Saturday, June 30, 2018

Saturday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your weekend reading.

- Alex Ballingall reports on the efforts of the United Nations' special rapporteur on housing Leilani Farha to push for an enforceable right to housing - and the Libs' predictable demurral in favour of vague aspirational statements. And Jen St. Denis points out that the next step in British Columbia's investigation into Lib-supported casino money laundering will be a review of its impact on the real estate market.

- Sara Mojtehedzadeh reports that one of the first actions of Doug Ford's anti-social government has been to stop the hiring of employment standards officers to protect the wages and working conditions of Ontario workers.

- Meanwhile, Jim Stanford examines the effect of Australia's reduction in Sunday and holiday pay in the retail and hospitality sectors, and finds that any promise that it would lead to more jobs has proven entirely illusory.

- Chris Dillow discusses the tendency of the neoliberal centre to exacerbate power imbalances based on the hope that their side will continue to exercise it, rather than recognizing the importance of collective action.

- Finally, Michael Harris offers a warning about Stephen Harper's attempt to sell Canada out to the Trump administration.

Friday, June 29, 2018

Musical interlude

Phantogram - As Far As I Can See

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- PressProgress highlights the Canada Revenue Agency's long-overdue estimate of the public costs of offshore tax evasion, as well as other new data on the money being withheld through corporate tax non-compliance:
On Thursday, Canada’s tax collection agency published its first ever estimate of the international tax gap, revealing wealthy Canadians are evading up to $3 billion in tax every year through offshore tax havens.

The CRA estimates the amount of money wealthy Canadians are stashing offshore could range between $75.9 billion and $240.5 billion.

Meanwhile, earlier this week, CBC News obtained internal CRA documents that suggests Canada is losing more than $22 billion per year to corporate tax dodgers.

Together, corporate tax dodgers and wealthy elites are now costing Canada at least $25 billion every year – that alone would cover the costs of a national pharmacare plan, introduce a national child care program and cut poverty in Canada in half.
- Meanwhile, Rob Shaw comments on the B.C. Libs' eager facilitation of money laundering through casinos - including by repeatedly shutting down law enforcement investigating the problem. 

- David Macdonald studies the radically inconsistent availability of child care across Canada, including "deserts" where there's no reliable expectation of being able to find care. And CBC notes that most children in Saskatchewan's major cities are trapped in those deserts.

- Michael Tutton reports on a new federal study discussing the massive steps needed to deal with our current rate of climate change.

- Finally, Armine Yalnizyan responds to the corporatist attempt to destroy supply management by pointing out that the only alternative is putting ourselves at the mercy of heavily-subsidized U.S. agribusiness giants.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Stuart Heritage argues that a shared sense of morality is our best hope of ensuring that narcissism isn't rewarded. And Paul Gleason reviews two new books - including Thomas Piketty's latest - on the importance of progressive taxes to reduce inequality (in addition to funding social goods).

- Josh Eidelson discusses how the Koch corporatist machine intends to capitalize on yesterday's SCOTUS decision undercutting public-sector labour organization. But Peter Greene notes that plenty of unions have already learned to navigate the types of restrictions imposed by the Republican contingent on the court.

- Kelly Grant reports on British Columbia's proposal to require the disclosure of pharmaceutical industry payments to doctors.

- Murray Mandryk discusses the mounting problems with the Saskatchewan Party's multi-billion-dollar privatized Regina bypass.

- Finally, Brian Hill points out that Canada's immigration system imposes unreasonable barriers to family reunification, including by failing to classify the parents of child refugees as "family members".

New column day

Here, on how Scott Moe's equalization bluster ultimately shows only that he's more interested in political posturing than responsible governance.

For further reading...
- Gregory Beatty reviews how Saskatchewan's effort to remove renewable resource revenue from the equalization formula was abandoned when Brad Wall decided it was inconvenient to remind the public of Stephen Harper's broken promises, while Murray Mandryk also traced the history in connection with the Saskatchewan Party's leadership campaign. And Tim Cook reported on Lorne Calvert's plan for a constitutional challenge when it was raised.
- The Star-Phoenix' editorial board calls for an adult conversation about equalization. And Daniel Beland, Gregory Marchildon, Andre Lecours and Rose Olfert rightly argue that Moe's attempt to undermine the concept of equalization itself falls far short of the mark.
- Finally, the column's reference to the expected returns from a carbon price are based on this policy brief (PDF) from Dale Eisler, Margot Hurlbert, Jim Marshall and Jeremy Rayner.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Room with a View

I'll be appearing on The View Up Here in about 20 minutes to discuss and expand on the column linked here.

