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Accidental Deliberations: Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Nicholas Kristof offers a primer on inequality in the U.S., while the Washington Post reports that a think tank looking to fund research into the issue couldn’t find a single conservative willing to discuss it. And PressProgress highlights the OECD’s finding that the prosperity gap stands to get a lot worse in the U.S. and Canada alike absent some significant change in course to improve the lot of the 99%: Increasing levels of economic inequality are the “new normal” and we can expect them to get worse, not better.

That’s (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Sarah Jaffe examines the “bad business fee” proposal which would require employers who pay wages below public assistance levels – receiving work while forcing the public to subsidize their employees’ livelihood – to at least make up the difference: As inequality has become a hot-button issue, the solutions on offer tend to focus either on taxing the extremely wealthy or on raising workers’ wages. What makes the bad business fee particularly attractive is that it does both of those things. It makes the connection conceptually between the low wages at the bottom (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Robert Reich discusses the rise of the non-working rich as an indicator that extreme wealth has less and less to do with merit – as well as the simple policy steps which can reverse the trend: In reality, most of America’s poor work hard, often in two or more jobs.

The real non-workers are the wealthy who inherit their fortunes. And their ranks are growing.

In fact, we’re on the cusp of the largest inter-generational wealth transfer in history.

The wealth is coming from those who over the last three decades earned huge (Read more…)

Political Eh-conomy: Political Eh-conomy Radio: Piketty Forum in Vancouver

On June 25th, a standing-room only crowd of 150 people attended a public forum and discussion titled “Pikettymania, Inequality and You” on Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century. Today, I’m happy to post in full the four talks that made up the first half of the event (the second half was all discussion). The total is about an hour in length with each speaker taking 15 minutes. Enjoy!

https://politicalehconomy.files.wordpress.com/2014/07/podcast-140718-piketty-forum-full.mp3

The speakers, in order of appearance:

Iglika Ivanova is an economist and public interest researcher at the CCPA-BC. Her slides are available here and may (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Tuesday Afternoon Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Paul Boothe responds to the C.D. Howe Institute’s unwarranted bias against public-sector investment: Is the public sector holding back provincial growth rates by crowding out private sector investment?  That’s the contention of a recent C.D. Howe paper by Philip Cross.  The paper provides a great case study of the danger of confusing correlation with causality.

Let’s begin with the simple arithmetic.  Gross domestic product (GDP) is the sum of spending on consumption, investment, government services and net exports.  Whether the investment spending is initiated by the (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Sunday Afternoon Links

This and that to end your weekend.

- PressProgress takes a look at the OECD’s long-term economic projections – which feature a combination of increasing inequality and slow growth across the developed world, with Canada do worse than almost anybody else on the inequality front unless we see a shift toward more progressive policies when it comes to unions, employment protections and fair taxes.

- Meanwhile, Derek Leahy discusses how much we have to lose by relying on the tar sands as our sole economic engine.

- David Cay Johnston points out that several of the largest forms of consumer (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

 - Joseph Heath responds to Andrew Coyne in noting that an while there’s plenty of room (and need) to better tax high personal incomes, there’s also a need to complement that with meaningful corporate taxes: (A) crucial part of the Boadway and Tremblay proposal is to increase the personal income tax rate on dividends and capital gains. That’s where the “soak the rich” part comes in. The argument — and it is an interesting argument — is that dividends are currently taxed at a lower rate in the hands of individuals, in order (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Anne Manne discusses how extreme wealth leads to narcissism and a lack of empathy, while pointing out that to merely recognizing the problem goes some way toward solving it: Outside the lab, Piff found that the rich donated a smaller percentage of their wealth than poorer people. In 2011, the wealthiest Americans, those with earnings in the top 20%, contributed 1.3% of their income to charity, while those in the bottom 20% donated 3.2% of their income. The trend to meanness was worst in plush suburbs where everyone had a high (Read more…)

Political Eh-conomy: Supermanagers and the social psychology of wealth

By now, Thomas Piketty’s U-shaped graphs of wealth and income concentration are well known. What has received less attention are the differences between the last, early-20th-century inequality peak and today. One important difference is that the composition of wealth and income has changed: more of the income of the wealthy today comes from (ostensibly, at least) work.

