Saturday, January 06, 2018

Saturday Afternoon Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Lana Payne discusses the divergence between an upper class with soaring incomes, and the bulk of the population facing stagnation and precarity:
(W)hile the nation’s wealth or GDP looks good, less of it is getting shared around and more and more of it is hoarded at the top end.

Governments are collecting less from the rich and corporations, limiting their ability to share wealth and invest and build things that benefit everyone.

At the same time, household debt levels are at their highest, sitting at 168% last year.

Many Canadians are feeling less secure in their employment, experiencing deteriorating job quality, with almost two-thirds earning less than the average wage. Indeed the share of Canadians earning less than the average wage has continued to climb over the past two decades.

This is directly linked to a rising share of low-wage jobs, according to the CIBC Capital Markets’ job quality report issued in late 2016. So while the job market on the surface looks good, wages are lagging.

Late last fall, Ekos pollster Frank Graves did a deep dive on this widespread feeling of economic insecurity.

Fewer Canadians, he found, identify with being in the “middle class” and more and more Canadians are feeling pessimistic about their futures.

A multitude of tax cuts has not helped assuage the economic angst.
The 2018 World Inequality Report says progressive taxation is crucial to stop rising inequality.

The fact is there is plenty of money in the economy. It’s how that money is not getting shared.
- Michal Rozworski rightly critiques the media's response to minimum wage increases, both in reproducing anti-worker propaganda and in spinning economic analyses to ignore the positive effects of increased wages. David Moscrop offers a reminder of the importance of looking at the effect of policy on people's lives - and particularly workers benefiting from high wages. The Hamilton Spectator weighs in on the obvious benefits of a more fair minimum wage. And CBC has followed up on the treatment of workers at Tim Hortons as a prime example of how unscrupulous employers are trying to twist positive public policy changes into an excuse to further exploit workers.

- Graham Riches writes that John Horgan (and others in power) should be working on ending reliance on food banks, not merely promoting them. And Luke Savage discusses how Toronto's cold snap and resulting discussion of homelessness have laid bare its blithe acceptance of avoidable poverty and insecurity.

- Finally, Brent Patterson argues that the federal Libs need to stop stalling on legislation to reverse the Cons' voter suppression tactics. And Ian Boekhoff reports on the possibility that Prince Edward Island might break new ground in Canadian electoral reform.

Friday, January 05, 2018

Musical interlude

Elliphant feat. Ras Fraser Jr. - Music Is Life

Thursday, January 04, 2018

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Brent Patterson rightly worries about the prospect that Justin Trudeau will choose to emulate Donald Trump's anti-social agenda (just as he's too often done with Stephen Harper's):
At the time of last year's federal budget, Finance Minister Bill Morneau commented he would exercise prudence "to ensure that we have the capacity to deal with the environment that we find ourselves in". That was widely interpreted in the media as the federal government recognizing that Trump's corporate tax cuts were on the way and that those cuts would have implications for Canada.

There will also very likely be corporate pressure to cut regulatory protections for Canadians. Wudrick says, "It's not as if Canada can count on other advantages to mitigate being competitive on taxes; regulatory uncertainty, for example, helped kill large projects such as Energy East."

John Manley, the former Liberal cabinet minister who now heads the Business Council of Canada, says, "Initiatives such as tax reform, changes to environmental policy and deregulation [in the United States] could have serious consequences for Canada's economy." His prescription? Cut corporate tax rates to stay competitive, streamline the regulatory approval process, negotiate free trade agreements with Japan, India and China, and adopt less restrictive climate policies.

We'll see what the Liberals do regarding corporate tax rates in the upcoming federal budget (expected in March), but it has already signalled its intention to streamline the regulatory approval process, is pursuing 'free trade' agreements (including the Trans-Pacific Partnership that could be signed by March of this year), while its so-called "restrictive climate policies" have allowed for the approval of the 890,000 barrel per day Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline and the 760,000 barrel per day Enbridge Line 3 pipeline - that together would generate 39-52 megatonnes of upstream carbon pollution a year.
- Owen Jones discusses the knighting of Nick Clegg as a prime example of how utter failure is no obstacle to lionization within an elite political class.

- Andre Picard writes that Canada can learn from California's experience in managing the legalization of marijuana. But of course that would involve some level of governmental interest and competence - both of which are sorely lacking within Brad Wall's Saskatchewan Party administration.

