Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.
– Peter Fleming writes that the promise of entrepreneurial self-employment has given way to the nightmare of systematic precarious work: (T)he move to reclassify people as self-employed follows a very simple formula: it helps reduce labour costs and maximise profits for businesses that would rather use contractors than a . . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: Wednesday Morning Links
Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.
– Alex Himelfarb discusses why a proportional electoral system can be expected to produce better and more representative public policy: The adversarial approach often means major policy lurches when the government changes. For example, the Harper government undid some important initiatives of the previous government, including the Kelowna Accord, . . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: Wednesday Morning Links
Assorted content to start your week.
– Bruce Johnstone notes that rather than further attacking public services which have already been under siege throughout his stay in office, Brad Wall and his government should be looking to question Saskatchewan’s inexplicable giveaways to businesses: Well, if Doherty is looking for some “low-hanging fruit” to make our . . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: Monday Morning Links
Assorted content for your weekend reading.
– In The Public Interest studies how the privatization of services leads to increased inequality: In the Public Interest’s analysis of recent government contracting identifies five ways in which government privatization disproportionately hurts poor individuals and families… Creation of new user fees: The creation of new user fees to . . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: Saturday Morning Links
Assorted content to end your week.
– Henning Meyer interviews Tony Atkinson about the readily-available options to combat inequality – with the first step being to make sure people actually have a voice in the decisions which define how wealth and power are allocated:
So, if you dive into the potential solutions you seem to suggest institutional changes. You mentioned that public policy should aim at a proper balance of power amongst stakeholders; what exactly do you mean by this?
Well I think I should say first of all that my aim in writing the book was to try and dispel the sort of sense of inevitability about high inequality and therefore I was putting forward various ways of seeking to understand why it comes about and therefore how we can moderate it. And I think one of the things that has certainly happened is that institutions, like for example corporate institutions, companies, which used to have a broader view of their responsibilities, that they recognised that they had a responsibility in addition to that to their shareholders – also to their workers and to their consumers and their customers.
And I think it’s this broader notion of the social obligations of institutions and of course of individuals as well that we have responsibilities beyond both our own personal economic gains and losses. So I think that it’s part of a reaction that I have had to what seems to be a narrowing to a very much individual based self-interest which has come to emerge in the last two or three decades.
Okay, and then new ideas like Michael Porter’s shared value capitalism, they try to sort of, not revive the old dichotomy between shareholder and stakeholder models but try to align public and private interest in addressing some of the most pressing social and economic needs. Could that be one way of addressing these considerations?
Yes, I think in a sense part of the issues arise because we had in the post-war period some kind of balance of power between on the one side employers and the other side often trade unions or workers’ representatives. And that of course has shifted in quite a number of countries as a result of a number of things including, for example, the effect of privatisation resulting in reducing the power of trade unions to influence the behaviour of those institutions. So, I think we’ve seen a shift of power definitely away from workers towards capital, those who run firms.
So I think a number of proposals were designed to try and at least make sure that those interests of workers and indeed consumers should be represented. And a good example is provided by the negotiations with regard to trade agreements which seem to involve only one side as it were of that equation.
– And Van Jones writes that the Trans-Pacific Partnership and other trade deals are set up to block action against climate change.
– CUPE points out the leakage of massive amounts of revenue to tax havens and avoidance as a crucial factor in austerity politics. And Craig Wong reports on the latest increase in Canadian consumer debt as people borrow to try to make up for the lack of advancement in wages.
– Susan Ochs discusses Wells Fargo’s widespread fraud as yet another example of workers and consumers being punished for the misdeeds of high-ranking executives.
– Alia Dharssi continues her reporting on migrant workers in Canada by highlighting how recruitment agencies exploit workers who can’t stand up for themselves. And Chris Buckley argues that labour and employment laws in general need to be updated, particularly to protect people stuck with precarious work.
– Finally, APTN reports on the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal’s latest order requiring the federal government to stop discriminating against First Nations children – though the fact that two previous orders haven’t led to the government complying signals that the Libs’ in following through may be rather less than advertised. . . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: Friday 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
Assorted content for your weekend reading.
– Brendan Duke examines the connection between wage growth and worker productivity, and makes the case that the former may lead to the latter:
The 1929–1950 increase in wages was at first a result of several policies that directly raised workers’ wages, including the first federal minimum wage, the first federal overtime law, and the National Labor Relations Act, which made it easier for workers to join a union and bargain with their employers. The entry of the United States into World War II further drove investment higher, as the economy converted into what Gordon describes as a “maximum production regime.”
It is striking that during this period of rapid productivity growth, wages for production workers grew even faster than productivity growth did. The current debate about whether a typical worker’s compensation has kept track with the economy’s productivity typically envisions productivity growth as the precondition for wage growth. But Gordon’s research implies that the relationship can go both ways: Not only can productivity growth raise wages, but higher real wages also can boost productivity growth—the main reason for slow gross domestic product growth—by giving firms a reason to purchase capital.
