Quite simply, if a politician dangles child welfare money to anyone, but makes it contingent on embracing a sick LNG plant, what does that smell like to you?
I think it smells the same as when she tells a school board to close schools or else they don’t get seismic upgrading money.
I think . . . → Read More: Politics, Re-Spun: What the BC Premier’s Reconciliation Smells Like
This and that for your Tuesday reading.
– David Boyle discusses how the principle of free trade – once intended to empower consumers against monopolies – is instead being used to lock in corporate control: (T)he original idea of free trade was not a simple licence to do whatever you wanted, if you were rich . . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: Tuesday Morning Links
This and that for your Sunday reading.
– Mary O’Hara notes that even a relatively modest and incomplete set of progressive policies has created some important movement toward reducing poverty. And conversely, Caroline Mortimer writes that child poverty is exploding under the Conservative majority government in the UK.
– Dean Beeby reports on the . . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: Sunday Morning Links
Assorted content to end your week.
– Lawrence Summers discusses the economic damage being done by a top-heavy income spectrum – as the effect of major stimulus programs may have been wholly outweighed by the decline in middle-class incomes.
– Meanwhile, Canadians for Tax Fairness points out the impending tax court case which will . . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: Friday Morning Links
This and that for your Sunday reading.
– Andrew Jackson discusses how the rise of right-wing, prejudiced populism can be traced to the failures of global corporate governance. And Dani Rodrik argues that it’s time to develop an international political system to facilitate – rather than overriding – democratic action:
Some simple principles would reorient us in the right direction. First, there is no single way to prosperity. Countries make their own choices about the institutions that suit them best. Some, like Britain, may tolerate, say, greater inequality and financial instability in return for higher growth and more financial innovation. They will opt for lower taxes on capital and more freewheeling financial systems. Others, like Continental European nations, will go for greater equity and financial conservatism. International firms will complain that differences in rules and regulations raise the costs of doing business across borders, but their claims must be traded off against the benefits of diversity.
Second, countries have the right to protect their institutional arrangements and safeguard the integrity of their regulations. Financial regulations or labor protections can be circumvented and undermined by moving operations to foreign countries with considerably lower standards. Countries should be able to prevent such “regulatory arbitrage” by placing restrictions on cross-border transactions — just as they can keep out toys or agricultural products that do not meet domestic health standards.
Third, the purpose of international economic negotiations should be to increase domestic policy autonomy, while being mindful of the possible harm to trade partners. The world’s trade regime is driven by a mercantilist logic: You lower your barriers in return for my lowering mine. But lack of openness is no longer the binding constraint on the world economy; lack of democratic legitimacy is.
It is time to embrace a different logic, emphasizing the value of policy autonomy. Poor and rich countries alike need greater space for pursuing their objectives. The former need to restructure their economies and promote new industries, and the latter must address domestic concerns over inequality and distributive justice.
– William Lazonick and Matt Hopkins note that already-appalling estimates of the gap between CEOs and other workers may be severely underestimating the problem. And Iglika Ivanova laments British Columbia’s woefully insufficient changes to its minimum wage which will keep large numbers of workers in poverty.
– In one positive development for corporate accountability, Telesur reports that the International Criminal Court is now willing to take jurisdiction over land grabbing, environmental destruction and other corporate crime.
– Harry Stein writes that there are significant economic and social gains to be achieved by better funding social infrastructure.
– Finally, Jeremy Nuttall interviews Robert Fox, the NDP’s new national director, on the plan to building a more activist party – both in the sense of better engaging with existing activists, and developing a culture of ongoing action. And Robin Sears offers a long-term path for the NDP to once again lead Canada toward progressive policies. . . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: Sunday Afternoon Links
Assorted content for your weekend reading.
– Joseph Stiglitz discusses how entrenched inequality and unearned income hurt the economy for everybody:
We used to think of there being a trade-off: we could achieve more equality, but only at the expense of overall economic performance. It is now clear that, given the extremes of inequality being reached in many rich countries and the manner in which they have been generated, greater equality and improved economic performance are complements.
(A) key factor underlying the current economic difficulties of rich countries is growing inequality. We need to focus not on what is happening on average— as GDP leads us to do— but on how the economy is performing for the typical citizen, reflected for instance in median disposable income. People care about health, fairness and security, and yet GDP statistics do not reflect their decline. Once these and other aspects of societal well-being are taken into account, recent performance in rich countries looks much worse.
