Sunday, April 22, 2018

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Denise Balkissoon writes about the importance of ensuring a just transition for fossil fuel workers - rather than using their jobs as bargaining chips to preserve oil industry profits. And Andrea Olive, Emily Eaton and Randy Besco point out that there's plenty of public support for carbon pricing and other elements of a strong climate change policy in Saskatchewan.

- Meanwhile, Nick Falvo offers a list of takeaways from the Moe government's first provincial budget - including multiple choices which will make life even more precarious for people facing poverty and precarity:
6. Social assistance benefit levels in Saskatchewan remain very low. For example, a single employable adult on social assistance in Saskatchewan receives approximately $9,000 annually on which to live (and pay rent). A person with a disability gets between $12,000 and $16,000 annually, depending on the severity of the disability. Every year, the value of inflation erodes the value of these benefits. (All of these figures can be found here.) 

7. This budget announced the phasing out of a rental housing benefit for low-income households. The Saskatchewan Rental Housing Supplement provided some additional rent money for low-income households with either children or a disability; but this budget announced that no new applications will be accepted as of July 1. The provincial government expects this will save the provincial treasury $5 million in the first year (or 0.03% of the total budget). Without the rent supplement in place, I believe it’s likely we’ll see more people becoming homeless in Saskatchewan, which itself comes with added costs to the public treasury. 

8. The budget’s decision to extend the PST to used car sales may disproportionately impact low-income households. The budget removes the PST tax exemption on (light) used car sales, which may translate into almost $100 million in new annual revenue. This will make it slightly more expensive to purchase a used car in Saskatchewan. The budget also restores the trade-in allowance when determining the PST—so, when a car owner is trading in a vehicle, they will only pay the PST on the difference in price of the trade in and the selling price for the vehicle they’re buying. 

9. The budget fails to address on-reserve child poverty. According to Census data, Saskatchewan’s on-reserve rate of child poverty (as measured by the After Tax Low Income Measure) is nearly 70%, second highest in the country after Manitoba. Neither this year’s budget nor last year’s takes meaningful steps towards addressing that.
- Heather Stewart reports on UK Labour's push for genuinely affordable housing - rather than stretching the term to fit homes priced far beyond people's means.

- Michael Geist discusses the dangers of allowing - and even encouraging - corporate giants to monitor and control online content. And Murad Hemmadi talks to Charlie Angus about Facebook's influence over public policy (even as it fails to register to lobby government).

- Finally, Ruth Dreifuss and Richard Elliott make the case for the decriminalization of personal drug use and possession in order to reduce the social harms arising out of prohibition.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Quirks & Quarks examines the potentially devastating effects of a dilbit spill on British Columbia's coast. And David Climenhaga warns that Kinder Morgan is looking at NAFTA to provide it an alternate source of risk-free profits at public expense.

- Mia Rabson reports on Canada's continued failure to come anywhere close to our already-insufficient emission reduction commitments. And Laura Kusisto and Arian Campo-Flores examine how oceanfront properly is beginning to lose its value as buyers recognize the impending effects of climate change.

- Thomas Walkom offers his take as to why Canada needs a universal pharmacare system. But Andre Picard points out the need to be much more specific about what will be included and how it will be funded. 

- Hugh Segal argues that prosperous societies have a particular duty to eliminate poverty and insecurity - including by guaranteeing a basic income.

- Finally, Stop the Cuts weighs in on yet another austerity budget from the Saskatchewan Party. And Murray Mandryk criticizes the Moe government's belief that it's above any need for ethics.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Musical interlude

The Stills - Hands On Fire

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- PressProgress crunches the numbers on tax loopholes and finds that more and more revenue is being lost to the most glaring loopholes every year. And Andrew Jackson hopes for a sorely-needed response from the federal government to rein in tax avoidance by the wealthy.

- Sam Cooper reports on Vancouver's embarrassing status as a poster child for criminal money laundering.

- Wanda Wyporska highlights the importance of fighting for greater equality rather than allowing it to overtake social cohesion and individual well-being.

- Anna Patty reports on a new study showing how an improved minimum wage could create jobs in addition to boosting standards of living in Australia. And Scott Brown writes about the B.C. NDP's first steps toward including all workers in basic employment protections (including the right to a minimum wage).