Can higher wages raise productivity growth in 2017? Basic economic theory and common sense suggests that an increase in the price of labor—wages—achieved through higher labor standards will cause firms to invest in more capital, raising the economy’s productivity.
– Guy Caron points out that international tax agreements which should serve to facilitate enforcement are instead allowing the greedy rich to evade meaningful taxes everywhere, while the Star argues that no corporation should be able to avoid social responsibilities through sweetheart tax deals. And James Wright warns of an impending deal on services which may tie the hands of governments seeking to work in the public interest more directly than any existing trade agreement.
– James Walsh reports on the devastating effects of the UK Conservatives’ efforts to push people out of social housing – which will of course sound far too familiar for many in Saskatchewan.
– Finally, Michelle Chen comments on the gigantic ecological deficit being imposed on future generations through unchecked climate change, while David Roberts discusses the environmental devastation (and cleanup costs) which figure to be borne by the public as the coal industry ceases to be viable. And Brent Patterson highlights a noteworthy study on the lasting effects of the Husky oil spill in the North Saskatchewan River. . . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: Saturday Afternoon Links
This and that for your Tuesday reading.- Dennis Howlett discusses the public costs of allowing tax avoidance – as Canada could afford a national pharmacare program (and much more) merely by ensuring that the rich pay what they owe:Eliminating tax haven… . . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: Tuesday Morning Links
This and that for your Tuesday reading.
– Dennis Howlett discusses the public costs of allowing tax avoidance – as Canada could afford a national pharmacare program (and much more) merely by ensuring that the rich pay what they owe:
Eliminating tax haven use could save Canada almost $8 billion a year. That’s enough to cover universal public prescription coverage almost eight times over.
Time after time, budget after budget, poll after poll, those in charge make it sound as if we’re too poor as a country to afford the programs that would really improve Canadians’ lives. The fact that revenues are lost to poor policy on tax havens and loopholes is often conveniently ignored.
At this stage of the game, the federal finance minister doesn’t need to raise taxes to pay for pharmacare. Bill Morneau just has to make sure that Canadian multinationals and wealthy individuals pay the tax rate we already have. That isn’t happening right now.
It’s simple. Canadians can continue to support a tax system that lets the richest avoid paying $8 billion in taxes annually — or we can tell them that the party’s over. Instead of ignoring what is happening in the Cayman Islands, Panama and other tax havens, we can urge our politicians to invest the taxes owing on those billions into services that benefit individuals, families, communities and the country as a whole.
There is solid data supporting raising taxes in some areas. But that’s an argument for another day. The issue at hand right now is that we do have enough money for pharmacare — likely enough for public dental care as well. Through a series of misguided and outdated decisions driven by the tax dodge lobby, we are needlessly and destructively giving up that revenue.
It’s time to fix those old mistakes and use the tax system to help this country live up to its potential.
– Meanwhile, Owen Jones discusses a European Commission ruling finding that Apple can’t validly avoid paying tax through a special arrangement with Ireland. And the Star rightly slams the Fraser Institute for presenting a misleading picture of where public revenue comes from and what it can accomplish.
– The CP reports on the Libs’ plans to facilitate the use of temporary foreign workers for liquid natural gas projects in British Columbia – meaning that the last supposed benefit for the province of engaging in a dangerous industry seems to be as illusory as all the others. And Jeremy Nuttall notes that Justin Trudeau seems set to open the door even wider to entrench the use of exploitable foreign labour by multinational corporations.
– Finally, Catherine Cullen reports on the effects of privatized health care insurance which are being presented in an effort to defend Canada’s medicare system from would-be profiteers:
John Frank, a Canadian physician who is now chairman of public health research and policy at the University of Edinburgh, argues in his report that more private health care “would be expected to adversely affect Canadian society as a whole.”
He cites research that suggests public resources, including highly trained nurses and doctors, would be siphoned off by the private system.
More Canadians would face financial hardship or even — in extreme cases — “medical bankruptcy” from paying for private care, he writes.
Frank even suggests there could be deadly consequences. He says complications from privately funded surgeries often need to be dealt with in the public system because private facilities are generally less equipped to handle complex cases.
“If such complications, arising from privately funded care, are not promptly referred to an appropriately equipped and staffed care facility, the patient is likely to experience death or long-term disability, potentially leading to reduced earnings and financial hardship.”
Overall, “in my expert opinion,” Frank writes, the change would reduce fairness and efficiency and “society as a whole would be worse off.”
. . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: Tuesday Morning Links
This and that for your Sunday reading.- Chris Hamby starts off what looks to be a must-read investigation on the effect of ISDS rules by discussing how they’re used to prevent governments from punishing corporate wrongdoing:(A)n 18-month BuzzFeed News … . . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: Sunday Morning Links
This and that for your Sunday reading.
