This and that for your Tuesday reading.
– John Quiggin argues that public services and corporate control don’t mix – no matter how desperately the people seeking to exploit public money try to pretend otherwise: Market-oriented reforms, particularly in the provision of human services like health, education and public safety, have begun with a working . . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: Tuesday Morning Links
Assorted content for your Sunday reading.
– Tim Harford discusses how insurance and other industries are built on exploiting people who are risk-averse due to the inability to absorb substantial costs as “money pumps” for those who have more than they need:
(L)et’s step back and ask ourselves what insurance is for. Classical economics has an answer: people are risk-averse, which means that they will pay good money to reduce the variability of outcomes they face. If home insurance guards against the loss of a million pounds when my house burns down, I’m happy to buy the insurance even though the insurance company expects to make a profit from it.
But this risk aversion emerges from the fact that money is worth more to poor people than to rich people. Gaining a million pounds would make me rich but losing a million pounds would make me poor. I should not gamble a million pounds on the toss of a coin, because the million pounds I might lose is more precious to me than the million pounds I might gain.
As so often with classical economics, this is an excellent description of how we should behave. It is not such an excellent description of how we actually do behave. Risk aversion can only explain why we insure large risks. It cannot explain why we insure small ones.
A money pump is a person whose irrationalities can be systematically exploited for financial gain. The simplest money pump is a person who prefers an apple to a doughnut, prefers a doughnut to a chocolate bar, and prefers a chocolate bar to an apple. Just offer them an apple in exchange for their doughnut plus a penny. They will accept. Then offer them a chocolate bar for their apple plus a penny. Then offer them a doughnut for their chocolate bar plus a penny. They end up with their original doughnut and are three pence poorer. Repeat for ever.
Money-pump arguments are sometimes deployed to object that people cannot be irrational, otherwise they would be bankrupted by money pumping. But economists are increasingly coming to realise that, instead, we should be looking for money pumping in action.
Given our anxiety about small risks, what would the money pumping look like? It would be an insurance policy focused on the narrowest possible slice of risk. It would be sold alongside another product or service, often at the last moment. It would be marketed by creating anxiety and then offering the product to make the anxiety go away. In short, it would look like the collision damage waiver, the extended warranty, and PPI. These bespoke slices of insurance are among the largest money-pumping projects in the modern economy. No wonder the banks abandoned their principles to join in.
– Jared Bernstein and Lori Wallach highlight (PDF) the need for an international trade regime which serves the public interest, not only the greed of the people who already have the most. And Yves Smith theorizes that the public backlash against corporate-centered trade deals may lead both to changes in how international trade is managed, and the identity of the countries at the forefront of developing the standards to be pursued.
– Needless to say, the Libs’ devotion to the current trade model figures to exclude Canada from that group for the foreseeable future. And the Alberta Federation of Labour laments the Libs’ determination to exploit foreign labour at the expense of both easily-abused temporary workers, and the Canadians who would otherwise fill the positions.
– Derek Thompson makes the case for a long-overdue round of trust-busting to reduce corporate power over innovation and economic development.
– Finally, Ed Finn writes that our health system should focus far more on maintaining wellness rather than responding only once an illness develops. . . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: Sunday Morning Links
Assorted content to end your week.
– Scott Sinclair, Hadrian Mertins-Kirkwood and Stuart Trew study the contents of the Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement. Sinclair and Trew also highlight why Canadian progressives should oppose the deal, while Howard Mann notes that the same criticisms, including a gross transfer of power to the corporate sector and the absence of any concern for developmental and environmental issues, apply to all of the new generation of corporate rights agreements. But the Council of Canadians notes that not only are the Trudeau Libs pushing ahead with every single trade agreement currently on the table, they’re also trying to lay the groundwork for a similar deal with China – even if it comes with both a blind eye to human rights violations, and an obligation to approve a tar sands pipeline.
