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Accidental Deliberations: Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson link inequality and climate change as massive problems which are generated by political choices (and thus amenable to correction through the political system): Rising inequality is no more natural than global warming. And just as with global warming, our biggest fear should be that it becomes increasingly self-reinforcing — not because of some “natural” economic process, but because economic power begets political power, which can be used to further increase economic advantage. Look around, and the evidence that this is a real threat abounds. To cite just (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Lee-Anne Goodman reports on studies from both the Parliamentary Budget Officer (PDF) and the Broadbent Institute (PDF) showing that enlarged tax-free savings accounts stand to blow a massive hole in the federal budget while exacerbating inequality. And PressProgress documents and refutes the pitiful response from the right.

- But then, I suppose we shouldn’t expect the Cons’ actions on TFSA to differ from their usual mismanagement. And Scott Clark and Peter DeVries write that the Cons’ tax baubles in general have accomplished nothing useful, while Ricarda Acuna notes that Alberta (as the exemplar (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Sara Mojtehedzadeh reports on the work done by the Broadbent Institute and Mariana Mazzucato to highlight the importance of publicly-funded innovation: According to a 2014 report by the International Monetary Fund, Canadian companies have been accumulating “dead money” at a faster rate than any other G7 country, rather than reinvesting profit into things like human capital or research capacity — suggesting that the rewards of innovative success are being captured by an increasingly narrow sliver of society, even when public money may well have been an early catalyst for achievement.  But in (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Nicholas Kristof discusses how U.S. workers have suffered as a result of declining union strength. And Barry Critchley writes that Canada’s average expected retirement age has crept over 65 – with that change coming out of necessity rather than worker choice.

- Alex Andreou rightly slams the concept of “defensive architecture” intended to eliminate the poor from sight rather than actually addressing poverty: “When you’re designed against, you know it,” says Ocean Howell, who teaches architectural history at the University of Oregon, speaking about anti-skateboarding designs. “Other people might not see it, (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- The OECD reports on the relationship between equality and growth, and concludes that rising inequality is as toxic for economic development as it is for our social fabric. And David Rider discusses how increasing inequality is manifesting itself in several Toronto neighbourhoods.

- Meanwhile, Daniel Tancer finds finds that Canada’ workers receive a significantly lower share of income than in other developed countries: Our modern economy is anything but egalitarian, and labour’s share of income has been shrinking for decades as business profits soar while wages stagnate.

On this measure, Canada is (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Chris Matthews takes note of the gross growth of inequality in the U.S. Dean Baker notes that much of the wealth built on what’s branded as “innovation” reflects little more than successful attempts to evade health, safety and consumer protection laws. And Mike De Souza explores how the notorious ALEC pushes climate denial and other anti-social policies with an alarming amount of support from businesses who (once challenged) claim not to know who they’re funding.

- Meanwhile, Digby points out that the corporatist right is downright eager to work people to the (Read more…)

Alberta Diary: Ex-leadership candidate Thomas Lukaszuk vows to pen tell-all book on Alison Redford’s rule

Your blogger with budding author Thomas Lukaszuk, back during the former deputy premier’s campaign to lead the PC Party. Below: Former PC premier Alison Redford; current PC Premier Jim Prentice.

I’ve gotta say, I’m really looking forward to my free copy of Thomas Lukaszuk’s tell-all book about how he tried to save the Redford Government but the premier just wouldn’t let him. A great review is almost guaranteed!

Seriously, I’m assuming this literary endeavor means Mr. Lukaszuk has decided he doesn’t have much of a career in the government of Premier Jim Prentice. At any rate, it seems unlikely he (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Wednesday Evening Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Scott Clark and Peter DeVries criticize the Cons’ choice to prioritize right-wing dogma over sound economic management: What should Canada do? For starters, the passive approach isn’t working. In the face of global economic uncertainty and a secular decline in growth, Canadian policy makers need to get at the levers that can strengthen growth at home.

