Prog Blog’s Flickr Photostream

Accidental Deliberations: Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- David Dayen discusses the massive corporate tax giveaways handed out through the U.S.’ annual budget process. And in a system where lobbying by the wealthy is rewarded with a 24-to-1 return, it shouldn’t be much surprise if inequality is getting even worse than previously assumed, as Jordan Weissmann reports: Forget the 1 percent. The winners of this race, according to Zucman and Saez, have been the 0.1 percent. Since the 1960s, the richest one-thousandth of U.S. households, with a minimum net worth today above $20 million, have more (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Mitchell Anderson discusses Canada’s woeful excuse for negotiations with the oil sector – particularly compared to the lasting social benefits secured by Norway in making the best of similar reserves: Digging through the numbers, it seems Norway is considerably more skilled at negotiation. By charging higher taxes and investing equity ownership in their own production, the Norwegian taxpayer was paid $46.29 BOE in 2012. That same year, the U.K. taxpayer realized only $20.08 per BOE — less than half as much.

What about Canada? Much of our production is bitumen, (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Dean Starkman writes about the media’s failure to see and report on the culture of corruption and manipulation that led to the 2008 economic meltdown: Was the brewing crisis really such a secret? Was it all so complex as to be beyond the capacity of conventional journalism and, through it, the public to understand? Was it all so hidden? In fact, the answer to all those questions is “no.” The problem—distorted incentives corrupting the financial industry—was plain, but not to Wall Street executives, traders, rating agencies, analysts, quants, or other financial (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- The Star-Phoenix discusses how the Cons are systematically attacking the independent institutions which are necessary to ensure a functioning democratic system: When a handful of Conservative MPs from Saskatchewan attacked the integrity of the province’s electoral boundaries commissioners last year in an attempt to subvert the democratic process, it may have seemed to be a rogue act of an outlier group of politicians concerned with their electoral future.

But when you consider the tactics of the MPs, who accused Justice Ronald Mills and political scientist Prof. John Courtney on the commission of attempting (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Andrew Jackson writes that increases in Canadian inequality have been the result of deliberate policy choices: In an important recent book, Inequality and the Fading of Redistributive Politics, Keith Banting and John Myles argue that, while rooted in the market, politics has also been a major force behind rising income inequality in Canada. They emphasize the impact of deep cuts to income transfer programs for working-age Canadians in Canada’s “neo-liberal moment” in the mid-1990s.

Their argument is reinforced by Statistics Canada research by Andrew Heisz and Brian Murphy presented to a (Read more…)

Bill Longstaff: Alberta, oil, and indoctrinating children

“Give us a child till he’s seven and we’ll have him for life”—a maxim some claim comes from St. Ignatius Loyola himself, founder of the Jesuits. Somewhat hackneyed but nonetheless true, the Alberta government and the oil industry seem to be taking it seriously.

The government is engaged in a major overhaul of Alberta’s school curriculum and, to the surprise of some, it is bringing in major oil

Accidental Deliberations: Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Mitchell Anderson compares the results of corporate-friendly Thatcherism to the alternative of public resource ownership and development in the interest of citizens – and finds far better results arising from the latter: Thirty-five years after she swept to power as British prime minister, it is ironic that socialist Norway now has $830 billion in the bank and enjoys fully funded social programs that most of us can only dream of. Meanwhile the U.K. is enduring another round of wrenching austerity and owes over £1.3 trillion — about US$2.2 trillion. (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Thursday Afternoon Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Chris Hall notes that Brad Butt’s admitted fabrications can only hurt the Cons’ already-lacking credibility when it comes to forcing through their unfair elections legislation. And Ed Broadbent sums up what’s at stake as the Cons try to rewrite the rules to prioritize their own hold on power over public participation and the fair administration of elections: Inspired by the tried and tested voter suppression tactics used by the Republicans to disenfranchise marginalized groups in the U.S., the new election law would make it harder for certain groups to vote. (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Jonathan Freedland discusses how the UK’s Conservative government is forcing its poor citizens to choose between food and dignity: Cameron’s statement rests on the repeatedly implied assumption that the only people going hungry are those who have opted for idleness as a lifestyle choice, who could work but don’t fancy it. This assumption is false. The majority of poor households include at least one person who works. As Rowan Williams, the former archbishop of Canterbury, put it this week: “People who are using food banks are not scroungers who are cynically trying (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Saturday Morning Links

This and that for your weekend reading.

