Saturday, November 03, 2018

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Peter Gowan discusses UK Labour's plans for a more democratic and participatory economy. And Alex Ballingall reports on Jagmeet Singh's plan to prohibit the use of "bearer shares" which conceal the ownership of corporate wealth.

- Linda McQuaig rightly criticizes Doug Ford's moves to make work more precarious and take away hard-won minimum wage increases and personal protections. Erika Shaker and Chandra Pasma study the spread of precarious work within Canadian universities. And Sara Mojtehedzadeh reports on some progress for workers on the federal front, while Chris Hannay reports on Hassan Yussuff's push for a pay equity system which addresses multiple forms of pay discrimination.

- Cherise Seucharan reports on how health care advocates are supporting proportional representation to ensure that British Columbia's care system is properly resourced and representative.

- Finally, Martin Wolf discusses the need for immediate action to avert catastrophic climate change, as well as the institutional obstacles standing in the way. Nadja Popovich maps out the broad public agreement even in the U.S. as to the need for carbon pricing as part of a plan to avoid climate breakdown, while Marieke Walsh reports on a new poll showing majority support for a carbon price across Canada. And Regan Boychuk reports on the nonsensical response from Alberta's captured energy regulator in the wake of news that it's been grossly understating the remediation costs of the province's oil industry.

Friday, November 02, 2018

Thursday, November 01, 2018

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Chuck Collins discusses the obscene wealth being hoarded by the U.S.' few richest families. And Owen Jones comments on the need for UK Labour to plan to push for far more revenue - especially from the top end - than it's proposed so far.

- Meanwhile, Jim Stanford writes about the importance of addressing inequality through the labour market:
Fixing this problem requires an ambitious, multidimensional effort to rebuild the policy levers of inclusive growth. Minimum wages should be high enough that anyone working full-time can escape poverty. Supplemental measures like penalty rates and casual loading should be strengthened, not eroded. The award system should again aim to support wage growth for all workers, not just those at the bottom.

Relaxing Australia’s unique and punitive restrictions on collective bargaining and allowing workers to negotiate multi-firm or industry-wide agreements would also lift wages across the board. Instead of being vilified and persecuted, unions should be accepted and supported as an essential and constructive part of a normal labour market.

Unionists and social advocates are now forcefully prosecuting the argument to “change the rules” of Australia’s labour market. This will be one of the top issues in the run-up to the next federal election. And this debate is long overdue – because tackling inequality has to start in the labour market.
- Ben Parfitt exposes how British Columbia's Environmental Assessment Office makes a habit of offering corporations secret deals to bypass any scrutiny of hazardous projects, and calls for proper review processes which actually allow the public to have a say.

- And the Price of Oil project reveals that the Alberta Energy Regulator has developed but concealed studies showing that cleaning up the tar sands would cost an estimated $260 billion - more than four times what the public has been told before.

- Emily Eaton points out that in order to rein in climate breakdown, we need to make a rapid transition to clean energy - not merely put a modest price on small-scale fuel purchases. And Robert Jones reports that the Trudeau Libs are actually facilitating the continued use of the dirtiest power sources through their industrial exemptions from carbon pricing.

- Finally, Stephen Tweedale discusses the problems with any attempt to use Karl Popper's philosophy as a defence of first-past-the-post politics.

New column day

Here, on Scott Moe's choice to pursue strongman politics indistinguishable from the Donald Trumps and Doug Fords of the world.

