Prog Blog’s Flickr Photostream

Accidental Deliberations: Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Sherri Torjman comments on the importance of social policy among our political choices, while lamenting its absence from the first leaders’ debate: (M)arket economies go through cycles, with periods of stability followed by periods of slump and uncertainty. Canada has weathered these economic cycles, and even major recessions, largely because of our social-policy initiatives. Income-security programs, in particular, are vital economic measures. The problem is that most of these have withered and shrunk in recent years and are in need of major repair.

Why is social policy so important to the economy? (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Ian Welsh rightly points out how our lives are shaped by social facts far beyond individual’s control: If you are homeless in America, know that there are five times as many empty homes as there are homeless people.

If you are homeless in Europe, know that there are two times as many empty homes are there are homeless.

If you are hungry anywhere in the world, know that the world produces more than enough food to feed everyone, and that the amount of food we discard as trash is, alone, more than enough (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Greg Keenan exposes how corporations are demanding perpetually more from municipalities while refusing to contribute their fair share of taxes to fund the services needed by any community. And Sean McElwee points out how big-money donations are translating into a warped U.S. political system: Available data reveals that donors not only have disproportionate influence over politics, but that influence is wielded largely to keep issues that would benefit the working and middle classes off of the table.

Do donors really rule the world? Recent research suggests that indeed they do. Three (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your Monday reading.

- Anna Leventhal warns against the danger that even the best-intentioned of charity drives might be seen as replacing the need for social supports: Now campaigns are ubiquitous, and range from book tours to pet surgeries to basic subsistence for marginalized people in crisis. But with crowdfunding increasingly called on to plug the holes left by funding cuts (consider that in 2014 Canadians pledged over $27 million to Kickstarter alone, and that from 2013 to 2014 the amount crowdfunded globally jumped from US$6.1 billion to US$16.2 billion), the stakes are getting higher (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Scott Santens argues that a basic income represents the best way to ensure that the gains from technological advancement are shared by everybody. And Thom Hartmann makes the case for a guaranteed income based on its simplicity and cost-effectiveness, while Mark Sarner sees it mostly as a mechanism to reduce poverty.

- Meanwhile, Lane Windham highlights the need for social benefits to be pursued through public policy rather than through employment relationships alone. And Sean McElwee writes that increased voter turnout in the U.S. figures to bring out far more progressive (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- The Broadbent Institute details Rhys Kesselman’s research on how the Cons’ expanded TFSAs are nothing but a giveaway to the wealthy. And Dean Beeby reports on their withholding of EI supplements from the families who most need them – paired with a complete lack of responsibility or contrition now that the problem has been discovered.

- Matt Saccaro discusses the widespread burnout among U.S. workers as huge increases in hours worked and productivity have done nothing to improve wages or living conditions over a period of decades. And Bill Tieleman slams (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- David Cay Johnston looks into new research showing just how much distance the U.S.’ highest-income .001% has put between itself and the rest of the country’s citizens: (F)or the first time ever, the IRS offers a close look at the top .001 percent of taxpayers. It shows that incomes in this rarefied air — the top 1,361 households — are soaring while their tax burdens are falling.

The differences in income-growth rates from 2003 to 2012 between the top .001 percent and the rest of the top 1 percent are akin (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your Saturday reading.

- Joseph Heath looks at the spread of the McMansion as an ugly example of competitive consumption which benefits nobody. And Victoria Bateman discusses the need to question the assumptions underlying laissez-faire policymaking: Science and technology are central to rising prosperity, but, as cases such as the internet and GPS technology demonstrate, progress is just as much a result of state funding and risk taking as it is of private sector endeavour. Since the Enlightenment, innovation has been a collective endeavour – and long may it continue. However, this comes with two warnings. Firstly, (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Maude Barlow and Sujata Dey point out that the job promises linked to CETA and other new trade agreements are no more plausible than the false ones made in previous rounds of corporate rights giveaways. And the Canadian Labour Congress discusses the secrecy surrounding the new set of deals including the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

- Meanwhile, the International Labour Organization documents the connection between collective bargaining rights and greater equality. And lest anybody think there’s a tradeoff to be made between equality based on labour rights and growth based on corporate control, the (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Andrew Jackson weighs in on the need for our public policy to ensure a fair initial distribution of income and power in order to ensure that further redistribution is sustainable: The issue of how to deal with rising inequality and the squeezed middle-class has recently moved to the centre of political debate, with the various parties proposing significant policy changes. International experience suggests that a more equal Canada will require major changes to a wide range of policy levers and not just to the tax and transfer system.

Work by the OECD and (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Joseph Stiglitz laments the corporate takeover of policy-making processes, including by imposing trade rules which impede democratic decision-making: The real intent of [investor protection] provisions is to impede health, environmental, safety, and, yes, even financial regulations meant to protect America’s own economy and citizens. Companies can sue governments for full compensation for any reduction in their future expected profits resulting from regulatory changes.  This is not just a theoretical possibility. Philip Morris is suing Uruguay and Australia for requiring warning labels on cigarettes. Admittedly, both countries went a little further than (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Eric Morath points out that a job (or even multiple jobs) can’t be taken as an assurance that a person can avoid relying on income supports and other social programs. PressProgress offers some important takeaways from the Canadian Labour Congress’ study of the low-wage workers. Angella MacEwen writes about the spread of the $15 minimum wage movement in Canada.

- Meanwhile, Carol Goar writes that while we should be looking to improve our social safety net, we need to do so while taking into account the real experience of the people relying upon (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Noah Smith writes that the renewable energy revolution is further along than was projected just a few years ago: Each of these trends — cheaper batteries and cheaper solar electricity — is good on its own, and on the margin will help to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, with all the geopolitical drawbacks and climate harm they entail. But together, the two cost trends will add up to nothing less than a revolution in the way humankind interacts with the planet and powers civilization.