For those interested in a bit of light reading and browsing as we discuss how Canada has failed to live up to its self-image as a generous and compassionate country, see:
- the OECD's current and historical social spending data, showing Canada falling behind recently while never having significantly outpaced the OECD average;
- Irene Papanicolas' study (cited by Andre Picard) comparing health and social spending among peer countries;
- Daniel Dutton's study on social spending and health spending in Canada, including the lack of the former compared to the latter; and
- Cases and studies on how Indigenous people in Canada are at a disadvantage in funding and access for child and welfare services, education and housing (PDF) among other areas.

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Katrina vanden Heuvel discusses how the Trump tax giveaway to the rich will exacerbate class and race inequality in the U.S. And David Climenhaga offers a reminder that Alberta's budget crunch remains a product of its failure to collect a reasonable level of revenue from sustainable sources to fund public services.

- Jordan Press reports on the recognition by the UN special rapporteur on the right to housing that the Libs are going out of their way to that right into an easily-discarded aspirational goal.

- Meanwhile, the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis reviews the massive price tag on Justin Trudeau's Trans Mountain takeover. And Dean Beeby reports that the Libs' free money for large corporations isn't limited to pipelines, as they've decided to forgive a "loan" which formed part of the Cons' auto bailout while cloaking the details in total secrecy.   

- Sally Davies writes about the folly of holding children responsible to make healthy nutritional choices in a corporate-dominated environment which pushes junk food at every turn. And Peter Walker points out that municipal planning focused on liveable neighbourhoods can produce a drastic increase in cycling and walking among other healthy activities.

- Finally, Stephen Quinn interviews Helen Clark about the democratic benefits of proportional representation in New Zealand.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Summery cats.

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Wawmeesh Hamilton discusses the lack of basic upkeep of desperately-needed First Nations homes, as the federal government looks to transfer responsibility without providing funding. Jamie Grierson notes that the UK's lack of resources for supportive housing results in survivors of domestic abuse sleeping rough - or even going back to their abusers. 

- Meanwhile, the Star's editorial board argues that the rest of Canada can learn from Quebec's example in reducing child poverty by investing in child care and income supports:
What was surprising in the study by Campaign 2000, though, is that nine of the 10 ridings in Canada with the lowest child poverty rates were in Quebec. In those ridings the rate ranged from 4.1 to 6.6 per cent. That’s not an anomaly. Last year a Statistics Canada study found that though Quebec has the second-lowest household income in the the country, it also has the second-lowest rate of child poverty.

Why should that be?

According to Statistics Canada it’s because the province has chosen to invest generously in two proven poverty busters: universal day care and the most generous provincial child benefits in the country.

Ottawa has a chance to emulate the Quebec model by making universal day care and increased child benefits part of its Poverty Reduction Strategy, due out in the next few weeks. It should.

The programs would cost a lot of money up-front. But in addition to achieving the laudable goal of reducing child and family poverty, they would generate substantial savings and economic benefits for everyone.
- The CP reports on a new study from the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction showing the cost of substance abuse at a level of over $1,000 per Canadian.