- Michael McBane highlights one of the less-discussed changes in the Cons’ 2014 budget – as it officially eliminates the federal distribution of health care funding based on provincial need in favour of handing extra money to Alberta: The Harper government is eliminating the equalization portion of the Canada Health Transfer (CHT) and replacing it with an equal per capita transfer. This means that less populous provinces with relatively larger and more isolated populations will have more and more difficulty delivering more expensive universal health services.

Likewise, provinces with relatively larger proportion of (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Mark Taliano discusses how corporatocracy is replacing democracy in Canada, while Jaisal Noor talks to John Weeks about the similar trend in the U.S. And DownWithTyranny reminds us how corporations came to be – and how radical a difference there is between entities which were granted limited liability only in exchange for their pursuit of public goods, and the present model in which liability shields instead serve as cover for antisocial behaviour.

- Meanwhile, Frank Graves confirms that the Cons’ goals of public austerity and enrichment of the wealthy couldn’t be (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Ian Welsh discusses the nature of prosperity – and the illusion that it means nothing more than increased economic activity: All other things being equal more productive capacity is better. The more stuff we can make, in theory, the better off we’ll be. But in practice, it doesn’t always work that way.

Part of the problem is due to hierarchies and inequality. Inequality is undeniably bad for us. The more unequal your society is, the lower the median lifespan. The more unequal the society, the sicker, in general. More heart attacks, much more (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Angelina Chapin highlights the drastic impact a guaranteed annual income would have on Canadians currently living in poverty: To set and meet goals, you have to think long-term. When you’re poor, you can’t focus on the future (and Bill Gates wasn’t raised poor, by the way). You worry about finding boots, not pulling up your straps. The best way to “motivate” poor people is with programs that help lift their gaze from the ground to the horizon. A guaranteed annual income program would do that.

The idea is simple: in place of a (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Saturday Afternoon Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Lana Payne calls out Stephen Harper’s hypocrisy in paying lip service to the problems with the use of disposable temporary foreign labour while expanding exactly that policy throughout his stay in power: The program was supposed to be a last resort for employers dealing with skills shortages and used in a truly temporary fashion to fill high skill gaps until Canadians could be trained for those jobs.

That has not been the case under the current federal Conservative government. Not only has the program been used as a source of cheap labour, it (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Robert Reich confirms the seemingly obvious reality that poverty and inequality are in fact major obstacle facing the poor. And Paul Krugman explains why any successful progressive movement in the U.S. will need to discuss inequality and the hoarding of wealth to challenge the entrenched (and expanding) influence of those who already have the most: (J)obs and inequality are closely linked if not identical issues. There’s a pretty good although not ironclad case that soaring inequality helped set the stage for our economic crisis, and that the highly unequal distribution of (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: New column day

Here, on how the reactions of the federal government and the rail industry six months after the Lac-Mégantic rail explosion only seem to reinforce the risk of more disasters to come.

For further reading…- Monique Beaudin reports on the finger-pointing and other attempts to avoid responsibility on the part of the corporations linked to the explosion. And I’ll especially highlight the chutzpah of the group of oil services companies in arguing that as U.S. companies, they’re entitled to ship oil through Canada while being above the law when it comes to cleanup of a spill.- Meanwhile, (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Graeme Wearden reports on Oxfam’s latest study on inequality and the outsized political influence of the wealthy few: The Oxfam report found that over the past few decades, the rich have successfully wielded political influence to skew policies in their favour on issues ranging from financial deregulation, tax havens, anti-competitive business practices to lower tax rates on high incomes and cuts in public services for the majority. Since the late 1970s, tax rates for the richest have fallen in 29 out of 30 countries for which data are available, said the report.

