Saturday, December 30, 2017

Saturday Evening Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Brian Bethune interviews Joseph Stiglitz about his longstanding recognition that an international economic system biased toward capital could lay the groundwork for Trump-style demagoguery.

- Kristin Annable reports on the Manitoba PCs' steps toward for-profit health care as an alternative to properly funding and managing the public system. But Keith Gerein notes that the Alberta NDP is instead developing public-sector senior care alternatives where the private sector is falling short of meeting people's needs.

- David Hardman defends the concept of a basic income by noting that our sleep cycles are at best an awkward fit with even standard full-time work. David Rosen discusses the end of the true 40-hour work week due a combination of undercounting work time and the need for multiple incomes to stay afloat. And Colin Gordon notes that U.S. laws have been undercutting the labour movement's ability to defend workers' rights for the past 70 years. 

- Angela Wright points out that a serious effort to combat offshore tax evasion needs to deal with prominent developed countries which choose to act as tax havens.

- Finally, Brent Richter offers a good-news story as to how a single tax return gave one marginalized citizen a chance for a genuine fresh state - while noting that many people would benefit similarly from a concerted effort to prepare returns for people who aren't currently submitting them.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Musical interlude

Wide Mouth Mason - My Old Self

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Richard Partington writes that the poorest Britons stand to bear the brunt of the next wave of technological change through further diminished employment prospects. But Peter Goodman points out that a stronger social safety net in Sweden (among other countries) tends to ensure that workers share in the gains of increased productivity.

- The Canadian Press reports on a new survey addressing the financial priorities of Canadians, with rising personal debt ranking at the top of the list.

- Sean McElwee argues that U.S. Democrats need to respond to the data showing strong public support for progressive policies, rather than looking for excuses to move to the right:
In the average DCCC target district, fifty-nine percent of the public support allowing a woman choose whether she wants to have an abortion and 57 percent support a path to citizenship. More than half of individuals in the average district either strongly or somewhat agree that white people have advantages because of their skin and 73 percent support a higher minimum wage. Less than half of the public in the average district believe that the government should prohibit spending on abortion (the so-called Hyde Amendment).
In addition, these districts are favorable towards climate policy, with 64 percent support for a renewable energy mandate and 68 percent support for the Environmental Protection Agency regulating carbon in the average district. Far from running away from gun control, Democrats can safely support an assault weapons ban, which has support among 61 percent of individuals in thes average district. Democrats can abandon “tough on crime” rhetoric, because 63 percent support for ending mandatory minimums. Even examining only the most contentious districts, a progressive Democrat would be on the right side of all ten issues modeled.

What we discovered here is along the lines of what Skovron has found in past research. In a study from March, Skovron and David Broockman found that Democratic state legislators regularly underestimate how liberal their constituents are (as do Republicans, who believe their constituents are far more conservative than they are in reality). Democrats simply aren’t confident that the voters support them on policy positions that we typically consider liberal, especially in areas like gun control and abortion, despite extensive data suggesting voters agree with Democratic positions on these issues.
After decades of watching the middle class get hollowed out by corporate interests and the Republican Party use racial divisions to [sow] resentment, it’s clear that voters are ready for something else. Democrats shouldn’t be afraid to offer it. The good news is that there are candidates are throwing out the centrist playbook and charting their own course.
- And in an important example of the popularity of progressive politics in Canada, the Angus Reid Institute's latest polling shows strong support for a $15 minimum wage in Ontario.

- Meanwhile, David Hopkins writes that big business has been the main beneficiary of the U.S.' political culture war. And Jessica Corbett reports on Bloomberg's analysis showing the U.S. with the worst gap between CEOs and workers in the world even before the latest round of corporate giveaways takes hold.

- Finally, Brian Sullivan and Jim Efstathiou Jr. take note of the growing cost of weather disasters linked to climate change.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

New column day

Here, on how Donald Trump is just one of far too many politicians trying to undercut needed counterbalances in the media, political systems and civil society.

For further reading...
- Rem Reider's story offers a few examples of Trump's attacks on the press.
- Althia Raj reported on Bill Morneau's complaints about opposition MPs doing their job, while Andy Blatchford addressed his claim that he doesn't report to journalists.
- John Paul Tasker discussed Jane Philpott's attempt to silence critics of the Libs' failures on Indigenous issues (and particularly the implementation of Jordan's principle).
- And Keith Baldrey's year-end interview with John Horgan included the latter's comment on setting activism aside.

