While it is beginning to look like International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland’s departure from CETA negotiations was more of a ploy than the end of talks, the hiatus at least gives Canadians the opportunity to once more reflect on its dangers, the same dangers that afflict other so-called free trade deals.
The fact is, . . . → Read More: Politics and its Discontents: Free Trade Is Never Free
Miscellaneous material to start your week.
– Larry Elliott writes that the public is rightly frustrated with an economic model designed to shift money to those who already have the most – and that progressive parties in particular need to offer a meaningful alternative: The belief on the left was that 2008 sounded the death . . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: Monday Morning Links
Assorted content to end your week.
– Scott Sinclair, Hadrian Mertins-Kirkwood and Stuart Trew study the contents of the Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement. Sinclair and Trew also highlight why Canadian progressives should oppose the deal, while Howard Mann notes that the same criticisms, including a gross transfer of power to the corporate sector and the absence of any concern for developmental and environmental issues, apply to all of the new generation of corporate rights agreements. But the Council of Canadians notes that not only are the Trudeau Libs pushing ahead with every single trade agreement currently on the table, they’re also trying to lay the groundwork for a similar deal with China – even if it comes with both a blind eye to human rights violations, and an obligation to approve a tar sands pipeline.
– Bill McKibben examines how new climate data shows that we need a nearly immediate transition away from dirty energy in order to meet the Paris conference commitment to rein in global warming. And Seth Klein and Shannon Daub call out the new form of climate denialism – which pays lip service to the science of climate change, but attempts to detach it from any policy steps to improve matters.
– Kate Pickett and Richard Wilkinson argue that there’s no reason to keep hewing to neoliberal orthodoxy when decades of evidence show how it exacerbates inequality and harms health:
Even before the 2008 global financial crisis, neoliberalism was causing what the University of Durham’s Ted Schrecker and Clare Bambra have called “neoliberal epidemics.” As Schrecker and Bambra and many others have shown, income inequality has profoundly damaging and far-reaching effects on everything from trust and social cohesion to rates of violent crime and imprisonment, educational achievement, and social mobility. Inequality seems to worsen health outcomes, reduce life expectancy, boost rates of mental illness and obesity, and even increase the prevalence of HIV.
Deep income inequality means that society is organized as a wealth-based hierarchy. Such a system confers economic as well as political power to those at the top and contributes to a sense of powerlessness for the rest of the population. Ultimately, this causes problems not only for the poor, but for the affluent as well.
Careful analysis of statistical data debunked the idea that stressed executives are at a higher risk for heart attacks. Now, it has debunked the 1980s myth that “greed is good,” and has revealed the extensive damage inequality causes. It was one thing to believe these myths decades ago, but when experience and all the available evidence show them to be mistaken, it is time to make a change.
“Any man can make mistakes, but only an idiot persists in his error,” said the Roman philosopher Cicero. Now that we know how inequality harms the health of societies, individuals, and economies, reducing it should be our top priority. Anyone advocating policies that increase inequality and threaten the wellbeing of our societies is taking us for fools.
– And Ashley Quan points out
how a basic income could alleviate many of the harms caused by precarious financial situations.
– Finally, Thomas Walkom rightly notes that a federal crackdown on extra-billing under the Canada Health Act is long overdue. . . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: Friday Morning Links
Here, examining how Chris Hamby’s brilliant reports on the effect of investor-state dispute settlement terms in past trade agreements should inform our choices in discussing new ones. For further reading…- Haley Edwards offers another worthwhile look… . . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: New column day
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 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
A very brief video, but a very important message about the dangers of the Investor-State Dispute Settlement mechanism that is a central part of the Trans Pacific Partnership, and something enthusiastically embraced, it would seem, by our ‘new’ governme… . . . → Read More: Politics and its Discontents: Joseph Stiglitz On The TPP
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
Miscellaneous material to start your week.- Jim Hightower argues that there’s no reason the U.S. can’t develop an economic model which leads to shared prosperity – and the ideas are no less relevant in Canada:Take On Wall Street is both the name and th… . . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: Monday Morning Links
Miscellaneous material to start your week.
– Jim Hightower argues that there’s no reason the U.S. can’t develop an economic model which leads to shared prosperity – and the ideas are no less relevant in Canada:
Take On Wall Street is both the name and the feisty attitude of a nationwide campaign that a coalition of grassroots groups has launched to do just that: take on Wall Street. The coalition, spearheaded by the Communication Workers of America, points out there is nothing natural or sacred about today’s money-grabbing financial complex. Far from sacrosanct, the system of finance that now rules over us has been designed by and for Wall Street speculators, money managers and big bank flimflammers. So, big surprise, rather than serving our common good, the system is corrupt, routinely serving their uncommon greed at everyone else’s expense.
