Saturday, October 07, 2017

Saturday Afternoon Links

This and that for your weekend reading.

- Joseph Stiglitz discusses how the Republican's trillion-dollar corporate giveaway will only exacerbate inequality without doing anything to help the U.S.' economy:
If inequality was a problem before, enacting the Republicans’ proposed tax reform will make it much worse.

Corporations and businesses will be among the big beneficiaries, a bias justified on the grounds that this will stimulate the economy. But Republicans, of all people, should understand that incentives matter: it would be far better to reduce taxes for those companies that invest in America and create jobs, and increase taxes for those that don’t.

After all, it is not as if America’s large corporations were starved for cash; they are sitting on a couple of trillion dollars. And the lack of investment is not because profits, either before or after tax, are too low; after-tax corporate profits as a share of GDP have almost tripled in the last 30 years.

Indeed, with incremental investment largely financed by debt, and interest payments being tax-deductible, the corporate tax lowers the cost of capital and the returns to investment commensurately. Thus, neither theory nor evidence suggests that the Republicans’ proposed corporate tax giveaway will increase investment or employment.
An alternative framework would increase revenues and boost growth. It would include real corporate-tax reform, eliminating the tricks that allow some of the world’s largest companies to pay miniscule taxes, in some cases far less than 5% of their profits, giving them an unfair advantage over small local businesses. It would establish a minimum tax and eliminate the special treatment of capital gains and dividends, compelling the very rich to pay at least the same percentage of their income in taxes as other citizens. And it would introduce a carbon tax, to help accelerate the transition to a green economy.

Tax policy can also be used to shape the economy. In addition to offering benefits to those who invest, carry out research, and create jobs, higher taxes on land and real-estate speculation would redirect capital toward productivity-enhancing spending – the key to long-term improvement in living standards.

An administration of plutocrats – most of whom gained their wealth from rent-seeking activities, rather than from productive entrepreneurship – could be expected to reward themselves. But the Republicans’ proposed tax reform is a bigger gift to corporations and the ultra-rich than most had anticipated. It avoids necessary reforms and would leave the country with a mountain of debt; the consequences – low investment, stalled productivity growth, and yawning inequality – would take decades to undo.
- And PressProgress examines how the Cons are trying to mislead Canadians about even the smallest steps toward tax fairness.

- Roderick Benns comments on the first report from Ontario's basic income pilot project, including the fact that many employed people are signing up for income support.

- Armine Yalnizyan and Chris Disdale highlight how the Temporary Foreign Worker Program was used to exploit workers willing to pay for the opportunity to live in Canada. Nicholas Keung reports on the plight of migrant workers who are still treated as "temporary" after decades of hard work. And Astra Taylor interviews Jessica Bruder about the growing number of people dealing with precarious work and lives into retirement age in the U.S.

- Finally, Paul Buchheit writes that privatization is a disaster for any hope of democratic governance over public services and institutions.

Friday, October 06, 2017

Friday Evening Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Michael Paarlberg discusses how the ratchet effect is making American health care far more durable than Republicans may have realized - while recognizing that there's a lesson to be drawn for the design of other social programs as to the value of a broad constituency of support.

- Kate Fane and Kourosh Houshmand point out that the few millenials getting ahead are those who already have a head start.

- Christine Saulnier examines who would benefit from a $15 minimum wage in Nova Scotia - with a third of the province's workers standing to see a raise.

- Diane Dyson responds to the attempt to defend privileged treatment for the rich with rhetoric about jobs by suggesting that tax breaks or other rewards actually be tied to jobs worth having. And Noam Scheiber notes that larger businesses - such as Ben & Jerry's - can make a substantial difference by demanding better treatment for workers in their supply chains.

- John Warnock offers a reminder as to how NAFTA's corporate-biased structure came to pass. And the CCPA makes some suggestions (PDF) to develop a deal that's more fair for the public.

- Finally, Andrew Coyne writes that whatever happens with British Columbia's impending referendum on electoral reform, Canada shouldn't be too far away from some experience to confirm that the fearmongering of defenders of first-past-the-post is utterly misplaced.

