Saturday, February 02, 2019

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Jason Hickel challenges the spin that poverty and inequality are being meaningfully reduced around the world as our global economy is currently structured. Sarah Marsh reports on the reemergence of "Dickensian diseases" as a result of cuts to social supports in the UK. And Richard Reeves discusses how maternal depression (caused by poverty among other factors) serves as a barrier to social mobility.

- Meanwhile, Chuck Collins highlights how a wealth tax could simultaneously provide the U.S. with both a massive infusion of needed public resources, and a necessary rebalancing of political power.

- Gary Mason discusses how systematic money laundering may be even more prevalent in Canada than previously known. And Mathieu Galarneau examines our dubious position of paying more to telecoms for mobile data than any other country on the planet - though it's again worth noting that the provinces with public-sector options represent exceptions to the national pattern.

- Courtney Carlberg and Jen Budney examine Saskatchewan's woeful standing in Canada when it comes to child care. And Angela Brown reports on Ryan Meili's needed push for a mental health strategy - including both a greater focus on the causes of mental illness, and the availability of treatment for people who need it.

- Finally, Lana Payne calls out the focus of right-wing governments on punishing perceived enemies rather than serving the public.

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Edward Luce writes about the reckless greed of the U.S.' billionaire class which includes far too many people willing to see Donald Trump re-elected as the price of avoiding paying a fair share toward a civilized society. And Noah Smith compares a wealth tax to other alternatives in the effort to restore some sense of fairness and justice to the U.S.

- Meanwhile, David Macdonald studies the effect of exorbitant executive pay, and finds that it bears no meaningful positive relationship to stock performance:
It’s far more likely that, like so many traditions, old boys’ clubs die hard. Evidence that higher numbers of female executives produce better corporate results are just not sinking in.

Well, it turns out the same can be said for the evidence about excessive pay for CEOs, whatever their gender. Paying your CEO more has no relation to your company’s stock market performance. In fact, it could be worsening it.
...(T)here is statistically no relationship between executive pay and company stock price in Canada over this period. Put another way, other factors explain 99.8% of variations in executive pay. So, you can pay your execs more, but this will either have no effect on your share price or possibly it will drive the price down, not up.

And yet executive pay has been rising far faster than worker wages for decades, partly to buy the better stock performance that it clearly doesn’t buy. Moreover, all this bonus pay seems to flow to male and not female executives, driving the key component of the executive gender pay gap.

Power, not merit, is driving income and gender pay gaps.
- Political Potshots offers a reminder of the secretive funding structure behind Canada's right-wing astroturf groups.

- David Ljunggren and Anna Mehler Paperny reports on the Libs' plans to discard any possibility of universal pharmacare in favour of a scheme designed to cater to pharmaceutical corporations.

- George Monbiot discusses the environmental disaster being dumped onto less wealthy countries - and particularly the UK's practice of sending tires to India to be burned with no regard for the resulting health implications.

- Finally, Naomi Lakritz implores Albertans not to let Jason Kenney drag the province back to Ralph Klein's austerian governing agenda.

Friday, February 01, 2019

Musical interlude

Now, Now - SGL

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Both Eric Levitz and Brian Beutler write that U.S. Democrats need to highlight and fight the class war being waged by the rich, rather than shying away from the real and justified anger it provokes among insecure workers. And Robert Benzie reports on the latest research from the Financial Accountability Office showing that low-income Ontarians are facing income stagnation.

- Karl-Petter Thorwaldson explains how inequality is contributing to both a climate breakdown, and an inability to address it through politics as usual. And Jessica Clogg responds to the attempt by foreign-funded corporate oil lobbyists to demonize Canadian environmentalists.

- The Pembina Institute responds to yesterday's decision of the Supreme Court of Canada upholding the effectiveness of provincial environmental law by pointing out the need to make effective use of that constitutional jurisdiction. And John Paul Tasker's report on the Libs' overpayment for the Trans Mountain pipeline reminds us how many public resources are still being wasted catering to the fossil fuel industry.

- David Climenhaga discusses a new Parkland Institute study (PDF) showing that NDP governments are more effective than alternatives in managing public health care, but also indicating that they too need to be more ambitious in providing resources for public health.

- Finally, PressProgress highlights a new CUPE study (PDF) into the corporate takeover of Canada's universities.