- Meanwhile, Jeremy Barreto comments on Rachel Notley's success in developing affordable renewable power for Alberta.

- Finally, David Moscrop makes the case for an offer of guaranteed seats in the House of Commons for Indigenous representatives.

New column day

Here, on the still-growing gap between the income of CEOs and that of workers at large - and a few of the fixes which might help to reverse the trend.

For further reading...
- Again, David Macdonald's latest report for the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives is here (PDF). And for those looking to compare individual wealth to CEO pay, Canadian Business' list of the wealthiest Canadians is here.
- Meanwhile, the Guardian has discussed the failure of disclosure requirements to rein in executive pay. And Alexandre Mas has studied (PDF) the historical precedents in more detail.
- Finally, Jim Edwards comments on the effect of an increased minimum wage in the UK, which provides one more example of more fair wages at the bottom of the income spectrum producing substantial benefits without producing significant costs for anybody. But Aaron Saltzman reports that some unscrupulous employers are trying to use minimum wage increases as an excuse to cut overall compensation.

Wednesday, January 03, 2018

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Joseph Stiglitz discusses how the Republicans' tax scam is designed for the sole purpose of further enriching their already-wealthy donors, while Theodoric Meyer notes that it also stands to make loads of money for lobbyists.

- Jagmeet Singh makes the case for Canada to work on a tax system which is more fair to citizens - making for a far more constructive contribution than Susan Delacourt's effort to stoke anti-tax sentiment for little apparent reason. And Patrick Collinson comments on the need for a tax system which ensures that inheritances don't exacerbate existing inequality:
Firstly, let’s call a halt to the nonsense that the money goes to kids, or to young adults needing a hand up the property ladder. The average age at which someone receives an inheritance is 61. These people are certainly not “kids” – indeed, many of the recipients of unearned inheritances (largely created by property inflation, not personal endeavour) will be grandparents themselves.

Now let’s look at who receives the money. The report reveals how it doesn’t really go to those who need a leg-up – it goes to those who already have assets. Resolution looked at the millennial generation – generally those seen as reaching their late teens and early 20s after 2000 – and found that the ones who haven’t got on the property ladder are likely to be those whose parents also never made it. In contrast, 83% of millennials who have bought their homes have parents who also bought their own homes.

You can see where inheritance is going. What it does is simply entrench inequality and make the divide between the housing haves and have-nots wider.
Social mobility risks grinding to a near halt, making it much more difficult to become wealthy from one’s own endeavours. Society will, more than ever, be run for the benefit of a trustafarian gerontocracy of the 60-plus who inherited property, not a society where entrepreneurial vigour counts.
- Owen Jones points out the combination of skyrocketing prices and declining service in the UK's rail industry as just another example of the consequences of ideological privatization.

- Aditya Chakrabortty discusses how the UK's social programs have been cut and rendered impossible to navigate in order to divert money to the Conservatives' tax slashing.

- Finally, Elizabeth Schulze examines Finland's basic income experiment after a year, and finds that the main question being raised is whether to go further in extending income security.

Tuesday, January 02, 2018

Tuesday Evening Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Jennifer Wells reports on the CCPA's latest study of the continually-increasing chasm between corporate executives and the rest of the workforce. But the Guardian notes that disclosure of CEO pay hasn't done anything to close the gap - signalling that stronger and more direct public policy will be needed to get the job done.

- Noam Schieber discusses the downside of accepting a place outside normal employment structures in order to avoid taxes in then short term. And Andrew Khouri notes that Donald Trump's attacks on immigrants have predictably allowed employers to exploit workers under threat of deportation.

- But on the bright side, The Local reports on the next goal of a strong labour movement in Germany, where a 28-hour work week is now on the table.

- Jeffrey Sachs points out how corporate greed is damaging the health and life expectancy of Americans. And Danyaal Raza argues that Canada shouldn't let profit motives take precedence over a safe blood supply.

- Finally, Leilani Farha writes that this should be the year to finally address housing as a fundamental right:
Rights-based housing strategies are not one-size fits all, but there are some key requirements that can be shaped to fit national and local contexts. As a starting point, housing strategies must guarantee that no one is left behind, which, among other things, means they must commit to ending homelessness by 2030.

This also means housing strategies must go well beyond the provision of housing. Strategies must have structural change as their ambition. They must aim to transform societies where economic policies and housing systems create and sustain inequality and exclusion, into societies in which housing is a means to ensure security and inclusion.

