Saturday, February 17, 2018

Saturday Afternoon Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Thomas Edsall discusses the difficulties in trying to address wealth inequality through a money-infused electoral system:
Five years ago, for example, Adam Bonica, a political scientist at Stanford, published “Why Hasn’t Democracy Slowed Rising Inequality?” Economic theory, he wrote, holds that “inequality should be at least partially self-correcting in a democracy” as “increased inequality leads the median voter to demand more redistribution.”

Starting in the 1970s, this rebalancing mechanism failed to work, and the divide between the rich and the rest of us began to grow, Bonica, Nolan McCarty of Princeton, Keith T. Poole of the University of Georgia, and Howard Rosenthal of N.Y.U. wrote.

They cite five possible explanations.

First, growing bipartisan acceptance of the tenets of free market capitalism. Second, immigration and low turnout among the poor resulting in an increasingly affluent median voter. Third, “rising real income and wealth has made a larger fraction of the population less attracted to turning to government for social insurance.” Fourth, the rich escalated their use of money to influence policy through campaign contributions, lobbying and other mechanisms. And finally, the political process has been distorted by polarization and gerrymandering in ways that “reduce the accountability of elected officials to the majority.”

In the five years since their essay was published, we’ve seen all of this play out; in the case of campaign contributions in particular, the authors provide strong evidence of the expanding clout of the very rich.
- Similarly, Dean Baker points out the connection between "centrist" policies which serve primarily to further enrich the people who already have the most, and public disgust with the parties pushing them. And Matt Egan compares the immediate gains from the Trump tax giveaway to the rich - with shareholders being gifted 30 times as much new money as workers even at a point when businesses are trying to put on a show of sharing benefits to lock in their goodies for the long term.

- Meanwhile, Tom Jacobs theorizes that the progressive movement may be able to win over small-c conservative voters with messages based on nostalgia. And the New Economics Foundation discusses how to frame economic discussions in terms of both populist responses to elite control, and our common interests in shared development.

- Tabatha Southey weighs in on the Parkland school shooting - and the gun lobby's response designed to ensure that the U.S. continues to suffer plenty more similar tragedies in the future.

- Finally, Robert Cribb reports on the underrepresentation of minorities on juries in Ontario. And Lana Payne comments on the need to move beyond empty apologies, and instead start acting on the thoroughly-studied steps which could actually move us toward reconciliation in Canada.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Musical interlude

Arcade Fire - The Suburbs

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Harriet Agerholm comments on the connection between income inequality and a growing life expectancy gap between the rich and the rest of us.

- May Bulman notes that after a generation of austerity, children of public sector workers are increasingly living in poverty in the UK. Miles Brignall reports on the UK's latest example of workers seeing their pensions sucked dry by the financial sector. And Bryce Covert writes about the stagnation of wages in economies where workers have perpetually options due to corporate concentration and monopolization. 

- Toby Sanger discusses the need to start ensuring that multinational digital empires start paying their fair share. And Iglika Ivanova and Alex Hemingway offer a reminder of how British Columbia's tax system (like so many others) became less fair by design under a corporate-controlled government, while Hemingway counters the Fraser Institute's inevitable griping that never is too soon to start sharing any economic development beyond the privileged few.

- Ian Hussey rightly points out that the era of easy windfall profits from the oil sands is over. And Linda McQuaig writes that climate change marches on no matter how far behind we fall in responding politically.

- Finally, Ryan Cooper makes the case for the complete abolishment of student loan debt.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

New column day

Here, on Ryan Meili's evidence-based policy - and particularly his thoughtful recognition of the issues where it's better to seek out more expert advice than make promises in its absence.

For further reading...
- Again, Meili's platform is here, and the sections on revenue and Crown corporations referred to in the column are here and here respectively. And by way of comparison, Trent Wotherspoon's policy is here, including his tax proposals within his general economic plank.
- And while Meili is no longer listed as one of EvidenceNetwork's academic experts, some of his past contributions can be found here.

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Larry Elliott discusses how the stock market is reacting with disgust against rare good economic news for workers and the general public. Asher Schechter interviews Angus Deaton about the connection between monopolies, rent-seeking and burgeoning inequality. And Bill Kerry writes that we have ample reason to ask what use the rich are to society at large when their wealth is hoarded and sheltered.

- The Broadbent Institute lists the Filthy Five worst tax loopholes which cost Canada eleven figures worth of revenue every year for no discernible social benefit. And PressProgress zeroes in on the business entertainment loophole in particular.