Figure 1. Income going to the top 10% in the US over time followed by distribution of income between labour and capital income in the US, 1929 and 2007. (Sources: New Yorker and Capital in the Twenty-First Century, Figs. 8. (Read more…)

. . . → Read More: Political Eh-conomy: Supermanagers and the social psychology of wealth

Accidental Deliberations: Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Katrina vanden Heuvel criticizes the U.S. Democrats’ move away from discussing inequality by in favour of platitudes about opportunity for the middle class. And while Matthew Yglesias may be correct in responding that the messaging change hasn’t resulted in much difference in Democratic policy proposals, it’s certainly significant when a political party makes the choice to take poverty and inequality off the table as a vital part of the argument for its policy consensus.

- Meanwhile, Stephen Elliott-Buckley reminds us that the 1% tends to get its way in policy debates (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Robert Reich discusses how a reasonable balance of economic and political power is necessary to any protection of meaningful personal freedom: In reality, corporate free speech drowns out the free speech of ordinary people who can’t flood the halls of Congress with campaign contributions.

Freedom is the one value conservatives place above all others, yet time and again their ideal of freedom ignores the growing imbalance of power in our society that’s eroding the freedoms of most people.…The so-called “free market” is not expanding options and opportunities for most people. It’s extending (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Ann Robertson and Bill Leumer respond to Joseph Stiglitz by pointing out that some of the inequality arising out of capitalism has nothing to do with rules further rigged in favour of the wealthy: Although there is certainly significant substance to Stiglitz’s argument – policy decisions can have profound impacts on economic outcomes – nevertheless capitalism is far more responsible for economic inequality because of its inherent nature and its extended reach in the area of policy decisions than Stiglitz is willing to concede. To begin with, in capitalist society it is (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- David Atkins highlights Gallup’s latest polling showing that U.S. trust in public institutions continues to erode. And Paul Krugman notes that there’s reason for skepticism about the snake oil being peddled as economic policy in order to further enrich the already-wealthy: Why, after all, should anyone believe at this late date in supply-side economics, which claims that tax cuts boost the economy so much that they largely if not entirely pay for themselves? The doctrine crashed and burned two decades ago, when just about everyone on the right — after claiming, speciously, (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your Monday reading.

- Benjamin Shingler reports on the push for a basic annual income in Canada. And Christopher Blattman notes that cash serves as a valuable treatment for poverty wherever one diagnoses the disease: The poor do not waste grants. Recently, two World Bank economists looked at 19 cash transfer studies in Latin America, Africa and Asia. Almost all showed alcohol and tobacco spending fell or stayed the same. Only two showed any significant increase, and even there the evidence was mixed. You might worry handouts encourage idleness. But in most experiments, people worked more after (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Thomas Frank interviews Barry Lynn about the U.S.’ alarming concentration of wealth and power. Henry Blodget thoroughly rebuts the myth that “rich people create jobs”. And David Atkins goes a step further in discussing how hoarded wealth hurts the economy in general – with a particularly apt observation about how inequality erodes our social connections: It is not an accident that trust in major institutions has declined on a linear track with rising inequality. Study after study has shown that trust in our fellow citizens and in institutions at (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Saturday Morning Links

This and that for your weekend reading.

