Saturday, January 12, 2019

Saturday Afternoon Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- The Economic Policy Institute charts how government policy is exacerbating inequality in the U.S. And Sam Pizzigati discusses how Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is leading a much-needed discussion about ensuring that wealthy people pay their fair share - and notes that the arguments against a more progressive tax system are as empty as ever.

- Greg Marchildon and Andrew Jackson map out a path toward a national pharmacare program, concluding that a single national program would be both easier to implement and more beneficial in the long run compared to a more fragmented system. 

- Tanya Talaga highlights how Justin Trudeau is laughably downplaying his government's choice to fight Indigenous communities in the name of fossil fuel development rather than making any good faith effort toward reconciliation. And Sarah Petz reports on the sudden and inexplicable apprehension of an Indigenous child from a Winnipeg hospital - and the threats that any continued will only result in further difficulty trying to reunite the baby with her family.

- Meanwhile, Damian Carrington reports on a new study showing that air pollution common in urban areas around the work is just as dangerous to as smoking.

- Finally, Gaby Hinsliff argues that a focus on "make do and mend" rather than constant new consumption would have both environmental and economic benefits for the general public.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Musical interlude

Philosopher Kings - Hurts To Love You

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Jonathan Malesic writes that while millennials may be facing the worst of an economy set up to push workers into precarity, the workforce as a whole is dealing with high levels of burnout. And Jacques Marcoux and Katie Nicholson report on research showing that work-related deaths in Canada are severely underestimated in official statistics.

- Bloomberg News reports on the growing number of Canadians who can't meet their financial obligations. And Andrew Jackson points out that the problem is one of private exploitation, not taxes which are actually entirely manageable:
In 2016, the “average Canadian” paid an effective combined federal-provincial income tax rate of just 9.0 per cent – just nine cents for every dollar of income from employment, investments and government transfers. While that figure does not include sales taxes and social insurance contributions, it will surely strike most as quite a modest amount considering all of the benefits of public spending in the form of income support programs, social programs and public services.
The data also rebut the common view that the income tax “burden” has been increasing. In fact, the average effective rate has fallen from a peak of 11.3 per cent in 1997, two decades ago, to 9.0 per cent in 2016, and the effective rate on the top 1 per cent has fallen from 34.5 per cent at the peak in 2007 to 30.6 per cent in 2016. The effective tax rate on the 75th percentile has fallen from 19.1 per cent to 15.8 per cent over the same period.

So why all of the populist tax rage? One can only speculate, but perceptions are clearly not being shaped by the facts. Stagnant or falling real incomes for many Canadians are the result of low rates of growth of earnings and other forms of income, not rising income taxes.
- John McDonnell makes the case to make a definitive turn away from Thatcherism and austerity in 2019. 

- And finally, Bob Hepburn discusses the Ford government's moves behind the scenes to push privatized health care.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Thursday Evening Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Colin McAuliffe charts the increasing share of U.S. income going to profits and the already-wealthy. And Dani Rodrik writes about the importance of a progressive movement which seeks to shift the balance of power in how our economy functions, rather than settling for trying to redistribute wealth concentrated in the hands of a few:
There is now growing recognition that tax-and-transfer policies can go only so far. While there is much room for improving social insurance and tax regimes, especially in the US, deeper reforms are needed to help level playing fields in favor of ordinary workers and families across a broad range of domains. That means focusing on product, labor, and financial markets, on technology policies, and on the rules of the political game.

Inclusive prosperity cannot be achieved by simply redistributing income from the rich to the poor, or from the most productive parts of the economy to less productive sectors. It requires less-skilled workers, smaller firms, and lagging regions to be more fully integrated with the most advanced parts of the economy.

In other words, we must start with productive re-integration of the domestic economy. Large and productive firms have a critical role to play here. They must recognize that their success depends on the public goods that their national and sub-national governments supply – everything from law and order and intellectual property rules to infrastructure and public investment in skills and research and development. In exchange, they must invest in their local communities, suppliers, and workforce – not as corporate social responsibility, but as a mainline activity.
- David Sirota examines how Wall Street funds exacerbated the housing crisis arising from the 2008 financial crash. Alexander Sammon points out the plight of communities which offer massive incentives based on the promise of corporate jobs - only to find that those fall far short of producing any security or prosperity for residents. And David Macdonald writes that while Canada's first social impact bonds predictably produced plenty of profits for consultants and advisors, they were grossly inefficient in trying to improve social outcomes (with 60% of funding getting diverted from the supposed end goal).