– Chris Hamby starts off what looks to be a must-read investigation on the effect of ISDS rules by discussing how they’re used to prevent governments from punishing corporate wrongdoing:
(A)n 18-month BuzzFeed News investigation, spanning three continents and involving more than 200 interviews and tens of thousands of documents, many of them previously confidential, has exposed an obscure but immensely consequential feature of these trade treaties, the secret operations of these tribunals, and the ways that business has co-opted them to bring sovereign nations to heel.
Reviewing publicly available information for about 300 claims filed during the past five years, BuzzFeed News found more than 35 cases in which the company or executive seeking protection in ISDS was accused of criminal activity, including money laundering, embezzlement, stock manipulation, bribery, war profiteering, and fraud.
Among them: a bank in Cyprus that the US government accused of financing terrorism and organized crime, an oil company executive accused of embezzling millions from the impoverished African nation of Burundi, and the Russian oligarch known as “the Kremlin’s banker.”
Some are at the center of notorious scandals, from the billionaire accused of orchestrating a massive Ponzi scheme in Mauritius to multiple telecommunications tycoons charged in the ever-widening “2G scam” in India, which made it into Time magazine’s top 10 abuses of power, alongside Watergate. The companies or executives involved in these cases either denied wrongdoing or did not respond to requests for comment.
Most of the 35-plus cases are still ongoing. But in at least eight of the cases, bringing an ISDS claim got results for the accused wrongdoers, including a multimillion-dollar award, a dropped criminal investigation, and dropped criminal charges. In another, the tribunal has directed the government to halt a criminal case while the arbitration is pending.
– And Dharna Noor interviews James Henry about the need for international cooperation – at both the government and public level – to crack down on tax evasion.
– Tyler Hamilton discusses the health effects of climate change. And Joseph Erbentraut examines how a changing climate is affecting both the quantity and quality of the water we depend on.
– Kev responds to the spread of #goodriddanceharper by pointing out that as satisfying as it was to turf the Cons from office, we’re still facing most of the same anti-social policies with a more media-savvy face. And Doug Nesbitt reminds us that the Trudeau Libs are no friends of labour – with Canada Post’s appalling attacks on vulnerable workers serving as just the latest example.
– Finally, the Canadian Press reports on a much-needed push for resources to address mental health in Canada. . . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: Sunday Morning Links
This and that for your Sunday reading.- Paolo Giuliano and Antonio Spilimbergo study (PDF) how the economic conditions an individual’s youth influence enduring values – and find that the experience of an economic shock tends to lead to a greater apprec… . . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: Sunday Morning Links
This and that for your Thursday reading.- Andrew Jackson makes the case for a review of Canada’s tax system focused on boosting revenue from the wealthy people and corporations who can readily afford it:These tax loopholes are costly. Partial inclusion… . . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: Thursday Morning Links
Miscellaneous material to start your week.- Joseph Stiglitz writes about the political consequences of economic policies which have siphoned wealth to the lucky few, and writes that it’s long past time to start challenging the corporate power which has… . . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: Monday Morning Links
This and that for your Sunday reading.- Lisa Phillips writes about the desperate need for Canadian courts to ensure a fair tax system, rather than allowing technicalities and loopholes to win out over the principle that everybody should pay a fair shar… . . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: Sunday Morning Links
Assorted content to end your week.- Jim Tankersley interviews Joshua Bivens about the relative effects of economic growth and income inequality – and particularly his evidence showing that more people are far better off with more modest growth fairly d… . . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: Friday Morning Links
This and that for your Thursday reading.- Andrew Coyne argues that the Senate’s role in overruling elected representatives – which only seems to be growing under the Trudeau Libs – represents an affront to democracy. And Duncan Cameron has some suggest… . . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: Thursday Morning Links
Assorted content for your weekend reading.- Eric Reguly highlights the growing possibility of a global revolt against corporate-centred trade agreements:(A) funny thing happened on the way to the free trade free-for-all: A lot of people were becoming … . . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: Saturday Morning Links
Assorted content for your weekend reading.- James Wilt discusses a much-needed effort to map out the connections between fossil fuel corporations. And Bruce Campbell highlights how the resource sector is among the most prominent examples of regulatory … . . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: Saturday Morning Links
This and that for your Tuesday reading.- The Star makes the case for a new crackdown on Canadian tax cheats to not only merely recover money withheld, but also to name and shame the people who have thus far refused to pay their fair share:(I)f the Trud… . . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: Tuesday Morning Links
This and that for your Sunday reading.- Jason Hinkel writes that for as much attention as global inequality has received in recent years, it may be significantly more of a problem than we’ve previously assumed – and getting worse as time goes by:It doe… . . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: Sunday Morning Links
Miscellaneous material to start your week.- CBC and the Star have both started reporting on the Panama Papers – offering a glimpse of the tip of the iceberg of international tax avoidance. And the Star also recognizes why we shouldn’t let grey-area tax… . . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: Monday Morning Links