Saturday, June 23, 2018

Saturday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your weekend reading.

- Jay Shambaugh, Ryan Nunn, and Lauren Bauer discuss the need for U.S. law and policy to adapt to protect independent workers who have been excluded from normal employment rights:
Armed with up-to-date, accurate data, policymakers and regulators can work to keep regulations relevant and appropriate to the modern labor market. One particularly pressing policy issue is the classification of contingent workers: should participants in the “gig economy,” and alternative work arrangements more broadly be treated as employees or independent contractors? As these new data demonstrate, a sizable share of workers in the United States remain outside the traditional employment structure and consequently lack many of the protections and benefits that come with being a traditional employee. Economists Jackson, Looney, and Ramnath document many of these disadvantages, also finding that the Affordable Care Act played an important role in providing health insurance for many workers in alternative arrangements.
In their proposals, Harris and Krueger propose that independent workers have the right to collectively bargain as well as protection from various forms of employment discrimination. However, independent workers would not qualify for hours-based benefits like overtime or the minimum wage. Harris and Krueger argue this new classification would benefit both workers and businesses, reducing expensive litigation by clarifying the rights and obligations of each party.
(A)lternative work arrangements or gig-employment may conceal insufficient labor demand. These workers may be perfectly willing to take a full-time job and are only in these arrangements because they cannot find traditional employment. Only 44 percent of on-call workers and 39 percent of temporary help workers preferred their work arrangements to traditional employment. In this case, these workers may act in a similar manner to unemployed workers or those out of the labor force who would like a job. A large number of such workers might keep downward pressure on wages despite low levels of unemployment, suggesting policymakers need to consider this reserve of semi-employed when assessing the extent of slack in the labor market.
- Kenyon Wallace and Mary Ormsby report on the recommendations of a coroner's jury following the death of a homeless man in Toronto - with the need for housing and income supports figuring prominently. And Melanie Green discusses the widespread food insecurity facing Indigenous children in Canada.

- Rhys Kesselman answers critics of British Columbia's modest steps to bring its property tax system in line with other jurisdictions by noting that property-based wealth provides a fair and efficient source of revenue.

- Equiterre highlights the increasing number of pipeline safety incidents in Canada. And Norm Farrell points out the connection between poorly-documented methane emissions and a systematic failure to make sure that polluters pay for the damage they do to our planet.

- Finally, David Climenhaga exposes the shadowy financing network - featuring both well-known U.S. wealth and the Canadian Taxpayers Federation - which is behind a right-wing attack on gay-straight alliances and LGBTQ rights in Alberta.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Musical interlude

Ladytron - Tomorrow

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Harry Leslie Smith reiterates his determination to make sure that new generations don't face the poverty and deprivation that marked his childhood. And Beverly Gologorsky discusses the rise of extreme poverty in the U.S. and its lasting effects on its victims:
In the psyche, poverty begets fear, anxiety, tension, and worry, constant worry. In the soul, poverty, which feels like the loss of you know not what, is always there like a cold fist to remind you that tomorrow will be the same as today. Such effects are not outgrown like a child’s dress but linger for a lifetime in a country where the severest kinds of poverty are again on the rise (and was just scathingly denounced by the UN’s special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights), where each tax bill, each favor to the 1 percent, passes a kind of life sentence on the poor. And that is the definition of hopelessness.

Americans who barely made it through the recent recession now find themselves in conditions (in supposed good times) that seem to be worsening. In poor neighborhoods and rural areas, even when people listen to the pundits of cable TV chatter on about economic inequality, the words bleed together, because without the means to make real change, the present is forever. At best, such discussions feel like a teardrop in an ocean of words. Among professionals, pundits, and academics barely hidden contempt for those defined as lower or working class often tinges such discussions.
During the past few decades, however, with huge sums being poured into this country’s never-ending wars, unions weakening or collapsing, wages being pushed down, and workers losing jobs, then homes, so much of that safety net is gone. If Donald Trump and his crew of millionaires and billionaires continue with their evisceration of the rest of the safety net, then food stamps, welfare aid directed at children’s health, and women’s reproductive rights, among other things, will disappear as well. Add to that the utter disregard the Trump administration has shown for people of color and its special mean-spiritedness toward immigrants, whether Mexican or Muslim—and for growing numbers of non-millionaires and non-billionaires the future is already starting to look like the worst, not the best, of times. 
- Janet McFarland writes that executive pay has been skyrocketing even as the public's concern about inequality has grown in recent years. And Prem Sikka discusses how just a decade after the most recent financial meltdown, regulators have resumed catering to corporate interests rather than protecting the public from them.

- Mike De Souza looks at the details of Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain environmental violations, featuring internal calculation errors, faulty equipment and a failure to report to regulators. And Bill McKibben notes that the fossil fuel industry is being recognized as a particularly irresponsible actor even in the corporate world.

- Finally, Doug Saunders offers a reminder that contrary to the fearmongering by right-wing demagogues, there's no rational basis to treat the presence of immigrants of any type or background as a problem.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Andray Domise discusses both the U.S.' choice to be an intentionally unsafe destination for refugees, and Canada's complicity in validating that choice and other policies of dehumanization rather than speaking out against even such obvious abuses as the imprisonment of children. And the Canadian Labour Congress calls for Canada to live up to its responsibility to refugees by stopping the classification of the U.S. as a "safe third country".

- Alan Broadbent and Kevin Page write about the need to recognize and give effect to the right to housing as a step toward eliminating homelessness in Canada. And Geoff Dembicki reports on Gary McKenna's research showing the influence of developers in Vancouver as a prime example as to how the greed of the wealthy few has taken precedence over the needs of the many.