Musical interlude

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers - Runnin' Down a Dream

Thursday, October 05, 2017

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Trish Garner offers some suggestions for evidence-based poverty reduction - with a strong emphasis on the need for employers to pay a living wage. And Jim Stanford challenges critics of a $15 minimum wage to put their money where their mouth is when it comes to fearmongering over job totals.
- Steve Buist discusses how a the stress of a precarious job market is manifesting itself in mental health challenges for millennial workers in Hamilton. 

- Alex MacPherson examines the relationship between low incomes, unstable housing and a host of preventable social ills. And Brenda Thompson highlights the absurdity of a Nova Scotia "welfare" system which requires people to put up cash up front - and wait for multiple bureaucracies to process requests - in order to apply for income they lack.

- Finally, Robert Koehler writes that the U.S.' acceptance of regular gun massacres is just one symptom of a more general culture of violence.

New column day

Here, on the Saskatchewan Party's choice to poison our province rather than coming clean about the dangers of sour gas.

For further reading...
- I'll link again to the reports from the National Observer and the Star on the sour gas hazard and cover-up, along with Emily Eaton's take (and Elizabeth McSheffrey's followup as to the Saskatchewan Party's non-response). Meanwhile, Global offers up its own report, while Murray Mandryk discusses the double standard applied to the oil sector compared to other health and safety issues. And Tammy Robert rightly notes that some of the ground was covered by Geoff Leo's previous reporting - though the new reporting does highlight some noteworthy aspects of the government response in particular, including the lack of any enforcement and the choice not to inform the public about the hazards of hydrogen sulphide.
- Gayathri Vaidyanathan highlights one of the studies showing that fracking chemicals are affecting drinking water in the U.S. And the Globe and Mail has reported on the connection between fracking and earthquakes in Western Canada, while Sarah Gibbens discusses how fracking is one of the causes of man-made earthquakes in the U.S. and elsewhere.
- Tim McDonnell writes that the U.S. oil industry is founded in large part on subsidies rather than any commercial viability, and links to the Stockholm Environment Institute's research (PDF) on that front.
- Finally, Peter Holley reports on GM's announcement that it's moving toward an all-electric fleet of vehicles.

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Leadership 2017 Links

The latest from the NDP's federal leadership campaign following Jagmeet Singh's impressive first-ballot victory.

- Paul Wells discusses how Singh's youth and optimism fit with the NDP's history and self-image. Jeremy Nuttall interviews Brian Topp about some lessons Singh can take from Jack Layton - including his apparent plan to engage first and foremost in party-building in the lead up to the next election. Bill Tieleman suggests that Singh is Justin Trudeau's worst nightmare as a magnet for young and suburban voters (with Alex Ballingall also exploring the prospect), while John Doyle theorizes as to how Singh communicates with the public.

- Tim Harper discusses how Singh will be the first leader of a major federal party to be able to speak from experience about racial profiling. Drew Brown looks at Terry Milewski's appalling first interview of Singh as a prime example of how the media will need to learn to cover a non-white leader. And Susan Delacourt looks to the history of woman leaders at the federal level to warn against taking a single precedent as a sign that equality is at hand. 

- Christo Aivalis points out how Niki Ashton changed the campaign by pressing all of the candidates to talk about progressive principles and policies. And Dylan Robertson interviews Ashton about her view of the campaign.

- Nora Loreto examines a few policy areas where the NDP should focus in the lead up to the 2019 election. And Kristy Kirkup reports on Singh's appointment of Guy Caron to lead the NDP in Parliament in the interim.

- Finally, Althia Raj talks to several key figures in the campaign as to how Singh emerged with his first-ballot win.

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- The Equality Trust examines the UK's increasing level of personal precarity - and how public policy needs to be changed to support the people who need it, not those who already have the most. And Eduardo Porter offers a reminder that tax cuts for the rich do nothing but exacerbate inequality:
Big tax cutters like the United States did not grow faster than countries like Denmark, which kept taxes high. What did respond to lower taxes was inequality: The income share of the top 1 percent grew much more sharply among big tax cutters like the United States than in countries like France or Germany, where top tax rates changed little.

