Saturday, October 12, 2019

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Linda McQuaig writes about the myth that we have no choice but to pursue privatization - and notes that electric vehicle production represents an ideal opportunity to build public economic capacity:
Is it feasible to save the once-vibrant Oshawa complex and transform it into a publicly owned plant producing environmentally essential products, as part of a Green New Deal?

Gindin notes that during the Second World War, GM facilities were converted to produce military vehicles. He insists that the Oshawa plant be expropriated today without compensation since Canadian taxpayers have already generously subsidized GM. While he acknowledges that the project is a long shot, he adds, “it seems criminal not to at least try.”

Indeed, what is needed is some bold, out-of-the-box thinking that takes us beyond the current dogma of privatization. Given that Canada’s historic auto-making centre is about to be shut down, we should consider creating a publicly owned facility that could potentially start a transformative industry here. If that idea is ultimately rejected, the rejection should be based on something more than the notion that such a project is too ambitious for public enterprise and is best left to the private sector.

In truth, the very ambitiousness of the project seems to call out for public enterprise. For most of our history, we’ve been mere "hewers of wood and drawers of water" and operators of branch plants. When we’ve risen above that, it’s usually been because we’ve created public enterprises that served a broader public purpose than what private interests were offering. We became the country we are today in part because, at key moments our past, some visionary Canadians had bold, ambitious ideas for public enterprises and weren’t deterred by the admonitions of the business elite.

There may be reasons not to turn the Oshawa plant into a green production facility, but let’s not succumb to the ill-informed notion that Canadians aren’t up to the task or that we don’t know how to do public enterprise in this country.
- Jon Milton discusses the importance of treating housing and transit as social goods rather than profit or revenue centres as part of any viable climate plan. And Bill Blaikie writes that we should be far more concerned about a long-term environmental deficit - the extreme damage we're inflicting on our planet - than about incremental differences in budget expectations.

- Erika Shaker compares how Canada's federal parties are addressing the increasing unaffordability of post-secondary education. And Anne Gaviola examines the numerous positive spinoff effects of forgiving student debt.

- John Geddes points out the minimal differences between the tax tinkering of the Libs and Cons (at a galling cost to the federal government's fiscal capacity).

- Finally, Michal Rozworski writes that it should be a no-brainer to bring in more revenue from Canada's wealthiest few, both to fund needed programs and to try to reduce the inequality in power which comes from the concentration of wealth. And Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman write that the U.S. too should be determining how to tax its way toward increased social justice.

Friday, October 11, 2019

Musical interlude

Snakehips feat. Anna of the North - Summer Fade

Wednesday, October 09, 2019

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Daniel Steinmetz-Jenkins interviews Eugene McCarraher about the cultivation of capitalist greed as a new religion. And Annie Lowrey writes about the value of cancelling the concept of billionaires:
(T)here are far more urgent reasons than poverty to get rid of billionaires and reverse the trend of economic polarization. A growing body of economic and political-science research demonstrates that Gilded Age–type inequality does not just mean having too many with too little. It is warping the very social fabric of the country, stifling mobility, innovation, investment, and growth, and putting the country at political risk.

Dramatic inequality in wealth means dramatic inequality in terms of political power means a political system unresponsive to what most people want. Wealth inequality, in other words, is an anti-democratic force. A remarkable study by Lee Drutman found that just 31,385 people—one ten-thousandth of the population—accounted for more than a quarter of all political donations in the 2012 campaign cycle, with politicians getting more money from fewer people than in any other year analyzed. No wonder low-income households’ policy preferences have little effect on political outcomes in the United States, whereas high-income households’ policy preferences do, as research by Martin Gilens of Princeton University and Benjamin Page of Northwestern forcefully shows. One of those political outcomes? Inequality itself: Unequal societies tend not to correct their own inequality, because of the political influence of the rich.

The country’s inequality is also stifling mobility and damaging the country’s human capital. As the country has become more unequal, it has also become more sclerotic and class-dominated. Despite all the money the government spends on public education, private education, health, and welfare, rich kids are likely to stay rich and poor kids are likely to stay poor. Measures of absolute mobility have fallen: Children born in 1940 had a 90 percent chance of doing better than their parents did, whereas children born in the 1980s had just a 50 percent chance of the same. The steps of the income ladder are too far apart for kids to climb them, in other words. Safe neighborhoods, quality education, and security at home are out of reach for too many children. Inequality is now driving a longevity gap, an educational-attainment gap, and a health gap. It lurks behind the country’s falling entrepreneurship rate, too. The country will not prosper through growth alone, but only through sharing its prosperity more widely.
- Shannon Proudfoot writes that meaningless appeals to the "middle class" like those favoured by the Libs and Cons avoid the questions which should be asked about the concentration of wealth and power. And Nora Loreto views Martin Lukacs' thorough analysis of the Trudeau Libs (including the contrast between public and private pronouncements) as a crucial starting point for media and voters alike.

- Meanwhile, Hannah Thibedeau reports that the Libs' hand-selected expert on pharmacare sees the NDP as offering the best combination of structure and funding to ensure people have access to the medications they need. 

- David Macdonald points out the importance of taking into account all kinds of debt when developing policy - particularly when the alternative is to pile unmanageable amounts of debt on people in the name of arbitrary demands for government budgets. 