- Wanyee Li rightly notes that in the wake of a series of deaths of homeless people trying to find warm clothing in donation bins, the core solution is to work on reducing poverty and homelessness - not to merely restrict access to the bins.

- Finally, Andre Picard discusses the predictable breakdowns in a health care system which is understaffed over the holidays when resources are needed most.

New column day

Here, on Scott Moe's apparent view that the only voice which deserves to be heard or amplified is that of the oil industry.

For further reading...
- Jie Jenny Zou is among many to have discussed the oil industry's track record of funding science denial in the interest of being able to pollute freely and take short-term profits while leaving long-term liabilities.
- And in case one didn't think there was enough astroturf around already, John Ivison has highlighted one new propaganda outlet connected to Brad Wall and the Sask Party's donors, while David Climenhaga pointed out another under development.
- Climenhaga has also written about both the Alberta NDP's publicly-funded PR work on behalf of the oil industry, and the UCP's even more extreme demands. And he's also noted how the University of Calgary has served as a mouthpiece for big oil.
- Finally, Arthur White-Crummet reported on Scott Moe's direct intervention to push for police to silence the Justice for our Stolen Children camp. Stephanie Taylor reported on Moe's explanation for selecting a fossil fuel rally alone as one to receive his participation and attention after previously claiming to consider himself above protests. And Charles Smith discusses how galling that was this week in particular, following as it did on the heels of both an empty Sixties Scoop apology and the advent of national protests against violations of Indigenous sovereignty in the name of fossil fuel development.

Wednesday, January 09, 2019

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Roderick Benns points out the disruptive effect of the cancellation of Ontario's basic income trial - signalling the importance of being able to plan on a stable source of income. And Jessica Chin reports on an anticipated wave of renovictions to push tenants out of their homes in an effort to goose property rents.

- George Monbiot discusses the devastating health effects of air pollution - and the roadblocks the fossil fuel lobby has put up to try to avoid a shift toward cleaner air and improved public health. But Umair Irfan notes that the U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear Exxon's attempt to suppress its own knowledge of the dangers of climate change now that some states are seeking to hold it accountable.

- Tom Parkin highlights how the Libs are more focused on playing games with by-elections than on accomplishing anything progressive voters would have expected from them as a government. And Murray Mandryk contrasts Scott Moe's words about the Sixties Scoop against his continued refusal to work even on such basic injustices as the systematic removal of Indigenous children from their families and communities.

- Finally, Seth Klein writes about the need to move past cynicism and participate in building the change which people both want and need:
(T)he truth is any of us as progressive activists, with the courage to see the world as it is and the conviction to seek to remake the world as it should be, walk a razor’s edge between hope and despair. We feel and know both. And maybe we should be more open about that.

And yet, I do see hope. I see it in the slow but sure progress of our movements. I see it in our research, which tells us that the world we want is possible given the political will. I see it in the activism and good will of people I’ve gotten to meet around the province in this job. I see it in the values of our fellow British Columbians and Canadians. From time to time, we at CCPA do polling on values (not much, it’s expensive). And when we do I’m always struck that, as a society, whenever we are given a choice between a private gain like a tax cut and a public good like spending on enhanced public services or tacking homelessness and poverty, for most people, the public good wins every time.

And so, here’s what I believe after 22 years in this job: the values of British Columbians are — in the main — good and progressive and caring. We just need a politics that allows people to give those positive values proper expression.

Tuesday, January 08, 2019

Tuesday Evening Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Matt Bruenig discusses how Sweden's 70% tax rate on its top income bracket fits into an economy with high incomes along with lower inequality than the U.S. among other countries.

- Roland Tanner rightfully argues that the proliferation of high turnover, low pay jobs doesn't ultimately serve employers' interests - even as Rocco Rossi and his ilk lobby furiously to preserve the ability to treat workers poorly. And Maria Hangeveld writes about the "purpose paradigm" as a means to push workers to accept the corporate framework which allows for their continued exploitation.

- Dan Gearino points out the emergence of clean energy in the U.S.' Midwest region. But Sharon Riley reports on one of the subsidies that's keeping the fossil fuel industry and its associated pollution at an artificially high share of Canada's economy, as the Alberta public is on the hook to reimburse landowners for the money owed by delinquent oil operators.

- Finally, the Globe and Mail's editorial board argues that 2019 should be the year when Canada implements a national pharmacare system:
When it comes to getting medical treatment from a doctor or a hospital, Canada has universal health insurance. In the United States, it’s what the Democratic Party’s presidential aspirants are about to start pitching to American voters, under the banner of “Medicare for All.”