The findings contradicted the basic proposition on Mr. Laffer’s napkin. Indeed, they suggested an entirely different dynamic: Lower taxes did encourage executives and other top earners to raise their incomes, but not in ways that benefited the entire economy, like working and investing more. Instead, they were encouraged to manipulate the system in ways that, in fact, reduced the pie for everybody else, putting every decision at the service of increasing their pay.

Think about tax avoidance or outright evasion — which simply hides money from the Treasury, reducing the government’s ability to fund often critical programs, at no gain to the economy. But executives have been known to use other tricks — say, options backdating or earnings manipulation, or simply lobbying the compensation committee of their company’s board, or putting corporate strategy at the service of the current quarter’s earnings to give the share price a bump.

Taking into account all the ways top earners respond to taxation, Mr. Piketty and colleagues suggested that the optimal top tax rate on the Americans with the highest incomes — the rate raising the most money for the government — could exceed 80 percent with no harm to growth. Loopholes would have to be closed to prevent avoidance, but only the mega-rich would lose out. From an economic perspective, soaking the rich would, in fact, do good.
In more unequal societies, the rich have more power to distort policy making to channel more of the fruits of growth in their direction by, say, cutting taxes and government spending that might improve productivity and growth. Politics becomes more polarized. And it becomes more difficult to recover from economic shocks: Citizens in unequal societies are less likely to buy government promises that sacrifice today will lead to gains tomorrow.
- Stephen Gordon points out that blind anti-tax rage stands in the way of needed discussions of how to pay for the public services we all value. And Andrew Coyne comments on the absurdity of applying artificial preferences to small businesses.

- Jenny Gerbasi and Don Iveson discuss what's needed to establish an effective national housing strategy - with both public investments and meaningful tenant protections included in the mix. 

- Gareth Hutchins reports on a new study from Australia showing how the mining industry is highly susceptible to corruption. And Dogwood follows up on the Clark Libs' outsourcing of British Columbia's climate change policy to Alberta oil barons.

- Finally, Trevor Herriot exposes the Wall government's auctioning off of public land - while noting that there's been far too little public notice of the selloff of the natural commonwealth.

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Elevated cats.

Tuesday Afternoon Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Brad Delong writes that political choices - not a lack of resources - are responsible for the limited progress being made toward the UN's Sustainable Development Goals.

- Matt Bruenig weighs in on the U.S.' unprecedented levels of wealth inequality. And Bill Moyers comments on the vulture capitalists looking to turn Puerto Rico's disaster into an opportunity to enrich themselves.

- Tim McDonnell highlights how much of the new fossil fuel development in the U.S. produces profits only because of massive public subsidies. 

- Kathleen Harris and Elizabeth McSheffrey each report on Environment Commissioner Julie Gelfand's conclusion that Canada is falling far short of translating climate policy into meaningful action. And , John Cook, Sander van der Linden, Tony Leiserowitz and Ed Maibach emphasize the importance of recognizing and acting on the scientific consensus around climate change.

- Finally, the Star's editorial board discusses the importance of a justice system which works on reintegrating prisoners into society, rather than setting people up to fail and reoffend.

Monday, October 02, 2017

Breaking the silence

Needless to say, there will be plenty more to discuss about the Wall government has exposed residents of Saskatchewan's oil patch to avoidable (and sometimes fatal) hazards in order to avoid acknowledging the dangers of fossil fuel development. But for now, there's already plenty worth reading in the Price of Oil series, including two reports at the National Observer, one at the Toronto Star, and Emily Eaton's column on the need to speak up.

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Joseph Parilla examines how entrenched inequality serves as a barrier to economic development for everybody. 

- Heather Long highlights how the U.S.' last round of corporate tax cuts led to lower wages for all but the lucky few. And Stuart Bailey writes about the need for public policy to improve wages and employment standards after the promise of businesses passing along their increased profits has proven false once again.

