Saturday, December 16, 2017

Saturday Morning Links

This and that for your weekend reading.

- Larry Elliott suggests we shouldn't be duped into thinking that policy biased in favour of the corporate sector is a necessity rather than a choice. And John Falzon notes that inequality too is the product of political decisions rather than an inevitability, while Facundo Alvaredo, Lucas Chancel, Thomas Piketty, Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman highlight how the U.S. is going out of its way to make matters worse.

- Andrew Stevens discusses the fight for a fair minimum wage in Saskatchewan - and the fearmongering used to oppose one. And Kate McInturff writes about the persistent race and gender income gaps.

- David Weil writes about the challenging future faced by millenials stuck in increasingly volatile work arrangements. And Sam Riches offers an inside look at the realities of trying to juggle multiple gigs while lacking any income security.

- Andrew Jackson points out the continually-increasing level of consumer debt in Canada, and notes the reality that there's little apparent overlap between the many workers facing large debt loads and the privileged few who are accumulating assets.

- Finally, Adam Kassam highlights the many ways in which private dollars - in the form of both fees and donations - are papering over gaps in public funding for health care.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Musical interlude

Fluke - Pulsed

Friday Afternoon Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Marco Chown Oved, Toby Heaps and Michael Yow discuss the long-term transition away from meaningful corporate tax contributions to Canada's public purse:
For every dollar corporations pay to the Canadian government in income tax, people pay $3.50. The proportion of the public budget funded by personal income taxes has never been greater.

At a time when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has made tax fairness a centrepiece of his government, the Toronto Star and Corporate Knights magazine spent six months poring over tax data to determine how much income tax corporations are really paying.

We found the amount of tax most big companies pay has been dropping as a proportion of their profits for years, and not only because the corporate tax rate has been cut repeatedly. Canada’s largest corporations use complex techniques and tax loopholes to reduce their taxes significantly below the official corporate tax rate set by the government.
The 2011-2016 audited financial statements of all large Canadian corporations (those worth more than $2 billion) reveal they paid an average of 17.7 per cent tax.

During that time, the average official corporate tax rate in Canada for this group of companies was 26.6 per cent.

That 8.9 per cent gap translates into tens of billions of dollars that could have been used to pay for the schools, roads, hospitals, police and paramedics we all rely on.
- And Chown Oved also reports on the strong public appetite to close tax loopholes and ensure that corporations pay their fair share.

- David Macdonald and Martha Friendly study the glaring gaps in cost and availability of child care across Canada, while Randy Shore reports on the CCPA's proposed path to $10 per day child care in British Columbia.

- Erin Anderssen reports on new research showing the desperate need for improved access to mental health care in Ontario.

- Mark Hancock offers his take on what progressive trade policy should include - including a focus on what's best for workers and citizens rather than businesses alone. And Stuart Trew and Scott Sinclair discuss the possibility of seriously evaluating the effects of the many trade deals already on the books, rather than rushing into more.

- Finally, Shawn McCarthy reports on the World Bank's decision to stop lending to oil and gas projects as part of the world's transition away from dirty energy. And the CP takes note of Alberta's massive wind power savings resulting from its concerted effort to make a quick shift to renewables.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

New column day

Here, on how Quebec's latest poverty plan falls far short of the "basic income" title it's received in some national coverage - and on how we should insist on political leadership toward the genuine article.

For further reading...
- CBC has reported on the new plan and the response it's received, as well as the draconian requirements Quebec has previously placed on recipients of social assistance.
- Andre Picard asks whether the new plan provides assistance to the right people, while noting how the system remains downright punitive toward some.
- And Nicholas Keung reports on the Ontario Human Rights Commission's research showing that recipients of social assistance face prejudice from a substantial proportion of the public.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- PressProgress points out Statistics Canada's latest numbers on Canada's extreme wealth disparity - with 60% of the population owning only 10% of the wealth while a lucky few amass gigantic fortunes. 

- Jordan Brennan discusses how a lack of labour conflict has led to low levels of both wage increases and inflation while ensuring that productivity gains accrue only to the wealthy. And Harrison Samphir examines how Skip the Dishes is one of the poster children for the suppression of workers' rights and interests through precarious work arrangements.

