Saturday, April 20, 2019

On full considerations

Max Fawcett is right to a point in discussing the need to acknowledge the political problems with carbon taxes as matters stand now. But there's a serious problem with the conclusion he tries to draw.

It's true that carbon taxes were originally - and understandably - pitched as the form of greenhouse gas emission reduction which fit best with laissez-faire economic theory. And there are still a few lingering aftereffects of that outlook, including the British Columbia tax which remains on the books after being implemented by the right-wing Campbell Liberals. 

But if the opportunity for a consensus has been lost, we shouldn't pretend that has anything to do with carbon taxation as a theory.

Surely we're past the point where anybody will pretend for a second that the oil lobby and its servants on the right will engage in good faith with any type of proposal which might cut back on the profits linked to dirty energy.

For the most egregious example, remember that it took approximately two minutes for the Liberals to abandon a carbon tax after the 2008 federal election. And as soon as that happened, Stephen Harper's Cons in turn started slamming a cap-and-trade system of the type included in their own election platform as being a carbon tax in order to try to capitalize on their existing line of messaging.

Likewise, Doug Ford's PC government in Ontario scrapped a cap-and-trade regime which served as a substitute for the federal carbon tax - only to go to court to challenge the federal system it volunteered to join.

Moreover, even as the political environment for all types of climate policy has worsened, so too has our global climate outlook.

Policies which might have been sufficient to rein in climate change on their own if implemented twenty years ago will be insufficient to turn matters around in the next decade from a far worse starting point. And even a strict regulatory crackdown on industries alone would leave a dangerous amount of carbon pollution untouched, as households have historically represented a substantial percentage of Canada's greenhouse gas emissions.

In sum, the effort to avoid climate breakdown needs to include all available tools. And we can't afford to let a group of manipulative arsonists-for-hire dictate how we're supposed to avert a future conflagration.

[Edit: fixed wording.]

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Matt McGrath reports on David Attenborough's warning of an impending climate catastrophe. And Moira Fagan and Christine Huang examine the widespread recognition around the world of the importance of averting a climate breakdown.

- Jonathan Watts reports on polling showing half of UK respondents are willing to pay more in order to avoid polluting our oceans with plastic. But Oliver Milman points out Donald Trump's attempt to push poorly-regulated offshore drilling - indicating that the powers that be are far behind the public in recognizing the importance of our natural environment.

- John Stapleton and Yvonne Yuan note that Canada's official poverty line doesn't take into account the higher effective food prices facing lower-income people.

- Joseph Stiglitz offers his diagnosis as to how our economy came to be grossly unbalanced in favour of the wealthy - and his suggestions as to how progressive capitalism might be possible:
Beginning with the Reagan era, economic policy played a key role in this dystopia: Just as forces of globalization and technological change were contributing to growing inequality, we adopted policies that worsened societal inequities. Even as economic theories like information economics (dealing with the ever-present situation where information is imperfect), behavioral economics and game theory arose to explain why markets on their own are often not efficient, fair, stable or seemingly rational, we relied more on markets and scaled back social protections.

The result is an economy with more exploitation — whether it’s abusive practices in the financial sector or the technology sector using our own data to take advantage of us at the cost of our privacy. The weakening of antitrust enforcement, and the failure of regulation to keep up with changes in our economy and the innovations in creating and leveraging market power, meant that markets became more concentrated and less competitive.
We are now in a vicious cycle: Greater economic inequality is leading, in our money-driven political system, to more political inequality, with weaker rules and deregulation causing still more economic inequality.
The prescription follows from the diagnosis: It begins by recognizing the vital role that the state plays in making markets serve society. We need regulations that ensure strong competition without abusive exploitation, realigning the relationship between corporations and the workers they employ and the customers they are supposed to serve. We must be as resolute in combating market power as the corporate sector is in increasing it.
- Finally, Murray Mandryk rightly questions Scott Moe's willingness to serve as Jason Kenney's lapdog rather than paying attention to the needs of Saskatchewan's residents.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Musical interlude

Goldie - Inner City Life

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content for your Friday reading.

- Paul Krugman offers a reminder that the gap between the 1% and the rest of us is far larger than most people are permitted to see:
(T)here’s also a big difference between being affluent, even very affluent, and having the kind of wealth that puts you in a completely separate social universe. It’s a difference summed up three decades ago in the movie “Wall Street,” when Gordon Gekko mocks the limited ambitions of someone who just wants to be “a $400,000-a-year working Wall Street stiff flying first class and being comfortable.”

Even now, most Americans don’t seem to realize just how rich today’s rich are. At a recent event, my CUNY colleague Janet Gornick was greeted with disbelief when she mentioned in passing that the top 25 hedge fund managers make an average of $850 million a year. But her number was correct.
Why should we care about the very rich? It’s not about envy, it’s about oligarchy.