- Mark Winfield warns of the risks of panicking about the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, though Mike De Souza reveals that the Libs have made a habit of leaping into reckless action at Kinder Morgan's behest. And Hadrian Mertins-Kirkwood writes that we should be focusing on a just transition for both resource sector workers and their communities, while Mitchell Anderson discusses how the Trans Mountain expansion would only exacerbate a trend seeing refinery jobs leaked south of the border.

- Finally, CBC reports on Justin Trudeau's lack of interest in following the UK's ban on single-use plastics.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Paul Constant discusses a new study showing that the positive effects of minimum wage increases for low-income workers actually grow over time. And Sheila Block highlights how a $15 increased minimum wage stands to offer far more to workers than Doug Ford's tax tinkering.

- Meanwhile, Pam Weintraub writes that anxiety and stress arising from traumatic experiences have repercussions spanning multiple generations.

- Natalie Appleyard points out the amount of work to be done to address the multiple forms of precarity and poverty faced by Canadians. But Andrew Coyne examines the Parliamentary Budget Office's report on the cost of a national basic income and concludes we could realistically end extreme poverty for an additional three percent on the existing GST.

- Kelly Grant reports on the conclusion of Parliament's Standing Committee on Health endorsing a true national pharmacare program (rather than the patchwork planned by the Trudeau government).

- Finally, Rachel Browne investigates the unconscionable racial divide in arrests for cannabis possession which systematically pushes minorities into the criminal justice system. And the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation examines the lack of housing resources for people trying to reintegrate after being incarcerated. 

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Ann Pettifor discusses the trend toward financialization which has led to regular economic disasters - and suggests the public is well aware it's getting left behind in the policy choices which have created it.

- ScienceDaily takes note of the strong connection between education levels and longevity.

- Sarah Jones calls out the U.S. Republicans' constant steps to withhold food from people who need it - including children who have to attend school hungry as a result. And Andrew Sniderman and Vincent Larochelle discuss the unfairness of mandatory surcharges which impose lasting debts on people with no ability to pay them.

- David Suzuki points out the regular occurrence of dangerous oil spills around the world while highlighting the risks of any Trans Mountain expansion. Martin Lukacs writes that it's Indigenous protestors against pipeline expansion who are actually defending the national interest. And Kai Nagata asks for suggestions as to how we could better use $8 billion of public money other than to subsidize a pipeline for the benefit of Enron alumni.

- Finally, Luke Savage comments on the contrast between Justin Trudeau's slogans and his actions while in power:
(I)t is the disparity between Trudeau’s rhetorical posturing and political execution that perhaps best illustrates the essential conservatism of his government. Social investment and Keynesianism, supposedly the defining pillars of Liberal economic strategy, have given way to corporatism and stealth privatisation.

Even as Trudeau performatively condemns corporate elites, his supposed war on inequality has amounted to tinkering with income tax brackets while opposing a $15-an-hour minimum wage for federal workers. The legalisation of marijuana looks increasingly like a cynical revenue-raiser for avaricious former politicians and ex-cops, rather than a deserved reprieve for those criminalised by the previous system. And while Trudeau’s government was talking up feminism and human rights abroad, it was also signing the export permits for $15bn-worth of armoured vehicles – including some labelled “heavy assault” – to Saudi Arabia.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Cuddling cats.




Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Paul Krugman writes that a transition to a clean energy economy is well within reach - as long as politicians don't put the interests of oil money over our economic and environmental future. But Gordon Laxer notes that NAFTA already limits Canada's ability to take the steps which would do most to rein in our harm to the planet.

- Meanwhile, Peter Martin makes the case for a sugar tax and other Pigovian taxes - as adaptations to avoid a tax may produce substantial benefits in important policy areas such as public health:
Announcing the sugar tax in the 2016 budget, Britain’s (Conservative) Treasurer George Osborne said five-year-olds were consuming their entire body weight in sugar every year.
...
His hope was that the drinks above each threshold would cut their sugar until they were below it. It’d cut their tax from 24 pence per litre to 18 pence, or from 18 pence to nothing. They had two years in which to do it.

