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Political Eh-conomy: The lament for Canada’s middle class

I’ve been posting more sparsely lately for a number of external reasons but this should change soon I hope. For now, here is the first major piece I wrote for Ricochet. In some ways, it’s the obligatory piece on Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century, but really it’s my way of trying to think through the hand-wringing about Canada’s middle class. Below are the first couple of sections, read the rest here.

The US is in the throes of a debate about inequality: It’s the Waltons versus the Walmart workers on food stamps, the runaway rich in the 1 (Read more…)

Political Eh-conomy: Supermanagers and the social psychology of wealth

By now, Thomas Piketty’s U-shaped graphs of wealth and income concentration are well known. What has received less attention are the differences between the last, early-20th-century inequality peak and today. One important difference is that the composition of wealth and income has changed: more of the income of the wealthy today comes from (ostensibly, at least) work.

Figure 1. Income going to the top 10% in the US over time followed by distribution of income between labour and capital income in the US, 1929 and 2007. (Sources: New Yorker and Capital in the Twenty-First Century, Figs. 8. (Read more…)

. . . → Read More: Political Eh-conomy: Supermanagers and the social psychology of wealth

Things Are Good: IMF: Tax the Rich to Improve the Economy

The International Monetary Fund has just completed a study that compiled data across time and space to conclude that taxation isn’t harmful for economies. Indeed, taxing the rich is actually very beneficial for any national economy because it stops inequality – which is an awful thing for both people and economic progress.

Labelled as the first study to incorporate recently compiled figures comparing pre- and post-tax data from a large number of countries, the authors say there is convincing evidence that lower net inequality is good economics, boosting growth and leading to longer-lasting periods of expansion.

In the most controversial (Read more…)

Political Eh-conomy: We can’t all be workers: Putting inequality in the inequality debate

It’s easy to get confused about who is a worker and who isn’t these days. Your CEO may worker longer hours than you, not the top-hatted capitalist of the Monopoly board he. Indeed, it may seem that the leisure class of the turn of the last century has been replaced by the workaholic professional and managerial class of today. Yet, if everyone is a worker and no one is a capitalist, then how can we still be living under capitalism?

The short answer is we can’t…or, better yet, we are, which means that not everyone can be a worker, no (Read more…)

The Progressive Economics Forum: Canada’s Luxury Index is through the roof

Numbers season is over but good inequality data is still missing. January sees us regularly bombarded with a whole range of economic statistics about the previous year. GDP growth: likely 1.7%, low but looking brighter for next year. Unemployment: 7.2%, low but lots of workers leaving the job market altogether as the employment rate stagnates. Inflation: 1.2%, low but deflation risks under control. “Low, but” is the theme of the year for the average Canadian. For the super-wealthy, however, the story is quite different. Indeed, if Canada had an official Luxury Index or reliable data on inequality, (Read more…)

Bill Longstaff: Capitalism—an irrational system in an age of climate change

Capitalism is generally recognized as having one great strength. That, of course, is as a creator of wealth. Aided by the remarkable advance of technology (some would say inspired and facilitated by capitalism) it has created wealth unknown before in human history.

Capitalism is also generally recognized as having one great weakness. It is a lousy distributor of wealth. Indeed, that goes against

The Disaffected Lib: "When Wealth Disappears"

The chief economist of HSBC. Stephen D. King, says we’re in for a dose of reality – the best days are no longer ahead of us.   Growth-driven prosperity, as most of us have known it our entire lives, has run its course.

From the end of World War II to the brief interlude of prosperity after the cold war, politicians could console themselves with the thought that rapid economic growth would eventually rescue them from short-term fiscal transgressions. The miracle of rising living standards encouraged rich countries increasingly to live beyond their means, happy in the belief that healthy (Read more…)

bastard.logic: Down and Out in Harperconia

Sweet tit-humping Christ I’m tired.

Tired of the chronic lack of accountability in Ottawa. Of a parliamentary press corps that been for far too long too prissy and timid to rightly ferret and call out endless examples Conservative corruption with tenacious vigour (see also: libel chill).