– Bill McKibben examines how new climate data shows that we need a nearly immediate transition away from dirty energy in order to meet the Paris conference commitment to rein in global warming. And Seth Klein and Shannon Daub call out the new form of climate denialism – which pays lip service to the science of climate change, but attempts to detach it from any policy steps to improve matters.
– Kate Pickett and Richard Wilkinson argue that there’s no reason to keep hewing to neoliberal orthodoxy when decades of evidence show how it exacerbates inequality and harms health:
Even before the 2008 global financial crisis, neoliberalism was causing what the University of Durham’s Ted Schrecker and Clare Bambra have called “neoliberal epidemics.” As Schrecker and Bambra and many others have shown, income inequality has profoundly damaging and far-reaching effects on everything from trust and social cohesion to rates of violent crime and imprisonment, educational achievement, and social mobility. Inequality seems to worsen health outcomes, reduce life expectancy, boost rates of mental illness and obesity, and even increase the prevalence of HIV.
Deep income inequality means that society is organized as a wealth-based hierarchy. Such a system confers economic as well as political power to those at the top and contributes to a sense of powerlessness for the rest of the population. Ultimately, this causes problems not only for the poor, but for the affluent as well.
Careful analysis of statistical data debunked the idea that stressed executives are at a higher risk for heart attacks. Now, it has debunked the 1980s myth that “greed is good,” and has revealed the extensive damage inequality causes. It was one thing to believe these myths decades ago, but when experience and all the available evidence show them to be mistaken, it is time to make a change.
“Any man can make mistakes, but only an idiot persists in his error,” said the Roman philosopher Cicero. Now that we know how inequality harms the health of societies, individuals, and economies, reducing it should be our top priority. Anyone advocating policies that increase inequality and threaten the wellbeing of our societies is taking us for fools.
– And Ashley Quan points out
how a basic income could alleviate many of the harms caused by precarious financial situations.
– Finally, Thomas Walkom rightly notes that a federal crackdown on extra-billing under the Canada Health Act is long overdue. . . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: Friday Morning Links
Miscellaneous material to start your week.- Michael Harris argues that it’s long past time for the Trudeau Libs to start living up to their oft-repeated promise of real change – rather than merely slapping a friendlier face on the same old regressive C… . . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: Monday Morning Links
PHOTOS: Mr. Justice Horace Krever, who led the Canadian Royal Commission into Canada’s tainted blood scandal. Below: Guest poster Trevor Zimmerman (Ray Domeij photo), Wildrose Health Critic Drew Barnes, Alberta Health Minister Sarah Hoffman, and Kat Lanteigne, co-founder of BloodWatch.org. Guest post by Trevor Zimmerman Last spring, Wildrose Health Critic Drew Barnes stood up in […]
The post Guest Post: Is the Wildrose Party seriously suggesting Alberta permit private blood brokers? appeared first on Alberta Politics.
. . . → Read More: Alberta Politics: Guest Post: Is the Wildrose Party seriously suggesting Alberta permit private blood brokers?
Miscellaneous material to start your week.
– David Dayen and Ryan Grim write that “free trade” agreements are in fact turning into little more than cash cows for hedge funds and other big-money speculators:
Under this system, a corporation invested in a foreign country can appeal to arbitration panels, consisting of three corporate lawyers, if that country enacts a law or regulation that violates a trade agreement or discriminates against the company. The ISDS courts can then award billions of dollars to the corporation to compensate it for the loss of expected future profits.
The problem is that these courts can also be used by speculators, who buy up companies for the sole purpose of filing an ISDS claim, or who finance lawsuits from corporations for a piece of the claim award.
“ISDS allows a small group of ultra-rich investors to extract billions of dollars from taxpayers while they undermine financial, environmental and public health rules across the world,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), an early opponent of ISDS, told HuffPost. “Our trade deals should not include ISDS in any form.”
The use of ISDS as a moneymaking engine, rather than for its initial purpose ― to protect foreign investors from having their factories expropriated or their businesses nationalized ― raises the question of whether there’s a better system available.
