Saturday, July 07, 2018

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Jon Stone reports on Jeremy Corbyn's message to progressive parties that voters have had enough of being told there is no alternative to austerity and corporatism:
On a visit to the Netherlands on Thursday the Labour leader said socialists and social democrats risked looking like another part of the establishment by “supporting a failed economic system rigged for the wealthy”.

He warned that “fake populists and migrant-baiters of the far-right” would benefit from the demise of the centre-left, which had in the past “delivered enormous advances for working people” but was now losing ground.
“In election after election, voters have shown they simply don’t believe many of these parties offer real change. After a decade of austerity following the bankers’ crisis, years of stagnating living standards and rising insecurity, working class communities in particular are simply not prepared to accept more of the same,” Mr Corbyn said at an event organised by the Dutch Labour Party in the Hague.

“My message for our European sister parties is simple: reject austerity or face rejection by voters. If our parties look like just another part of the establishment, supporting a failed economic system rigged for the wealthy and the corporate elite, they will be rejected – and the fake populists and migrant-baiters of the far right will fill the gap.”
- Noah Smith offers a reminder of the crucial role unions have played in giving workers a voice in the community at large as well as in the workplace. And Leo Gerard discusses how billionaires are pushing to undermine the U.S.' public-sector unions by recruiting or hiring stand-ins to encourage people to contribute nothing to their collective bargaining mechanisms. 

- Travis Lupick writes about new research showing that mental health care for homeless people produces few lasting outcomes unless it's paired with housing. And Seth Klein and Iglika Ivanova offer their recommendations to make housing more available and affordable in general - including both better protections against landlord abuses, and more direct public investment in providing homes for the people who need them.

- Finally, Brent Patterson compares the severe punishments being threatened against activists with the laughable excuses for any consequences to Kinder Morgan for deliberately preventing fish from spawning and otherwise harming the environment in the name of pipelines. 

Friday, July 06, 2018

Musical interlude

Big Wreck - You Don't Even Know

Friday Evening Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Martin Regg Cohn writes that reducing access to pharmacare is just the first item on Doug Ford's extensive hidden agenda. And Steve Morgan examines the effects of Ford's cuts to public prescription drug coverage and finds that the end result of relying more on the private sector will be added costs borne disproportionately by the middle class.

- David Climenhaga points out that the funding for Canada's anti-tax propaganda mills includes the donation-laundering mechanisms used by American billionaires.

- Corey Shefman recognizes that the disproportionate concentration of Indigenous people in jails should be considered a national crisis. And Max Fineday notes that the gap is only getting worse for the new generation of Indigenous youth.

- Lana Borenstein highlights why Scott Moe's crusade against greenhouse gas emission pricing is likely doomed to fail.  And Marc Lee offers a reminder of the massive public subsidies behind British Columbia's liquid natural gas industry (among other fossil fuel development).

- Finally, Claire Cain Miller explores the factors behind the choice of younger Americans to have fewer children, and finds that a lack of affordable child care is at the top of the list.

Thursday, July 05, 2018

New column day

Here, on how the Justice for our Stolen Children movement should spur Saskatchewan to action toward reconciliation - but is instead being met with a government determined to silence anybody who even suggests we need to do better.

For further reading...
- CBC reported on both the issues raised by the Wascana Park activists, and the government's response demanding that protestors show "good faith" by allowing themselves to be silenced.
- Emily Blake reports on how people are dying unnecessarily due to racial bias in the health care system in Northern Canada - which echoes the discriminatory treatment of Indigenous patients in Saskatchewan.
- Justine Hunter offers a reminder that many of the families being torn apart due to "neglect" are in fact primarily lacking the same money which governments are more than willing to spend placing children elsewhere.
- And the CP reports on the failings of the federal inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, which is steadily losing staff concerned with government interference.

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- David Callahan writes about the U.S.' billionaire-dominated political system - and why nobody should be satisfied merely with having an ideologically-agreeable set of tycoons buying elections:
Depending on your politics, you may either cheer or fear the influence spending of specific top donors. In truth, we should be troubled about all such spending. Thanks to several factors, economic inequality seems to be translating into civic disparities at a faster pace and in ways that touch more parts of US society.
The new money flowing from wealthy left-of-center donors, especially in response to Trump’s rise, may look like a sign that American pluralism is alive and well in this second Gilded Age. Yes, public life in increasingly drenched in cash, but aren’t many viewpoints getting heard as a more ideologically diverse upper class supports various causes and candidates?

Sometimes this is the case. On climate change, for example, progressive donors have helped counter the longstading might of the fossil fuel industry. Economic issues have been another story, though. Polls show that the wealthy are more conservative on such issues, which explains why very little money even from left-of-center donors goes to support work that strongly challenges inequality. Bloomberg’s big give for Democrats this year is a case in point: he’s made it clear that he wants to support moderate candidates, not populists from the Bernie Sanders wing of the party.
Ultimately, the best solution to the new civic inequality lies in stronger social movements that convert Americans from spectators to activists. And one of the most reassuring trends of recent years is we’ve seen a lot of such people power, including the Tea Party, Occupy, Black Lives Matter and #MeToo.

