Saturday, March 17, 2018

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Lana Payne writes about the need for real wage increases to relieve the financial stress on Canadian workers.

- Sheila Block examines the relative effects of tax cuts and minimum wage increases on lower-income workers, and finds that people are far better off receiving fair pay for their work than being told they'll be cut off of provincial tax rolls. And Elise Gould studies the experience of U.S. states to the effect that minimum-wage increases improve incomes for a large number of workers.

- Meanwhile, Alec Schierenbeck points out the obvious unfairness involved in applying fines of the same dollar amount for regulatory infractions with no regard for a person's ability to pay.

- Joel Lexchin discusses the need for a pharmacare plan to address exorbitant costs for particular prescription drugs. And Timothy Sawa, Lisa Ellenwood and Mark Kelley report on the continued inducements by big pharma to push their drugs.

- Finally, Douglas Todd offers five key reasons not to buy into the hysterical opposition to proportional representation in British Columbia. And Gary Mason is optimistic that electoral reform in B.C. will set a needed precedent for the rest of Canada.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Musical interlude

Unknown Mortal Orchestra - Necessary Evil

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Faiza Shaheen discusses the UK Cons' attempts to paper over the harmful effects of austerity. And Amir Fleischmann points out that while the human cost of cuts to public services is all too real, the supposed fiscal benefits are usually illusory:
Many social programs that fiscal conservatives advocate cutting have been shown to actually save the government money in the long run.

Let’s take providing affordable housing and adequate shelters in order to end homelessness as an example. In the rare moments such policies are even discussed, we are told that public affordable housing provision and shelters are too expensive to be feasible.

But academic research has shown that homelessness is actually very expensive, because homeless people tend to cost the government a great deal of money in healthcare and criminal justice system services. In fact, people experiencing homelessness tend to cost $3,810 per person per year greater than the average citizen in terms of justice services and $10,217 per person greater than the average citizen in terms of healthcare services. The cost of homelessness support programs range from a couple thousand dollars to just over $14,000 per person annually.

Set aside any moral obligation we might have to help the homeless — failing to meaningfully address homelessness is the more costly policy. We simply cannot afford austerity.

The same logic applies to universal early childcare. While fiscal conservatives tell us that we cannot afford quality universal early childcare, the truth is that we can’t afford not to have it.

- Charles Hugh Smith comments on the difference between free trade generally, and the capital-biased agreements which are sold using its rhetoric. But then, Jonathan Chait points out that right-wing corporatist dogma only seems to become further entrenched no matter how many times it proves to be utterly detached from reality. 

- Damon Matthews and Daniel Horen Greenford write that it's impossible to reconcile a rational climate change policy with continued fossil fuel expansion. But Paul Jay reports on the oil money and influence which has pushed Canada's public policy discussion away from that reality.

- Meanwhile, Graham Readfearn reports on new research showing high concentrations of plastic particles in bottled water.

- Finally, Adam Serwer discusses the culture of impunity surrounding the U.S.' use of torture - which he also sees as applying to a wide range of other activity by privileged people as well.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

New column day

Here, on how the Boundary Dam carbon capture and storage project - cited incessantly by Scott Moe and the Saskatchewan Party as a substitute for a climate change action plan - has in fact proven a costly failure both as a power source and a means of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

For further reading...
- I've previously written about the Saskatchewan Party's entirely hollow excuse for a climate change plan.
- Sean Kavanagh reported on Manitoba's agreement to participate in the Canada-wide climate policy framework which leaves Saskatchewan alone among Canadian provinces in doing nothing to deal with greenhouse gas emissions generally.
- Stefani Langenegger reported on the cost difference between coal (in any form) and wind power at least as far back as 2016. And the Canadian Press pointed out how much further renewable prices have dropped in Alberta.

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Matt Bruenig highlights Norway's high level of social ownership, with 76% of non-home wealth in public hands in an extremely prosperous country. And Patrick Collinson reports on the latest World Happiness Survey, showing Norway within a group of relatively equal Nordic countries at the very top.

- Christo Aivalis discusses the elements of economic democracy, as well as the need for the NDP to offer voters a clear option of social ownership:
(H)owever important things like Medicare, education, and social security were, they did not constitute the outer boundaries of the social-democratic project. Put another way, what fundamentally distinguished social democracy from liberalism was a conviction of who should control the economy, with liberals saying it should be within largely private control, and social democrats claiming that, through various means, the economy should be controlled publicly.

Canadian social democrats, simply put, need to re-embrace the value in challenging private property’s dominance over the state. This isn’t to say the party is without existing ideas on this front. Andrea Horwath’s Ontario NDP is pledging to re-nationalize Hydro Ontario, and is calling for a reversal of many contracted out public services. Similarly, Niki Ashton’s federal leadership campaign made public ownership a central plank, while Charlie Angus had specific policies that would encourage worker and community-owned enterprises. Still, much more must be done on this front, and as we’ve seen, specific lessons are found within the party’s own recent history.

Jagmeet Singh’s NDP has already made impacts on issues like overhauling our tax system with a view towards a more equitable society. But if the party wants to offer a unambiguous distinction between itself and the ostensibly progressive Trudeau Liberals, a platform predicated on democratizing workplaces and the wider economy is a fantastic start, especially when aligned with provincial NDP sections willing to promote the same objectives in those jurisdictions where they have the most power.
- Richard Poplak points out the outsized (and unaccountable) role played by Export Development Canada in financing questionable corporate activity.