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Rupert Neate reports on the latest numbers showing the world's 500 richest people adding a full trillion dollars to their wealth in 2017. And Will Fitzgibbon and Dean Starkman highlight how offshore tax avoidance schemes are sucking prosperity out of the rest of the world.

- Noah Smith discusses how the cost of rent really is too high for people living in poverty. And Jamie Doward reports on the soaring rates of homelessness among vulnerable groups in the UK.

- Meanwhile, Danielle Larivee offers her take on the value of publicly-supported child care.

- Peter Loftus reports on the inflated price of the cancer drug Lomustine, as the expiry of a patent hasn't prevented its maker from continuing to hold a monopoly.

- Finally, Tom Parkin discusses how most Canadians have seen little but stagnation under Justin Trudeau's Libs - meaning it's no surprise that Trudeau's popularity is deflating. And Stephen Maher takes a look at Trudeau's lack of recognition of a problem with mooching off billionaires as a symptom of broader judgment issues.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Eduardo Porter examines how high-end tax cuts create gains for only the wealthy few. And Lydia DePillis points out that decades of increases to top-end incomes haven't translated into anything close to proportional spending which would share the gains with society at large.

- Juan Williams writes that U.S. voters are getting the message that a Republican party obsessed with further enriching corporate elites can't be trusted even on what it claims as signature issues:
The bigger news on Capitol Hill was that Americans now trust Democrats more than Republicans to handle taxes and the economy, according to a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll.

For the last 40 years, Republicans have consistently outperformed Democrats when voters were asked which party is the better steward of taxes and the economy.

Now, the Journal poll has voters favoring Democrats by 33 percent to 29 percent on taxes, and by 35 percent to 30 percent on the economy.
With so much money concentrated in the hands of so few Americans, it is no wonder that polls show this law is wildly unpopular, with support ranging in major polls only from 26 to 32 percent.

"Don't let your Uncle Bob be fooled: Republicans are voting for this because their wealthy patrons demand it," former Clinton Labor Secretary Robert Reich wrote last week on his website. "Their tax plan will weaken our economy for years - reducing demand, widening inequality, and increasing the national debt by at least $1.5 trillion over the next decade."

And now for the political fall-out:

Before the tax cut vote, Democrats led Republicans on the generic Congressional preference ballot question by 15 points. Fifty-one percent said they would vote or lean towards voting Democratic, while just 36 percent said the same about Republicans, according to Monmouth University.

Look for those numbers to sink even lower when Trump voters realize they've been had. They were sold a bill of goods by his party when they voted for Trump-style economic populism in 2016.
- Sarah Jaffe writes that poverty represents a failing of the society which enables its existence, not the people who get trapped in it. And Brad Chilcott argues that a renewed sense of solidarity is the best gift we can ask for - and offer - over the holidays.

- Philip Stephens discusses the temporary stall of populism due in no small part to Donald Trump's buffoonery, while noting that the structural factors which have allowed it to develop remain unaddressed. And John Nichols comments on Paul Ryan's Scrooge-like tendencies which have been given free rein under Trump.

- Finally, Ian Bickis points out a few of the ways in which people predictably deviate from the assumptions of laissez-faire zealots.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Festive cats.

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- The Economic Policy Institute charts how inequality and precarity are growing in the U.S. - and how that can be directly traced to the erosion of organized labour. And the World Inequality Report examines the trend toward increasing inequality on a global scale.

- Meanwhile, Kemal Dervis wonders whether another debt crisis is on the way - particularly as short-term gains are skimmed off the top or gifted to the wealthy rather than being used to build a stable economy.

- Dirk Meissner reports on new research showing the damage even small amounts of diluted bitumen can do to migrating salmon.

- Sean Fleming makes the case for proportional representation on the provincial level to avoid the wild swings in seat counts and governing authority which otherwise tend to be the norm. And David Moscrop comments on the important of public participation in building and maintaining democratic government, while wondering whether 2018 will bring more evidence that we're falling short.

