Saturday, October 27, 2018

Musical interlude

Frou Frou - Let Go

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- David Moscrop discusses the need for a more meaningful definition of "progress" which doesn't hand-wave away the long-term harms and risks created by the single-minded pursuit of immediate gains in top-end wealth.

- Rajeev Syal reports that the UK Cons pushed through public-sector austerity with full knowledge of the increased poverty that would result. CBC reports on at least one private-sector employer, Quebec's Simons, which is recognizing the benefits of paying employees more than the bare minimum. And Mike Crawley notes that Doug Ford's list of attacks on workers includes delaying even a modest level of pay transparency.

- Meanwhile, Kwame McKenzie discusses the predictable public health costs of Ford's minimum wage freeze. And as a memo to the Saskatchewan Party: those problems with leaving the return on work at $14 per hour are all the worse when the minimum wage is nearly three dollars less.

- Brent Patterson criticizes the Libs' attempt to reframe the Trans-Pacific Partnership as "progressive", rather than a massive giveaway of wealth and power to the corporate sector. And David Schneiderman argues that the only truly progressive response to anti-social investment pacts is to decline to sign them.

- Finally, Ryan Maloney reports on Charlie Angus' plan to extricate Canada from any deal to contribute military weaponry to Saudi Arabia's human rights abuses. And Michael Harris writes about the costs of failing to stand up for human rights.

Friday, October 26, 2018

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Rupert Neate reports on new research showing that the world's billionaires saw their wealth increase by 20% in 2017 alone.

- Pete Evans discusses the increasing debt facing most Canadians as ever more net wealth is diverted to the extremely privileged few. And Alex Hemingway comments on the role of a speculation tax in making housing more affordable while also funding social needs.

- Paul Summers reviews the UK's continued wage stagnation for most workers compared to soaring executive salaries. And Mike Crawley examines the evidence and finds that Doug Ford's excuse for repealing a minimum wage increase has no basis in reality, while Ricardo Tranjan points out that workers are nothing but worse off when fair wages are replaced with tax gimmicks.

- Meanwhile, Michael Coren writes that Ford's agenda is based on little more than punishing the poorest Ontarians:
(T)here is something deeper, darker, and more sinister going on. It’s an attack upon human dignity, a scapegoating of the “other,” which is a classic hard-right tactic. The ghost of capitalism past and the ghost of capitalism present, where decency and compassion are dismissed as mere humbug.

It’s surely no coincidence that the same week as the most powerless of workers were humiliated, the same government announced that plans to build three university campuses in the suburbs or outer towns of Toronto were cancelled. These are frontline colleges, providing young people with vocational training as much as academic excellence.

Because of the location of the central campuses, it’s expensive, extremely time-consuming, even impossible, for many to become students. These are often the less privileged and less wealthy kids, and as such it was a direct assault on equality of opportunity.

Earlier in the month, the Ford administration removed funding to the Roundtable on Violence Against Women, designed to help government support those escaping domestic violence. It also scrapped funding to a Toronto after-school program for at-risk young youth. And the list goes on.
...(T)he rich get richer, the poor get poorer, and the call for justice and fairness is dismissed as extreme and unreasonable. Remember that cruelty, and remember that we will be judged by how we treat those less fortunate than ourselves.
- Finally, Dorothy Woodend interviews Chris Hedges about the precarious state of the U.S.' global hegemony.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Campbell Robb laments the persistence of in-work poverty in the UK - though it's of course worth noting the reality that poverty of all kinds is worth combating. Pat Thane points out that increasing poverty can be traced directly to deliberate and avoidable austerity, while the Real News talks to Matt Gardner about the U.S.' exacerbation of inequality through tax giveaways to the rich. And Susan Delacourt wonders what happened to Justin Trudeau's supposed interest in alleviating inequality in Canada.

- Jesse McLaren points out how Doug Ford's attacks on workers will only make the hallway medicine problem worse by foisting more social problems onto the health care system. And Martin Regg Cohn writes about Ford's choice to target younger Ontarians.

