control, even if they lack the capacity to be so. This left them vulnerable to Vote Leave’s slogan, “take back control.”
 - Excessive deference to the media. Centrists were for years obsessed with a form of “electability” which consisted in accommodating themselves to media lies about austerity and immigration.
Centrism’s intuitive appeal lies in the tendency to associate it with the virtues of moderation and empiricism.
Such an association, however, is at least partly unwarranted. In failing to appreciate sufficiently the flaws in capitalist hierarchy, centrists are being ideologues more than empiricists.
- Meanwhile, Nora Loreto challenges the labour movement to take a leading role in countering racism and fascism.

- Justin Ling offers the inside story of the Cons' complete radio silence in response to the Rebel's role in fomenting hate. And Adam Radwanski points out that the Libs' choice to cozy up to Steve Bannon and the Trump administration can only undermine their claim to offer any alternative to the right's anti-social values.

- Katharine Lindemann interviews Tarani Chandola about her new research showing that people trapped in low-quality jobs may be worse off than those with none at all. And Dan Levin reports on the desperate situation facing migrant farmworkers in Canada - while Michael Grabell points out that undocumented workers in the U.S. have it even worse, as employers are able to have them criminally charged and deported at will to escape responsibility for work injuries.

- Finally, Vanessa Gruben and Louise Belanger-Hardy offer some suggestions to make sure provincial governments are able to hold big pharma accountable for harm done to public health.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Roderick Benns interviews Ryan Meili about the value of a basic income in freeing people from perpetual financial stress. And Doug Cameron reminds us that we have a choice whether to show empathy toward people facing homelessness - even if far too many forces try to push us to do otherwise.

- Kadhim Shubber reports on the utter failure of the UK's attempt to privatize adult training and apprenticeships, as the corporation which received hundreds of millions of pounds of public funding ignored massive chunks of its responsibilities, then tried to suppress the evidence. And Kristin Rushowski examines an analysis of Ontario education funding which shows that grants to poorer areas are far more than outweighed by the push to rely on fund-raising in wealthier ones.

- Meanwhile, Tanara Yelland responds to Galen Weston's attempt to suppress the wages of low-income workers in order to pad his own multi-billion-dollar accumulation of wealth. And Zohra Jamasi and Michal Rozworski expose the most glaring errors and omissions from the Ontario corporate lobby's attempt to silence advocates of a fair minimum wage.

- Paul Willcocks explores what John Horgan will need to do to restore any semblance of a functional environmental regulator in British Columbia. And Sharon Lerner documents the appalling risks foisted on poorer U.S. communities through corporate environmental racism.

 - Finally, Geoff Dembicki writes that Canada's tar sands are set to become non-viable within a generation no matter what happens with pipelines or environmental regulations - making it an utter waste of public money to try to prop them up. And Don Pittis writes that Brad Wall and his ilk need to take responsibility for foolishly blowing the proceeds of a resource boom when the bust cycle is never far away.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Floored cats.

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Asher Schechter examines new studies showing how massive markups are enriching corporations at the expense of workers:
The two standard explanations for why labor’s share of output has fallen by 10 percent over the past 30 years are globalization (American workers are losing out to their counterparts in places like China and India) and automation (American workers are losing out to robots). Last year, however, a highly-cited Stigler Center paper by Simcha Barkai offered another explanation: an increase in markups. The capital share of GDP, which includes what companies spend on equipment like robots, is also declining, he found. What has gone up, significantly, is the profit share, with profits rising more than sixfold: from 2.2 percent of GDP in 1984 to 15.7 percent in 2014. This, Barkai argued, is the result of higher markups, with the trend being more pronounced in industries that experienced large increases in concentration. 

A new paper by Jan De Loecker (of KU Leuven and Princeton University) and Jan Eeckhout (of the Barcelona Graduate School of Economics UPF and University College London) echoes these results, arguing that the decline of both the labor and capital shares, as well as the decline in low-skilled wages and other economic trends, have been aided by a significant increase in markups and market power.
De Loecker and Eeckhout find that between 1950 and 1980, markups were more or less stable at around 20 percent above marginal cost, and even slightly decreased from 1960 onward. Since 1980, however, markups have increased significantly: on average, firms charged 67 percent over marginal cost in 2014, compared with 18 percent in 1980.
Markup increases, De Loecker and Eeckhout find, became more pronounced following the 2000 and 2008 recessions. Curiously, they find that economy-wide it is mainly smaller firms that have the higher markups, which according to De Loecker is indicative of widely different characteristics between various industries. Within narrowly defined industries, however, the standard prediction holds: firms with larger market shares have higher markups as well. “Most of the action happens within industries, where we see the big guys getting bigger and their markups increase,” De Loecker explains. 
- Hadrian Mertins-Kirkwood and Stuart Trew rightly question the Libs' attempt to paint platitudes and corporate giveaways as a progressive trade agenda as they sit down to renegotiate NAFTA. And David Climenhaga notes that John Horgan may be nothing but pleased with threats from Alberta Conservatives to remove British Columbia from the corporate-driven New West Partnership.