You see, the two trends reinforce each other. (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your Saturday reading.

- Lana Payne writes that we’re seeing exactly the results we should expect from Stephen Harper’s foolish choice to push money upward: A recent Globe and Mail story, using data from Statistics Canada, pointed out just how poorly the job market is doing under Stephen Harper’s leadership.

“Employment growth has been below 1 per cent for 15 months in a row.  The longest stretch … outside of recessions in almost 40 years of record-keeping,” according to the article by economics reporter Tavia Grant.

At the same time, corporate Canada is flush with cash, (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Jim Pugh argues that we should take a serious look at a basic income, while Livia Gershon examines how even a small amount of guaranteed income has made an immense difference in the lives of families in one North Carolina town. And Walter Frick observes that strong social supports are exactly what people need to be able to take entrepreneurial risks: In a 2014 paper, Olds examined the link between entrepreneurship and food stamps, and found that the expansion of the program in some states in the early 2000s increased the chance (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Following up on last week’s column, Frances Ryan laments the UK Conservatives’ choice to inflict needless suffering on anybody receiving public benefits: During seven weeks of undercover work at a universal credit contact centre in Bolton, Channel 4 journalists witnessed a farcical mess of centralised IT failure. But what really stood out were the underhand tactics DWP staff were found to use against claimants: from deliberately withholding hardship payments from people struggling after having their benefits sanctioned, to hiding the flexible fund put in place to pay for clothes or a (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: New column day

Here, on the many problems with building social benefits and employment policies alike on a foundation of distrust.

For further reading…- Rick Mercer rants about the obstacles the Cons are throwing in the way of veterans. And the CP follows up on the Cons’ response to Paul Franklin’s case here.- CBC reports here on the Cons’ plans to slash existing sick leave for the federal civil service.  Kathryn May points out the complete lack of any justification for that course of action, and has since noted that the plan is further being extended to out-of-scope positions. (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Elias Isquith interviews Mark Blyth about his book on the disastrous consequences of austerity, while Paul Krugman writes that austerity is particularly sure to cause economic destruction when combined with a push toward consumer deleveraging. And Bruce Campbell looks to Syriza as an example of how people have real political choices – even when parties try to tell them otherwise out of either corporate ideology or fear.

- CBC reports on Generation Squeeze’s study showing the need for greater social spending to support young Canadians.

- But Angella MacEwen is rightly concerned (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Elizabeth Renzetti makes clear that we can’t count on one-time crowdsourcing to perform the same function as a social safety net: This is the problem with the wildly popular new online world of what you might call misery fundraising: It semi-solves one small problem while leaving the system in ruins. Crowdfunding someone’s personal tragedy is the equivalent of fixing a broken arm, but closing the hospital.

It used to be that crowdfunding sites like Indiegogo and Kickstarter were wonderful places to raise money for cultural projects – movies, plays, even the occasional potato-salad (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Sunday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your Sunday reading.

- Nicholas Kristof writes about the empathy gap which causes far too many wealthier citizens to devalue those who don’t have as much. Jesse Singal observes that the primary effect of wealth on well-being is to reduce downside rather than improve happiness – signalling that we might be best served pursuing policies aimed at improving financial security across the income scale. And Lucy Mangan discusses what’s missing from the people who refuse to understand the effect of poverty – particularly when they’re best positioned to do something to alleviate it: Politicians, for example, are (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Stephen Burgen reports on Thomas Piketty’s view that it’s long past time for voters to have anti-austerity options where none existed in the past. And along similar lines, Murray Dobbin sets out the stark choice facing Canadians: Canadians will have to continue to watch their Scandinavian neighbours use the wheel and prosper while we remain captives to the free market priesthood. Norway is the logical choice of neighbour to compare ourselves to, if you can stomach it. In Canada we have virtually given away our energy heritage through criminally low royalty rates over a (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

 - Emma Woolley discusses how homelessness developed into a social problem in Canada in large part through public neglect. Judy Haiven is the latest to emphasize that charity is no substitute for a functional society when it comes to meeting people’s basic needs. And Ed Lehman is rightly concerned that Brad Wall and company are still determined to avoid acknowledging the fact that there are plenty of Saskatchewan residents trying to make do with nowhere near enough.

- Emily Badger reminds us how inequality early in life can shape – and block – opportunities (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Jordon Cooper rightly argues that we should move away from forcing people to rely on homeless shelters and other stopgap measures when we can afford to provide permanent homes: We fill a bus for the hungry while ignoring that the reason for it is that social service programs depend in part on our generosity to feed people. We bring care packages to shelters and forget that cities elsewhere in Canada have drastically reduced the number of people in shelters and the time they spend there, and that it’s cheaper than keeping people (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Saturday Morning Links

This and that for your weekend reading.

- Reviewing Darrell West’s Billionaires, Michael Lewis discusses how extreme wealth doesn’t make anybody better off – including the people fighting for position at the top of the wealth spectrum: A team of researchers at the New York State Psychiatric Institute surveyed 43,000 Americans and found that, by some wide margin, the rich were more likely to shoplift than the poor. Another study, by a coalition of nonprofits called the Independent Sector, revealed that people with incomes below twenty-five grand give away, on average, 4.2 percent of their income, while those (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Monica Pohlmann interviews Armine Yalnizyan about the undue influence of our corporate overlords in setting public policy: What’s your sense of the state of our democracy?

We have a troubled relationship with our democratic institutions. We need to get over the idea that government is something and someone else. The government is us. The idea that governments are largely useless, that they’re more likely to make a mess than fix things, is exactly what corporations would like us to think. It gives them more freedom to use the enormous power of the (Read more…)