Within months, Tesco said it would reformulate its entire range to escape the levy. Lucozade Ribena followed, also for its entire range. It meant halving the high sugar contents of Lucozade and Ribena.

Then Sprite halved its sugar content, Fanta fell from grams 7 to 4.5, and 7 Up from a scary 11 grams to 7 grams.

By the time the tax arrived last week, Britain had more than halved its initial estimate of what the tax would raise, cutting its estimate for takings in the first year from £520 million to £240 million ($439.6 million to $952.5 million).

The government-owned Behavioural Insights Team reckons around 750 million litres of drink has been reformatted, which would save a welcome 30,000 tonnes of sugar per year, all before day one.
There’ll be more change now the tax is in place. Retailers will more prominently display the cheaper drinks that are lower-taxed, producers will shift their marketing to products they are able to sell for less, and customers comparing prices will be more likely to pick the cheap ones. More manufacturers will cut their sugar content as a result, and even those that don’t will sell increasing amounts of their zero-sugar products and less of those with sugar.

After a while, the sugar tax might raise very little. Which was the idea. The universal truth about tax is that people don’t like paying it. It can be put to good use.

Australia did it with petrol. From 1994 we more heavily taxed leaded petrol, pushing up the price by 2 cents per litre to encourage drivers to switch to unleaded. We do it with tobacco, and, imperfectly, with alcohol.

What’s great about so-called sin taxes (or "Pigovian taxes") is the double pay-off. Taxing more the things we want less of, including things that kill people, allows us to tax less the things we want more of, such as jobs, income and savings.
- Matt Bruenig points out that the wage gap between women and men is substantially larger than usually assumed when part-time and unpaid work is taken into account, then examines the gap across the income spectrum.

- Robert Devet comments on the need for both fair laws which protect workers, and effective enforcement which prevents employers from flouting the rules.

- Finally, Adrienne Tanner argues that British Columbia needs a public inquiry to investigate the role of money laundering in driving up housing prices. And Christopher Cheung looks to Singapore for an example of a targeted property flipping tax.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Tom Parkin discusses the Libs' identity politics - and how they endanger people's substantive interests both in what the Libs fail to do, and in the predictable reaction from right-wing populists:
For Liberals, identity politics is a distraction from economic policies that are very hard on many people. Trudeau won’t increase the federal minimum wage. He sells off public assets through his Infrastructure Bank. Ignores looming personal debts. Weakens private pension plans. Lets Sears default on their promises to workers. Cuts Canadians’ healthcare funding. Spends billions on tax cuts that give the biggest benefit to incomes over $90,000.

There’s no solution to economic insecurity and inequality — it’s just extend old policies that don’t work and pretend everything’s alright.

So it should be no surprise if Canadians — especially poor and working class people who are most affected — now reject Trudeau and, with him, the empty identity politics he uses as cover.
...
The hollowness of liberal identity politics has Trudeau recognizing the wrongs of colonialism, sexism and racism — then letting the people who have all the power and money keep all the power and money. That’s the hijacking of the political left.

But liberal identity politics also empowers the most enduring form of identity politics — conservative identity politics.

If we are all essentially different and stranded on our little islands of identity, then the point of the alt-right is proven: we are all just tribes in a constant state of war. So every time Trudeau says it’s our differences that make us stronger, he sets the table for the alt-right to feed at. And they gorged.
...
Since the last economic recession there’ve been two great games — the economic game of extend and pretend and the distraction game of identity politics. Both urgently need credible replacements.
- Meanwhile, David Gray-Donald documents how the right-wing hate machine targeted Nora Loreto for daring to mention the disparity in public reactions between tragedies. 

- Mark Rank offers a reminder that immediate investments in eliminating child poverty produce dramatic returns over time. And Cherise Seucharan writes about the need to expand public health care, rather than allowing profiteers to take it over.

- Jeffrey Sachs writes that we should be investing in sustainable, clean infrastructure, not throwing public money into fossil fuels.

- Finally, Thomas Walkom points out Donald Trump's predictable decision to favour the wealthy over everybody else through the Trans-Pacific Partnership - and how it renders futile any attempt to rely on NAFTA to protect citizens from corporate control.