The coalition’s structural reforms include:
1. Getting the corrupting cash of corporations and the superrich out of politics with an overturning of Citizens United v. FEC and providing a public system for financing America’s elections.
2. Stopping “too big to fail” banks from subsidizing their high-risk speculative gambling with the deposits of ordinary customers. Make them choose to be a consumer bank or a casino, but not both.
3. Institute a tiny “Robin Hood tax” on Wall Street speculators to discourage their computerized gaming of the system, while also generating hundreds of billions of tax dollars to invest in America’s real economy.
4. Restore low-cost, convenient “postal banking” in our post offices to serve millions of Americans who’re now at the mercy of predatory payday lenders and check-cashing chains.
– Juliette Garside reports on the EU’s efforts to get the U.S. to agree to basic reporting to rein in offshore tax evasion. And Heather Long points out Joseph Stiglitz’ criticisms of the Trans-Pacific Partnership as enriching corporations at the expense of citizens.
– Amy Maxmen notes that a non-profit system can develop new drugs far more affordably than the current corporate model – and without creating the expectation of windfall profits that currently underlies the pharmaceutical industry.
– Jordan Press offers a preview of a federal strategy for homeless veterans featuring rental subsidies and the building of targeted housing units – which leads only to the question of why the same plan wouldn’t be applied to address homelessness generally.
– Alan Shanoff comments on the many holes in Ontario’s employment standards (which are generally matched elsewhere as well).
– Finally, Dougald Lamont highlights the many ways in which the Fraser Institute’s anti-tax spin misleads the media about how citizens relate to Canadian governments.
[Edit: fixed wording.] . . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: Monday Morning Links
The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a trade agreement mostly negotiated in secret by quite a few governments bordering the pacific ocean. Canada has been a part of these negotiations and is committed to ratifying the treaty. Both US presidential candidates are now on the record against this treaty, while current US president Barack Obama has […] . . . → Read More: Mind Bending Politics: Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement Explained Perfectly
This and that for your Thursday reading.- Branko Milanovic argues that there’s plenty of reason to be concerned about inequality even if one puts aside a utilitarian comparison of individual needs and benefits:(I)nequality of opportunity affects negati… . . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: Thursday 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
Recently, U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren, a woman I much admire, released a five-minute video that takes aim at the Trans Pacific Partnership, specifically denouncing the Investor State Dispute Settlement provisions that give corporate entities the righ… . . . → Read More: Politics and its Discontents: Elizabeth Warren On The Trans Pacific Partnership
Assorted content for your weekend reading.- Lana Payne discusses how inequality and insecurity inevitably serve as the key explanation for the rise of right-wing populism. And Adam Johnson rightly challenges the theory being presented by some that the … . . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: Saturday Morning Links
Miscellaneous material to start your week.- Mark Karlin interviews Richard Wolff about the relationship between unfettered capitalism and poverty:How is poverty an inevitable by-product of capitalism? Doesn’t this make all these charitable drives “to … . . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: Monday Morning Links
“by keeping that purchase threshold at $20 instead of giving Canadian shoppers a break and raising it to $80, Ottawa spends about $166 million to collect $39 million in additional taxes and duties.” Here’s something the Industry Minister should fix this year. Especially in light of the Liberals’ support of the TPP, why are they […] . . . → Read More: Saskboy’s Abandoned Stuff: Bogus Brokerage Bull, and Other Online Obstructions
A new study says the expanded rights granted to foreign investors in the Trans-Pacific Partnership delivers unjustified benefits to foreign investors while posing major risks for ordinary populations of TPP countries. The post TPP undermines public he… . . . → Read More: The Canadian Progressive: TPP undermines public health systems, delivers unjustified benefits to foreign investors: study
Assorted content to end your week.- Ed Finn reminds us that “free trade” agreements have always served to increase the wealth and power of those who already have the most at the expense of social interests. And Scott Sinclair and Angella MacEwen each o… . . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: Friday Evening Links
This and that for your Thursday reading.- Rafael Gomez and Juan Gomez offer a look at the state of Canadian workplace democracy, as well as some useful proposals to improve it.- The New York Times editorial board points out how the U.S.’ temporary work… . . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: Thursday 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