- David Adler comments on the UK's divide between an owning class whose wealth is growing, and a renting class facing nothing but precarious living. And Daphne Bramham discusses the added danger of poverty facing elderly women. 

- Rebecca Leber interviews one employee of the Environmental Protection Agency who's willing to speak out about how its purpose is being undermined by a Trump administration bent on nothing but maximizing the profits that can be extracted. 

- Finally, Tim Fenton reviews Harry Leslie Smith's Don’t Let My Past Be Your Future, including its call to fight to defend social progress which had been taken for granted:
But, you may say, we do have a benefits system and the NHS. There is no chance of a cancer sufferer being denied end-of-life care and stripped of their dignity. But that is to misunderstand what HLS is telling his readers. He is showing the inevitable conclusion from the direction of travel on which successive Governments have embarked.

Unemployment benefit, payments to the sick and disabled, even in-work and universal benefits, all have been under sustained attack for years. Hardly a day goes by without comfortably off pundits being given a platform by yet more comfortably off newspaper proprietors and their editors to accuse the less well-off of being “scroungers”.
Health and safety is also under attack. To remove this protection is also said to be “fair”. Supposedly sensible pundits rail at the legislation, demanding “are we not grown up enough to be able to make our own decisions?” That road leads to deaths and injuries in the workplace. The latter blighted HLS’ family when his father was badly injured working down the pit. Industrial injury used to be a killer. Some would have that era come back.
Anyone not persuaded of the risks of believing the siren voices of selfishness and intolerance should read HLS’ book. It is about a world we may have left behind, but are in danger of seeing all over again.

Sunday, October 01, 2017

Sunday Afternoon Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Anushka Asthana, Jessica Elgot and Rowena Mason report on Jeremy Corbyn's path as Labour leader - which include genuinely moving the UK's political centre of gravity to the left while improving his party's electoral prospects in the process.

- Andrew Boozary and Danielle Martin write that the U.S.' health care debate should lead us to discuss how to improve Canada's universal health care - including by adding pharmacare into our public system.

- Christina Gray discusses how an increased minimum wage helps the working poor in particular.

- Chris Arsenault reports on newly-revealed details showing how insiders have long known B.C.'s Site C dam was an expensive failure - even while trying to push to spend billions more on it. And Jessica Glenzain compares the treatment of the public to the corporate sector in Michigan, where Nestle offers up a pittance to bottle publicly-owned water while Flint residents pay exorbitant prices for an unsafe supply.

- Finally, Michael Harris takes note of the fact that Ralph Goodale and the Libs seem to have no more conscience when it comes to the fruits of torture than the Harper Cons.

Leadership 2017 Reference Page (Now Unpinned)

A one-stop source for general links on the 2017 NDP leadership campaign, to be updated as the race progresses. Please feel free to add additional suggestions in comments. (And note that new posts will appear below this one.)

General Information
NDP Constitution (PDF)
Leadership Rules (PDF) - Voting Process
NDP Leadership 2017
Leadership Debates: Ottawa (March 12) - Montreal (March 26) - Sudbury (May 28) - St. John's (June 11) - Saskatoon (July 11) - Victoria (August 2) - Montreal (August 27) - Vancouver (September 10)
Leadership Showcase: Hamilton (September 17)

Candidate Information
Candidate Website Twitter Profile Platform Ranking
Charlie Angus @CharlieAngusNDP Profile Analysis 2
Niki Ashton @NikiAshton Profile Analysis 4
Guy Caron @GuyCaronNPD Profile Analysis 3
Jagmeet Singh @theJagmeetSingh Profile Analysis 1

Other Resources
National Post Leadership Tracker
CPAC In Focus
IPolitics Inside the NDP Leadership Race
Chatelaine Cheat Sheet
NDP McGill Blog
Karl Nerenberg Candidate Profiles
Ishmael Daro Candidate Interviews
National Observer Candidate Interviews 
Toronto Star Profiles (Alex Ballingall)
CTV Meet the Candidates 

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