- Darryl Greer notes that the Paradise Papers have shed new light on the use of offshore tax havens. But Marco Chown Oved and Robert Cribb report that federal and provincial finance ministers are electing not to set up a publicly-accessible register of beneficial ownership to reduce the secrecy behind corporate holdings.

- Somini Sengupta reports on the massive amount of food which gets wasted (up to a third of what's produced around the globe, and more than that in wealthier countries), as well as the greenhouse gas emissions dumped into our atmosphere in the process.

- Finally, Christo Aivalis points out how the net neutrality debate should lead us toward a broader discussion of social goods in contrast to capitalist exploitation:
(W)hy does the NN debate matter for the Canadian left specifically, and the general left more broadly? For Canadians, it matters because while NN in Canada doesn’t appear to be under assault from the current government, ISPs in Canada have been emboldened by the victories of their corporate analogues south of the border. Further, the fight against NN has been recently picked up by former Industry Minister and runner-up for the Conservative leadership Maxime Bernier. In both Bernier and the ISPs views, NN is little more than state interference into the rights of consumers and companies alike.
This is where the socialist moment reveals itself on the question of Net Neutrality. While many defenders of a free internet have made the argument that NN is actually the free-market capitalist way to run the internet, and the non-NN position is a ‘crony-capitalist’ bastardization, the reality is that opponents of NN are sincerely defending the ideals of liberal capitalism. They are quite correct—by the letter of capitalist law—that ISPs should be more than allowed to partner with certain websites to prioritize bandwidth to that site, or should be allowed to flex their market muscles to restrict access to their competitors’ holdings.

Here’s the crux of the issue: many people see capitalism as synonymous with the free market. But what this episode has shown us, more than anything else, is that the free flow of information exists not because of capitalism, but in spite of it. Capitalism is not a system of free exchange; rather, it is a system of profit maximization for those who own the capital. In some cases this may coincide with what are understood as free markets, but in a great many cases capitalists profit most by restricting the freedom of others, be it their workers, their consumers, or democratic institutions.
The fight for Net Neutrality is but the first salvo in a longer battle over the age-old debates about democracy. The left has to realize that the first stage of this battle is on easily winnable grounds. Capitalists and their ideological brethren have lined up to fight NN as a barrier towards their profit-making enterprise, and socialists can make the case that if capitalism means antagonism to the very concept that manifests a free internet, perhaps the owners of private industry shouldn’t be trusted with other important aspects of our daily lives. Winning this second stage—questioning the undemocratic ownership of major industry in general—is a harder slog altogether, but it must be won. We cannot have a democratic society where the internet is either constrained by ISPs, or dominated by a scant few companies. We cannot choose. The people—either directly or through their duly elected representatives—must control their own public venues, and in the 21st century, the internet is undeniably one of those most important public spaces... 
This is a great opportunity for democratic socialists but only if the message is cast consistently and thoroughly that the fight for Net Neutrality is in reality a battle against capitalism’s logical conclusions.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Nosy cats.

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Tom Parkin duly slams the Libs for a "middle class" tax message being used to sell a giveaway to the rich:
Here’s the blunt facts: the tax cut by Finance Minister Bill Morneau gives $0 to anyone earning under about $45,000. Then the benefit starts phasing in. At $90,000, the benefit is $670. And every person earning over $90,000—even people with million dollar paycheques—gets the $670.

University of Laval economist Stephen Gordon recently pointed out that a $90,000 income is in the top 10% in Canada.

And according to Statistics Canada’s most recent full report of tax filing data, the middle point of Canadian incomes was $33,920 in 2015. That means half of all income earners are above $33,920, half are below.

The facts don’t lie. Morneau is giving $670 a year to everyone with a top 10% income. He’s giving $0 to actual middle income earners. His words are deceptive. It’s a tax cut for the affluent.

Of course, nobody would vote for an upper class cut taxes. So the Liberals said it was a middle class tax cut and hoped you wouldn’t figure it out.
- But Parkin does briefly go off the rails somewhat by focusing needlessly on debt rather than social costs. On that front, Paul Krugman offers a reminder that the right only cares about deficits as an excuse to avoid or destroy social supports. And Corey Robin's takeaways from the Republicans' plan signal the danger of allowing deficit hysteria to dominate the opposition message.

