Saturday, May 12, 2018

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Alan Freeman discusses the U.S.' decline based on anti-tax dogma - and warns of the same result in Canada if we don't stand up for our collective interests:
The U.S. has always been a capitalist society but it always believed in meritocratic principles, allowing smart, hard-working individuals to advance through strong public schools and publicly-funded state universities. That’s all but disappeared now as is social mobility in the U.S. Better chance of getting ahead if you’re a child of immigrants in Canada than south of the border.

I’m convinced this is not a winning strategy for America or U.S. business long-term. Impoverished government will mean crumbling infrastructure, an under-educated work force and huge social problems.

Thankfully, we’re not there yet in Canada.

The libertarian right has always been weaker here and despite the Harper government’s best efforts — the unnecessary cut in the GST is the most egregious example of its boneheaded fiscal management — Canada’s education, health and social systems remain adequately funded by tax revenues.

But I worry every time groups like the Business Council of Canada start complaining about the need to match the Trump corporate tax cuts, for the sake of “competitiveness” and threaten all sorts of dire consequences if we don’t march in lock-step with the Republican right. If we follow that advice too closely, our children will soon be studying from ripped 30-year old textbooks on computers running Windows 98.
- Meanwhile, Jim Stanford crunches the numbers to show how that pattern is playing out in Australia's budget - with a right-wing government assuming wage growth while taking steps which suppress it. Robert Sweeny comments on the consequences of Danny Williams' upward redistribution of income. And David Macdonald and Sheila Block point out how Doug Ford's "middle class" tax slashing would primarily benefit the wealthy, while Michael Laxer notes that Ford's subsidies for poverty-level wages would encourage employers to rely on exploiting workers.

- Amy Hadley reports on the individual effects of Ontario's basic income pilot, while the Green Institute offers a discussion paper (PDF) on the combination of a secure basic income and a reduction in the work people need to perform to survive. And Dayton Martindale interviews David Graeber about busy work which keeps people employed but unhappy, while David Spencer discusses the health implications of excessive work.

- Chris Dillow wonders whether the effect of a job guarantee would be to make capitalism more sustainable, or to lay the groundwork for a new economic structure. And Annie Lowrey notes that there's still a great deal of uncertainty as to what the U.S. Democrats' developing promises on the subject actually mean.

- Miles Kampf-Lassin discusses the Workplace Democracy Act which would at least provide U.S. workers with far more ability to organize.

- Finally, Murray Mandryk writes that the fallout from the La Loche shootings highlights the continued lack of mental health support in Saskatchewan - particularly in rural communities.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Musical interlude

Wide Mouth Mason - Midnight Rain

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Gary Younge comments on the highly selective willingness of far too many privileged people to acknowledge suffering around them. And Paul Krugman calls out the Trump administration's gratuitous cruelty toward the people who already have the least:
There’s something fundamentally obscene about this spectacle. Here we have a man who inherited great wealth, then built a business career largely around duping the gullible — whether they were naïve investors in his business ventures left holding the bag when those ventures went bankrupt, or students who wasted time and money on worthless degrees from Trump University. Yet he’s determined to snatch food from the mouths of the truly desperate, because he’s sure that somehow or other they’re getting away with something, having it too easy.
In the end, I don’t believe there’s any policy justification for the attack on food stamps: It’s not about the incentives, and it’s not about the money. And even the racial animus that traditionally underlies attacks on U.S. social programs has receded partially into the background.

No, this is about petty cruelty turned into a principle of government. It’s about privileged people who look at the less fortunate and don’t think, “There but for the grace of God go I”; they just see a bunch of losers. They don’t want to help the less fortunate; in fact, they get angry at the very idea of public aid that makes those losers a bit less miserable.

And these are the people now running America.
- Meanwhile, CBC News reports on the continuing effects of the Saskatchewan Party's destruction of STC on people with disabilities who relied on it. 

- Sheila Block points out the longstanding gap between what Ontario governments have invested in health care and what's needed to properly care for patients - while noting that voters will have a chance to set the province on the right track in this spring's election.

- Lauren Pelley highlights the barriers to dental care faced by low-income seniors in Toronto - and the resulting social costs. And Ake Blomqvist and Frances Woolley make the case for universal dental coverage.

- Finally, Bob Weber reports on new research showing that the environmental impact of the oil sands is larger than previously known. And Jodi McNeil reminds us that the public will likely end up paying for the mess left behind by oil operators who can't be bothered to keep their promises once any profits run out.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

New column day

Here, on how Canada is falling further behind the rest of the world on ensuring corporate transparency and recovering income stashed offshore.

