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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…)

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…)

Alberta Diary: More than 2,000 people make a point about the Redford Government in deeply chilled downtown Edmonton

Some of the more than 2,000 people who protested the policies of the Redford Conservative Government in Edmonton’s Sir Winston Churchill Square today.

When I was a cub reporter at the still-unhyphenated Victoria Daily Times – always a better paper than the Colonist, let it be noted – I was told by a grizzled veteran of the news business that I should always ask a police officer about the size of a crowd at any outdoor event I was covering.

“You see,” he explained, “police officers are trained to estimate the size of crowds.”

So off I went (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your Monday reading.

- Robert Reich writes about the basic economic lessons the U.S. has forgotten since its postwar boom: First, America’s real job creators are consumers, whose rising wages generate jobs and growth. If average people don’t have decent wages there can be no real recovery and no sustained growth. In those years, business boomed because American workers were getting raises, and had enough purchasing power to buy what expanding businesses had to offer. Strong labor unions ensured American workers got a fair share of the economy’s gains. It was a virtuous cycle. Second, the (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Ken Georgetti discusses how the corporate tax giveaways of the past 15 years have hurt most Canadians: The Conservative government and special interest groups claim incessantly that cutting corporate income taxes is good for the economy and for individual Canadians. We have been led to believe that tax giveaways to corporations would lead companies to reinvest in research and development as well as machinery and staff training to boost productivity. This is supposed to stimulate economic growth and create better paying and more secure jobs. But that is not what has happened (Read more…)

Alberta Diary: CFIB members please post: ‘Money from public sector wages & pensions NOT wanted here!’

CFIB AstroTurf technicians roll out part of their campaign against improved pensions for Canadians, a plan certain to harm the group’s naïve supporters. Below: A suggested sign for the windows of CFIB-member businesses.

Whew! That was a close one! We almost improved the Canada Pension Plan!

So says the so-called Canadian Federation of Independent Business. Listen carefully:

“Small business owners and employees can breathe a sigh of relief for the time being,” the CFIB said in an undated commentary posted to its website recently. “Finance ministers did not reach an agreement on increasing CPP and QPP premiums…” (Emphasis added, of (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Pierre Brochu and David Green study the effect of minimum wage rates, and find a connection between a higher minimum wage and greater employment stability. But if there’s a choice between stable, well-paying work and precarious employment where job churn and wage reductions are seen as the norm, far too many policy-makers are choosing the latter – as Annie Lowrey notes that U.S. states are actively slashing benefits for unemployed workers to force them to grab desperately at whatever is available.

- Meanwhile, Juan Carlos Suárez Serrato and Owen Zidar offer (Read more…)

Wise Law Blog: Supreme Court of Canada Rules on Pension Income and Damages in Wrongful Dismissal

The Supreme Court of Canada’s recent ruling in IBM Canada Ltd. v. Waterman provides a great deal of clarity on the issue of collateral benefits such as pensions in a wrongful dismissal action and whether such a benefit ought to be deducted from the amount owed by the employer on account of pay in lieu of notice.Facts On March 23, 2009, IBM Canada terminated Richard Waterman’s employment, after forty-two years of service, on a without cause basis. At the time of his dismissal, Mr. Waterman was sixty-five years of age and was entitled to a full pension under (Read more…)

Montreal Simon: Stephen Harper and the Nightmare Before Christmas

Well I finally got to screen Stephen Harper's year end interview with Global TV, and it was one of the weirdest interviews I've ever seen.And one of the most chilling. For there was Harper sitting in what looked like a set from A Christmas Story.But sounding like a character out of the Nightmare Before Christmas. Read more »

Accidental Deliberations: Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Don Lenihan is the latest to highlight the difference between citizens and consumers – as well as why we should want to act as the former: In the old view, public debate is all about defining the public interest by establishing collective needs. This requires a very different view of public debate. Rather than seeing it as a chance to advance my wants, it asks me, as a citizen, to consider the needs of the community. This means I must listen to others, weigh their claims, examine the evidence, and make trade-offs and (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Ed Broadbent comments on Parliament’s review of inequality in Canada: In a more encouraging vein, the majority report cautiously endorses some positive proposals. Given stated support from both of the opposition parties, these could, and should, move to the top of the government agenda as we approach the 2014 federal Budget and the 2015 federal election.

The Broadbent Institute and other witnesses highlighted the need to increase the Working Income Tax Benefit (WITB) which supplements the incomes of working poor families, thus raising earned income from low wage jobs and helping offset (Read more…)

Political Eh-conomy: The in-and-out trick: Thoughts on Canada Post, CPP and your child’s breakfast

The past few days have not been great for public services in Canada. Canada Post will be phasing out home delivery of mail. Expansion of the Canada Pension Plan was scuttled at the finance ministers’ meeting. In the grand scheme of things, however, these are not extreme cutbacks. It’s not as if Canada Post is to be dismantled completely or our public pension fund to run completely dry. This government has long brought us death by a thousand paper cuts and those from the past days are just a continuation of the strategy.

There is a particular common thread that (Read more…)

The Progressive Economics Forum: Canada Post’s vow to ‘protect taxpayers’ needs a reality check

This piece was first published in the Globe & Mail.

In a move that caught everyone off-guard, Canada Post announced a five point “action plan” last week that included phasing-out home delivery of the mail over the next five years, making Canada the only G7 nation to do so. Why? To “protect taxpayers.”

Of all the reasons that merit discussion as to whether letter carriers belong to a redundant class of workers, like the milkman or iceman, taxpayer protection isn’t one. This Crown corporation is more likely to make money than lose it.

Canada Post and (Read more…)

Montreal Simon: The Day the Con Regime Revealed its True Face

First he claimed his callous comments about hungry children were out of context, and ridiculous…

Then he claimed the story wasn't accurate, and ridiculous…

Then when he realized the reporter had the whole interview on tape he apologized. Read more »