- David Climenhaga comments on Jason Kenney's used-car-salesman brand of politics. And Murray Mandryk discusses how the Saskatchewan Party is refusing to cut the province's losses on the Global Transportation Hub by throwing busing subsidies at Loblaws even after cutting off transportation for Saskatchewan's citizens.

- Finally, James Wilt interviews Bruce Campbell about his new book on the Lac-M├ęgantic explosion - and the real danger to the public posed by continued regulatory capture.

New column day

Here, on British Columbia's electoral reform referendum - and the need for a political system where voters have more say than simply a yes/no vote on an incumbent government.

For further reading...
- For examples of the attempt to defend first-past-the-post based on the desire for accountability for a majority government, see Peter Shawn Taylor's column as well as Gordon Hoekstra's backgrounder.
- Pat Carl expands on the value of continuity among cooperating parties, rather than the whiplash of single-party governments trying to undo each other's work.
- Finally, Matthew Shugart examines the anticipated effects of proportional representation in British Columbia.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Barry Ritholtz comments on Donald Trump's choice to model his budgetary policy on the combination of freebies for the rich and attacks on everybody else that produced nothing but misery in Kansas:
Kansas has been a disaster, with giant budget shortfalls, service cuts, slashed education budgets and a brain drain with young people leaving the state. The economy has failed to keep up with growth in the rest of the country and is much weaker in terms of job gains, wage increases and gross domestic product growth than neighboring states with similar economies. In 2015, for example, Kansas had one of the worst job growth rates in the country, at 0.8 percent, adding just 10,900 nonfarm jobs.

In the five years before Donald Trump was elected president in 2016, no state economy performed worse than Kansas. Things became so bad that Kansas decided to simply stop updating the public about state economic news. There's no reason to do this other than to obscure the obvious: Kansas's wounds were self-inflicted.

Compare that record with California's robust economy, increased tax base, balanced budget and job growth that exceeds the national average. The president may criticize the politics of the state, but there is little to find fault with its economy. If California were its own country, its $2.75 trillion economy and would be the world’s fifth largest, after the U.S., China, Japan and Germany.

Yet despite the obvious failures in Kansas, Trump has championed that state, and not California, as his preferred model for economic growth via big tax cuts and deregulation.
(T)here are obvious lessons to be learned. When Jerry Brown retires as governor next year, part of his legacy will be leaving the state with a $6.1 billion budget surplus. Kansas, meanwhile, is trying to dig itself out from the deficits that are a consequence of tax cuts -- cuts that the state legislature has since reversed.

Between the two, there's really no choice. Take California.
- Bruce Campion-Smith reports on a new study by the Parliamentary Budget Office showing how minimum wage increases have been an important factor limiting income inequality over the past couple of decades.

- David Roberts discusses the Republicans' gaslighting on climate change - which of course matches the longtime strategy of Canada's oil-backed right-wing parties. And Frederic Simon reports on the International Energy Agency's latest data confirming the continued rise of greenhouse gas emissions (and increased difficulty reining them in quickly enough to avoid catastrophic climate breakdown).

- Meanwhile, J. David Hughes makes the point that conducting a fire sale of non-renewable resources isn't a viable energy plan.

- Finally, Gaby Hinscliff points out new research showing that the spread of microplastics in the environment has predictably resulted in their being ingested by people - signalling the need to both assess their effects, and limit their continued disposal.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Bagged cats.

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Eric Levitz discusses the glaring gap between Americans' policy preferences, and the outcomes from a political system which falls far short of representing most people in the face of the influence of the ultra-rich. And Matthew Yglesias comments on the hack gap between the U.S.' two main political parties. 

- Robert Reich highlights how Donald Trump has only further enriched the wealthy while making life more precarious for the rest of the U.S. Mike Crawley reports on Doug Ford's plans to strip Ontario workers of their already-minimal gains in wages and employment standards. And Don Braid comments on Jason Kenney's promises to run roughshod over Alberta workers and consumers in exchange for corporate cash.

- Meanwhile, Sally McManus writes about the need for more fairness for Australian workers:
The problem of excessive corporate power and greed is far wider than two or three industries. Across the economy, we have seen wages go backwards in real terms over the past year, whereas profits grew 9.7 per cent, seasonally adjusted, based on the National Accounts. This is no accident – we have lost the power needed to bargain for fair wages because big business now has too much power.