For further reading...
- Transparency International's most recent report on beneficial ownership is here.
- Zach Dubinsky reported on both the UK's move toward transparency in its offshore territories, and Canada's complete lack of progress on the same issue at home. And lest anybody think the government hasn't been pressed on the issue, see the submissions of Canadians for Tax Fairness to the Finance Committee as discussed here.
- Dubinsky has also contrasted the hundreds of millions of dollars recovered by other countries in the wake of the Panama Papers against the lack of any definite numbers from the CRA.
- Finally, the study by Annette Alstadsæter, Niels Johannesen and Gabriel Zucman on the amount of money stashed offshore by the .01% is summarized here. And CTF's latest Canadian numbers based on traceable assets can be found here.

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Michal Kalecki discusses how full employment shifts the balance of power from corporations to workers. Roland Kupers reminds us that inequality is a matter of policy choices - and that there's broad public support to reduce the level we're stuck with at the moment.

- Nijimie Dzurinko points out the need to fight back against the right-wing war on people living in poverty. And the Economist reports on new research into the effect of income on early childhood development.

- Jillian Berman highlights how student debt exacerbates the U.S. wealth gap based on race.

- Finally, J. David Hughes takes a look at Canada's energy future - and the importance of shifting toward cleaner renewable energy as soon as possible. Andrew Nikiforuk summarizes Hughes' work with nine crucial facts about where we stand today. And Ainslie Cruickshank highlights the impossibility of meeting even our already-insufficient climate change promises while ramping up the production of dirty fossil fuels.

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Summery cats.

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Tom Parkin writes that greed is the only reason why we haven't yet completed a full health care system with a pharmacare program:
If we had a universal pharmacare plan — one that saves lives and relieves suffering — it would cost $4.6 billion less than the current hodge podge of private plans and government assistance, which leaves millions uninsured. That’s $4.6 billion wasted to get a bad result.

Raising the $5.9 billion isn’t the tough part. Two steps. First, reverse some of the massive tax cuts our politicians have given to businesses. The trickle down theory never worked anyway. And with universal pharmacare, businesses are going to save billions in payroll costs.

No, the tough part is finding politicians with the courage to squeeze $4.6 billion out of big pharma and insurance companies. Because when you squeeze $4.6 billion out of a wasteful, inefficient industry that doesn’t deliver the goods, they have 4.6 billion reasons to fight back.

The morality won’t matter. Not the suffering and dying. Not the inefficiency. When big money is at risk, killing is just part of the process. Look at tobacco. Or guns. Or opioids.

Canadians need to support those politicians who are willing to win this fight. Because if we don’t, they can’t. And the unnecessary and immoral dying, suffering and waste will continue.
- Meanwhile, the Star's editorial board calls for greater transparency in the money funneled by pharmaceutical manufacturers toward Canadian doctors.

- Daniel Dutton and Jennifer Zwicker point out that some of the most effective investments in health are aimed at socioeconomic improvements, while the Press Association reports on the UK's alarming increase in child poverty as an example of the consequences of ignoring the social determinants of health. And the Chronicle Herald's editorial board weighs in on the value of early childhood education as a long-term investment.

- Henry Farber, Daniel Herbst, Ilyana Kuziemko and Suresh Naidu study (PDF) the connection between improved union organization rates and reduced inequality. And conversely, Anelyse Weiler and Amy Cohen discuss how the precarious legal status of seasonal farm workers leaves them ripe for abuse and exploitation.

- Finally, Vicky Mochama comments on the dangers of law enforcement treating journalism and activism as excuses for surveillance and disruption.

Monday, May 07, 2018

On full pictures

I've previously pointed out the obvious bad faith behind the Saskatchewan Party's attempt (PDF) to monetize existing agricultural practices as a substitute for actually reducing greenhouse gas emissions - and particularly the one-sided nature of that plan:
How we grow our crops, harvest our forests and protect our vital water systems will be critically important to how we prepare, respond and adapt to a changing climate.
It’s important that Canada and its partner nations in the Paris Agreement develop accounting systems to credit past and future land use and management decisions that help sequester carbon.
Noticeably lacking is any discussion of the obvious converse: i.e. debiting land use practices which exacerbate climate change. And Carl Meyer's report on the impact of biofuels brings the issue into even sharper focus by pointing out how other jurisdictions are far ahead of Canada as a whole:
Canada is omitting a major source of pollution from its calculations of impacts of a key climate change policy, according to a federal document. The methodology is putting Canada at odds with policies adopted by both the United States and California.

The complex calculations tackle the carbon footprint of the worldwide expansion of biofuels crops. The biofuels industry uses agricultural products such as corn as well as other organic waste to convert into fuel that can be used in motorized vehicles. Canada's calculations appear to be omitting the impact of landscape changes required to grow the crops, such as deforestation, which can pump more carbon pollution into the atmosphere.
The Moe government's treatment of similar methodologies to account for emission-exacerbating choices should provide a definitive answer as to whether it's actually the slightest bit interested in combating climate change, or merely trying to con the people who are. And there's little reason for optimism so far.