- And Gregori Galofré-Vilà, Christopher M. Meissner, Martin McKee and David Stuckler study how austerity politics were a major factor in the rise of the Nazi party.

- Patricia Aldana rightly argues that citizens need to start recognizing - and taking responsibility for - the damage Canadian-based exploitative resource companies are doing in Honduras and elsewhere.

- Finally, Brett Dolter offers his take on how the Saskatchewan Party's long-delayed excuse for a climate change strategy falls short of the mark.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Maia Szalavitz writes that the atmosphere of competition and status signalling which prevails in unequal societies is directly connected to increased homicide rates:
While on the surface, the disputes that triggered these deaths seem trivial – each involved apparently small disagreements and a sense of being seen as inferior and unworthy of respect – research suggests that inequality raises the stakes of fights for status among men.

The connection is so strong that, according to the World Bank, a simple measure of inequality predicts about half of the variance in murder rates between American states and between countries around the world. When inequality is high and strips large numbers of men of the usual markers of status – like a good job and the ability to support a family – matters of respect and disrespect loom disproportionately.

Inequality predicts homicide rates “better than any other variable”, says Martin Daly, professor emeritus of psychology and neuroscience at McMaster University in Ontario and author of Killing the Competition: Economic Inequality and Homicide.
Obviously, potential murderers don’t check the local Gini Index – the most commonly used measure of inequality that looks at how wealth is distributed – before deciding whether to get a gun. But they are keenly attuned to their own level of status in society and whether it allows them to get what they need to live a decent life. If they can’t, while others visibly bask in luxury that seems both impossible to attain and unfairly won, those far from the top often become desperate.
- Meanwhile, Dominic Rushe discusses how Donald Trump's giveaway to the rich looks to exacerbate inequality while producing the same economic devastation wrought by Sam Brownback in his failed Kansas experiment.

- Karl Nerenberg reports on the federal government's failure to budget anywhere enough money to even theoretically end boil-water advisories on First Nations reserves (let alone fund the operation of infrastructure after it's installed).

- Finally, Leilani Farha writes that we should push governments to fix the homelessness problems they've created by recognizing the right to housing. And the Star's editorial board discusses the importance of ensuring permanent homes for people facing homelessness, rather than limiting any policy response to temporary shelters.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Damian Paletta and Josh Dawsey report that cash for access is the only way for anybody to raise issues with the U.S. Republicans' tax bills. And Ronald Brownstein views the tax debacle as conclusive evidence of the closing of Republican minds.

- Meanwhile, Mark Kingwell offers a needed rebuttal to the reactionary right's efforts to falsely criticize universities for exactly the type of closed-minded attitudes underlying its own movement:
Right-wing postmodernism flourishes by bulldozing dissent. The current occupant of the White House, and those leading rhetorical crusades in his shadow, are just late-model versions of real intellectual rot. It begins with thinking you can say whatever you want, because you have power and a Twitter or YouTube account. It ends with a comprehensive sense of entitlement that you can get away with anything.

"I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn't lose voters," the current President said. Yes, he said that. He said that. It's a fact that he said it.

Universities are always easy targets. You can target this so-called useless course or that apparently trendy professor. You can mock new pronouns and novel ways of thinking. But here's what we mostly do: We insist that when people utter falsehoods and nonsense, or behave intolerably, they will be challenged, on the facts, with reasons and arguments.

It's indoctrination, sure – into critical thinking. Sorry if that upsets what you already believe. (Note: not in fact sorry.)
- Damian Carrington reports on the health effects of air pollution on fetal health. And Karl Nerenberg writes about the global connection between inequality and reproductive health.

- Ben Parfitt makes the case for an inquiry into B.C.'s fracking industry. And Paul Willcocks discusses why the Libs' Site C disaster needs to be shut down, not continued by John Horgan's government.

- Donna Borden comments on the need for low-income Canadians to have fair access to financial services. And Tamar Harris reports on a lawsuit against Rogers for breaking its promise not to subject participants in a low-income Internet service program to credit checks which could harm their credit scores.

- Finally, Thomas Walkom writes about the costs of Ontario's power privatization, as monopoly private providers have been able to exploit the regulatory system to claim illegitimate costs.