Saturday, March 10, 2018

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Martha Friendly, Susan Prentice and Morna Ballantyne discuss how universal child care is a necessary element of any serious push toward equality for women. Dennis Grunding notes that it will take a concerted public effort to secure the universal pharmacare program Canadians want and deserve - even though the blueprint was set out over half a century ago. And the Star's editorial board calls out the Libs for their stubborn and counterproductive refusal to consider universal social programs of any kind:
The research of Rothstein and others, drawing on numerous international examples, suggests universal programs have a number of advantages that should not be glibly dismissed by governments, especially ones concerned about the middle class and those aspiring to join it.

For instance, because everyone benefits from them and is therefore invested, universal programs have been shown to be more durable, less vulnerable to market fluctuations or political lurches. Commitment to medicare, for example, has not seriously wavered, even through major recessions and long stretches of austerity government.

Moreover, while the initial costs can seem politically prohibitive, universal programs often create significant long-term savings. A universal pharmacare program, for instance, would allow for the bulk-purchasing of drugs and the elimination of administrative bureaucracy, yielding billions of dollars in savings forgone by a more targeted approach.

Finally, and crucially for a government concerned about inequality, universal programs have been shown to promote solidarity and trust. Targeted or means-tested programs may stigmatize recipients, contributing to a sense that low-income people are apart from the rest of the community. “A welfare state built mainly on means-tested programs,” Rothstein writes, can actually “perpetuate feelings of inequality among both the poor and the more affluent.”

Such feelings should worry Trudeau. After all, the prime minister rightly observed that Donald Trump won the U.S. election in part because too many Americans felt they were not sharing in the country’s prosperity and that this was something Ottawa must also address. The evidence suggests universal programs, design depending, can be a powerful tool for doing just that.
- Meanwhile, Patrick DeRochie lists a few of the crucial social supports which are receiving substantially less federal money than the Libs are paying out in subsidies to oil and gas companies.

- Andrew Jackson points out the importance of measuring different types of poverty (including absolute and relative measures), and ensuring that public policy responds to all of them.

- Finally, Rick Salutin discusses the potentially valuable side of populism which genuinely reflects the interests of people excluded from decision-making. And commenting on the Ontario PCs' leadership campaign, Martin Regg Cohn recognizes the risks that arise when only anti-social candidates present populist messages.

Friday, March 09, 2018

Musical interlude

John O'Callaghan w/ Timmy & Tommy - Talk To Me

Friday Afternoon Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- May Boeve and Michael Brune comment on the danger that political- and court-based attacks on U.S. unions could substantially weaken the progressive movement as a whole. But Jane McAlevey writes that West Virginia's successful teachers' strike may provide an important reminder that the power of collective action can operate in the face of laws intended to isolate workers.  

- James Wilt notes that Canada's plans to transition communities away from reliance on diesel fuel fall far short of what's needed - resulting in dirty fuels continuing to be subsidized in the absence of alternatives. Andrew Ward points out the trillions of dollars being bet by the oil industry on an insufficient response to climate change. And George Monbiot writes about the facts of environmental destruction which are far too often ignored in policy discussions.

- Warren Bell discusses how a switch to a proportional electoral system in British Columbia could shift politics from a combat model to one based on cooperation.

- Meanwhile, Elvy Del Bianco, John Kay, Mary Childs, Ben Hyman and Marc Lee offer some suggestions to build B.C.'s cooperative economy.

- Finally, Tressie McMillan Cottom rightly argues that the real threat to freedom of speech and thought comes from harassment rooted in racism and sexism, not from overwrought complaints about political correctness.

Thursday, March 08, 2018

New column day

Here, expanding on these posts as to the show of strength from both Ryan Meili and Trent Wotherspoon in the NDP's leadership campaign as compared to any of the Saskatchewan Party's candidates - and how that enthusiasm gap may be important in contrasting Meili against Scott Moe in the years to come.

For further reading, the past vote totals for the respective parties' leadership campaigns are drawn from here and here, while the turnout levels were the subject of more recent reporting

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Noortje Uphoff writes about the long-term effects of growing up in poverty and the resulting stress on a child:
Our childhood affects our health across the course of our lives. Stress, it seems, is a major contributor. While a life lived with financial, educational and social security and stability may not be free of worries, a disadvantaged childhood means more exposure to a number of difficult circumstances and events. These may include social tensions, domestic abuse, neglect, food and fuel poverty, unsafe or poor quality housing, and separation from caregivers.