Monday Morning Links

Assorted content to start your week.

- Luke Savage comments on Justin Trudeau's phony war against inequality:
His embrace of Keynesian economics has been equally ethereal. In 2015, apparently rebelling against the prevailing economic orthodoxy of austerity, the Liberal leader pledged to stimulate the economy through modest, deficit-financed social investment.

Upon implementation, however, some $15bn was channelled into an “infrastructure bank”, geared to attract private financing. The promises of “socially useful, non-commercial projects like childcare or affordable housing to cash-strapped cities” will take a back seat to those with “revenue-generating potential”. And while investors are likely to see big returns, it is the public who will shoulder much of the risk.

Trudeau has also remained ambivalent towards the kind of big programs that could actually redistribute wealth in a meaningful way. On childcare, for example, he favours a means-tested approach, rather than the universal, public provision of a desperately needed service. And in a 2016 conversation with a low-wage worker he dismissed the prospect of raising the minimum wage, echoing the talking points of the Canadian business lobby: “Maybe everything just gets more expensive or we have jobs leaving. We have to be very careful about that.” (A 2011 University of California, Berkeley study found the effects of raising the minimum wage on prices to be negligible at best. And the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives has argued that service sector jobs that tend to pay the minimum wage are by their very nature immobile, which suggests the threat of mass job flight is a myth.)
(W)hile the prime minister calmly informs struggling workers that raising the minimum wage may have unintended consequences, the country’s wealthiest corporate executives get to keep their cushy tax advantages. The phony war rages on.
- Jennefer Laidley offers some suggestions to ensure income security in Ontario. And Eleanor Aigne Roy reports on Jacinda Ardern's push to find shelter for every homeless person in New Zealand before its winter hits - serving as a prime example as to what social policy can look like when it's actually aimed at meeting people's needs rather than putting off action.

- Ethan Trudeau comments on the value of organized labour and cooperative businesses in ensuring that prosperity is widely shared. And Jake Johnson offers a look at the regrets of workers who voted for Donald Trump based on the false promise of right-wing populism.

- Finally, Tabatha Southey writes about the real threat posed by the ignorant rage of the anti-woman alt-right.

Sunday, May 06, 2018

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Tom Parkin discusses the need for a new Tommy Douglas to start leading the way toward national social programs - and the hope that Andrea Horwath can earn that role in Ontario's provincial election:
Since Douglas’s time, Canadian health care has been defended from periodic rounds of cuts. But only the rare politician has picked up the threads of Douglas’s legacy in an attempt to extend health care. One of those rare times may be coming.

If she is elected premier next month, Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath vows to end the cuts causing the current bout of hallway medicine. But she’s also pledged to build on Douglas’s medicare legacy by adding pharmacare and dental care. And those plans—and her child care pledge—could set in motion a new era in co-operative federalism that takes those plans across Canada.

(W)ith 80 per cent of voters repeatedly telling pollsters they want change, between Horwath and Ford there couldn’t be a more stark contrast. If Horwath is the new Tommy Douglas, PC Leader Doug Ford is the exact opposite.

Horwath sees social programs as critical to our prosperity. Ford views them as costs to be cut. Horwath promises to add new drug and dental plans, paying for it with higher taxes on incomes over $220,000. If she can pull out a win, that’ll build on Douglas’s legacy. Ford offers more corporate tax cuts and a continuation of Wynne’s privatization schemes. His election would result in billions and billion in cuts—eroding what Douglas built.
(W)ith provinces bickering and the Trudeau Liberals off course, a Ford win would bring even more confrontation and division to federal-provincial politics. But initiatives by a Premier Horwath could revive co-operative federalism and get Ottawa back on track. Her ideas offer the hope of a more co-operative federation and a stronger Canadian identity. Douglas’s efforts sure did.
- Meanwhile, Gary Mason is genuinely pleased to thrilled to see John Horgan's government making housing more affordable through a more fair property tax system. And David Camfield discusses the importance of building a stronger progressive movement on the prairies.

- Robert Cribb, Carolyn Jarvis and Andrew Bailey report on the embarrassing pollution from Canadian refineries compared to their southern counterparts nearly two decades after Canada was supposed to adopt U.S. standards.

- Doyle Rice reports on the unsurprising news that greenhouse gases are at their highest point in human history (and far beyond). James Wilt points out the credibility problems with the climate change data the Libs have recently unveiled. And Aaron Wherry figures there's now a consensus on the need to reduce emissions - though I'd think it's more likely the Cons' plan is once again merely to criticize any form of action which seems like it could possibly be implemented.

- Finally, Andrew Crosby and Jeffrey Monaghan offer an important reminder about the criminalization of dissent - and particularly the Indigenous movement seeking to protect land and water.