Now we need more of the same, extending to more issues and more places – especially the core challenge of economic inequality. Otherwise, it’s hard to see how the United States can escape from a new era of plutocracy.
- Lindsay Wiginton and Sara Hastings-Simon point out what Ontario stands to lose if Doug Ford guts its climate change policies. And Jessica Corbett discusses Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez' ambitious environmentalism as reflecting what's needed to ensure both a strong economy and a healthy planet.  

- The New York Times' editorial board writes that consumers will end up paying far more in interest on mounting credit card debt to fund the Trump giveaway to the wealthy.

- The Saskatchewan Herald highlights the billions in health infrastructure deficits left behind by Brad Wall even as he blew through the products of a boom and increased the provincial debt. And Canadian Glen interviews Joel French about the costs of Alberta's choice not to collect readily-available revenue including through a sales tax.

- Finally, Tom Parkin notes that Justin Trudeau's broken progressive promises figure to leave ample room for the federal NDP to win over swing voters in 2019.

Wednesday, July 04, 2018

Wednesday Night Cat Blogging

Surrounded cats.

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Richard Partington reports on new OECD data showing that wages are continuing to soar for the lucky few in the developed world while stagnating for everybody else, as well as on the Rowntree Foundation's observation that single-income families in the UK have fallen far below an acceptable standard of living. Federico Diez and Daneil Leigh chart the connection between corporate concentration and the exploitation of workers and consumers. And Steph Sterling and Marshall Steinbaum examine how the Trump Republicans' tax giveaway to the rich will only make matters worse in the U.S.

- Meanwhile, David Dayen examines how California tax policy was taken hostage by soda companies - who threatened to push a referendum effectively barring municipalities from setting their own revenue policies to unless they were singled out for exemption from taxes which were proving effective both to raise revenue and improve public health. 

- Linda Stamato points out how the Trump administration is making housing even less affordable for the people who need it most. And Sadiq Khan and Ada Colau recognize the importance of treating housing as a right which must be provided to everybody, rather than a profit stream to be withheld where it serves the cause of further enriching owners.

- Stuart Trew offers a preview as to how Doug Ford's "value for money" rhetoric serves purely as a pretense to slash public services.

- Finally, Richard Denniss and Fergus Green point out the economic futility of undermining any climate change policy by pouring public money into pipelines.

Monday, July 02, 2018

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- James Galbraith reminds us of the danger extreme inequality poses to any social bonds - and the need for political action to counteract the current momentum toward further concentration of wealth:
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.
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.

Ultimately, therefore, this is a political struggle. “Wealth, as Mr. Hobbes says, is power,” notes Adam Smith in The Wealth of Nations. And Thomas Hobbes was right; anyone who observes the US political scene knows this, as does anyone who participates in American politics. In the end, inequality—both in the United States and around the world—is a problem that can only have a political solution.
- Robert Kuttner argues that the Trump Republicans' giveaway to their obscenely wealthy donors should be the central issue of the U.S.' midterm elections. And Peter Whoriskey discusses how the monetization of poverty by a predatory financial sector is only making inequality all the worse.

- Martin Sandbu explores the idea of a jobs guarantee, but argues that it's a less desirable alternative to a basic income which would ensure that personal financial security isn't tied to work alone. And Bernadette Meaden discusses the UK Cons' shameful determination to take any source of support away from some of the people who need it most.

- Finally, Roger Noll and Robert Litan respond to Donald Trump's attack on supply management by pointing out the false claims behind it.

Sunday, July 01, 2018

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Sam Pizzigati makes the case for an effective maximum wage - and notes that the U.S.' historical top tax brackets were based on the recognition that excessive top-end income can have harmful effects for everybody:
In 1942, shortly after Pearl Harbor, FDR asked Congress for a 100% top tax rate that would leave no individuals with more than $25,000 of annual income – about $375,000 today – after taxes.

America’s top unions backed FDR’s plan – and so, Gallup pollsters reported, did a clear plurality of Americans. Congress felt the heat. By 1944, America’s richest faced a 94% tax rate on income over $200,000. Our top tax rate hovered around 90% for the next two decades, a span of time that saw the United States give birth to the world’s first mass middle class.

America in those years became significantly more equal. By 1970, the 1%’s share had sunk to a tenth of the nation’s income, versus a quarter in 1928. The bottom 90%’s share had jumped to two-thirds.
The maximum wage is an idea whose time has come. I think most Americans would agree that no enterprise where workers would have to labor over a century to make what their CEOs can make in a year should get a single one of our tax dollars.
- Michelle Goldberg notes that millennial voters are embracing democratic socialism. And Dylan Scott points out that the U.S. Democrats (and other parties seeking progressive votes) can accomplish far more by embracing popular progressive ideas than by tilting to the neoliberal centre.

- Suzi Weissman interviews David Graeber about the rise of bullshit jobs - along with the path forward to try to reduce workers' reliance on socially pointless or counterproductive employment to stay afloat.

- Finally, Kathleen Belton highlights some of the steps we can take to reduce the amount of plastic we dump into our environment.