These life events understandably cause stress. Most of us will have personal experience of responding to pressure at work or a relationship breakdown with ice cream, cigarettes or alcohol, or giving the gym a miss. When facing financial troubles, the health benefits of vegetables can seem trivial to parents in the face of the time- and money-saving virtues of junk food. Feeling like you do not have enough food, money, time, or friends occupies the mind so that there is less space to focus on decisions with long-term pay-offs.

Experiencing these feelings over a long period of time (rather than the shorter-term stress experienced when applying for a job or studying for an exam) can make it increasingly difficult to make healthy choices. Over a lifetime, choices add up. But this latest research suggests that chronic stress impacts more than just our choices.
We already know that children suffering from long-term stress build up higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol, making the body’s response to threats from the outside world change. Chronic stress in childhood is related to a host of diseases through mechanisms such as poorer mental health, changes in the body’s immune response to infection and injury, and increased blood pressure.

Now, we have evidence that growing up in poverty has a cumulative wear-and-tear effect on the physiological systems that govern how our bodies respond to our environment, permanently disrupting the ability of affected individuals to maintain good health in old age.
- Meanwhile, Angus Deaton explores the potential and pitfalls in basing policy on self-reported well-being.

- Andre Picard comments on the advantages of a national pharmacare system - as well as the obstacles we face in pursuing it.

- Andrew Jackson discusses the missed opportunities for more progressive revenue in the federal budget despite strong public demand to ensure the wealth pay their fair share. And Rachel Gilmore reports on Romeo Saganash's recognition that the Libs are still falling short of even basic fairness for Indigenous communities.

- Finally, Murray Mandryk points out that Scott Moe's plan to slash Saskatchewan's public service is unworkable based on his own government's track record.

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Ann Pettifor rightly questions the supposed gains from austerity in belatedly balancing budgets only at the expense of avoidable social devastation. And the CCPA documents the billions of dollars in lost assets and thousands of jobs slashed in Saskatchewan even when Brad Wall was promising not to attack the province's public services (and simultaneously driving Saskatchewan into a deficit).

- Omar Khan writes about the racial and ethnic pay gap in the UK. And Stephen Buranyi points out that algorithmic recruitment practices only figure to make it more difficult for less-privileged applicants to find work, while John Harris notes that big data is creating the risk of similar issues in other areas of life.

- Stuart Trew discusses the fossilized view of energy which Canada continues to take in NAFTA negotiations. And Catherine McKenna's attempt to excuse Canada's falling far short of emission targets based on the bare hope that it will catch up later looks to signal both a lack of understanding of the underlying science of climate change which continues to get worse in the meantime, and a lack of seriousness in addressing it.

- Meanwhile, new research in the Lancet documents the massive gains in health which would be achieved by meeting the Paris climate change targets.

- Finally, Robin Sears comments on the need for government involvement in providing more basic services and supports through higher revenues - and the fit between that governing philosophy and the demands of a growing activist movement.

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Slumbering cats.

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Lucas Chancel points out the myths underlying any claim that corporate globalization does anything but voluntarily exacerbate inequality:
It is often said that rising inequality is inevitable — that it is a natural consequence of trade openness and digitalization that governments are powerless to counter. But the numbers presented above clearly demonstrate the diversity of inequality trajectories experienced by broadly comparable regions over the past decades. The U.S. and Europe, for instance, had similar population size and average income in 1980 — as well as analogous inequality levels. Both regions have also faced similar exposure to international markets and new technologies since, but their inequality trajectories have radically diverged. In the U.S., the bottom 50% income share decreased from 20% to 10% today, whereas in Europe it decreased from 24% to 22%.

Rather than openness to trade or digitalization, it is policy choices and institutional changes that explain divergences in inequality. After the neoliberal policy shift of the early 1980s, Europe resisted the impulse to turn its market economy into a market society more than the US — evidenced by differences on key policy areas concerning inequality. The progressivity of the tax code — how much more the rich pay as a percentage — was seriously undermined in the U.S., but much less so in continental Europe. The U.S. had the highest minimum wage of the world in the 1960s, but it has since decreased by 30%, whereas in France, the minimum wage has risen 300%. Access to higher education is costly and highly unequal in the U.S., whereas it is free in several European countries. Indeed, when Bavarian policymakers tried to introduce small university fees in the late 2000s, a referendum invalidated the decision. Health systems also provide universal access to good-quality healthcare in most European countries, while millions of Americans do not have access to healthcare plans.

Re-examining these pervasive beliefs around globalization and its impacts on global inequality is more important now than ever before. Using new data from the World Inequality Report is the first step in rectifying these myths and generating a new public discourse that has the potential to effect long-lasting, systemic change.
- Tonia Novitz, Alan Bogg, Katie Bales, Michael Ford and Roseanne Russell discuss the lack of good work in the gig economy.