“Why should hard-won sovereign advances, like rules against polluting or consumer protections, be at risk when the obvious solution is for the investors to put their skin, not ours, in the game?” wondered Jared Bernstein, former chief economist to Vice President Joe Biden and a critic of TPP. “The simple solution is to have them self-insure against investment losses.”
– Mike Balkwill highlights the need to stop consulting endlessly about poverty, and instead take action by ensuring people have enough resources to meet at least their basic needs. Ann Hui reports on the especially dire circumstances facing First Nations families in Northern Ontario who have to spend upwards of half of their income on overpriced food. And Miguel Sanchez criticizes the Wall government’s attack on benefits to people with disabilities in Saskatchewan.
– Nicole Thompson points out how the Libs’ changes to the temporary foreign worker program are actually making matters worse for caregivers by eliminating any right to apply for permanent resident status. And Martha Burk documents how workers can lose out when employers force them to accept payroll cards rather than paycheques.
– Erich Hartmann and Alexa Greig argue that it’s long past time for Canada’s federal government to provide stable funding for health care in partnership with the provinces, rather than contributing only as much as it wants to at any given point. And Tom Blackwell reports on the dangers of relying on private providers by highlighting how they inevitably leave the public system to deal with complications.
– Finally, Tom Parkin notes that we should base our discussion of electoral reform on the actual experience of similar countries, not the obviously-false claims of people wanting to fearmonger us into accepting the status quo. And Andrew Coyne draws a parallel to the census as an argument for mandatory voting. . . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: Monday Morning Links
This and that for your Thursday reading.- Naomi Klein writes about the racism and dehumanization behind climate change denialism and inaction. And George Monbiot reminds us of the dangers of overheating oceans, while Michael Wines interviews Todd Halih… . . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: Thursday Morning Links
This and that for your Tuesday reading.
– Erin Seatter interviews Adam Lynes-Ford about Brian Day’s latest attack on universal Medicare. And Ricochet’s editorial board highlights how Day is ultimately fighting only to exacerbate inequality:
Discrimination against racialized and Indigenous patients fosters health disparities across our country and sometimes leads to death.
Poverty hurts Indigenous people in particular, and it’s understandable if you think the wide income gap between them and other groups in our country means privatized health care will leave them behind.
But fret not. Privatization will give them the kick they need to find their bootstraps. Want health care? Make money. Want a physician to check for diabetes instead of assuming you’re drunk? Hand over dollar bills, preferably the red or brown ones. Just throw yourself into the capitalist economy, and you’ll soon get past all that labour discrimination and be able to fork out the cash to be treated right.
Like Ali, and like the founding father of oppressive medicare, Tommy Douglas, Day used to be a boxer too.
“If you’re competitive and you think you’re right, you want to keep going until there’s a final outcome,” said Day.
That’s why he won’t stop until universal health care is down for the count.
– Oliver Milman discusses the climate effects of rapidly increasing ocean temperatures. And Merran Smith and Dan Woynillowicz comment on the need for Canada to pull its weight in shifting to clean renewable energy, while Jackie Wattles and Matt Egan point to Oklahoma’s rash of earthquakes as yet another consequence of insisting on chasing fossil fuels against all rational analysis.
– But Ethan Lou reports that the Trudeau Libs are instead aiming to grease the skids for foreign-owned oil development.
– Tammy Robert exposes the Wall government’s use of federal immigration funding (backed by provincial guarantees) to inflate a housing bubble. And the Leader-Post’s editorial board questions why the Saskatchewan Party is picking the pockets of school divisions and health regions.
– Finally, Kiran Rana takes note of the difficult job market facing new university graduates. . . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: Tuesday Morning Links
This and that for your Tuesday reading.
– Dennis Howlett discusses the public costs of allowing tax avoidance – as Canada could afford a national pharmacare program (and much more) merely by ensuring that the rich pay what they owe:
Eliminating tax haven use could save Canada almost $8 billion a year. That’s enough to cover universal public prescription coverage almost eight times over.