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Say No to Bubble Boy

There are already more than enough galling stories circulating in Alberta's political scene to emphasize why Jason Kenney and his party are grossly unfit to exercise any power. But it's worth pointing out one more problem which matches the combination of deeply-rooted corruption and austerian disregard for the public good as a disqualifying factor.

Let's start with this story - which has mostly been discussed for the back-and-forth between Kenney and Rachel Notley on the issue of public service cuts, but which also contains this nugget:

In his speech Saturday, Kenney said that oil and gas had been a major driver of innovation in the Alberta. He argued that the province's economy has diversified in part because of, not in spite of, the energy industry.
...He said the energy industry could help bring cryptocurrency technology to Alberta. The computers used in the large-scale mining of cryptocurrencies, such as Bitcoin, require vast amounts of energy.

"Cryptocurrency could well be the backbone of the future digital economy. It depends on low-cost energy and we can provide that with our abundant hydrocarbon energy," he said.
And that's been followed up in turn with Kenney's call to eliminate any viability tests for Alberta real estate purchases as part of a general insistence on slashing public protections.

Which is to say that in a province too long defined by a dependence on resource bubbles as a substitute for any sustainable economic strategy, Kenney is bent on inflating more and worse if he gets the chance.
Even as Alberta wrestles with the long-term costs arising out of an oil industry which has refused to clean up its own messes, Kenney is pushing an industry whose sole purpose is to convert environmental destruction into captured wealth - and whose reliance on speculation in the absence of any substantive product makes regular busts an inevitable result.

And even after playing a role in government in the midst of the damage wrought by reckless mortgage lending which inflated both house prices and the risks assumed by people who ultimately couldn't afford them, Kenney wants to inflict exactly the same harm on Alberta.

So in addition to combining the worst elements of the PCs' entitlement and Wildrose's reactionary exclusion, Kenney also intends to tie the well-being of Alberta's citizens to the most reckless available forms of casino capitalism. And if voters choose to take such a foolish bet, the repercussions look to be felt far outside Alberta's borders.

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Chris Hedges points out how the obscenely rich few are trying to distract from their accumulation of wealth in order to avoid what would stand to be a massive public backlash. Emily Peck discusses the question of why our economic system is set up to allow the concentration of billions of dollars in single individuals. And Bill McKibben writes about the importance of perseverance against entrenched interests in fighting for a just transition toward cleaner energy.

- Meanwhile, Marc Lee calls for expanded public transit to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve accessibility and mobility for the people who need it most.

- Sebastien Jilke and Wouter Van Dooren comment on the dangers of trying to deliver veterans' benefits (and other public services) through privatized models which emphasize corporate profits over recipients' best interests.

- Nick Saul discusses how poverty is the most important barrier to healthy eating.

- Finally, Andre Picard weighs in on the need for improved public access to data in Canada, with particular emphasis on its importance in shaping health outcomes.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Upturned cats.

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Josh Mound opines that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez' call for a 70 per cent tax rate on ultra-high incomes is just the beginning of a needed conversation about the morality of the extreme concentration of wealth. And Vanessa Williamson writes that beyond raising public revenue, we should also value the improvement in equality generated by a more progressive tax system:
Progressive taxation should work as a corrective tax, like tobacco taxes or a carbon tax. Sure, tobacco taxes raise some revenue for the states. But their primary purpose is to curb smoking. While a carbon tax could produce a lot of government revenue, the real point is to limit global warming pollution. In essence, corrective taxes try to put themselves out of business; if tobacco tax revenues decline because people quit smoking, or if carbon taxes stop rolling in because the economy becomes fossil-free, that is victory, not defeat.

Taxes on the wealthy discourage a different societal ill: exploitative capitalism. Progressive tax policy is a powerful corrective to economic inequality and wealth concentration. As economists Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez concluded in their seminal paper on U.S. income inequality, “steep progressive income and estate taxation” helped prevent the accumulation of immense fortunes in the middle of the 20th century. In cross-national data, moreover, there is a “strong negative correlation between top tax rates and top 1% income share.” In other words, where top tax rates are higher, the income distribution is more egalitarian – not just post-tax, but even before taxes are taken out.

