Saturday, September 14, 2019

Saturday Afternoon Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Meghna Charkabarti interviews Branko Milanovic about the destructive amount of inequality embedded in capitalism as it's currently structured. Connor Kilpatrick and Bhaskar Sunkara argue that the corporate class has only tolerated an acceptable distribution of income and wealth when it's been accompanied by the credible threat of expropriation and nationalization. And Robert Frank reports on Thomas Piketty's push for a substantial wealth tax based on the principle that every billionaire represents a policy failure.

- Meanwhile, Denise Balkissoon highlights how our political system all too often excludes people who don't already enjoy a significant level of economic status and privilege.

- Sandy Garossino discusses how Jason Kenney has joined the club of strongman figures seeking to criminalize any attempt to protect our planet from environmental destruction. And the Globe and Mail's editorial board recognizes the threat Kenney poses to democracy.

- Jeremy Gong highlights the importance of closing the loopholes which have resulted in gig workers being treated as "independent contractors" rather than employees. But Sharon Block and Benjamin Sachs write that such recognition is only the first step toward providing the opportunity for collective bargaining.

- Finally, Christopher Guly wonders whether Justin Trudeau will pay a price for his betrayal of voters who believed his oft-repeated promise of electoral reform. And Andrew Coyne rightly laments another election campaign in which most voters are seen as superfluous to deciding who will hold power.

Friday, September 13, 2019

Musical interlude

The Philosopher Kings - Still The One

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Richard Wilkinson, Kate Pickett and Wanda Wyporska neatly summarize the insidious social effects of inequality:
(I)nequality is socially divisive, making status more important and strengthening the view that some people are worth more than others.

As we judge each other more by status, we fear more how we are judged. Status anxieties increase in all income groups, intensifying attempts to enhance appearances of personal worth – including through status consumption. Heightened social comparisons increase stress and doubts about self-worth, with consequences for health, violence, bullying, children’s educational performance, and addictions. And rather than increasing initiative and creativity, a large recent analysis showed that inequality makes societies less inventive, producing fewer patents per head of population. Falling well beyond the boundaries of economics, inequality’s effects now demand interdisciplinary research and political action.
- Meanwhile, Bob Ascah, Trevor Harrison and Richard Mueller discuss how Alberta can avoid what's already an overstated complaint about deficits and debt (to say nothing of the austerity which Jason Kenney plans to inflict as a "cure") merely by taking in public revenue remotely comparable to every other Canadian province.

- Michael Mann offers a reminder that we need a systemic transition in order to rein in catastrophic climate change. And Adele Peters writes that clean energy has already reached the point of being more affordable than fossil fuel alternatives such as natural gas - as long as the latter aren't receiving massive subsidies.

- Andrea Ledding reports on the exploitative and poorly-regulated logging industry which is threatening Saskatchewan's forests along with residents.

- Finally, Rob Carrick writes that Canada's housing policy needs to focus on making rental space available, rather than further driving up prices for would-be home buyers.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Lily Patchelder and David Kamin study the policy options available to increase public revenue by focusing on the wealthy, and find that there are multiple viable options:
The U.S. will need to raise more revenues in order to reduce these disparities, finance much-needed new services and investments, and address the nation’s long-term fiscal needs. This paper outlines policy options for raising a large amount of revenues primarily from the most affluent, first discussing potential incremental reforms and then focusing on four main options for more structural reform: (1) dramatically increasing the top tax rates on labor and other ordinary income, (2) taxing the wealthy on accrued gains as they arise and at ordinary rates, (3) a wealth tax on high-net-worth individuals, and (4) a financial transactions tax. Although we summarize the relative advantages and disadvantages of these approaches, we generally conclude that they all merit serious consideration. Several options are also complementary to one another.
- And dozens of UK economists sign on in agreement that their economy too needs to see wealth and power more fairly distributed.

- Max Fawcett points out that the oil industry's desperate wishes for another boom are unlikely to bear fruit. And Maddy Ewing discusses the opportunities to convert transit and freight transportation fleets to electrical vehicles.

- Christopher Cheung offers a reminder that the Libs' supposed national housing strategy is both grossly insufficient is terms of resources, and directed toward housing starts rather than needed rental housing. And PressProgress notes that Doug Ford is actively exacerbating Ontario's plague of homelessness. 

- Finally, Derrick O'Keefe comments on Jagmeet Singh's strong stance against the sale of weapons to Saudi Arabia.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Richard Partington discusses the rise of inequality and some of the options to combat it. And PressProgress points out the Parliamentary Budget Officer's conclusion that the NDP's plan for a wealth tax can turn money currently being hoarded by the ultra-rich into tens of billions of dollars in new revenue to help build a stronger Canada.

- Meanwhile, George Monbiot writes that the UK Cons are looking to push through Brexit primarily for the purposes of being able to use the shock to further enrich the wealthy. And Gillian Steward discusses the austerity in store for Alberta as Jason Kenney schemes to break his promise not to cut public services.

- Dana Brown examines the case for a public pharmaceutical manufacturer in the U.S. to ensure needed medications are affordable.

- Finally, Isabella O'Malley reports on the massive oil spill on Grand Bahama caused by Hurricane Dorian.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Brightened cats.

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Damian Carrington reports on the Global Commission on Adaptation's research showing that we're woefully unprepared for catastrophic climate change - and that prevention today will far more than pay off in the future (except for those who consider climate apartheid to be an acceptable outcome). And PR Newswire points out the massive costs of the U.S.' existing air pollution (which Donald Trump and the Republicans of course want to exacerbate).

- J Mijin Cha and Jeremy Brecher recognize that climate action is entirely compatible with economic development and improved employment prospects. And Alex Balingall reports on the Assembly of First Nations' indication that it considers climate change to be the top priority in this fall's federal election.