- Finally, Matthew Taylor and Jonathan Watts discuss the 20 companies responsible for a third of humanity's greenhouse gas emissions.

Tuesday, October 08, 2019

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Game cats.

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- In an excerpt from his new book, Martin Lukacs examines the disappointment Justin Trudeau has inflicted on anybody who thought his carefully-cultivated progressive image would be matched by action:
Long before photographs of Trudeau partying in black-face and brown-face in his twenties surfaced in the fall of 2019, his carefully cultivated image as a champion of progressive causes was looking tattered. Trudeau had promised to replace an antiquated first-past-the-post electoral system as part of sweeping democratic reforms, but reversed his position when it became apparent that the wishes of Canadians for proportional representation would not favor his incumbent government. In June 2018, he bought into public ownership the Trans Mountain pipeline from US magnates for $3.4 billion, in order to expand the export of Alberta’s dirty tar sands oil, spending far more on a piece of fossil-fuel infrastructure than on any single renewable energy project. Each year since his government had signed on to the Paris Climate Accords in 2016, the gap between Canada’s official carbon reduction targets and its spiralling emissions has grown wider.
In late 2018, this avowed friend of labor legislated away the right to strike of a postal union that wanted safer working conditions; this champion of equality gave profitable multinational corporations giant hand-outs, maintaining multibillion-dollar subsidies to oil companies and granting $10.5 billion in tax breaks on the heels of similar measures by Trump; and this advocate of women’s rights set a record selling weapons to the theocratic, patriarchal Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, even as their war on Yemen escalated. Private wealth continued to soar, without any discernible benefit to the public good. Much-needed universal social programs like childcare or the extension of healthcare to cover the costs of medicines in Canada—which are the second highest of any country—never materialized. Within a year of Trudeau’s election, Canadians stopped hearing much at all about his vaunted assault on income disparities—except for an occasional proclamation, usually issued abroad to a less discerning international press corps, to sustain the impression that economic justice was still at the top of his agenda.

Shedding tears about the injustices of the country’s past, inveighing against the inequalities of the present, pledging a dynamic politics of the future: Justin Trudeau was a dazzling simulation of defiance against the social and economic order that he would ultimately seek to defend.
- Meanwhile, Vincent Bevins takes note of the success of Portugal's Socialist government under the type of proportional electoral system deemed unacceptable by Trudeau. 

- Mike Drolet reports on the obvious public demand for a national pharmacare program and the politics and corporate interests standing in the way. And Meghan Collie reminds us that employers demanding sick notes are making everybody less healthy - both by wasting medical resources and by ensuring the spread of disease.

- Erin Gray and Calvin Sandborn discuss the need for Canada to stop subsidizing the fossil fuel sector.

- Finally, George Monbiot discusses how to counter the stoking of anger and division by right-wing demagogues by refusing to engage on their terms.

Monday, October 07, 2019

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- David Leonhardt discusses how the U.S.' tax system has become definitively regressive, featuring this chart as to how the wealthiest few now pay a smaller share of their income than anybody else.

- Ann Pettifor highlights how society suffers when rentier capitalism is allowed to dictate our policy options. And Matthew Goodwin writes that in the UK - as here - voters are eager to see alternatives which result in a more democratic distribution of wealth and power.

- David Macdonald reminds us of the continued blight of child poverty in Canada three decades after Parliament voted unanimously to eradicate it. Laurie Monsebraaten reports on Campaign 2000's update on the state of poverty and inequality. And Yolande Cole takes note of new research showing that half of Calgarians are struggling to pay for basic needs such as food and shelter.

- Colin McClelland reports on BDO Dunwoody's latest survey showing the spread of precarity and personal debt. And Kevin Camichael notes that the Libs' and Cons' focus on targeting first-time homebuyers at the expense of everybody else will only stand to make matters worse.

- Finally, Kathy Tomlinson points out how the trucking industry is exploiting immigrants and endangering the public by charging fees to hire drivers with no regard for safety.

Sunday, October 06, 2019

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Steven Strauss examines the catastrophic results of the U.S. Republicans' obsession with handouts to the rich and austerity for everybody else. And Scott Schmidt points out that Jason Kenney has exactly the same plan in mind for Alberta.

- Luke Darby writes about the IRS' admission that it focuses on auditing and pursuing lower-income people since it's been starved of the resources needed to enforce the law against the rich. Yet Richard Reeves is the latest commentator to observe that the U.S.' wealthiest few expect the rest of the world to pity them over the slightest hint that they might be expected to contribute something to society at large.

- Oscar Williams-Grut reports on the bribery scheme among drug companies which artificially increases the prices paid by the UK's NHS. And Wil Crisp reports on the systematic use of "cheat devices" by shipping companies to dump pollution into the sea rather than containing it.

- David Roberts discusses Greta Thunberg's key theme that we need to set our sights high in responding to the climate emergency rather than baking destructive compromise into any starting point. Marc Jaccard and Chris Ragan discuss the need to keep all available possibilities in play in order to reach the greenhouse gas emission targets we need to meet. And Stephen Maher notes that Andrew Scheer - in keeping with the rule for right-wing politicians - is focused primarily on taking nearly all available options off the table.

- Finally, Katie Hyslop offers a brief reminder as to how Canada has historically discriminated against Indigenous children.