Saturday, July 14, 2018

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Eli Wolfe discusses new research confirming how unions have saved thousands of workers' lives - and how workers stand to pay the price for political attempts to undermine collective action:
The new study focuses in particular on the extent to which state “right to work” laws — which barred mandatory union dues for non-union members even before Wednesday’s Supreme Court ruling — translate into more workplace deaths. Using mathematical modeling techniques, the study found that the rate of job-related deaths among U.S. workers from 1992 through 2016 was 14.2 percent higher than it would have been if union membership had not been undercut by right to work laws.

That equated to roughly 7,300 extra workplace deaths over the 25-year period, according to author of the analysis, Michael Zoorob.

There is a small but growing body of research highlighting the health benefits of unions. Zoorob’s study cited a 2016 report in the American Journal of Public Health that union contacts provide, among other benefits, protections against workplace hazards.

“The overarching point is that unions are important in workplace protections, and the fact that they’re declining because of public policies like right to work is concerning,” he added.
- Alastair Sharp and Dylan Waisman explore the integration of oil giants and other business interests into Canada's national security apparatus - and the resulting infiltration of activist groups for corporate benefit. And John Hua notes in contrast that under the Libs, British Columbia gaming regulators and security officers were ordered not to investigate loan sharking and other systemic illegal activity. 

- Meanwhile, Jessie Hellmann reports on Novartis' special position as the author of the U.S.' new rules on drug pricing while funneling money to Trump's personal attorney Michael Cohen.

- Finally, Gary Mason discusses the deceit behind the Clark Libs' attempt to cling to power. And Don Braid points out how Doug Ford's immediate campaign of destruction offers a preview as to what Alberta can expect if it allows Jason Kenney to take control of its government.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Musical interlude

The Supermen Lovers feat. Mani Hoffman - Starlight

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Ed Finn offers a reminder that Canada's social safety net is leading to the perpetuation of poverty despite ample resources to end it. And Niall McCarthy discusses the worsening state of financial inequality across the developed world.

- Hadrian Metrins-Kirkwood points out that enhanced sick leave under Employment Insurance would result in an affordable benefit to people who need it.

- Robert Reich reviews new books by Annie Lowrey and Andrew Yang on the value of a basic income, but recognizes the importance of dealing with inequality all along the income spectrum:
A U.B.I. might give recipients a bit more time to pursue socially beneficial activities, like helping the elderly or attending to kids with special needs or perhaps even starting a new business. Yang suggests it would spur a system of “social credits” in which people trade their spare time by performing various helpful tasks for one another. (I.R.S. be warned.) Surely a U.B.I. would help compensate many people — especially women — for the unpaid labor they already contribute. As Lowrey points out, some 40 million family caregivers in America provide half a trillion dollars of unpaid adult care annually. Child care has become so expensive that one of every three stay-at-home mothers today lives below the poverty line (compared with 14 percent in 1970).
Whatever the source of funds, it seems a safe bet that increased automation will allow the economy to continue to grow, making a U.B.I. more affordable. A U.B.I. would itself generate more consumer spending, stimulating additional economic activity. And less poverty would mean less crime, incarceration and other social costs associated with deprivation. “You know what’s really expensive?” Yang asks. “Dysfunction. Revolution.”
A core challenge in the future will be how to redistribute money from the ever richer owners of the robots and related technologies to the rest of us, who are otherwise likely to become poorer and less secure. This is not just an economic challenge but also a political one. As we know from recent history, vast fortunes translate directly into political power, and such power effectively resists redistribution.
- Lucas Laursen reports that in contrast to the consistent failure of Canada as a whole or any of its provinces to meet greenhouse gas emission reduction targets (or even develop a plausible plan to do so), California is now ahead of schedule in reducing its emissions while thriving economically.

- Finally, Martin Regg Cohn writes about the price Ontario stands to pay for Doug Ford's anti-tax dogma.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Joel French discusses the need to move beyond merely preserving the public institutions Alberta has now, and to start building the new ones which will be needed in the future.

- But Eric Levitz observes that the U.S. is instead taking deliberate policy steps to ensure that workers don't benefit from nominal economic growth. And Douglas Rushkoff writes that the long-term plan of the capital class is to detach itself from the rest of humanity rather than working toward common benefits - while noting the futility of that worldview:
This “out of sight, out of mind” externalization of poverty and poison doesn’t go away just because we’ve covered our eyes with VR goggles and immersed ourselves in an alternate reality. If anything, the longer we ignore the social, economic, and environmental repercussions, the more of a problem they become. This, in turn, motivates even more withdrawal, more isolationism and apocalyptic fantasy — and more desperately concocted technologies and business plans. The cycle feeds itself.
(W)hen the hedge funders asked me the best way to maintain authority over their security forces after “the event,” I suggested that their best bet would be to treat those people really well, right now. They should be engaging with their security staffs as if they were members of their own family. And the more they can expand this ethos of inclusivity to the rest of their business practices, supply chain management, sustainability efforts, and wealth distribution, the less chance there will be of an “event” in the first place. All this technological wizardry could be applied toward less romantic but entirely more collective interests right now.

They were amused by my optimism, but they didn’t really buy it. They were not interested in how to avoid a calamity; they’re convinced we are too far gone. For all their wealth and power, they don’t believe they can affect the future. They are simply accepting the darkest of all scenarios and then bringing whatever money and technology they can employ to insulate themselves — especially if they can’t get a seat on the rocket to Mars.

Luckily, those of us without the funding to consider disowning our own humanity have much better options available to us. We don’t have to use technology in such antisocial, atomizing ways. We can become the individual consumers and profiles that our devices and platforms want us to be, or we can remember that the truly evolved human doesn’t go it alone.