For further reading...
- D.C. Fraser reported on Moe's willingness to stand with and behind Ford no matter how preposterous his claims. And Fatima Syed noted that both Moe and Ford are shoveling grossly inaccurate information in the name of exacerbating climate breakdown, while CTV's Question Period interview (see link in right column) featured Moe's declaration that he's not interested in facts.
- Andrew Coyne discussed the reality that a war on the truth is one of the defining features of the right - even when it occasionally backtracks on attacking the media directly. And Bob Hepburn noted that Ford and Andrew Scheer are following Trump's playbook.
- PressProgress has documented some of the Jason Kenney UCP's links to the explicitly racist right. And Gillian Steward wrote about his plan to go to war against environmentalists.
- Murray Mandryk and Tammy Robert highlighted the total lack of responsiveness from Moe's cabinet when faced with even basic factual questions. CBC reported on Moe's choice to meet with Ford alone rather than a national group of leaders - then to lie about his direction to pull Saskatchewan from any national talks while trying to claim national leadership. And Bryan Eneas reported on the sudden purchase of semi-automatic rifles for use in patrols in rural Saskatchewan.
- Finally, Mandryk argued that Moe is putting conservatism over the public interest - though I'd consider it worth distinguishing between ideological conservatism alone, and the strongman model which is actually taking precedence.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Mark Kaufman puts our continually-rising greenhouse gas emissions in historical context, with atmospheric concentrations exceeding what they've been in the previous 15 million years. Jason MacLean points out the folly of responding to an imminent and extreme threat with tepid pricing alone rather than an immediate transition to clean energy. And Gillian Steward discusses Jason Kenney's desire to use public funds to fight the oil industry's war against the planet as being as politically pointless as it is environmentally destructive.

- Ben Parfitt rightly argues against the use of secret deals to exempt major British Columbia projects from environmental assessments.

- Laurie MacFarlane writes that wealth accumulation tends to result more from power and privilege than from productivity. And Jake Johnson notes that the U.S. economy is thoroughly distorted by the influence of a few dynastic families.

- Emma Paling reports on Danyaal Raza's recognition that Doug Ford's regressive labour policies will lead to avoidable strain on Ontario's health care system.

- Finally, Kristin Eberhard points out how a proportional electoral system can ensure that low-income and marginalized people are able to fully exercise the voting power they deserve - and thus see their interests reflected in government policies:
ProRep is associated with more progressive tax policies, more aid for lower-income families, more investment in institutions that decrease inequality (such as public education), and decreased inequality, according to a 2006 statistical analysis of Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development member states. Why? Partly because center-right governments tend to dominate in winner-take-all countries, whereas center-left governments fare better in ProRep systems. But regardless of party control, the analysis found, ProRep fosters greater equality. ProRep center-left governments are simply more ambitious in their policies to enhance equality than center-left governments in winner-take-all countries, probably because coalition dynamics in ProRep countries give more power to low-income voters. 

ProRep countries spend more on reducing poverty and public health. Public health scholars have pointed out that “poverty rates and government support in favour of health—the extent of government transfers—is higher when the popular vote is more directly translated into political representation through proportional representation.” In 2008, scholars concluded that the lack of proportional representation in Canada “is associated with higher poverty rates and less government action in support of health.”

Electoral systems that translate the will of the people to representatives, as ProRep does, pass policies that people want. When voters want a more equal society, ProRep countries deliver. Winner-take-all countries, with their distorted electoral results, also pass distorted policies that exacerbate inequality. 

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Costumed cats.

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Andrew Jackson argues that Canada has nothing to gain in trying to race Donald Trump to the bottom when it comes to corporate taxes:
While marginal effective corporate-tax rates are clearly a factor in business investment decisions, they are by no means the only or most decisive factor.

Non-tax factors such as access to natural resources, skills, energy costs, house prices, urban amenities and other locational advantages play a major role in investment decisions, especially in the knowledge-intensive sectors. And investment will be limited if demand is sluggish, even if the after-tax cost of capital is relatively low.

Further, cuts to the corporate-tax rate are costly since most of the benefit goes to existing firms making profits from past investments, rather than to new firms or those thinking about expansion. A cut in the tax rate is also irrelevant to companies earning so-called rents or above-average profits compared to the international norm. For example, during the resource-boom companies would have invested in the oil sands even if the corporate-tax rate had been much higher, since expected profits were very high.

Canadian banks, utilities, airlines, railways, retailers and cultural industries among others all have to operate mainly in Canada to serve the Canadian market, so they are not very responsive to changes in tax rates compared to other countries.

It is striking that the level of business investment in Canada as a share of GDP remained almost unchanged in recent years as the Harper government cut the federal corporate-income-tax rate to 15 per cent today from 22.1 per cent in 2006, at a cost of about $12-billion in annual tax revenue.