- Finally, Michael Harris sees 2017 as having been defined by government by dilettantes - including both Donald Trump and Justin Trudeau. Jordan Press notes that Trudeau's dismissive response to serious ethical questions about his trading off his celebrity and power to win favours from plutocrats speaks volumes about his view of a leader's role. And Tim Harper discusses how Trudeau has chosen to silence Canada on the world stage in order to keep Trump happy.

[Edit: fixed wording.]

Monday, December 25, 2017

Monday Afternoon Links

Assorted content for your holiday reading.

- The Star tells the stories of a few of the people working to make sure Christmas runs smoothly. And Erin McCormick points out other workers stuck in precarious (and largely care-related) positions who don't have a choice but to take on holiday shifts in order to try to stay afloat.

- Meanwhile, David Cay Johnston weighs in on the disparate treatment of corporate tycoons and working people in the U.S.' tax scam:
This year cops and other first responders can write off the costs of buying uniforms and dry cleaning them. But in 2018, cops who buy their uniforms or are required to buy their own guns and ammunition will no longer be able to deduct those costs as reasonable and necessary expenses to support their earning a paycheck, thanks to Trump and Congressional Republicans.

But that’s not all. Cops and anyone else who belongs to a union will no longer be allowed to deduct their union dues. People who must bear travel costs without reimbursement from their employers will just have to suck it up starting in January.

The new law takes special aim at teachers who seek advanced degrees, which typically qualifies them for more pay. Tuition, books and related costs of getting advanced degrees will not be deductible after the end of this year.

Why are Trump and Congressional Republicans dinging first responders, teachers, nurses, traveling salespeople and even those who pay someone to prepare their income tax returns? So the rich can get bigger tax breaks, of course.
- Michael Savage and Dulcie Lee discuss the widening health gap between the rich and poor in the UK, while also noting the return of Victorian-era diseases among its poorest children. 

- Vinay Menon offers his take on how the bread price-fixing scandal which has recently surfaced likely reflects only the tip of the iceberg in consumer exploitation.

- Finally, Jane Mayer writes about the conservative scheme to suppress progressive organizing on campuses based on laughable claims about free speech for bigots.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Leadership 2018 Links

The latest from the Saskatchewan NDP leadership campaign.

- Devin Tasa reported on the Nipawin debate, while the Estevan Mercury covered Ryan Meili's visit. Adam Hunter reported on Trent Wotherspoon's mistaken province-wide television ad. And Alex MacPherson and D.C. Fraser's notebook continues to offer some coverage, including the latest on the candidates' fund-raising totals.

- Phil Tank compared the candidates from both provincial leadership campaigns in their plans for the Meewasin Valley Authority. And the Saskatchewan Teachers' Federation likewise took note of the candidates' education plans across party lines.

- While I haven't focused much on endorsements, the most prominent recent ones include an interesting divide between Wotherspoon's support from familiar Saskatchewan NDP figures including Anne Blakeney and Cam Broten, and Meili's from the broader progressive movement including Thomas Mulcair and Harry Leslie Smith.

- Finally, Ryan Meili has released a membership pitch connecting his farm background to the importance of community support for people:

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Jessica Corbett charts the U.S.' unacceptable (and worsening) inequality. Robert Reich discusses how the Republicans' tax scam represents a triumph for oligarchy. And Ben Steverman notes that the bill passed this month is ripe for abuse - and already being exploited to the fullest by the U.S.' wealthiest individuals.

- Meanwhile, Noah Smith notes that much of the U.S.' trade deficit on paper may be the result of tax avoidance - and that a scheme designed to reduce its appearance won't do anything to help the real economy.

- Joan Rush argues for the federal Libs to follow the B.C. NDP's lead in cracking down on tax avoidance. And David Pfrimmer calls for Canada's federal government to take far more action to rein in poverty and inequality.

- The Guardian studies the treatment of homeless people who are bused out of cities to be somebody else's problem - and the effect of relocation programs in hiding homelessness and the social breakdowns which cause it.

- Finally, the ILO offers some suggestions to close the gender gap in employment. And Lana Payne is hopeful that 2017's long-overdue focus on the causes and effects of sexual harassment will spur a broader movement toward workplace equality.