Being human is not about individual survival or escape. It’s a team sport. Whatever future humans have, it will be together.
- Susan Dynarski discusses new research confirming the role unions play in the sharing of income and wealth. And Lana Payne highlights how the Trudeau Libs have traded away the possibility of stronger labour policy in order to enrich businesses through the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

- Finally, Leilani Farha points out how the corporate sector is capturing the housing desperately needed by residents of larger cities around the world. 

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Oliver Moore reports on Greyhound's elimination of most of its Western Canadian bus service. Emily Riddle offers a reminder that the lack of transportation puts Indigenous women and other marginalized people at risk. And Simon Enoch highlights the obvious need for Saskatchewan to resume operating a public rural bus service.

- The Globe and Mail feigns shock at the revelation that Doug Ford is in fact Doug Ford, while Tom Parkin documents the fiscal crisis Ford is deliberately creating. And Andray Domise appropriately labels Ford's rule-by-antagonism - though it's worth noting that the under the typical right-wing faux-populist model, deliberate attacks on perceived enemies serve largely to distract from the greater goal of looting the public treasury for the benefit of cronies.

- Joel Lexchin examines the large amounts of money spent by big pharma to try to influence Canadian health care providers - and the lack of much means for the public to track the results of that investment.

- Scott Sinclair makes the case for Canada to protect its supply management system from the demands of U.S. agribusiness giants.

- Finally, Michelle Chen writes about a push for New York City to set up a public bank to ensure all of its residents have access to needed financial services. And Maddy Savage points out how Norway's responsible and socially-minded management of resource wealth has made it one of the few developed countries where younger workers are able to live comfortably.

Monday, July 09, 2018

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Lisa Gennetian discusses how behavioural economics can inform the development of programs to end child poverty - including by ensuring a guaranteed income to help parents avoid needless financial stress. And Annie Lowrey makes the case for a basic income as a matter of freedom from an intrusive state apparatus focused on stripping away contingent benefits.

- Jedediah Purdy comments on the increasing salience of class issues in the U.S. as the Trump administration hands over policy-making authority to big business. And Andrew Jacobs reports on Trump's use of the U.S.' foreign influence to attack breast-feeding in order to benefit corporations looking to peddle breast milk substitutes.

- Ryan Cooper points out that an attempt to sell out the corporate sector has proven politically toxic for U.S. Democrats - and suggests developing policy for the 99% whose votes will prove decisive, rather than the .01% willing to pour exorbitant amounts of money into conditional donations.

- Tom Parkin writes that Canada has lost out from the Libs' failure to keep the infrastructure promises that were so central in the 2015 federal election. 

- Finally, Andrew Coyne rightly points out that nearly the entire argument being used against proportional representation involves the entirely arbitrary choice to set the proper number of representatives for each group of voters at only one.

Sunday, July 08, 2018

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Ed Finn writes that we shouldn't believe claims that Canada lacks money for social benefits when Lib and Con governments have deliberately chosen not to bring in the revenue needed to fund them:
Canadian governments back in the 1960s and ‘70s never asked where the money was coming from when they launched our public health care system, the Canada Pension Plan, unemployment insurance, and other social programs. These programs were at their peak in 1975, when the country’s per capita GDP was just $7,489.94.

Making historical comparisons is complicated by having to take the effects of inflation, exchange rates, and other variable factors into account; but it’s safe to infer that the per capita income generated by Canada’s economy today -- in constant U.S. dollars -- is almost as twice as high as it was in the 1970s.

Why, then, are we still being told by our political leaders that Canada cannot afford to enhance or even maintain the social benefits we somehow managed to fund with far less national income four decades ago? 
Clearly the cause of Canada’s purported “shortage” of funds for social spending does not derive from a revenue shortfall, but from a heartless maldistribution of revenue. The decision to tolerate inexcusably steep rates of poverty and homelessness; the refusal to expand medicare to cover drugs, dental and vision care; to provide cost-free child care and tuition-free higher education; to improve public pensions and other social programs -- all these decisions have been matters of choice, not necessity.
So the answer to the recurring “where’s the money coming from?“ question is that it comes mainly from Canada’s working people. Millions of low-income tax payers are being denied better social and economic conditions because their governments have misspent their tax payments while reducing tax rates for the rich. That’s what gives our political leaders the contrived excuse that they can’t afford further social spending.

How much larger would the contents of their financial coffers be if they maintained an honest and equitable tax system? If they fairly taxed wealthy individuals and profitable corporations? If they stopped lavishing corporations with tax exemptions and subsidies? If they imposed and collected taxes on the enormous amounts of money stashed in foreign tax havens? (The tax haven haul alone would increase federal revenue by at least $10 billion a year -- and by as much as $47 billion, according to Conference Board of Canada estimates.)

A federal government truly committed to serving the public interest instead of powerful corporations and the wealthy elite would stop depriving itself of the much greater financial assets it could legitimately acquire.
- Catherine Bosley and Fergal O'Brien take note of the lack of wage growth even in what's supposed to be a tight U.S. labour market. And Noah Smith discusses the impact new automation figures to have on the working class - and the importance of a strong social safety net to make sure advances in technology don't leave a large number of people worse off.

- Nora Loreto comments on the connection between Canada's settler-state mentality and the perpetuation of racial disparities. And David Climenhaga points out that the rhetoric around the defence of property pushed by Alberta's UCP (among other right-wing parties) is intended to echo the U.S.' dangerous "stand your ground" laws.

- Finally, Anita Khanna, Sid Frankel, Martha Friendly and Peter Bleyer discuss Canada's embarrassing failure to make a meaningful dent in child poverty in three decades after Parliament unanimously agreed to eradicate it - as well as what needs to be included in an effective plan to fight poverty at last.