Increasingly workers' capacity to bargain for better pay and conditions is hampered by a system that allows employers to frustrate the process.

Even the International Monetary Fund has pointed to the disempowerment of workers to negotiate fair pay with the deregulation of the labour market, saying this has underpinned the sluggish global recovery for workers’ wages since the global financial crisis.
There are a lot of changes required to fix the broken rule book of Australia’s workplace relations system, but the reforms should be built around laws that rebalance the system and give working people a fairer share of the wealth they create.

Our laws should give working people power, to negotiate fair pay and job security and create a balance between the power of the employer to say “no” and the needs of working people to have job security and decent pay for decent work.
- Andrew Nikiforuk discusses the spread of non-disclosure agreements as a means of forcing the people able to expose issues of public importance to refrain from doing so.

- Finally, Andrew Simms and Peter Newell propose a fossil fuel non-proliferation treaty. And we can only presume that anybody trying to deflect from any action at home in favour of reducing global emissions will be entirely on board.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Thom Hartmann writes about the billionaire-funded push toward outright fascism in the U.S. as a response to the growth of the middle class in the 20th century:
(U)nregulated markets—particularly markets not regulated by significant taxation on predatory incomes—invariably lead to the opposite of a healthy middle class: they produce extremes of inequality, which are as dangerous to democracy as cancer is to a living being.

With so-called “unregulated free markets,” the rich become super-rich, while grinding poverty spreads among working people like a heroin epidemic. This further polarizes the nation, both economically and politically, which, perversely, further cements the power of the oligarchs.

While there’s a clear moral dimension to this—pointed out by Adam Smith in his classic Theory of Moral Sentiments—there’s also a vital political dimension.
The Republican candidates’ and their billionaire donors’ behavior today eerily parallels that day in 1936 when Roosevelt said, “In vain they seek to hide behind the flag and the Constitution. In their blindness they forget what the flag and the Constitution stand for.” President Roosevelt and Vice President Wallace’s warnings are more urgent now than ever before.

If Trump and the billionaire fascists who bankroll the Republicans succeed in destroying the last supports for America’s enfeebled middle class, including Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid—and succeed in blocking any possibility of Medicare for All or free college and trade school—not only will the bottom 90 percent of Americans suffer, but what little democracy we have left in this republic will evaporate. History, from Greek and Roman times through Europe in the first half of the 20th century, suggests it will probably be replaced by a violent, kleptocratic oligarchy that no longer shrinks from words like “fascist.”
- And Toni Hassan discusses the need to reduce inequality in order to allow for individual security and well-being.

- Bloomberg's editorial board offers a few (if less-than-ambitious) suggestions to rebalance employment relationships which have become increasingly distorted in favour of giant corporations. And Claire Tran reports on Generation Progress' mapping of the U.S.' student debt, including the observation that unmanageable debts are most common for students who need to pursue degrees in order to overcome other structural disadvantages.

- CBC reports on Apple's extreme measures to try to avoid any affordable or consumer-based repairs to its products.

- Finally, the New York Times' editorial board laments the disenfranchisement of voters for nothing but bare political gain.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Jennifer Pagliaro and David Rider report on Toronto's longstanding internal knowledge of the costs of austerity. And Ed Conway highlights a new budget showing the austerity gap in the UK - though as the Equality Trust points out, that could be made up with a fraction of the wealth hoarded by by the UK's richest 1,000 people.

- Meanwhile, Richard Vize writes about the UK's increasing infant mortality rates caused by needless cuts to social benefits and services. Maia Szalavitz examines the connection between more severe inequality and higher homicide rates. And Richard Florida notes that geographic inequality in the U.S. is only getting worse with time.

- Brooke Harrington comments on the lack of any consequences attached to bad behaviour by the wealthiest Americans.

- Peter Dietsch and Michael Guenco suggest a few first steps to make sure that Canada collects a fair share of revenue from the people who have the most wealth to contribute.

- Finally, Matthew Yglesias discusses how proportional representation could solve the most glaring problems with the U.S.' decaying political system.