- Allison Hanes writes about the harm Bill 21 is doing to Quebec's schools and other public institutions by implementing systematic religious discrimination as provincial policy. And Nicholas Keung discusses some of the community organizing being done to counteract the deliberate cultivation of bigotry and hate in the federal election campaign.

- And finally, Chris Hedges writes that longtime apologists for purely selfish capitalism are running scared in asking that they be allowed to determine for themselves what motives other than profit should be considered in the distribution of wealth.

Monday, September 09, 2019

Of pots and kettles

A genuine advocate for ethical politics could certainly find reason for concern with the Libs' cynical use of government announcements to build the profile of unelected candidates.

But the Pod People's Party deserves nothing but mockery for having the gall to complain that it constitutes anything other than plagiarism.

On abandoned responsibilities

The prelude to Canada's federal election campaign has brought several parties' views of human rights and government responsibilities under scrutiny.

Maxime Bernier has only exacerbated Stephen Harper's past anti-minority messages, building his PPC campaign largely on criticism of immigration generally.

Andrew Scheer has apparently recognized at least a political problem with broad attacks against refugees or minority groups. And so he’s taken to searching out targets one by one for his campaign’s two minute hate sessions, then challenging Justin Trudeau to join in denouncing them and declaring that they’ll be treated as non-people by the Canadian government.

And of course the Greens have been happy to welcome people motivated by religious bias and racism, as long as it offers a political wedge to benefit Elizabeth May.

But somehow, the current government hasn't been held to account for its disturbing response to the Cons' campaign theme.

The Liberals have been quick to point out that Scheer’s message about the likes of Jack Letts and Jon Venables has been inaccurate in fact, relying on tabloid gossip and idle speculation to assert non-existent connections between the Conservatives’ objects of hate and the Canadian government.

But in limiting their response that way, they’ve only reinforced Scheer’s underlying principle.

Others have pointed out that Canada is actually subject to both international agreements and moral obligations to address the actions of people abroad. But the Libs have brushed those aside - instead washing their hands of any responsibility to or for the people involved, and sending the message that they’ll readily treat some types of people as pariahs based on political considerations.

It shouldn't be acceptable for any party to quibble over where to draw the line in abandoning anybody. And it's doubly galling to see that message from a party trying to brand itself as a champion of human rights.

Fortunately, we've also seen an example of the right way to respond to attempts to exploit bigotry and hate for political gain. And we should be looking to support a government which is willing to challenge the exploitation of hate in all forms, not merely quibble with the accuracy of any particular attempt to invoke it.

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Taylor Scallon discusses how GDP numbers fail to capture the precarious circumstances facing far too many Canadians. Kerri Breen reports on Ipsos' polling showing a majority of Canadians seeing the political system as being rigged in favour of a privileged few. But in case anybody assumed those types of concerns would serve the interests of the populist right, Owen Jones points out how Boris Johnson's plan to push bigotry in response to self-inflicted austerity looks to be failing miserably.

- Karl Smith writes that U.S. Republicans have essentially abandoned any willingness to discuss stimulus in the face of any economic downturn, even as perpetually more evidence shows the long-term harms caused by short-term economic pain.

- Evgeny Morozov discusses how MIT's willing association with Jeffrey Epstein (in order to take his money and launder his reputation) reflects the moral bankruptcy within the tech sector.

- Margot Young examines how the Libs' housing policy falls far short of both the party's own rhetoric and the needs of Canadian residents. And Josh Rubin points out the lack of rental construction even as soaring rents reflect an obvious need.

- Finally, Emily Eaton and Nick Day study how Saskatchewan's education system perpetuates the power of the oil industry.

Sunday, September 08, 2019

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Derrick O'Keefe highlights how Canada's election would look if coverage focused on the issues which feature strong public support, rather than the two painfully unappealing perceived front-runners who ignore them:
(T)he Ipsos poll results released an enormous potential for class-based demands aimed at reducing economic inequality in Canada. A whopping 67 per cent of respondents agreed with the statement “Canada’s economy is rigged to advantage the rich and powerful,” while only 10 per cent disagreed.

Relatedly, polling done earlier this year for North 99 found 67 per cent in support of a wealth tax on the super-rich. A mere 14 per cent were opposed to the hypothetical new tax, which would apply at a 2 per cent rate on fortunes over $50 million. (The NDP has included a wealth tax in their election platform, proposing a 1 per cent surtax on fortunes over $20 million.)
Last month, author and researcher Seth Klein released polling he had commissioned from Abacus looking at public opinion on climate and a potential Green New Deal in Canada. The results showed 72 per cent support for a Green New Deal here and only 12 per cent opposed. However, the polling also found limited awareness. “In Canada, only a minority are aware or think they have heard of the term ‘Green New Deal.’ Fourteen per cent say they have definitely heard something about it while 19 per cent think they have heard something.”

In other words, the Green New Deal is wildly popular, but only a small minority actually know much about it. This gap is the most important polling result of all, and it points to the great potential for a surge in support for parties and candidates who wholeheartedly push Green New Deal policies. Taken together with the poll numbers on the wealth tax and the rigged economy, we can see there’s a significant and largely untapped potential in Canada for a politics that unabashedly pushes for tax fairness and climate justice.
- And Andrew Coyne comments on the lack of a meaningful distinction between the Trudeau Libs and the Scheer Cons.

- Mike Scott points out that the global transition toward electric vehicles stands to make almost all current oil production uneconomical. And Barry Saxifrage writes about Canada's dirty fleet of vehicles, along with the opportunity for economic development as part of the much-needed transition to EVs.

- Finally, Brian Hennigan discusses the criminalization of poverty and homelessness as a prime example of the exploitation of the working class.