Deep corporate-tax cuts came at the price of foregone public investments in areas such as infrastructure, research, education and skills that could have contributed more to productivity growth. Introduced at a time of deficits, these tax cuts also increased the public debt.
- Stuart Trew points out how the USCMA is designed to prevent regulators from fulfilling their mission of protecting the public interest. And Jeremias Prassl offers some suggestions as to how to bring collective bargaining into the gig economy.

- Cory Doctorow writes that the researchers whose first outlier study was initially used to criticize Seattle's minimum wage increase have clarified that all kinds of lower-earning workers were better off for the boost.

- Matt Ford discusses the growing gap in civil rights under the Trump administration. And Tyson Brown explains how discrimination and associated social factors lead to long-term disparities in health outcomes.  

- Emily Chung reports on the findings of the Living Planet Report of a 60% decline in vertebrate populations since 1970 due to overdevelopment and climate change.

- Finally, Andrew Coyne writes that the most important question on British Columbia's referendum ballot is the first one - and that there's no justification for clinging to the unrepresentative status quo based on process complaints.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Gavin Kelly writes that the UK's welfare state has been shaped by the Cons to prevent working households from being able to aspire to anything better than precarity:
According to a recent analysis for the Equality and Human Rights Commission, the combined effect of the changes to the tax and benefits system between 2010 and 2021 will be average losses for a couple with children of £3,000 a year, rising to more than £5,000 for a lone-parent family – almost a fifth of their income. Families with disabled members, or with three or more children, tend to lose more.

These are life-altering sums. In every corner of Britain, we see the symptoms of these and other cuts as growing numbers fall through the gaping holes in our safety net: the rise in food banks, street-sleeping, temporary accommodation and problem-debt. Tax-credits for those on middle incomes have been steadily chipped away and child benefit for the better off axed altogether – though it’s still the case that the support on offer to middle Britain remains more generous than it was in the mid-1990s, prior to the Labour government. The use of the benefits system has also changed: jobseeker’s allowance, which has withered in value compared to earnings, is claimed by only six out of 10 of today’s unemployed, compared to almost 100% in the early 1990s.
The cold calculus of cash losses is vitally important, of course, but only tells us part of the story. A core idea of the welfare state was that it provided the bedrock of security needed for people to take economic risk. Increasingly, however, it has the opposite psychological effect. Take universal credit for example. It’s not just that 3.2 million working households will be £2.5k worse off than under the old system (though 2.2 million will be better off). Moving today’s benefit claimants on to UC over the next five years will involve several million families knowing they face big losses if their personal circumstances alter – the birth of a new child, separation from a partner, a boost in earnings. An idea conceived in the name of “aspiration” has yielded a policy that will pressure families to stand still.
- The Globe and Mail's editorial board notes that Doug Ford's "business-friendly" messaging in fact reflects nothing more than enmity for the working poor. And PressProgress documents how workers will be worse off if Ford gets his way.

- Mitchell Anderson discusses the corrupting influence of the fossil fuel industry generally. And David Roberts points out the tens of millions of dollars it's poured into attacking citizens' initiatives in a single U.S. election cycle.

- Meanwhile, Tristin Hopper discusses the effect a carbon price will have in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. But Nic Rivers and Leah Stokes note that there's limited evidence to suggest a Lib-style rebate scheme will help to build popular support for stronger climate policy.

- Finally, David Climenhaga examines the backstory behind the sale of Jason Kenney's UCP platform to car dealerships.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- CBC News examines the state of consumer debt in Canada. Jake Johnson writes that despite the growing recognition of inequality as an issue, 2017 saw an unprecedented amount of money funneled into the fortunes of billionaires. And Owen Jones highlights the importance of requiring the wealthy to pay their fair share toward genuinely social programs, rather than relying on their charity to meet public needs.

- Meanwhile, Noah Smith comments on the danger of trying to demonize social benefits (or a Republican view of "socialism") based on the level of popular support for government spending to benefit citizens. Which goes a long way toward explaining Paul Krugman's observations about the Republicans' refusal to honestly debate policy choices.

- Sarah Boseley discusses the stark difference in mortality rates between wealthier and poorer regions of England.

- Finally, Chantal Hebert wonders whether British Columbia's referendum will represent the first step toward electoral reform across Canada. And Libby Davies and Katrina Pacey discuss the reasons why we'd be better represented as a result of that change.