Time after time, budget after budget, poll after poll, those in charge make it sound as if we’re too poor as a country to afford the programs that would really improve Canadians’ lives. The fact that revenues are lost to poor policy on tax havens and loopholes is often conveniently ignored.
At this stage of the game, the federal finance minister doesn’t need to raise taxes to pay for pharmacare. Bill Morneau just has to make sure that Canadian multinationals and wealthy individuals pay the tax rate we already have. That isn’t happening right now.
It’s simple. Canadians can continue to support a tax system that lets the richest avoid paying $8 billion in taxes annually — or we can tell them that the party’s over. Instead of ignoring what is happening in the Cayman Islands, Panama and other tax havens, we can urge our politicians to invest the taxes owing on those billions into services that benefit individuals, families, communities and the country as a whole.
There is solid data supporting raising taxes in some areas. But that’s an argument for another day. The issue at hand right now is that we do have enough money for pharmacare — likely enough for public dental care as well. Through a series of misguided and outdated decisions driven by the tax dodge lobby, we are needlessly and destructively giving up that revenue.
It’s time to fix those old mistakes and use the tax system to help this country live up to its potential.
– Meanwhile, Owen Jones discusses a European Commission ruling finding that Apple can’t validly avoid paying tax through a special arrangement with Ireland. And the Star rightly slams the Fraser Institute for presenting a misleading picture of where public revenue comes from and what it can accomplish.
– The CP reports on the Libs’ plans to facilitate the use of temporary foreign workers for liquid natural gas projects in British Columbia – meaning that the last supposed benefit for the province of engaging in a dangerous industry seems to be as illusory as all the others. And Jeremy Nuttall notes that Justin Trudeau seems set to open the door even wider to entrench the use of exploitable foreign labour by multinational corporations.
– Finally, Catherine Cullen reports on the effects of privatized health care insurance which are being presented in an effort to defend Canada’s medicare system from would-be profiteers:
John Frank, a Canadian physician who is now chairman of public health research and policy at the University of Edinburgh, argues in his report that more private health care “would be expected to adversely affect Canadian society as a whole.”
He cites research that suggests public resources, including highly trained nurses and doctors, would be siphoned off by the private system.
More Canadians would face financial hardship or even — in extreme cases — “medical bankruptcy” from paying for private care, he writes.
Frank even suggests there could be deadly consequences. He says complications from privately funded surgeries often need to be dealt with in the public system because private facilities are generally less equipped to handle complex cases.
“If such complications, arising from privately funded care, are not promptly referred to an appropriately equipped and staffed care facility, the patient is likely to experience death or long-term disability, potentially leading to reduced earnings and financial hardship.”
Overall, “in my expert opinion,” Frank writes, the change would reduce fairness and efficiency and “society as a whole would be worse off.”
. . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: Tuesday Morning Links
This and that for your Tuesday reading.- Dennis Howlett discusses the public costs of allowing tax avoidance – as Canada could afford a national pharmacare program (and much more) merely by ensuring that the rich pay what they owe:Eliminating tax haven… . . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: Tuesday Morning Links
PHOTOS: Alberta Health Minister Sarah Hoffman. Below: Former Alberta Health Services CEO Vickie Kaminski and current CEO Verna Yiu. Alberta’s health care community was abuzz this morning with word Alberta Health Services has renewed its contract with… . . . → Read More: Alberta Politics: AHS extends Dynalife medical lab services contract for five years
Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.
– David Dayen wonders whether the Obama administration’s decision to end the use of private prisons might represent the needed start of a movement away from relying on poor corporate services as a substitute for public action:
Private prisons experienced more safety and security incidents. They had higher rates of assaults, inadequate medical checkups and compliance, eight times as many incidents of contraband cell-phone smuggling, and often housed new inmates in solitary confinement units, seemingly for lack of space. The report also detailed several grisly incidents since 2008: three riots in one Reeves County, Texas facility in two months; the death of a corrections officer in a riot in Natchez, Mississippi; and the closure of the Willacy County (Texas) Correctional Center, after inmates burned it to the ground.