…Of course we have options — they just happen to be ones that clash with the Conservatives’ hands-off economic orthodoxy. The Harper government is committed to lower taxes, lower spending, balanced budgets and smaller government. But why (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- thwap nicely summarizes how we’ve allowed our economy to rely on (and feed into) the whims of a small group of insiders, rather than being harnessed for any sense of public good: (W)hat’s changed today is that the wealthy clearly have more money than they know what to do with. And it’s rendered our economies top-heavy. Financialization and financial speculation. Which does nothing for ordinary people. Tax-cuts to wealthy and the corporations just go into the banks and into speculation. Tax-increases to the wealthy and the corporations can help mitigate government deficits (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Sunday Morning Links

Assorted content for your Sunday reading.

- James Meek writes about the UK’s privatization scam, and how it’s resulted in citizens paying far more for the basic services which are better provided by a government which actually has the public interest within its mandate: Privatisation failed to demonstrate the case made by the privatisers that private companies are always more competent than state-owned ones – that private bosses, chasing the carrot of bonuses and dodging the stick of bankruptcy, will always do better than their state-employed counterparts. Through euphemisms such as “wealth creation” and “enjoying the rewards of success” Thatcher (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Bert Olivier is the latest to weigh in on Paul Verhaeghe’s work showing that the obsessive pursuit of market fundamentalism harms our health in a myriad of ways: What does the neoliberal “organisation” of society amount to? As the title of the book indicates, it is market-based, in the tacit belief that the abstract entity called the “market” is better suited than human beings themselves to provide a (supposedly) humane structure to the communities in which we live. But because neoliberal capitalism stands or falls by the question, whether profit is generated (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- CJ Werleman writes that the U.S.’ inequality nightmare is getting worse even as the public gains a greater recognition of the issue. Nick Kristof recognizes that radically different levels of wealth result in a serious lack of opportunity for anybody who doesn’t win the genetic lottery. And Katharine Cukier notes that the type of empathy and generosity all too often lacking south of the border has given her and her family a fair chance at happiness in Canada.

- But Ralph Surette observes that the Cons are going out of their (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Robert Reich muses about how our economy would look if we actually paid people based on their contribution to society rather than their ability to exploit others. In related news, the Broadbent Institute’s next Progress Gala is looking all the more fascinating with the announcement that Reich will be the keynote speaker.

- David MacDonald studies the distribution of income from the tar sands, and predictably finds that the 1% has managed to suck up obscene amounts of income while leaving crumbs for everybody else. But let’s also note that the smallish gains (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Colleen Flood writes that our health care system is more similar to the U.S.’ than we’d like to admit – and that many of the most glaring inefficiencies within it are already the result of services funded through private insurance rather than our universal public system: The latest Commonwealth Study ranked Canada’s health care system a dismal second to last in a list of eleven major industrialized countries. We had the dubious distinction of beating out only the Americans. This latest poor result is already being used by those bent on (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Linda McQuaig discusses how a burgeoning wealth gap is particularly obvious when it comes to retirement security: Quaint as it now seems, not long ago this was considered a good basic plan: Work hard all your life and then retire with a comfortable pension.

In recent times, a new plan has replaced it: Work hard all your life and then all bets are off.

The notion of retirement security in exchange for a lifetime of hard work — a central element in the implicit social contract between capital and labour in the (Read more…)

Political Eh-conomy: The pension fight: on the picket line or in regulations?

It’s relatively common knowledge that employer-run pensions have been scaled back over the past few decades. I’ve decided to dig some data on pensions for this post to see just how this has taken place in Canada, motivated by a just-released analysis of US pension reform that finds contradictions in how US workers have come to take on more and more of the risk for their retirement income.

First, a bit of background. There are two main kinds of employer-administered pension funds: defined benefit (DB) plans – where retirees receive a set monthly income, or defined benefit – and defined (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: New column day

Here, looking at the sad similarities between Regina and Detroit, and noting that the crucial step we should take to avoid the latter’s humanitarian tragedy is to fund our commitments to workers and residents while we have the means to do so.

