Saturday, March 30, 2019

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Frank Graves and Michael Valpy discuss the contrast between Canadian voters who are rightly concerned about the gap in wealth and power between the rich and the rest of us, and the Lib and Con politicians who go out of their way to preserve existing inequality and privilege:
The public has arrived at a rare moment of agreement that populism has been unleashed by a stratification of income not seen since the early years of the last century. In a country otherwise incommensurably divided on the major political issues of the day like immigration, globalization, climate change and the role of the state, EKOS finds harmonious thought among most Canadians—regardless of party attachment—that extreme and growing concentration of wealth at the top is responsible for Canada’s current social and economic problems. For example, wage increases for 90 per cent of Canadians have remained stuck at zero in constant dollars since 1980 while earnings for the top 0.1 per cent have gone up 500 per cent (note that chief executives of Canada’s five largest banks collectively earned $55-million in 2018 in total direct compensation, up roughly 6.5 per cent from 2017). There’s strong agreement across partisan boundaries on addressing the issue by taxing wealth and raising the marginal tax rate.
Across the border, politicians declaring their candidacies for the Democratic Party presidential nomination in 2020 are advocating for both wealth taxes and rising top marginal tax rates to popular acclaim. They are talking about inequality and promising to level the playing field in militant language — they’re using the word socialism, for heaven’s sake — seldom heard from American legislators.

In Canada, at the same time, many of the very voters who have moved into the authoritarian populist camp agree with those taxation measures, providing a nearly singular point of unity in an otherwise hopelessly fractured public.

Suppose, on the march to Canada’s October’s election, our political leaders began stepping up to the public judgment by proposing the creation of a wealth tax, of an inheritance tax, of caps on executive remuneration, of legislated routes to encourage profit sharing with workers. That may change the country’s political conversation.
- Meanwhile, Alex Ballingall reports on Jagmeet Singh's plan to take a first step toward a more progressive tax system by including more capital gains as taxable income. And Dana Nuccitelli writes about the elitism involved in protecting wealthy oil investors over the people who stand to suffer most from a climate breakdown.

- Paul Krugman highlights the absence of any of the promised economic spinoffs from the Trump administration's giveaway to the rich. And Robert Reich points out how misplaced trust in corporate self-regulation - exacerbated by an administration which is neither willing nor able to act in the public interest - is endangering Americans.

- Dylan Penner discusses some of the reasons to pursue a Green New Deal in Canada. And Noah Zon and Adrienne Lipsey offer some suggestions to improve Canada's system of parental leave.

- Finally, Andrew Nikiforuk looks in detail at some of the basic information lacking from British Columbia's belated review of the dangers of fracking. And Sharon Riley examines Alberta's failure to actually test the self-serving assertions of operators asserting they've reclaimed well sites.

Friday, March 29, 2019

Musical interlude


Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Ryan Meili points out the unduly limited view of climate policy arising out of political posturing over the federal carbon tax. Ed Finn writes about the importance of ensuring our only home remains inhabitable. Bruce Anderson and David Colleto examine the growing importance of our climate breakdown as a ballot box question for Canadian voters. And George Monbiot suggests that ecocide should be viewed and prosecuted as a crime against humanity.

- Meanwhile, Richard Blackwell reports that renewable energy already generates more employment for Canadians than the oil sands, while Sharon Riley discusses the risk of relying on an oil industry facing a predictable decline for future economic development.

- Paul Dechene writes about the connection between climate denial and right-wing bigotry. Andray Domise questions who so much of Canada's media is choosing to amplify racist messages rather than challenging them. And Kevin Metcalf discusses the attempt by self-proclaimed right-wing "speech warriors" to silence anybody who disagrees through the courts.

- PressProgress offers some suggestions from this year's Progress Summir as to what left-wing populism should look like.

- And finally, Raquel Rolnik discusses how poverty and inequality are only getting worse in the UK under a Conservative government which has pushed nothing but domestic deprivation and international isolationism.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Robert Borosage discusses why we shouldn't let conveniently one-sided calls for civility silence debate over progressive possibilities. And Alex Ballingall reports on the affordability anxiety which demands an effective political response rather than a contemptuous dismissal:
In a memo outlining the results, Coletto points to a “common concern” that life is getting less affordable in Canada, with 68 per cent of respondents saying the cost of things they use and consume daily has gotten “worse” within the last few years. At the same time, 59 per cent said they feel the difference between their personal salaries and those of the “richest one per cent” has gotten “worse,” while a majority — 62 per cent — said the profits of big corporations are better or about the same as they were a few years ago.

This “gap” between anxiety about everyday affordability and the perception the wealthy are doing well is “fuelling the angst that we see in the data,” Coletto writes — raising the question of whether Canada is increasingly fertile ground for anti-elite populism of the kind seen in the United States and Europe.
Coletto points to results that suggest avenues for political parties to tap into these sentiments. Most respondents who said they worry about affordability said they would choose lower costs over higher wages to assuage their concerns, indicating an openness to pocketbook policies that cut individual and household costs, Coletto writes.