With great wealth comes both great power and a separation from the concerns of ordinary citizens. What the very rich want, they often get; but what they want is often harmful to the rest of the nation. There are some public-spirited billionaires, some very wealthy liberals. But they aren’t typical of their class.

The very rich don’t need Medicare or Social Security; they don’t use public education or public transit; they may not even be that reliant on public roads (there are helicopters, after all). Meanwhile, they don’t want to pay taxes.
(W)e should be able to understand both that the affluent in general should be paying more in taxes, and that the very rich are different from you and me ­— and Bernie Sanders. The class divide that lies at the root of our political polarization is much starker, much more extreme than most people seem to realize. 
- Sean Coughlan discusses how hollowing out of the middle class is destabilizing both our economy and our political environment. And Brent Patterson highlights the need to challenge an economic model based on selling what's shiny and new rather than building and preserving what matters.

- Crawford Kilian views the Notre Dame cathedral fire as a vivid example of the dangers of neglecting the maintenance of our social goods, while Aditya Chakrabortty notes that the ability of a few ultra-wealthy people to throw around hundreds of millions of dollars in response shows that there are plenty of resources available to actually take better care of ourselves and our world. And Carol Kroeger comments on the need for our political leaders to similarly pay far more attention to helping people, and far less to manipulating them to preserve their own power.

- Finally, Anne Kingston laments Canada's backsliding in lacking any female jurisdictional leaders, while noting that broken promises of proportional representation are a significant part of the problem. And Melanie Green discusses the harassment of Rubab Qureshi in response to her mere recognition that Islamophobia is a problem.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Thursday Evening Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Katharine Hayhoe offers some suggestions as to how to reach people in talking about climate change. Karine Peloffy writes about the growing mobilization of support for real action to avert climate disaster, while Roy Culpeper comments on the importance of Canada participating in (and indeed leading) a global movement toward environmental justice. Alex Ballingall reports on Abacus' polling which found two-thirds of Canadian already favouring a Green New Deal funded by more revenue from the wealthiest few. And Dave Mills points out that GM's abandonment of Oshawa could be turned into a massive opportunity if its plant can be repurposed to build electric vehicles.

- Meanwhile, Amanda Stephen reports on the sustainable jobs which stand to be lost if Jason Kenney follows through on his threat to axe Energy Efficiency Alberta. And Sarah Lawrynuk reports on the efforts of librarians to preserve Alberta climate change data before Kenney's wrecking crew has a chance to destroy it.

- And as a reminder of what tends to happen once a know-nothing government is in full swing, Emma Paling reports on the shortfall being created in Ontario's health care system by Doug Ford's government, while Lauren Pelley highlights a billion dollars in direct cuts to public health. Fatima Syed points out the "pay-to-kill" scheme intended to allow developers to avoid accounting for risks to endangered species. Marieke Walsh focuses on Ford's refusal to offer any explanation at all for gutting Indigenous Affairs funding, while CBC News reports on a similar attack on library services. And to top it all off, Lucas Powers reports on Ford's plans to make it uniquely difficult for citizens to sue for the misfeasance and negligence which represent his signature governing style.

- All of which is to say that Tanya Talaga is absolutely right in noting that children plainly don't come first in the Ford PCs' plans - nor anybody aside from their cronies and their desire to distract the public from what actually matters.

- Finally, Jorge Barrera reports on the federal government's continued fight to avoid addressing the effects of its discrimination in funding child welfare. And Maura Forrest reports on the recognition by one case management judge of the apparent plan to avoid compensating residential school students until it's too late.

New column day

Here, wondering whether Alberta's lamentable election of Jason Kenney and his gang of regressive Conservatives might have been avoided if Rachel Notley's NDP had made an effort not to perpetuate the province's petro-politics.

For further reading...
- The Alberta NDP's 2015 platform is here (PDF), and doesn't so much as hint at the cheerleading for pipelines that eventually became one of Notley's main themes even as it strengthened the UCP's economic message.
- Carl Meyer reports on the massive carbon pollution being spewed out by the oil sands - including more than either of the provinces now under attack by Kenney and company. And Sharon Riley discusses what the UCP's election means for Alberta's long list of glaring environmental issues.
- Finally, while David Staples seems to have substantially the opposite take from my column, I'd argue that he helps to prove the point that absolutely no amount of self-flagellation and subservience to the oil industry was ever going to be enough for her right-wing critics - meaning that the lost chance to develop a provincial self-image as more than a petro-state looms all the larger.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Frank Clemente is the latest to point out how the Trump Republicans' tax cut scheme served only to further enrich the already-wealthy. And Bess Levin discusses the average one-cent bonus to workers that resulted from billions poured into corporate coffers.