- Joseph Stiglitz wraps up the New York Times’ series on inequality by summarizing how the gap between the rich and the rest of us developed, as well as how it can be reduced: The American political system is overrun by money. Economic inequality translates into political inequality, and political inequality yields increasing economic inequality. In fact, as he recognizes, Mr. Piketty’s argument rests on the ability of wealth-holders to keep their after-tax rate of return high relative to economic growth. How do they do this? By designing the rules of the game (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Paul Krugman offers a response to the assertion that accumulated wealth should be considered as costless capital: (I)f there’s one thing I thought economists were trained to do, it was to be clear about opportunity cost. We should compare accumulation of dynastic wealth with some alternative use of resources – not assume, as Mankiw in effect does, that if not passed on to heirs that wealth would simply disappear. Maybe he’s assuming that the alternative would be riotous living by the current rich, but that’s not a policy alternative. In fact, what we’re (Read more…)

Political Eh-conomy: Slides on Piketty’s Capital

I spoke at an event dedicated to Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century last night in Vancouver. It was great to have a conversation about inequality, economics and politics with an overflowing, diverse crowd. There is a palatable hunger for an understanding of what is going on today and what kind of political action can generate broad-based mobilization.

I’m posting my slides from that discussion here. They focus on the theory in Piketty’s work and are partly expository as one of the aims of the event was to introduce the arguments of the book. However, I have tried to raise some substantive points about how the book (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Harry Stein discusses how government policy is currently designed to exacerbate inequality by subsidizing the concentration of wealth: This issue brief puts aside the question of whether new policies, such as a global wealth tax, should be enacted to reduce economic inequality. Instead, it explores two existing policies that actually subsidize wealth inequality. First, reduced tax rates on capital gains and dividends increase the after-tax rate of return on wealth, which makes it more likely that the rate of return on capital will exceed the overall economic growth rate. Second, capital gains (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Gar Alperovitz suggests in the wake of Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century that it’s long past time to reconsider who controls capital – and make a concerted effort to democratize that control: The name of the game — Piketty’s book fairly screams it — is capital: who gets to own it, benefit from it and derive political power from it. Accordingly, it may be of some interest to note that in significant part because of the pain and failure of our current reality, many of those local laboratories of democracy (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Thomas Frank discusses the corporate takeover of U.S. politics – and how even nominally left-oriented parties are willing to go along with the corporate position even as voters regularly demand something else: One of the reasons the phrase appealed to me, 17 years ago, was my belief back then that there was something essentially brutal about raw capitalism; if the nation was to suppress the regulations and the workers’ organizations that had tamed the beast over the years—even if we did so with the best of intentions—the economy would return quite naturally (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Andrew Jackson reviews the OECD’s economic recommendations for Canada – featuring a much-needed call for fair taxes on stock options: Special tax breaks for stock options primarily benefit senior corporate executives, especially CEOs of large public companies who are commonly given the right to buy shares in the future at heavily discounted prices. Options make up a big slice of the total compensation of senior corporate executives.

90% of the benefits of the stock options tax break go to the top 1% of taxpayers. The stock options tax break costs the federal government (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Rick Salutin discusses how corruption has become endemic in the global economy as an inevitable consequence of me-first values: You wouldn’t have those CEO pig-outs absent neo-liberalism’s moral model: get rich not just quick but hugely. As Kevin O’Leary loves saying, and CBC plasters on its promos: God put us here to get rich. Note it’s a public broadcaster where he barks that and no one contests it. (I consider Amanda Lang’s ripostes pro forma.)

Since there’s no counter model (excluding, maybe, the pope) it becomes almost embarrassing not to grab for (Read more…)

Bill Longstaff: Can capitalists save capitalism?

Prominent Harvard economist Lawrence Katz illustrates the American economy with an amusing analogy. He depicts it as an apartment block in which the penthouses have increased in size, the middle apartments are increasingly squeezed and the basement is flooded. But what gets people down the most, he says, is that the elevator is broken.

Katz’s analogy applies particularly to the U.S., the most

Accidental Deliberations: Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Following up on this morning’s post, George Monbiot discusses the need for a progressive movement which goes beyond pointing out dangers to offer the promise of better things to come: Twenty years of research, comprehensively ignored by these parties, reveals that shifts such as privatisation and cutting essential public services strongly promote people’s extrinsic values (an attraction to power, prestige, image and status) while suppressing intrinsic values (intimacy, kindness, self-acceptance, independent thought and action). As extrinsic values are powerfully linked to conservative politics, pursuing policies that reinforce them is blatantly self-destructive.

(Read more…)