This (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Bill Kerry writes that extreme inequality serves to reinforce itself – and points out what needs to be done to counter the temptation to kick others down: One of the major difficulties in tackling inequality is the way it coerces many people into accepting and even promoting it. In a steep social hierarchy people will often choose to shore up their own precarious social position by kicking down on poorer, weaker folk rather than challenging the richer more powerful folk above them.…So what do we do about it?  Well, it’s quite straightforward if not (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Sunday Afternoon Links

This and that to end your weekend.

- Paul Luke comments on the general stratification of workers into three groups: professionals facing extended hours and stress at a single job, service-sector workers juggling multiple jobs at more than full-time hours, and people struggling to find work at all. But it’s well worth asking whether it’s inevitable that we’ll keep moving in a direction which seems to offer few benefits for anybody but the employers who extract more work for less pay – and asking what public policy choices we could make to ensure manageable workloads for more of the would-be (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Jim Stanford writes about the myth of a labour shortage in Canada: In this context of chronic un- and under-employment, it is jarring that so many employers, business lobbyists, and politicians continue to complain about a supposed shortage of available, willing, and adequately skilled workers. Employers routinely claim they can’t find qualified Canadians to perform even relatively straightforward jobs. They can’t entice Canadians to move from depressed regions, to areas with jobs. They can’t elicit desired levels of effort, discipline and loyalty.

According to this worldview, the biggest challenge facing our labour market (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Thomas Walkom points out that many Canadians can expect to lose jobs without any social supports due to the Cons’ focus on political messages over real-life impacts. And Blake Zeff offers a reminder that while progressive economic policy may be receiving more attention over the last year, it’s always been extremely popular among the public (even as it’s been ruled out by policy-makers who focus primarily on serving corporate interests): Way back in 1992, President Clinton ran an explicitly populist campaign, telling voters, “The rich get the gold mine and the middle (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- George Monbiot criticizes the UK Cons’ latest effort to outlaw any form of individual action or expression which might intrude upon the corporate bubble: The existing rules are bad enough. Introduced by the 1998 Crime and Disorder Act, antisocial behaviour orders (asbos) have criminalised an apparently endless range of activities, subjecting thousands – mostly young and poor – to bespoke laws. They have been used to enforce a kind of caste prohibition: personalised rules which prevent the untouchables from intruding into the lives of others.

You get an asbo for behaving (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Tim Harper and the Star’s editorial board each offer up some hope that 2014 will be a more productive year in politics than 2013 was. And Nora Loreto offers a suggestion as to how to make that happen: Young workers, like all workers, need the labour movement to invest in organizing… Through working at the grassroots, creative options will emerge that will make it easier for unions like CUPE to take on organizing workers that are difficult to organize.

Through a concerted and coherent effort to organize, CUPE could not just figure out (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Wednesday Afternoon Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Polly Toynbee discusses how the public shares in the responsibility for a political class oriented toward easily-discarded talking points rather than honest discussion: Intense mistrust of parties is growing dangerously with each generation: with fewer than 1% of the population members of a political party, people understand less about the necessary compromises. Our poll’s “angry” voters say they want politicians to say what they believe, not mouth the party line-to-take. Too many MPs are pitifully thin on vocabulary and imagery, short on wit, warmth, passion or imagination. Some exceptions – the TUC’s Frances (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Lana Payne writes that Canadians care plenty about the well-being of hungry children even if the Cons don’t: After a firestorm of shocked responses from Canadians, Mr. Moore apologized for his “insensitive comment” uttered days before Christmas. What he did not apologize for or reassess was his belief in the kind of fend-for-yourself country his remarks support.

The apology came likely because this is the season of goodwill and it is no time to remind Canadians what drives the current federal government, begging the question of why it is tolerated any time of (Read more…)