- CBC reports on a new study finding that nearly a million Canadians skimped on food or other necessities of life in order to pay for prescription drugs, while 1.6 million took less than the medicine they were prescribed due to an inability to afford it.

- The Local reports on Germany's proposal to make public transport free in order to cut down on pollution from vehicle use.

- Finally, Gordon Laxer writes that it's long past time for Canada to extricate itself from NAFTA rules requiring it to continue producing and exporting dirty energy.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Leadership 2018 Links

The latest from Saskatchewan's NDP leadership campaign as voting day approaches.

- There will be no lack of opportunities to compare the candidates within a debate format, including the NDP's Prince Albert debate... well as SaskForward's recent Regina forum which was covered by CTV among others. And another party debate will be held in Saskatoon tomorrow.

And for those looking for my take: while I haven't watched the debate schedule quite as closely as those in other campaigns, the debates ghaven't particularly shifted my own perceptions or expectations of the candidates. Ryan Meili continues to be more at ease in both storytelling and policy details, but has been somewhat awkward in answering what seem to be repetitive questions; Trent Wotherspoon is most comfortable challenging the Saskatchewan Party, but doesn't go as far in explaining what alternative he's offering.

- D.C. Fraser reported on the campaigns' responses to the party's final membership numbers.

- Meili has unveiled new policy planks dealing with poverty (including a basic income program), seniors and cities, while also releasing a closing appeal:

- And Wotherspoon bookended his campaign launch with another well-attended Regina event.

- Finally, Murray Mandryk has written candidate profiles of both Meili (focusing on increased public openness to policy) and Wotherspoon (framing him in terms of pragmatism). And Jill Morgan held a Q and A with Meili.

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Anna Coote discusses some of the potential problems with a universal basic income on its own - particularly to the extent it takes momentum away from the prospect of universal basic services.

- Scott Sinclair examines how little has changed - and how many substantial dangers haven't - in the latest iteration of the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

- Joan Bryden reports on the Parliamentary Budget Officer's five-year fight for information to allow it to assess the money Canada loses to offshore tax evasion. And the report from Alex Boutilier, Marco Chown Oved and Robert Cribb highlights other available estimates suggesting the Canadian public loses from 6 to 15 billion dollars every year to tax havens.

- Rob Ferguson reports on the billions in costs to Ontario from its privatization of Hydro One, while Aaron Derfel notes that P3 hospitals and other projects are getting more and more expensive. Kate Osamor discusses how privatization schemes are diluting the effects of foreign aid funding. And Rob Merrick points out UK Labour's plan in the wake of the Carillion collapse to develop worker-run public services to ensure that the public sector isn't so easily sold off or outsourced in the future.

- Meanwhile, Eli Day comments on the role younger workers are playing in rejuvenating the U.S.' labour movement after finding that they need a collective voice to stand up for their interests.

- Finally, John Anderson discusses the importance of a strong left-wing message from the federal NDP. And Zi-Ann Lum reports that Jagmeet Singh isn't being shy about reclaiming the ground on electoral reform which the Lib falsely claimed in 2015.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Angled cats.

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- David Brady, Ryan Finnigan and Sabine Hubgen challenge the claim that there's any relationship between single motherhood and poverty. And Doug Saunders writes that there's an opening for progressive movements to take back the theme of family values which obviously bear no relationship to the policy cruelty of the right:
As the Brown University historian Robert O. Self found in his chronicle of this period, conservatives "energized by the legalization of abortion, the demands of feminists, the expansion of welfare, rising crime rates, and the increasing visibility of homosexuality, cast the nuclear family as in crisis and its defense as their patriotic duty … they sought to protect idealized families from moral harm."

It was politically very successful. Yet it was built on a flawed premise. Poverty, inequality, crime and dependence are linked to family breakdown. But family-values conservatives got it backward: Broken families are not the cause of social and economic deprivation; they're an effect. Those dreaded big-state policies hadn't undermined the family; they'd protected it.
Stable and successful two-parent families tend to flourish where there's strong promotion of birth control and robust sex education, where child-care resources exist so that parents don't have to choose between work or children, where housing and social-assistance policies allow couples to have stable long-term tenure, where laws and social practices allow couples outside the traditional sphere of the heterosexual nuclear family to enter the security of marriage.