Tired of national apathy and cynicism understandably bred by a seemingly never ending barrage of brazen disregard for the collective values that have defined Canada for the past 40 plus years on the part of the Harpercons.

Tired of our national transition from innovator to regressive resource-based economy. Tired of corporatist Lysenkoism, capitalist force-projection (Read more…)

bastard.logic: Down and Out in Harperconia

Sweet tit-humping Christ I’m tired.

Tired of the chronic lack of accountability in Ottawa. Of a parliamentary press corps that been for far too long too prissy and timid to rightly ferret and call out endless examples Conservative corruption with tenacious vigour (see also: libel chill).

Tired of national apathy and cynicism understandably bred by a seemingly never ending barrage of brazen disregard for the collective values that have defined Canada for the past 40 plus years on the part of the Harpercons.

Tired of our national transition from innovator to regressive resource-based economy. Tired of corporatist Lysenkoism, capitalist force-projection (Read more…)

Left Over: Subsidizing Reality in BC

B.C. premier’s office mobbed over child-care costs CBC News Posted: Mar 9, 2013 4:49 PM PT

Lots of people complain that those who cannot afford childcare should simply stay home, or conversely, have no children until they can afford them (the 12th of never for many.) Let’s be honest and creative here (and, full disclosure, I have no children) and take the money, with which we already subsidize the rich parent and pay into private schools, and transfer it to a subsidy for daycare, based on a sliding scale of ability to pay, just like our medical plan

. . . → Read More: Left Over: Subsidizing Reality in BC

Boreal Citizen: The bumpy road to Boomer responsibility

Is there a Baby Boomer so dim in this land of rackets and swindles who thinks that he or she will escape the wrath of the Millennials rising? The developing story is so obvious that only an academic economist could fail to notice. – James Howard Kunstler, Democratic Underground

This was not my intended topic today. But when Dr. John Izzo’s TED talk — a Baby Boomer rallying cry — was released recently on-line, and highlighted via 350 or Bust, it quickly became a priority. (Scroll down to watch below.)

The Boomer generation both fascinates and irritates me

. . . → Read More: Boreal Citizen: The bumpy road to Boomer responsibility

The Progressive Economics Forum: Wealth Inequality and Neo Liberalism

I have a commentary posted on the Broadbent Institute web site, arguing that inequality of wealth fundamentally undermines the argument that market rewards are “fair.”

http://www.broadbentinstitute.ca/en/blog/andrew-jackson-distribution-wealth-implications-neo-liberal-justification-economic-inequality

The Scott Ross: If A Fiscal Cliff Kills, Canada Should Tax Death

“In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” – Benjamin Franklin

The fiscal cliff in the United States did not just endanger its own country’s economy but the world’s, including Canada’s heavily dependent one. But in the American problem lies, at least partially, a Canadian solution: an estate tax.

The inability for Democrats and Republicans to prevent the fiscal cliff and the current uncertainty relating to the world’s largest economy is threatening the fledgling global recovery.

Canada, a country whose economy is always extremely vulnerable to external crises, is now only more so.

. . . → Read More: The Scott Ross: If A Fiscal Cliff Kills, Canada Should Tax Death

350 or bust: Take Time To Renew Your Spirit

The Progressive Economics Forum: Poverty in Yukon

No, you can’t achieve anything you set your mind to

We all remember when we were kids or even adolescents how our parents used to tell us that we can accomplish anything we set our minds to, that we can conquer any obstacle society puts in front of us, that our achievements would only be limited by the amount of enthusiasm and perseverance we can muster. What[continue reading...]

bastard.logic: Breaking it Down: Industrial Capitalism vs. Financial Capitalism (or, Why We’re F*cked)

Michael Hudson asks: “In light of the enormous productivity gains since the end of World War II – and especially since 1980 – why isn’t everyone rich and enjoying the leisure economy that was promised?”

The answer (per Hudson) is painfully obvious, but bears repeating (ad infinitum):

What was applauded as a post-industrial economy has turned into a financialized economy. The reason you have to work so much harder than before, even when wages rise, is to carry your debt overhead. You’re unable to buy the goods you produce because you need to pay your bankers.