The economic policies required to change this are not difficult to identify. We need more investment in public goods; better corporate governance, antitrust and anti-discrimination laws; a better regulated financial system; stronger workers’ rights; and more progressive tax and transfer policies. By ‘rewriting the rules’ governing the market economy in these ways, it is possible to achieve greater equality in both the pre- and post-tax and transfer distribution of income, and thereby stronger economic performance.
– David Macdonald discusses Canada’s growing consumer debt levels, and notes that matters figure to get worse before they get better. And the CP reports on Canada’s high gender wage gap as another area where we’re lagging even on an international scene where there’s far more work to be done.
– Hadrian Mertins-Kirkwood examines the economic fallout we could expect from the CETA, while the Canadian Labour Congress suggests a few ways to minimize the damage. But Murray Dobbin asks why we’re wasting any time on corporate power agreements when they’ve so thoroughly failed to live up to any promises to the public.
– Juha Kaakinen writes about the success of Housing First in alleviating homelessness in Finland. And Gary Bloch and John Silver point out how encouraging people living in poverty to file tax returns (and thus receive available benefits) can produce positive outcomes all around.
– Finally, PressProgress discusses Wayne Smith’s resignation as Chief Statistician of Statistics Canada due to a lack of meaningful change from the Cons’ attempts to politicize data collection and management. . . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: Saturday Morning Links
This and that for your Thursday reading.- Graham Lowe and Frank Graves examine the state of Canada’s labour market, and find a strong desire among workers for an activist government to ensure improved pay equality and social supports. Oxfam reaches sim… . . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: Thursday Morning Links
Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.- George Monbiot observes that while few people would want to drive animals to extinction directly, we’re all too often eager to settle for a consumerist culture which produces exactly that result. – Car… . . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: Wednesday Morning Links
This and that for your Tuesday reading.
– Bill Moyers writes about the conflict between the wealthy few seeking to preserve their privilege, and the balance of society seeking fairness for everybody:
I keep in my files a warning published in [The Economist] a dozen years ago, on the eve of George W. Bush’s second term. The editors concluded back then that, with income inequality in the United States reaching levels not seen since the first Gilded Age and social mobility diminishing, “the United States risks calcifying into a European-style class-based society.”
And mind you, that was before the financial meltdown of 2007–08, before the bailout of Wall Street, before the recession that only widened the gap between the super-rich and everyone else. Ever since then, the great sucking sound we’ve been hearing is wealth heading upwards. The United States now has a level of income inequality unprecedented in our history and so dramatic it’s almost impossible to wrap one’s mind around.
Contrary to what the president said at Rutgers, this is not the way the world works; it’s the way the world is made to work by those with the money and power. The movers and shakers—the big winners—keep repeating the mantra that this inequality was inevitable, the result of the globalization of finance and advances in technology in an increasingly complex world. Those are part of the story, but only part. As G.K. Chesterton wrote a century ago, “In every serious doctrine of the destiny of men, there is some trace of the doctrine of the equality of men. But the capitalist really depends on some religion of inequality.”
…The winners bought off the gatekeepers, then gamed the system. And when the fix was in, they turned our economy into a feast for the predators, “saddling Americans with greater debt, tearing new holes in the safety net, and imposing broad financial risks on Americans as workers, investors, and taxpayers.” The end result, Hacker and Pierson conclude, is that the United States is looking more and more like the capitalist oligarchies of Brazil, Mexico, and Russia, where most of the wealth is concentrated at the top while the bottom grows larger and larger with everyone in between just barely getting by.
– Chris Lehmann reviews Brooke Harrington’s Capital Without Borders as a useful look at how “wealth management” serves to sever wealth from social responsibility. But Canadians for Tax Fairness point out some good news in the CRA’s response to the Panama Papers – including audits of 60 individuals and corporations caught in the offshoring scheme.
– Unfortunately, John Ivison suspects that the Libs are gearing up to push through the Trans-Pacific Partnership to further the trend toward corporate control.
– Phillip Inman reports on the latest study from Global Justice Now showing that corporations are pushing further up the list of the world’s largest economic entities, leaving an increasing number of countries behind. But there may be some opportunity to direct that news toward positive ends: if we’re going to need some outlet for Canadian national pride, surely staying ahead of Wal-Mart should be a reasonable minimum standard for global relevance.