Forty-six per cent chose the government forcing companies to reduce the cost of goods as one of three responses to affordability concerns, followed by 45 per cent who said it can cut taxes, and 42 per cent who said it can extend public health care to cover more services.

For Miller, some of this aligns with what a progressive party like the NDP — the party most closely associated with the Broadbent summit — can offer voters, whether it is creating a national pharmacare program or cracking down on tax havens used by the rich.
- Fox News (!) reports on polling showing that people's top priority on taxes is to make sure the rich pay their fair share. Meanwhile, PressProgress points out how Jason Kenney's plan for Alberta is to go in the opposite direction.

- Dennis Gruending responds to Republican nonsense by setting the record straight about Canada's health care system. And David Climenhaga examines how conservatives in Alberta and the U.S. alike are determined to take away health care as an end in itself.

- Emma Teitel writes that Andrew Scheer's embrace of hate makes him utterly unsuited to address the crime which arises from it. And CBC News examines the racism embedded in Halifax' policing practices.

- Finally, Dana Gee interviews David Moscrop about Too Dumb For Democracy? and the need for people to put time and effort into a responsive democracy.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Josh Bornstein writes that in Australia like elsewhere, the combination of increasing corporate profits, stagnant wages and resulting inequality can be traced to the reduced bargaining power of workers. Jim Stanford notes that New Zealand offers an example as to how to reverse the pattern.And Robert Reich highlights why we shouldn't accept the crocodile tears of the uber-rich seeking to shape any response to growing inequality to protect their own disproportionate concentration of wealth:
If Dimon and the others were serious about helping most American workers – whose real wages have been going nowhere for decades and job security is dwindling – they could use their outsized political influence to push for laws requiring CEOs to consider all their stakeholders, not just shareholders.

Rather than make it harder for workers to unionize, they could fight to make it easier, and to give workers larger voice in management decisions and a greater share of the profits.

Rather than reflexively seek tax cuts, they could push to raise taxes on corporations and wealthy Americans like themselves, so there’d be more school funding to prepare American kids for the jobs of the future.

They could seek a higher minimum wage, a larger Earned Income Tax Credit, universal healthcare, and other measures to make left-behind Americans more secure.
(A)s heads of institutions with the greatest influence over American politics, they also have a duty to the common good and are uniquely positioned to advance it.

For 40 years, CEOs of America’s largest corporations and Wall Street banks have abdicated this responsibility.

We are now living with the consequences. Jamie Dimon and the Business Roundtable can see those consequences as well as anyone.

Rather than announce token jobs programs, they’d be better served seeking to increase the economic and political power of left-behind Americans – many of whom will otherwise continue to vote for demagogues who only make them feel powerful.
- Meanwhile, Joe Demanuelle-Hall highlights the beginning of strike action to force Amazon to treat workers with a modicum of respect and dignity.

- PressProgress reports on the Libs' school meal program which features precisely zero funding.

- In a reminder as to how discriminatory policy seldom survives contact with any system designed to ensure fairness, Nicholas Keung reports on the Federal Court's determination that the Harper Cons' attempt to negate the rights of refugees by labeling specific countries of origin as "safe" is unconstitutional. And Patrick White reports on a judgment awarding tens of millions of dollars in damages against Correctional Service Canada for using solitary confinement to warehouse prisoners with mental health needs.

- Riki Ott and Jack Siddoway point out that while fossil fuel flacks try to pretend there have been major advances to limit the risk associated with offshore drilling and ocean transportation of oil products, the reality is that there's been substantially no improvement in the response to oil spills since the Exxon Valdez disaster. And Laura Parker writes about the need for a coordinated international response to the growing plastic waste crisis.

- Finally, Sean Holman discusses the need for massive improvements in the flow of information between governments and citizens - both to ensure that we know what our leaders are doing, and to require them to listen to the will of the public.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Chin-resting cats.

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Isabel Sawhill and Christopher Pulliam discuss the gap between a U.S. populace which wants to see more progressive taxes to fund improved social programs, and a political class blocking any progress. And PressProgress offers a reminder that Canada too has relatively low social spending despite the strong public demand for more.

- Meanwhile, Laurie Monsebraaten reports on the end of Ontario's basic income pilot at the hands of Doug Ford - though it's noting that even at as the regular payments stop, recipients are rightly setting themselves up with somewhat more of a cushion for the future than they'd have had otherwise.

- Gaby Hinsliff writes about the intolerable exclusion being set up by UK developers setting up playgrounds to prevent access by children living in social housing.

- Guillaume Paris, Pierre-Henri Blard and √Čtienne Deloule discuss how the burning of fossil fuels has radically altered the Earth's climate in just a century and a half. And Eric Holthaus writes about the catastrophic flooding in Mozambique caused by Cyclone Idai which may represent the single largest humanitarian loss to date from our ongoing climate breakdown.