- George Monbiot writes about the need for mass mobilization to push to avert an impending climate breakdown. Mark Cameron and Michael Bernstein point out that a strong majority of Ontarians are opposed to Doug Ford's high-cost, zero-evidence attacks on carbon pricing. And Richard Partington reports on Mark Carney's call for the financial sector to account for the costs and risks of environmental damage in making lending decisions. But Geoff Dembicki rightly notes that Canada as a whole has nothing to brag about in light of our continued fossil fuel subsidies and lack of progress reducing carbon emissions.

- Meanwhile, Joe Romm reports on the imminent inflection point where electric cars will be cheaper than combustion vehicles.

- Florence Stratton calls on the City of Regina to finally start funding Housing First to end homelessness, rather than offering only empty words. 

- Finally, Neil MacDonald discusses why white supremacy fits so neatly into Canada's right-wing political parties.

[Edit: fixed typo.]

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Cats with companions.

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Andrew Phung highlights how important it is for younger voters to be heard in Alberta's election. Travis Benson offers plenty of suggestions as to why even people who aren't always NDP supporters should be happy to re-elect Rachel Notley. And PressProgress rounds up just a few of the ways in which Jason Kenney plans to enrich corporations and their wealthy shareholders at the expense of workers, while Emma Graney examines how Kenney's plan to slash the minimum wage for younger workers has done nothing but undercut wage rates when applied elsewhere.

- Emma Simpson writes about the dangers of "presenteeism" in workplaces which don't allow workers to take care of their physical and mental health. And BBC News reports on new EU rules intended to offer at least some protection to gig workers.

- Bridget Yard reports on the growing debts being foisted on Saskatchewan university students due to a lack of public funding. And Eleanor Busby writes about the growing number of UK students avoiding school altogether due to the consequences of conservative-inflicted poverty. 

- Francine Kopun reports on the warnings the Ford PCs received - and ignored - about the long-term costs of pulling funding from public health.

- Finally, Robert Borosage discusses the possibility that Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn could jointly revolutionize the political economy of the English-speaking world.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Monday Morning Links

Assorted content to start your week.

- Martin Regg Cohn discusses how workers are bearing the brunt of Doug Ford's budget. Joe Light offers a reminder that Donald Trump's populist rhetoric predictably gave way to a tax scheme designed to further enrich CEOs at the expense of everybody else. And Matt Bruenig points out that U.S. workers actually pay relatively high taxes and mandatory payments while receiving paltry benefits compared to other developed countries.

- Meanwhile, Marshall Appelbaum makes the case for public disclosure of the taxes paid by each citizen.

- Noah Smith notes that a growing body of evidence is showing how government intervention is key to economic development - even if that reality never gets acknowledged by laissez-faire zealots.

- Jeff Daniels reports on Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez' observation that climate delay and denial are the product of privilege and removal from the immediate consequences of neglect.

- Finally, Jerry Dias discusses the choice Alberta voters have between hope and fear. Sharon Riley offers a reminder of the province's continued reliance on one-time resource revenues. And Emily Leedham and Chloe Rockarts write about the future of worker power in Alberta.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Riley Yesno rightly calls out the Libs for telling Canadians they have no choice but to settle for a slight variation in tone from Andrew Scheer:
When we become comfortable with the idea that the best we can hope for is a government that is even marginally better than what we believe is the worst option, we allow ourselves to become complacent in the face of that party’s shortcomings and acts of injustice. We cede our ability to hold the government accountable beyond the most basic principles of decency and good governance. We give permission to those in power to fail in ways that are entirely unacceptable, out of fear that a different power will behave in ways that are also unacceptable — just different.

We must demand better. Demand champions rather than lesser of evils. Demand an electoral system that is truly multi-party where your vote can reflect your beliefs rather than a strategy or act of harm-reduction. Remember that as long as you let even a small act of injustice stand, then injustice has already won.
Holding the government accountable for its shortcomings is not an attack on the country. In fact, I believe it may be one of the most loving things one can do for the people living within it.
- Christo Aivalis offers responses to three of the Libs' most frequent and dishonest talking points:

- And Lana Payne recognizes that the Libs' broken promise on electoral reform is one of the reasons why we're stuck with politics rooted in anger rather than positive goals.

- Finally, Gregory Beatty examines the Buffalo Project as Canada's first major PAC - and as a means to try to reinforce existing disparities in wealth and power in Western Canada. Scott Sinclair writes about the importance of standing up to big pharma (among other corporate interests) rather than allowing their profits to take precedence over people's lives. And Robin Sears highlights the exploitation of lax tax rules by tech giants who are able to amass large profits in Canada without contributing anything.