But when it comes to drugs, the Canadian system is the broken American system. If you’re hospitalized and you’re given prescription meds, it’s free. But once you walk out of the hospital with a prescription to fill, you may be on your own. Coverage is a mix of private insurance and out-of-pocket spending, with the provinces and territories filling some of the gaps with a grab bag of local programs, each unique to its jurisdiction, for groups such as seniors and the poor.

In terms of pharmaceutical coverage, Canada in 2019 still looks a lot like Canada circa 1964.
...While most Canadians have workplace drug insurance, part-time workers, the self-employed and the precariously employed or unemployed usually aren’t among them. Even for those with insurance, it’s contingent on remaining with the same employer. Government programs are limited and selective, creating a safety net that’s filled with holes.
In a largely privatized system, the government has little ability to control costs. That’s true across the U.S. health-care system and in Canada when it comes to meds. Canadians are the world’s third-highest spenders on drugs, at nearly $1,100 per person in 2017. The British, in contrast, spend barely more than half as much. Their public system gives them the ability to negotiate better deals and put downward pressure on drug prices. 

Canada has the opportunity to do better; to improve the average Canadian’s access to necessary medicines while lowering the bill for businesses, taxpayers and citizens.

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Playtime cats.

Monday, January 07, 2019

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Henry Bewicke charts the worst offenders when it comes to per-capita carbon pollution - with the U.S. and Canada sharing an ignominious place at the top of the list. And the Star's editorial board points out that we shouldn't trust politicians who claim there's some free magic bullet to fight climate breakdown without a cost - though we should pay attention to the offsetting benefits of a just transition to a clean energy economy.

- George Monbiot writes about the role of advertising both in shaping preferences, and in causing stress and dissatisfaction. And John Ivison and David Climenhaga each point out new additions to what was already a blaring right-wing noise machine in Canadian politics.

- Anne Helen Petersen discusses how a combination of relentless stressors and limited opportunities for stability has resulted in widespread burnout among millennials. 

- Finally, Tom Parkin comments on the connection between the Libs' attitude that younger workers can't expect anything but precarious lives, and their cynical choice to put off by-elections which could force them to answer for their failings.

Sunday, January 06, 2019

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Paul Krugman examines the economics of a higher tax rate on extreme high-income individuals:
Diamond, in work with Emmanuel Saez — one of our leading experts on inequality — estimated the optimal top tax rate to be 73 percent. Some put it higher: Christina Romer, top macroeconomist and former head of President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers, estimates it at more than 80 percent.

Where do these numbers come from? Underlying the Diamond-Saez analysis are two propositions: Diminishing marginal utility and competitive markets.

Diminishing marginal utility is the common-sense notion that an extra dollar is worth a lot less in satisfaction to people with very high incomes than to those with low incomes. Give a family with an annual income of $20,000 an extra $1,000 and it will make a big difference to their lives. Give a guy who makes $1 million an extra thousand and he’ll barely notice it.

What this implies for economic policy is that we shouldn’t care what a policy does to the incomes of the very rich. A policy that makes the rich a bit poorer will affect only a handful of people, and will barely affect their life satisfaction, since they will still be able to buy whatever they want.
(W)hen taxing the rich, all we should care about is how much revenue we raise. The optimal tax rate on people with very high incomes is the rate that raises the maximum possible revenue.

And that’s something we can estimate, given evidence on how responsive the pre-tax income of the wealthy actually is to tax rates. As I said, Diamond and Saez put the optimal rate at 73 percent, Romer at over 80 percent — which is consistent with what AOC said.
- Lana Payne writes about the continued class war being waged by the rich, while Sharmini Peries interviews Cornel West about the need to build a stronger collective movement to fight back. And Lynne Fernandez and Shauna MacKinnon discuss the connection between a "right to the city" movement and social justice generally.

- Jonathon Schuldt and Y. Connie Yuan write that the vast majority of Americans are far more favourable toward fighting climate change than their political leaders, while David Akin notes that same holds true in Canada. David Roberts warns that right-wing blather about "innovation" doesn't reflect any serious attempt to address the climate crisis, particularly where it's aimed primarily at shoveling free money toward polluters. And even as the Sask Party's waste of billions of dollars on CCS technology fits squarely into that category, D.C. Fraser reports that Scott Moe is pushing any emission reduction enforcement whatsoever into 2021 at the earliest. 

- Finally, Ellen MacArthur points out the prospect of planning intended to achieve a virtuous circle of responsibly managing resources - in contrast to the current economic model based on short-term profits and disposability.