- Finally, Jim Stanford responds to yet another attempt to dress up free money for the wealthiest corporations as having anything to do with what's good for workers. And Tommy Christopher takes note of the report of the U.N.'s special rapporteur on extreme poverty as to the harm done by the Trump tax giveaway to the rich.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Don Reisinger reports on Capgemini's latest research into the continued concentration of wealth at the extreme top end. And James Galbraith comments on the instability which arises inevitably out of extreme inequality:
Controlling inequality—like controlling blood pressure—is good for your economic health. Economies with less inequality generally have lower unemployment and stronger productivity growth, and some researchers also claim better human health and social cohesion. In terms of the rest of the world, the peculiar organization of the United States into a boom/bust economy based on finance and high technology is the exception rather than the rule: We combine record-breaking inequality with low unemployment. But this is a formula that generates massive instability, as well as the resentments that gave us President Trump. Countries with stronger stabilizing institutions built on the principle of countervailing power may be less rich over the short term, but they are better-governed and built to last.
In the United States, the key driver of inequality is capital-asset prices. This is because in a capitalist nation, capitalists and not workers own such assets and get their income from dividends, interest, stock options, and capital gains. Capitalist booms yield prosperity—often a wasteful prosperity—along with instability; as the bankers say, it’s not the speed that kills, it’s the sudden stop. Concentrated ownership of capital assets is therefore a central issue. Spreading the wealth sensibly over time means more public investment at every level and more investment by nonprofits with longer time horizons and sensible social objectives. It means fostering cooperatives and other stabilizing private economic forms that are not dependent on Wall Street. Instead of boosting the economic growth rate—a measure largely disconnected from social well-being—we should have a strategy to live better: more sustainably, more equally, with less waste and more common spaces, more public goods and enjoyments.
The US government, in short, needs to break away from the grip of concentrated financial power and from the illusions of dominance that come with feeling exceptional, invincible, and rich. Financial power has an interest in instability at home and abroad. It has an interest in seeking to dominate what can no longer be dominated. It is therefore a vector for depredation and for conflict, neither of which we can afford—especially in an era of existential risks to the environment, through climate change, and to the future of life on the planet, through nuclear war.
- Andrea Gordon writes about a new report showing how students in poorer Ontario neighbourhoods are losing out from the selective availability of before- and after-school care and other programs. And Rachel Black and Aleta Sprague point out how everybody loses out from barriers to social services set up largely out of racial resentment in the U.S.

- Meanwhile, Kerry Geraldine Malone reports on the grossly disproportionate number of Indigenous youths who are incarcerated.

- Finally, Josh Ryan-Collins reminds us of the folly of treating government budgeting like a family's finances. And Jordan Press reports on the federal government's plan to start ensuring that public money helps to secure social benefits.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Simon Enoch challenges Scott Moe's misleading rhetoric on equalization by pointing out that Saskatchewan could easily afford child care and other programs which Moe criticizes other provinces for funding - if only the Saskatchewan Party hadn't blown the proceeds of a boom on tax slashing and vanity projects.

- Christian Weller examines the results of the U.S.' latest tests of supply-side dogma, and finds that it continues to fail miserably:
On June 7, the Federal Reserve released its latest data on corporate finances, providing the first look at what happened after the passage of the tax cuts.* The supply-side arguments do not hold up; corporations have gotten a lot more money, but that additional cash has not translated into increased domestic investments.
(I)nvestments took a back seat in the first quarter of 2018. Capital expenditures equaled 178.6 percent of after-tax profits in that period, meaning that companies borrowed money to invest. This was down from 191.2 percent at the end of 2007. If, in the first quarter of 2018, corporations had invested the same amount relative to after-tax profits as they did at the end of 2017, they would have had an additional $58 billion to spend on manufacturing plants, office buildings, and equipment such as computers, heavy machinery, and trucks.

Yet, rather than investing the money in this way, corporations used it to keep shareholders happy. In the first quarter of 2018, the share of after-tax profits that went to net equity issues—share repurchases above and beyond new share issuances—equaled 37.5 percent, up from 32.7 percent at the end of 2017. This acceleration indicates that corporations spent an additional $12 billion in the first quarter of 2018, for a total of $257 billion, in order to buy back their own stocks. Such a buyback raises the prices of a company’s shares and boosts the wealth of its shareholders.
Corporations continue to be awash in money; the 2017 tax cuts just made it a lot easier for them to get that money. Yet the cash is not benefiting the economy in the form of increased investments. It is therefore unlikely that the gains promised by supporters of supply-side economics will trickle down to workers.
- Meanwhile, Jason Joseph offers a theory that nominal economic strength is failing to boost wages in part because workers are afraid to leave their jobs for potentially higher-paying alternatives.

- Susan Lund examines the corporate debt bubble which has been inflating since the 2008 financial crisis. And John Quiggin discusses the false promises - and harmful realities - of the privatization of public services.

- Finally, Jesse Norman offers a reminder that the real Adam Smith - rather than the caricature so often presented by laissez-faire zealots - was fully aware of the need for markets to be genuinely trustworthy, rather than granted blind faith. And Aditya Chakrabortty writes about a course designed to connect the public with the basics of economic theory - and the inability of what's generally taken as a given among corporatist economists to stand up to the lived experience of citizens.