- Finally, Tom Parkin makes the point that Justin Trudeau's enablers are doing him no favors by pretending he can keep concealing the truth about the SNC-Lavalin scandal.

Monday, March 25, 2019

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Yanis Varoufakis writes that the tendency of capitalism toward stagnation signals the need for greater public input into economic decisions. And Branko Milanovic discusses how the attitude that politics should be governed by greed has undermined the trust between citizens and governments necessary for either to thrive.

- Meanwhile, Ed Broadbent writes about the need to take back the concept of populism from the right-wing bigots who seek to use at a means of exclusion rather than a basis for public empowerment:
(I)t is important to remember that populism also has a democratic and pluralist provenance. It also speaks directly to the concerns of those threatened by inequality, democratic decline and the perceived indifference of political leadership. The most recent example of this is the kind of politics championed by Senator Bernie Sanders in the United States. Like those on the right, he, too, takes aim at elites and their self-serving use of power and claims the status quo is broken. But in place of xenophobia and exclusionary nationalism, he supports pluralism and calls for a diverse popular front with the explicit goal of strengthening and reinvigorating democracy, and uniting movements for social, racial, economic and environmental justice in a common struggle.
The key difference between right-wing populism and the populism of the progressive left – not just today but historically – is that the former is authoritarian and anti-pluralist, whereas the latter is democratic and inclusive. Projecting the imagined interests of the “real people” for whom they claim to speak, right-wing populists frequently pursue the vilification of vulnerable groups, fostering a political identity founded on exclusion. The treatment of non-Christians by Hungary’s Mr. Orban or the demonization of Latinos by Mr. Trump come to mind, as does his condemnation of immigrants from, as he put it, “shithole” countries.

Once in control of government, these authoritarian populists stack the institutions of state with their own allies, supporters and patrons – political corruption in its most naked form. Waging war on social movements and civil society, many also attack and demonize the free media. For Mr. Trump, all critical media is “fake news,” which he has described as being “the enemy of the people.” For Vladimir Putin and Mr. Orban, meanwhile, NGOs are frequently demonized and denounced as actors under foreign control.

Leftist populists, by contrast, challenge powerful systems by championing the social and material interests of ordinary people. While they also are critical of elites, they do not make them enemies. They attempt to bring all people together into the fight against inequality, racism and climate change. Far from being the left-wing equivalent of the authoritarian right as some centrists have insisted, the populist left is, in actuality, its democratic antithesis – and its worst nightmare.
- And George Monbiot discusses how the media in the UK and elsewhere is increasingly setting itself up to provide a platform for the worst possible voices.

- Arthur Neslen reports on growing warnings from the insurance sector that the extreme weather events caused by climate breakdown will soon make insurance unaffordable.

- Finally, Emma Paling reports on Doug Ford's move to stop the tracking of toxic chemicals and air pollutants to ensure that what people don't know can continue to hurt them.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Michael Mikulewicz and Tahseen Jafry discuss the responsibility wealthy countries bear for increasingly severe weather events - as well as the best way to start bearing an appropriate share of the resulting human and economic costs:
In all this inequality, the world’s wealthiest countries are heavily culpable. It stems from a complex economic system that disadvantages the Global South – not to mention the centuries-long experience of colonialism, the effects of which have hampered human development until this day.

In a world where 26 billionaires own as much wealth as the bottom half of humanity, the prospect of more frequent and intense climate disasters is only bound to exacerbate those inequalities. At the same time, Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe contribute only a small fraction of the emissions that are causing such disasters. The West’s responsibility – along with other big emitters such as China – is therefore also a matter of climate justice.
Besides the high-profile attempts to reduce global emissions, countries such as the UK should be offering support to poorer countries with everything from building flood defences to supporting social services to transferring technology. They should be forgiving national debt, redistributing wealth or at least giving them preferential trade deals to help them adapt to climate change themselves. This requires a rethinking not just of humanitarian aid but of development assistance in general. 
- Doug Cuthand highlights the need for a united front against white supremacy even as right-wing politicians try to wink and nod toward it. And Paul Willcocks discusses the mortality crisis among Indigenous teen girls as a glaring example of the conditions demanding a response from political leaders.

- Carhy Stephanow highlights how Saskatchewan's budget was nominally balanced on the backs of the poor who have seen already-inadequate standards of living do nothing but degrade over the Sask Party's time in power. And Jesse Winter points out the folly of pushing patients from hospitals immediately into homeless shelters rather than having appropriate housing available.

- Elieen Banks discusses how Jason Kenney's rhetoric about farms is based entirely in ignorance about NDP action to make farm work safer.

- Finally, Alex Marland writes about the dangers of the total control exercised by leaders' offices over elected Members of Parliament.