. . . → Read More: bastard.logic: Breaking it Down: Industrial Capitalism vs. Financial Capitalism (or, Why We’re F*cked)

bastard.logic: Etch-A-Mitt Shakes Things Up Again: Welfare Moms Better Off With “The Dignity of Work”

Via Ryan Grim (ICYMI):

Apparently Ann Romney forgot to mention to Willard that moms who don’t work outside the home do THE MOST IMPORTANT JOB IN THE WORLD!!!1 and already have ample dignity, thankyouverymuchyousupersexistsoand…

oh, wait — Mittens meant those moms — y’know, the ones who can’t afford dignity.

Sorry. They gotsta earn their Caddies (if not teh car elevators).

Related: Pay no attention to the ongoing war on women voting.

. . . → Read More: bastard.logic: Etch-A-Mitt Shakes Things Up Again: Welfare Moms Better Off With “The Dignity of Work”

Chris Tindal: Jonathan Kay and Toronto Life: What’s the point?

I have no idea what point Jonathan Kay and the editors of Toronto Life were trying to make with their “almost rich” feature.

The package takes a look at what it’s like to live as a member of the one per cent—meaning an income of around $196,000—and combines a short essay by Kay with profiles of five such households. Kay’s essay especially has drawn heated criticism online, the most notable example being a masterful Gawker rant. The author of that post, Hamilton Nolan, seems to believe Kay’s main intent was to argue that those who make $196,000 a year aren’t really (Read more…)

The Progressive Economics Forum: The financial wealth of Canada’s top 1%

Eric Pineault wrote to add some data on financial wealth distribution for Canada. He had a research assistant comb through microdata from Statcan’s Survey of Financial Security from 2005, and notes: “the 1% richest (all households are classed according to net worth rather then income) hold 22% of mutual fund assets, 27% of stocks and bonds, [...] . . . → Read More: The Progressive Economics Forum: The financial wealth of Canada’s top 1%

The Progressive Economics Forum: Wealth and Income in the Top 1%

One thing I really like about the Occupy movement is that it reclaiming mental space. I’m thinking of the overt focus on the riches gained by the top 1%, and of naming and shaming capitalism. Two are one and the same, of course. It is in the top 1% that we find the capitalists – [...] . . . → Read More: The Progressive Economics Forum: Wealth and Income in the Top 1%

The Progressive Economics Forum: Canada’s Billionaires

Just in time for the “Occupy Bay Street” protest this weekend, Canadian Business magazine has come out with its annual listing of the richest 100 people in Canada. So in honour of the protestors and their noble cause (demanding more attention to the 99%, instead of the 1%), let’s peruse together the sordid details of [...] . . . → Read More: The Progressive Economics Forum: Canada’s Billionaires

The Progressive Economics Forum: The Ontario NDP Platform

Pollsters tell us that Ontario’s New Democrats may double their seat total in next month’s provincial election. It’s also entirely conceivable that they could be part of a coalition government at Queen’s Park. But what’s actually in the party’s election platform? One central feature of the NDP’s proposals is to implement a tax credit for companies that hire new workers. The tax [...] . . . → Read More: The Progressive Economics Forum: The Ontario NDP Platform

Things Are Good: Get Cultured for a Happier Life

People who play an instrument, go to museums, or are otherwise involved in culture are happier than those who don’t according to a new study. This is great news for people who want to feel happier or generally improve your life because all you have to do is essentially go and be entertained! Researchers led by [...] . . . → Read More: Things Are Good: Get Cultured for a Happier Life

World Headlines Review: Basra and Iraq: Oil and Expectations

A strange portrait of the Southern-Iraqi city of Basra is painted in a recent and brief Economist article.  Better than Baghdad struggles to find real evidence of improvement of quality of life or opportunity in Basra, which is Iraq’s international oil and shipping hub and home to a large disenfranchised Shia population.

Basrawi Street by 17th Fires Brigade

The Economist compares the situation in Basra of three years ago, “when anti-Western Shia militia controlled the streets,” with the “more business friendly” Basra of today.  With the view confined to this time frame, that the city continues to exist (Read more…)