- Meanwhile, Catherine McIntyre exposes the continued presence of discriminatory ads for housing and other services on social media platforms.

- John Arlidge reviews Richard Brooks' Bean Counters as to the role of major accounting firms in consolidating corporate power.

- Finally, Andrew Jackson discusses the inevitable reality that Doug Ford's anti-social populism will only make matters worse for many of the voters who elected him.

[Edit: fixed wording.]

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Braced cats.

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- David Ball offers a reminder that Canada's immigration system includes the needless detention of children - and that we should be working on ensuring families can stay together, rather than claiming any virtue in merely falling short of the scale being implemented by the Trump administration.

- Neil MacDonald writes that ruthlessness and dehumanization are exactly what Trump's voters wanted - and that they're sadly not at all out of line with the U.S. history. And Andre Picard discusses the long term health ramifications of the U.S.' policies of family separation and child incarceration. 

- Meanwhile, Sally Weale reports on a new survey showing the large number of children in the UK going without basic hygiene due to poverty.

- David Leonhardt charts the perpetually-increasing size and power of big business in the U.S. And Gordon Laxer argues that Canada shouldn't hesitate to say goodbye to NAFTA due to its similar effects at home.

- Finally, Mark Winfield points out that a typical right-wing prescription of less regulation and free money for the corporate sector will only exacerbate Ontario's problems:
Getting rid of cap-and-trade and reducing the provincial gas tax will not make the increasingly evident impacts of climate change go away.

If Ford attempts to make cuts to hydro rates without first addressing the underlying drivers of increasing electricity costs, Ontarians might see even higher costs in the future. Key among the underlying drivers of those cost increases are the life-extensions and refurbishments for the province’s aging nuclear power plants they Wynne government committed to.
A simple economic strategy focused on tax cuts and deregulation will be hopelessly inadequate to deal with the regional impacts of the transition from manufacturing to service and knowledge-based economic activities, to say nothing of the challenges presented by the Trump administration’s US actions in agriculture, steel and auto manufacturing.
(R)esponding to these various dynamics will require a more sophisticated economic strategy than tax cuts and further deregulation, that in a province that had already declared itself “open for business” under the Liberal government. Indeed, the approach outlined in the PC platform runs a very real risk of undermining the basis of the province’s economic success.

The losses in provincial revenues from tax cuts will undermine the quality of services and infrastructure the province is able to offer. Deregulation around the environment carries risks that would undermine the quality of life the province offers its residents, to say nothing of threats it would pose to their health and safety.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Matt Bruening comments on the National Low Income Housing Coalition's research showing that minimum-wage workers are unable to afford basic housing across the U.S.

- Sarah Butler reports on the UK's latest parliamentary study of precarious work. Jordan Press reports on the state of child poverty in Canada - with Bill Morneau's riding including one of the highest concentrations of children living in poverty in the country. And Larry Elliott discusses how the new default expectation of insecurity has fed into the rise of demagogues willing to offer someone to blame in lieu of any solutions.

- PressProgress exposes the big money and Liberal connections behind an astroturf group trying to undermine electoral reform in British Columbia.

- Finally, Tom Parkin points out that supposed fiscal conservatives are happily burning billions of public dollars in order to ensure that polluters don't pay for their contribution to climate change. And Mia Rabson reminds us that Canada is already subsidizing the fossil fuel industry to the tune of billions more poorly-tracked dollars every year.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Claire Connelly calls out the perennial right-wing spin that there's always money available for corporations or the security state, but that anything which would actually help people is invariably unaffordable. And Jim Pugh discusses how Republicans are looking to punish and impoverish the working class by putting up unreasonable barriers to social benefits:
While setting more unemployed Americans on a path to employment and economic self-sufficiency is a positive goal, the threat of withholding food is a highly ineffective way to encourage workforce participation. Some of the most common barriers to employment are insufficient education or skills, mental health issues, hiring biases and a lack of job opportunities. Fear of not having enough to eat does nothing to overcome those obstacles.

When people are hungry, they're frequently unable to focus, which makes it harder for them to get a job, not easier. Instead of boosting employment, this proposal would act as a barrier rather than an incentive.

The actual impact of this policy change would be to punish hungry Americans. In many regions of the country, people are struggling to find full-time work, but can't. While the overall unemployment rate sits at a low 3.8 percent, the rate of involuntary underemployment is more than twice that, and exceeds 10 percent in many states and counties. This proposal would leave those who are unable to find a job with neither income nor food assistance.

Instead of adding poorly-designed restrictions to SNAP, we should be pursuing evidence-based policy changes to increase the effectiveness of our social programs. As someone who works on universal basic income policy, I've spent years studying the effects of unconditional benefits, i.e. what happens when you offer people support without any requirements on their behavior. Every analysis has arrived at the same conclusion: When you give people benefits without strings attached, they use them for productive purposes. The vast majority of people want to do well in life, and they’ll make the most of any support they receive.
- Michael Rozworski's letter to the editor neatly summarizes the folly of reversing long-overdue increases to Ontario's minimum wage. And Kate Davidson comments on the importance of paying a fair minimum wage to service workers, rather than pointing to the illusory promise of tips as an excuse to grind people into poverty.

- Arian Taher discusses the radical difference between Adam Smith's humane ideal of capitalism, and the corporatist version which artificially concentrates wealth and power.

- Finally, James Wilt highlights how Doug Ford's false majority offers a compelling example in favour of British Columbia's electoral reform vote.