Beneath all that controversial liberal language of shifting identities and diversity and competing rights, you'll find the secret to family stability and, therefore, to upward mobility. If candidates are careful with that language, the next few years could see the return of the family-values left.
- Speaking of which, Renee Feltz reports on the lobbying by Koch-backed groups to undermine any movement toward paid sick leave in the U.S. - because for the plebes, the only acceptable response to illness is to suck it up and go to work anyway. 

- Kate McInturff reminds us why the continued gender pay gap is everybody's problem.

- David Pugliese points out that the Libs' agreement to sell military helicopters to Rodrigo Duterte was made with full knowledge that human rights abuses would result. And Tom Parkin puts the helicopter sale to the Philippines in context with Justin Trudeau's general failure to match words about human rights with meaningful action.

- Finally, Terry Dance Bennink, Maria Dobrinskaya and Antony Hodgson make the case for a proportional electoral system in British Columbia.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Paul Krugman reminds us of the fraud that is right-wing bleating about deficits:
There have been many “news analysis” pieces asking why Republicans have changed their views on deficit spending. But let’s be serious: Their views haven’t changed at all. They never really cared about debt and deficits; it was a fraud all along. All that has changed is the fact that a Republican now sits in the White House.

How do we know Republicans were never sincere about the deficit? It was obvious, even at the time, to anyone who looked at their fiscal proposals. These proposals always involved giant tax cuts for the wealthy — funny how that worked — offset by savage cuts in social benefits. Even so, assertions that deficits would go down depended entirely on assuming lots of revenue from closing unspecified loopholes and huge savings from cutting unspecified government programs. In other words, even at the peak of their deficit-hawk posturing, all Republicans really had to offer was redistribution from the poor to the rich.
Please, let’s not talk about the wrongheadedness of fiscal policy — about imposing austerity in a depressed economy, then running up the deficit when we’re already near full employment — as a problem of “political dysfunction,” or assert that both parties are to blame. Democrats didn’t block stimulus when the economy needed it, or push a tax cut that will worsen inequality and explode the national debt.

No, this is all about Republican bad faith. Everything they said about budgets, every step of the way, was fraudulent. And nobody should believe anything they say now.
- Thomas Walkom discusses how we shouldn't mistake a few peaks in a fluctuating stock market for more a sound economy. And Doug Henwood expands on the fact that the recent downturn reflects the aversion of wealthy shareholders to any wage growth.

- Meanwhile, Torsten Bell highlights the sheer impossibility of overcoming the effects of structural inequality merely by trying to work and save with an average income.

- Martin Lukacs comments on the Trudeau Libs' eagerness to have an anti-science Trump administration lobby for pipelines. Ricardo Acuna challenges some of the spin being used to try to sell the Trans Mountain expansion, while Elizabeth McSheffery fact-checks Scott Moe's early attempt to use the office of the Premier to serve the oil lobby. And Mitchell Anderson questions why British Columbia (and anybody concerned about protecting our natural environment) should pay the price for Alberta's squandering of past oil revenue.

- Justin Mikulka writes about the gap between promises and reality in responding to spills of diluted bitumen.

- Finally, CTV reports on Trajectoire Quebec's research into the high costs of subsidizing the cost of driving.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Robert Jago comments on an all-white jury's acquittal of Gerald Stanley for the shooting death of Colten Boushie. Shree Paradkar notes that the issue of non-representative juries is far from a new one. Scott Gilmore recognizes that Boushie's death and its aftermath are just one more story in a far-too-long history of denying fairness and equality to Indigenous peoples, while Doug Cuthand also notes the social factors behind the tragedy. And Kyle Edwards writes that Stanley's verdict will only stoke distrust of the criminal justice system and government generally, while Dr. Dawg argues that it should lead us to push for reconciliation with far greater urgency.

- Sophia Harris writes about the raiding of Sears employees' pensions to enrich executive and shareholders - featuring the farce of the same shareholder whose control sucked the company dry somehow cared about nothing more than it it staying viable.

- John Atcheson points out how the U.S. stands to pay a steep price for an infrastructure scheme designed mostly to enrich wealthy investors. And Drew McMillin notes that Ontario's highways may not be maintained this winter due to the province's reliance on the collapsed Carillion to service them.

- Toby Helm reports on UK Labour's long-overdue push to bring public services back under public ownership. And Rob Merrick reports on Jeremy Corbyn's plans for a renewable energy revolution.

- Finally, Becky Bond, Adam Klug and Emma Rees discuss the hope of building a progressive movement in Canada comparable to the ones which have rallied behind Jeremy Corbyn and Bernie Sanders.