– Finally, Kendall Worth offers some suggestions as to how to teach students about poverty in order to better understand the lives of people in their communities. Alana Semuels points out how the U.S. in particular has gone in the opposite direction by setting up institutional barriers to any serious economic study of inequality. And Peter Armstrong discusses how traditional economic policy is failing to produce the growth that would normally be expected – with a top-heavy distribution of wealth and power looming as the prime culprit. . . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: Tuesday Morning Links
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
Assorted content for your weekend reading.
– Erika Hayasaki surveys the developing body of research on how poverty and deprivation affect a child’s long-term brain development:
Early results show a troubling trend: Kids who grow up with higher levels of violence as a backdrop in their lives, based on MRI scans, have weaker real-time neural connections and interaction in parts of the brain involved in awareness, judgment, and ethical and emotional processing.
…Though it’s still largely based on correlations between brain patterns and particular environments, the research points to a disturbing conclusion: Poverty and the conditions that often accompany it—violence, excessive noise, chaos at home, pollution, malnutrition, abuse and parents without jobs—can affect the interactions, formation and pruning of connections in the young brain.
Two recent influential reports cracked open a public conversation on the matter. In one, researchers found that impoverished children had less gray matter—brain tissue that supports information processing and executive behavior—in their hippocampus (involved in memory), frontal lobe (involved in decision making, problem solving, impulse control, judgment, and social and emotional behavior) and temporal lobe (involved in language, visual and auditory processing and self-awareness). Working together, these brain areas are crucial for following instructions, paying attention and overall learning—some of the keys to academic success.
The second key study, published in Nature Neuroscience , also in 2015 , looked at 1,099 people between ages 3 and 20, and found that children with parents who had lower incomes had reduced brain surface areas in comparison to children from families bringing home $150,000 or more a year.
“We have [long] known about the social class differences in health and learning outcomes,” says Dr. Jack Shonkoff, director of the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University. But neuroscience has now linked the environment, behavior and brain activity—and that could lead to a stunning overhaul of both educational and social policies, like rethinking Head Start–style programs that have traditionally emphasized early literacy. New approaches, he says, could focus on social and emotional development as well, since science now tells us that relationships and interactions with the environment sculpt the areas of the brain that control behavior (like the ability to concentrate), which also can affect academic achievement (like learning to read).
– Adria Vasil discusses the worldwide trend of water being made available first (and for inexplicably low prices) to for-profit bottlers over citizens who need it. And Martin Regg Cohn examines how the story is playing out in Ontario in particular.
– Mike De Souza reports on how the National Energy Board, rather than acting as a neutral regulator, misled Denis Coderre to try to take free PR for both the NEB itself and fossil fuel development in general. And Carrie Tait points out how the Husky oil spill is raising questions about Saskatchewan’s fully captured regulatory system.
– Ian MacLeod reports on a sudden and unexplained increase in CSE interception of private communications.
– Finally, Andray Domise discusses what Colten Boushie’s shooting and its aftermath say about the blight of racism in Canada. . . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: Saturday Afternoon Links
Assorted content for your weekend reading.- Erika Hayasaki surveys the developing body of research on how poverty and deprivation affect a child’s long-term brain development:Early results show a troubling trend: Kids who grow up with higher levels of… . . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: Saturday Afternoon Links
This and that for your Tuesday reading.- Owen Jones discusses the importance of the labour movement in ensuring that workers can get ahead in life, rather than drowning in debt:Nights spent staring at the ceiling as worries dance manically around the … . . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: Tuesday Morning Links
Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.- Ann McFeatters reminds us of the good a government can do when it dedicates itself to identifying and responding to urgent public needs. And Bill McKibben makes the case for an all-out mobilization aga… . . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: Wednesday Morning Links
This and that for your Tuesday reading.- Nora Loreto slams the Wynne Libs’ “red tape” gimmick, while highlighting the need for people to claim a voice in rules largely intended to protect them as workers and consumers:One person’s red tape is another p… . . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: Tuesday Morning Links
Miscellaneous material to start your week.- Branko Milanovic points out how the commodification of our interactions may create an incentive for short-term exploitation:Commodification of what was hitherto a non-commercial resource makes each of us do m… . . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: Monday Morning Links
This and that for your Tuesday reading.- Yanis Varoufakis makes the case for an international progressive political system to ensure that social progress doesn’t stop at national borders:(T)raditional political parties are fading into irrelevance, supp… . . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: Tuesday Morning Links
Miscellaneous material to start your week.- David Blanchflower notes that there’s virtually no dispute that the UK is headed into an economic downturn – meaning that there’s also no excuse to hold off on fiscal relief for the public. And Brad DeLong po… . . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: Monday Morning Links