That’s because progressive taxes blunt the incentives for wealthy people to overpay one another and exploit the less privileged. For instance, contemporary CEOs are often financially rewarded for what is in essence good luck: changes in market conditions that have nothing to do with their individual performance. High tax rates discourage these CEO windfalls, leaving more money available for companies to invest productively. That means higher marginal tax rates make the economy fairer and more productive — and have no negative effect on growth, no matter what billionaires at the World Economic Forum prefer to believe.
Early proponents of progressive tax policy knew that it was not just a revenue source. In our contemporary Gilded Age, and as our political institutions feel pushed to the breaking point, we would do well to remember that progressive taxation is a democratic reform.
- Meanwhile, Liz McCormick, Saleha Mohsin and Alexandre Tanzi report on the U.S.' trillion-dollar borrowing to fund the Trump tax giveaway to the rich. And Richard Partington writes that the UK's corporate tax handouts have likewise proven far more harmful to the public treasury than promised.

- Oscar Guardiola-Rivera highlights why the corporate-driven push for a coup in Venezuela is dangerous for all concerned. But Joshua Goodman, Luis Alonso Lugo and Rob Gillies report that Canada has been at the centre of a secret push to install an unelected leader in order to facilitate resource-sector profit-taking.

- Chris Tollefson reviews three books documenting how Canada's petro-state is blocking climate progress. And Elizabeth Aguilera points out how environmental damage is inflicted on people who can't afford to leave polluted areas due to structural inequalities.

- Finally, Eric Andrew-Gee and Tavia Grant examine some of the gaps in publicly-available data about Canada and its citizens.

Monday, January 28, 2019

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Bess Levin comments on the self-serving attempts of the Davos class to shut down any call for progressive taxes. And Keith Brooks points out the absurdity of a PR campaign on behalf of a largely foreign-owned fossil fuel sector attempting to vilify environmental activists for not stopping their connections at national borders.

- Brendan Maton discusses Stephanie Kelton's call for governments to invest in a balanced society rather than obsessing solely over their own balance sheets. And Roderick Benns examines how Ontario's small basic income project allowed people to seek out basic health care which had otherwise been unaffordable.

- Ben Beckett writes about the vital role played by U.S. federal workers in ending the government shutdown.

- CBC News reports on a renewed push for drinking water to be fluoridated - with provinces stepping in if necessary to ensure it happens.

- Finally, Jason Wilson talks to David Niewert about the dangers of the U.S.' increasingly bigoted and reactionary right wing.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Aditya Chakrabortty discusses the belated recognition among the world's most privileged few that they can't but their way out of the fundamental issues facing humankind. And Branko Milanovic highlights the Davos set's lip service to combating inequality as long as it does nothing to affect the imbalances in their favour.

- The London School of Economics points out Jonathan Mijs' work on the connection between social divisions and relative popular acceptance of inequality. And Polly Toynbee writes about the right's exploitation of that link:
Both rich and poor delude themselves that they are ordinary. But telling people the facts doesn’t change their attitudes: increasingly they cling to a moral belief that people rise by merit, sinking for lack of it. Spend time talking to people using food banks or in Citizens Advice offices knocked down by benefit sanctions, and too often you hear people absorbing the blame. “I should have tried harder at school,” is a frequent refrain, as if no other forces were at play. Talk to the mega-rich – I once conducted focus groups of earners up to £10m – and they are wilfully ignorant about their super-privilege, unshakable in believing their superior merit.

The right captured the story, the emotions, the moral framing: social democrats need to seize it back with a narrative of immorality that is more compelling. The British Social Attitudes survey suggests a swing back towards empathy with the swelling numbers of poor people – including more than 4 million children. But still inheritance tax remains the most reviled of all taxes. The right forever tries to prove poor people are more stupid by nature than the rich, but Professor Steve Jones, a celebrated geneticist, when asked about the heritability of intelligence, replies deftly that the most important heritable trait, by miles, is wealth.
- David Sirota interviews Anand Giridharadas about the pitfalls of relying on elite philanthropy rather than democratic decision-making.

- The Australia Institute examines how tax giveaways to businesses accomplish nothing. And the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy discusses how a wealth tax can and should work south of the border.

- Finally, Sammy Hudes reports on a report prepared for Calgary's city council showing how the privatization of public services creates massive new risks to the public while only benefiting the corporations who are able to extract profits.