- Muhammad Hamid Zaman comments on the importance of reliable and complete data to shape public policy choices in the health sector (and elsewhere).

- Meanwhile, Andrew Seaman reports on new research suggesting that poverty can manifest itself in arterial buildup even in young children. And Jordan Press discusses the link between foster care and youth homelessness.

- Katie Hyslop highlights the importance of preparing children to bring a critical eye to manipulative media. But Tom Pride notes that the UK Cons have other ideas - instead encouraging parents to teach children not to share (and to value their property over all else) to avoid even the slightest hint of social responsibility.

- Finally, Denise Balkissoon rightly points out the problem with a white supremacist and anti-social movement built around the preservation of undeserved privilege.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Angella MacEwen and Cole Eisen challenge Galen Weston's laughable claim that he and his multi-billion-dollar empire can't afford to pay something closer to a living wage. And Jared Bernstein and Ben Spielberg connect the U.S.' growing inequality to policy choices which have facilitated the accumulation of extreme wealth.

- Meanwhile, the BBC reports on a study showing the close connection between childhood geography and university attendance in the UK.

- Patrick Smith discusses the revolving door between prison and homelessness - including the reality of people reoffending in order to secure services not available to them outside of prison walls. And Brendan Kennedy examines Canada's heavy-handed immigration detention system which locks detainees up indefinitely for little apparent reason.

- Finally, Doug Cuthand writes that Brad Wall's time in office has been marked by a lack of progress in reconciliation between Saskatchewan and First Nations.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Leadership 2017 Candidate Rankings - August 13

As I noted here, there have been a number of key developments in the NDP's leadership campaign since last week's rankings. And two in particular have changed my impression as to the relative likelihood of success for the top two candidates, I'll assemble a new set of rankings for this week - while noting that the membership numbers available after Thursday's deadline will likely give us a far better idea where the campaign is headed.

1. Charlie Angus (2)

Angus takes the lead this week for two reasons.

First, the latest Mainstreet poll shows him breaking away from the pack among at its subset of self-identified NDP members. And however much uncertainty there is in trying to assess whether a pollster is reaching the right people, it's certainly worth noting the relative change showing Angus increasing both his percentage support and his lead within a pool that's been polled before.

And second, his broad set of labour endorsements looks significant in a couple of ways. The perception that Angus is the preferred candidate for well-known labour voices may sway a few more voters into his camp early. But perhaps more importantly, but it also offers Angus some validation as a down-ballot option for Ashton and Caron supporters with labour roots.

2. Jagmeet Singh (1)

To be clear, though, there are limitations to how much we can take from any one poll. And while Mainstreet's results contribute to the swap of positions between Angus and Singh, I'd see it as a severe overreaction to put too much stock in Singh's relative placement compared to the other candidates.

That said, this week's membership totals will give us a much better indication whether Singh has assembled enough new supporters to justify the media attention his campaign has been able to secure, or whether we should be taking a much closer look at the prospect of an Angus-Ashton final ballot.

3. Niki Ashton (3)

Meanwhile, the poll results - combined with a lack of other new developments - do serve to lock in the relative positioning of Ashton and Caron for the moment. And while Ashton's campaign figures to be making a strong membership push of its own, it may soon need to reorient itself toward laying the groundwork to build support between ballots.

4. Guy Caron (4)

Finally, Caron remains a credible contender if he can get over the first hurdle of staying on the ballot. And given the importance of building first-choice support among existing members, I'd expect him to push particularly hard to win over Quebec MPs - including those who formerly supported Peter Julian - to persuade current members to decide based on their impressions as to the NDP's prospects in his home province.

Update: Tom Parkin reaches a similar conclusion as to the relative positioning of Angus and Singh, while also discussing the state of the campaign as the membership deadline approaches.

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Jerry Dias writes that corporate greed is the common thread in numerous stories about Canadian workers being left without jobs or support. And Yves Engler points out that trade agreements have ultimately served little purpose but to entrench corporate power.

- Chris Doucouliagos reminds us that inequality is ultimately bad for everybody - no matter how hard the wealthy fight to preserve it in the false expectation of personal gain. And Denis Campbell discusses how austerity has exacerbated disparities in life expectancy in the UK.

- Juan Carlos Rivillas and Fabian Dario Colonia discuss the importance of the social determinants of health in ensuring (or limiting) health inequalities. And Kelly Hodgins discusses how false assumptions about low-income people results in a lack of access to healthy food.

- Tom Gunton sets out a few lessons from the failure of the B.C. Libs' LNG scheme. And Lindsay Kines reports on the Horgan NDP government's needed move to question the Libs' reliance on corporate-funded consultants make decisions on environmental assessments.

- Finally, Tom McIntosh offers a reminder that Brad Wall's departure merely confirms that he's led his party to a point where it can't defend its own actions while in office.