- Sara Mojtehedzadeh reports on the difficulty injured workers have securing compensation in the face of abusive practices by Ontario employers. Tim Berners-Lee warns against allowing a small number of massive tech firms to dictate access to content online. And Crawford Kilian argues that a public-sector drug manufacturer is a needed cure for the problems with corporate incentives to encourage overprescription.

- Finally, Bob Ramsay writes that Canada's most privileged people are getting more antisocial with time and increased wealth, as charitable contributions as a share of income plummet among those with the most to give.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Amir Sufi and Atif Mian discuss how household debt tends to drive both the booms and busts of the business cycle. Which means there's plenty of reason for concern about a Canadian economy reliant on household debt to paper over income insecurity and inequality - and Michal Rozworski highlights how those trends are playing out even when looking only at wages.

- Meanwhile, Andy Blatchford reports on the Bank of Canada's research showing how universal affordable child care could provide an economic boost (as well as far greater career opportunities for women in particular).

- J.W. Mason traces U.S. corporate cash flows over the past six decades - including both the recent drop in the wage share (masked earlier only due to increased health care costs), and a stark jump in share repurchases even when it means going into the red. And Adam Winkler notes that the concept of corporate rights is built on a foundation as deceitful and misguided as the anti-social policies now pushed based on the valuation of corporations over people.

- PressProgress points out the public's strong desire to close tax loopholes and generally make sure that corporations pay their fair share. And Jose Antonio Campo discusses the need for international cooperation to prevent businesses from ducking any contribution to the people who make their profits possible.

- Finally, Trevor Hancock comments on the importance of incorporating nature into our urban living spaces.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Rochelle Toplensky reports that ten years after a financial meltdown based on the instability of top-down economic structures, multinational corporations are paying substantially lower effective tax rates than they did before. And Jim Tankersley and Alan Rappaport follow up on how the Trump tax giveaway to the wealthy is riddled with mistakes and unintended consequences even on its own terms due to the Republicans' desperation to further enrich those who already have the most.

- Thomas Walkom writes that Donald Trump's blackmail shows just how illusory any asserted economic benefits from NAFTA always were for Canada.

- Joe Romm discusses Rick Perry's position that any attempt to move toward cheaper and clean energy is "immoral" for failing to sacrifice the public interest to the oil industry. And Jeff Sparrow compares the slow-motion disaster of climate change to the First World War, as the failures of governments are resulting in the public failing to appreciate the consequences of its actions (and inaction).

- Meanwhile, Chelsea Gohd points out that air pollution is the greatest environmental threat to our health and well-being - whether or not the dangers are visible.

- Finally, Mike Moffatt highlights how the Ontario PCs' insistence on refusing to cut greenhouse gas emissions could cost tens of thousands of jobs directly in the public service - which is well worth keeping in mind as Scott Moe matches Doug Ford's priorities of slashing jobs while obstructing action on climate change which could also help balance the books. And Tom Parkin notes that the PCs' meltdown and elevation of Ford gives Andrea Horwath's NDP an ideal chance to offer the prospect of change for the better.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Sunday Afternoon Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Elizabeth Bruenig makes the case for the U.S. to make a much-needed turn toward democratic socialism:
In fact, both Sullivan’s and Mounk’s complaints — that Americans appear to be isolated, viciously competitive, suspicious of one another and spiritually shallow; and that we are anxiously looking for some kind of attachment to something real and profound in an age of decreasing trust and regard — seem to be emblematic of capitalism, which encourages and requires fierce individualism, self-interested disregard for the other, and resentment of arrangements into which one deposits more than he or she withdraws. (As a business-savvy friend once remarked: Nobody gets rich off of bilateral transactions where everybody knows what they’re doing.) Capitalism is an ideology that is far more encompassing than it admits, and one that turns every relationship into a calculable exchange. Bodies, time, energy, creativity, love — all become commodities to be priced and sold. Alienation reigns. There is no room for sustained contemplation and little interest in public morality; everything collapses down to the level of the atomized individual.

That capitalism is inimical to the best of liberalism isn’t a new concern: It’s a long-standing critique, present in early socialist thought. That both capitalism and liberal governance have changed since those days without displacing the criticism suggests that it’s true in a foundational way.

Not to be confused for a totalitarian nostalgist, I would support a kind of socialism that would be democratic and aimed primarily at decommodifying labor, reducing the vast inequality brought about by capitalism, and breaking capital’s stranglehold over politics and culture.

I don’t think that every problem can be traced back to capitalism: There were calamities and injustices long before capital, and I’ll venture to say there will be after. But it seems to me that it’s time for those who expected to enjoy the end of history to accept that, though they’re linked in certain respects, capitalism seems to be at odds with the harmonious, peaceful, stable liberalism of midcentury dreams. I don’t think we’ve reached the end of history yet, which means we still have the chance to shape the future we want. I suggest we take it.
- Drew Brown discusses how the Libs' perpetual attempts to equate progressivism with their interests get in the way of anything resembling the real thing, while also short-circuiting any real democratic decision-making.

- Catherine McIntyre notes that women's equality is becoming ever more distant under Justin Trudeau. And Linda Nazareth rightly argues that everybody stands to benefit from child care and other policies which allow women to participate more fully in the workplace.

- Jess Bidgood and Campbell Robertson view the West Virginia teachers' strike as an important reminder of the power of collective action.

- Finally, David Chudnovsky points out the myths and misinformation being used to try to keep British Columbia stuck with an unrepresentative electoral system.