There are fundamental shifts that rights-based strategies must effect in order to be successful.

Strategies must transform how governments, at all levels, interact with those who are homeless and inadequately housed. Instead of viewing them as needy beneficiaries, objectsof charity, or, worse, as criminals, they must instead recognise that people who are homeless also have rights – and are active citizens who should be involved in decisions affecting their lives. This would ensure that strategies respond to people’s own experiences.

Strategies must also transform the relationship between governments and the financial sector. Because most governments rely extensively on the private sector to meet housing needs, strategies must ensure that human rights implementation is the overriding goal of all investment in housing and residential real estate, and that the primacy of housing’s social function is never a subsidiary or neglected obligation.
(O)ur choice is to either be complacent and allow our cities to become the playgrounds of the rich while the rest of us are priced out of our homes; or to recognise the urgent need for action, and declare 2018 the year of the right to housing, and every year thereafter, until governments are held accountable, cities become inclusive, and our housing accessible, secure, and affordable.

I choose the latter.

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Seated cats.

Monday, January 01, 2018

Monday Morning Links

Assorted content to start your year.

- Noah Smith notes that private monopolies may be as bad for workers as they are for consumers, as a lack of alternative employers results in near-total power for corporate behemoths:
(I)n addition to monopolies, we need to think about local monopsonies -- cases where there’s only one employer, or a few employers, in town. A company doesn’t need to be nationally big in order to be locally dominant -- it could be a Wal-Mart branch, but it could just as easily be an independent lumber mill, coal mine or dairy farm.

If a locally dominant employer lowers wages, why don’t the workers just move away? They may be sentimentally attached to their home. They may not have the money to move, or may lack the networks that would allow them to find a job and settle in in a new location. Or they may be two-income families that can’t move without finding two new jobs. Whatever the reason, it’s undeniably true that Americans are moving around the country less than they used to. That potentially makes them more vulnerable to wage suppression by employers that dominate the local market.

Recent empirical evidence suggests that these kinds of employers are, in fact, suppressing wages. A new paper by economists José Azar, Ioana Marinescu, and Marshall Steinbaum analyzes data from the website, breaking down job postings by commuting zone and occupation. They find that for occupations that have fewer employers posting on the website within a commuting zone, wages are lower than for occupations where lots of companies are looking for workers.

That’s consistent with the story that dominant employers are using their market power to hold down wages in areas where workers don’t have many choices. There could be other explanations -- for example, towns with few employers tend to have lower wages in general. But Azar et al. control for the level of wages in the surrounding area. They also find that occupations that have only a few employers at the national level tend to have lower wages than other jobs in an area. That rules out most of the obvious alternative explanations for the correlation.
- But lest we miss the significance of price-fixing on the consumer side, Terri Ciolfe charts how corporate collusion has increased the cost of baking products compared to other groceries since 2001. 

- Meanwhile, Sara Mojtehedzadeh asks what 2018 will bring for the fight against wage theft - while noting that the current system in Ontario (and elsewhere) is too often set up to make it difficult for workers to recoup what employers have taken from them.

- Finally, David Sirota and Josh Keefe discuss how Goldman Sachs is seeking U.S. government approval to stifle a shareholder attempt to secure transparency for its eight-figure lobbying scheme.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Sunday Afternoon Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Tom Parkin discusses how the growing pile of Liberal disappointments is creating opportunities for Canada's opposition parties.

- Julie Ireton reports on the continued problems being caused by the federal government's Phoenix privatization debacle - including by forcing retirement-eligible employees to hold on until their retirement income comes into focus. And Mike De Souza reports on the National Energy Board's focus on stifling any flow of accurate information to the public in the name of resource-sector corporate profits.

- Rupert Neate highlights how the extravagant bonuses paid to property developers could provide housing for large numbers of people who actually need it. And Yogi Achyara discusses Toronto's need for increased shelter resources (rather than the cuts being imposed by John Tory and right-wing councillors).

- Don Giesbrecht wonders why Canada is allowing itself to fall behind its international peers in investing in child care.

- And finally, Kendall Latimer reports on the continued fallout from the Saskatchewan Party's decision to trash STC - with rural residents having to reconsider whether they can afford to be trapped without reliable transportation, while Brad Wall's minions continue to pretend that private operators will materialize out of nowhere.