It’s not hard to figure out why this happens. Private companies win contracts to manage federal prisons by undercutting the Bureau of Prisons’ operational costs. Unlike the government, private prison companies must also take their profit margins out of their budgets. The only way to make that work is to massively drop labor costs, corresponding to a severe degradation of the quality of prison management.
That reflects the problem with privatization as a whole. Private companies must carry out a government function—be it water, parking meters, mass transit, or K-12 schools—at a lower cost than the government can provide it, while taking their profit off the top. Time and again, the results reveal that to be impossible, at least if you want to provide the same quality of service. Yet we keep privatizing. Whether it’s Republicans expanding Medicaid or cash-strapped cities handing over bus service to Uber and Lyft, eventually costs shift from taxpayers to the users of the services, oversight becomes impotent as officials grow reliant on outsourcing contracts, and attempts to maximize profits lead to service breakdowns.
– But CBC reports that the worst is yet to come in Saskatchewan as Brad Wall has publicly put SaskTel up for corporate raiding.
– Jacki Andre discusses the hidden costs of living with a disability – which make it particularly unconscionable for Wall’s Saskatchewan Party to be trying to squeeze pennies out of people who rely on already-inadequate disability benefits.
– Floyd Perras highlights the multiple factors that contribute to (and exacerbate) homelessness. And Rocca Perla comments on the need to include social determinants of health within medical treatment of patients.
– Pat Rich describes the Canadian Medical Association’s rude awakening in finding out that Lib Health Minister Jane Philpott has no interest in its key priorities for improved care. And Alison points out how the Libs are conspicuously trying to wriggle out of their promise to end the unfairness of first-past-the-post politics.
– Finally, Anna MacDonald makes the case for stronger transparency as a means of limiting the harm of global arms dealing. But if there was any doubt that the Trudeau Libs are firmly on the side of weapons proliferation, Helene Laverdiere points out their inexplicable decision to stand against nuclear disarmament. . . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: Wednesday Evening Links
Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.- David Dayen wonders whether the Obama administration’s decision to end the use of private prisons might represent the needed start of a movement away from relying on poor corporate services as a substi… . . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: Wednesday Evening Links
This and that for your Thursday reading.- William G. Gale, Hilary Gelfond and Aaron Krupkin examine the evidence as to the effects of upper-class tax cuts, and find that they serve no purpose but to concentrate wealth and power in the hands of those w… . . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: Thursday Morning Links
Assorted content to end your week.- Melisa Foster points out why millennials should be strongly interested in a national pharmacare program:Today, young Canadians are searching for jobs in an economy with high levels of precarious employment, unemploym… . . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: Friday Morning Links
This and that for your Thursday reading.- Reuters reports on Tidjane Thiam’s recognition that inequality and underfunded education likely played roles in the Brexit vote’s outcome. And David Blanchflower rightly argues that the UK will need economic st… . . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: Thursday Morning Links
(Nothing to see here: Ontario Health Minister Eric Hoskins Announces The Closure of Community Care Access Centres) The horror stories continue for the people of Ontario. Ontario Health Minister Eric Hoskins announced today that the government will be closing all Community Care Access Centres (CCAC) in favor of cost cutting measures, and moving the home […] . . . → Read More: Mind Bending Politics: Ontario To Axe CCAC In $50 Billion Health Care Overhaul
Assorted content to end your week.- Murray Dobbin is hopeful that we may be seeing corporate globalization based on unquestioned neoliberal ideology come to an end: There is no definitive way to identify when an ideology begins to lose its grip on the… . . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: Friday Morning Links
This and that for your Tuesday reading.- Harry Leslie Smith writes about how an increasingly polarized city such as London excludes a large number of its citizens from meaningful social participation:(A)usterity has diminished the opportunity of the yo… . . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: Tuesday Morning Links