- Marie-Danielle Smith reports on the Libs' deficient excuse for arms control legislation, whose loopholes include a failure to revisit export contracts in the face of new human rights abuses.

- Meanwhile, Marco Chown Oved reports on the some positive measures in cracking down on corporate tax avoidance - though it's worth noting that those join so many of the Libs' other progressive promises in being deferred past the next election.

- Finally, the Western Producer weighs in on the folly of pretending that gun violence is a worthwhile price for the protection of property. And James Hamblin comments on the stress and anxiety children face when confronted with active-shooter drills and other activities which normalize fear and violence.

Monday, March 05, 2018

Leadership 2018 Reference Page

A one-stop source for general links on the 2018 Saskatchewan NDP leadership campaign.

General Information
Saskatchewan NDP Constitution (PDF)
Leadership Rules (PDF)
Leadership 2018

Candidate Information
Candidate Website Twitter Facebook Profile
Ryan Meili @ryanmeili RyanMeiliNDP Profile
Trent Wotherspoon @WotherspoonT TrentWotherspoon Profile

Other Resources

All Posts By Label

Twitter: #skndpldr

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Barry Eidlin and Micah Uetricht offer a reminder that the role of unions goes beyond securing higher wages, to giving workers a voice in workplace governance. And Eric Blanc interviews Jay O'Neal about the sorely-needed sense of agency earned by West Virginia's teachers in the course of their strike against unilateral changes to contracts.

- Alan Krueger and Eric Posner suggest (PDF) greater public involvement in both economic development and social supports to protect lower-income workers from concentrated corporate power.

- Lana Payne writes that while this year's federal budget offers some improvement in gender equality, it leaves plenty more work to be done. Jen Gerson argues that any progress is more rhetorical than real. And Sendhil Mullainathan examines the hidden penalties facing women who achieve success in their careers even in the face of structural disadvantages.

- Meanwhile, PressProgress tracks the necessary backlash against the Libs' "phony" pharmacare promise. And the Globe and Mail's editorial board weighs in the Libs' immediate attempt to backtrack from a fully effective pharmacare program.

- Finally, Roberta Timothy discusses the devastating health effects of systemic racism and prejudice against Indigenous peoples in particular.

Sunday, March 04, 2018

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Andrea Gordon offers the latest on the inequality caused by forcing schools to rely on fund-raising for basic equipment and activities. And Wanda Wyporska comments on the class pay gap which sees children of less wealthy parents face lifelong disadvantages:
The report pointed to the intergenerational dominance of the professional class. As the report found “the odds of those from professional backgrounds ending up in professional jobs are 2.5 times higher than the odds of those from less advantaged backgrounds reaching the professions.” Tellingly, it goes on to say that “45% of earnings inequalities are passed across generations”, which should worry us all greatly. Especially when you take into consideration the Longevity Science Panel’s report this month reiterated that ‘of the many factors comprising the Index of Multiple Deprivation, income levels have the most powerful influence over neighbourhood death rates.’ So the relationship between class and income matters, because a boy born in 2015, in one of the most advantaged 20% of neighbourhoods can expect to live 8.4 years longer than his contemporary born in one of the least advantaged 20% of neighbourhoods. This has increased from 2001, when that gap was 7.2 years.

Starkly, 73% of doctors are from professional and managerial backgrounds, but fewer than 6% are from working-class backgrounds. 

The deck is stacked against working class and poor children, as some may be as far as 12-18 months behind their peers when they start primary school, a gap that gets ever more cavernous as many fall further behind. Although education isn’t the only engine of social mobility, it’s clear that those who can afford to work unpaid as interns, secure work experience through family connections and have recourse to the bank of Mum and Dad, are likely to earn more and to gain jobs in the professions.
- Rebecca Burns discusses the criminalization of debt as an additional gratuitous punishment for people living in poverty. Laurie Monsebraaten notes that a reasonable quality of life is out of reach for far too many people in Toronto. And Nick Bunker highlights the dangers of relying on household debt to drive economic activity.

- Daniel Triesman points out that public policy which exacerbates inequality can largely be traced to a lack of understanding as to where people fit on the income spectrum - not to mention just how far that spectrum extends at the top end. And Paul Krugman writes that anybody who isn't already among the U.S.' privileged few will lose out from the Republicans' tax giveaways to the rich.

- Finally, Mike De Souza notes that the federal government's assumptions about oil production suggest that new pipelines would serve little purpose until at least 2030. And Andrew Nikiforuk discusses the growing recognition of the dangers of fracking.