For further reading…- Tom McKay and Wallace Turbeville each discuss how the decision to run Detroit under corporate principles made a bad financial situation far worse. – Jon Swaine reports on the recent move to shut off water for up to 100,000 residents. Monica Davey writes about the vote to slash already-meager pensions. And Dominic Rushe (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Sunday Morning Links

Assorted content for your Sunday reading.

- Mariana Mazzucato writes about the need for governments to shape markets through their own investments, rather than acting only to serve existing business interests: The idea that at best the public sector can fix “market failures” and “de-risk” business, means that when the banks become too active in an area, they are accused of “crowding out” the private sector. That is, of taking up too big of a share of total investments (all of which in the end must be financed from savings). While some Keynesians defend such investments by arguing they actually (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Gary Engler explores Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century from the perspective of a reader who’s far more skeptical than Piketty about the prospect of tinkering around the edges of our current corporatist economic system. And Seth Ackerman writes that Piketty’s observations look like compelling evidence challenging the doctrine of marginal productivity theory which is taken as an article of faith by laissez-faire fundamentalists.

- Meanwhile, Bill Moyers interviews Joseph Stiglitz about corporate tax evasion. And Michael Madowitz points out what we should have learned about austerity economics by now: There (Read more…)

Political Eh-conomy: Pension trade-offs and democratic deficits

Forget houses as a source of secondary income – that’s so 2007. After the latest recession, Americans are increasingly dipping into their retirement savings to fund on-going consumer expenses. Many private 401(k) plans have rules that allow workers to withdraw some amount of saved funds before retirement and such early withdrawals are on the rise.

The individual irrationality of raiding a 401(k) plan fits nicely with the old stereotype of the stupid poor who don’t know how to save; as if this is what separates them from the wealthy. They not only lack the human capital for high-skilled labour – with its attendant (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: New column day

Here, looking at one of Thomas Piketty’s findings about the self-propagation of wealth which has received relatively little attention – and pointing out how the a pattern of greater wealth grabbing higher returns can both be managed in order to reduce undue concentration of wealth, and even turned to the public’s advantage through pools of social capital.

For further reading…- Piketty’s discussion of inequality in returns on capital starts at page 430 of the English translation of Capital in the Twenty-First Century – with his study of university endowment funds at page 447 serving as a particularly useful (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Robert Reich calls out four fundamental lies used to push corporatist policies. But perhaps more interesting is the truth which no amount of concentrated wealth seems to be able to suppress: But the more interesting thing here is the memo’s concession of a hurdle AFP faces: That people support the idea of “taking care of those in need and avoiding harm to the weak.” That this is seen as a messaging problem is telling.… As it happens, the AFP memo is right. Majorities of Americans do see the economy as rigged for the (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Linda McQuaig discusses how the interests of big banks ended the Cons’ willingness to consider postal banking which would produce both better service and more profits for the public: (C)ompetition is the last thing the banks want. And given their power (straddling the very heart of the Canadian establishment) and their wealth (record profits last year topping $30 billion), the banks tend to get what they want from the Harper government.

This could explain the government’s otherwise baffling decision last fall to reject an option that would have allowed a serious competitor to (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- David Dayen discusses how prepaid debit cards are turning into the latest means for the financial sector to extract artificial fees from consumers. And Matt Taibbi reports on the looting of public pension funds in the U.S.: Nor did anyone know that part of Raimondo’s strategy for saving money involved handing more than $1 billion – 14 percent of the state fund – to hedge funds, including a trio of well-known New York-based funds: Dan Loeb’s Third Point Capital was given $66 million, Ken Garschina’s Mason Capital got $64 million and (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Robert Reich discusses the Koch brothers and their place in the U.S.’ new plutocracy: The Kochs exemplify a new reality that strikes at the heart of America. The vast wealth that has accumulated at the top of the American economy is not itself the problem. The problem is that political power tends to rise to where the money is. And this combination of great wealth with political power leads to greater and greater accumulations and concentrations of both — tilting the playing field in favor of the Kochs and their ilk, (Read more…)