Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Leadership 2017 Reference Page (Pinned)

A one-stop source for general links on the 2017 NDP leadership campaign, to be updated as the race progresses. Please feel free to add additional suggestions in comments. (And note that new posts will appear below this one.)

General Information
NDP Constitution (PDF)
Leadership Rules (PDF) - Voting Process
NDP Leadership 2017
Leadership Debates: Ottawa (March 12) - Montreal (March 26) - Sudbury (May 28) - St. John's (June 11) - Saskatoon (July 11) - Victoria (August 2) - Montreal (August 27) - Vancouver (September 10)
Leadership Showcase: Hamilton (September 17)

Candidate Information
Candidate Website Twitter Profile Platform Ranking
Charlie Angus CharlieAngusNDP.ca @CharlieAngusNDP Profile Analysis 2
Niki Ashton NikiAshton2017.ca @NikiAshton Profile Analysis 4
Guy Caron GuyCaron.ca @GuyCaronNPD Profile Analysis 3
Jagmeet Singh JagmeetSingh.ca @theJagmeetSingh Profile Analysis 1

Other Resources
National Post Leadership Tracker
CPAC In Focus
IPolitics Inside the NDP Leadership Race
Chatelaine Cheat Sheet
NDP McGill Blog
Karl Nerenberg Candidate Profiles
Toronto Star Profiles (Alex Ballingall)
CTV Meet the Candidates 

All Posts By Label
Candidate Rankings - August 6 - August 13 - August 27 - September 3 - September 10

Babble threads: 1 - 2 - 3 - 4
Peter Julian Forum
Twitter: #ndp - #ndpldr

Monday, September 25, 2017

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Steve Roth points out how extreme concentrations of wealth lead to poor economic and social outcomes:
If wealth is consistently more widely dispersed — like it was after WW II — the extra spending that results causes more production. (Why, exactly, do you think producers produce things?) And production produces a surplus — value in, more value out. It’s the ultimate engine of wealth creation. In this little example, we’re talking a trillion dollars a year in additional spending and production. GDP would be 5.5% higher.

If you want to claim that the extra spending would just raise prices, consider the last 20 years. Or the last three decades, in Japan. And if you think concentrated wealth causes better investment and greater wealth accumulation, ask yourself: what economic theory says that $95 trillion in concentrated wealth will result in more or better investment than $95 trillion in broadly dispersed wealth? Our financial system is supposed to intermediate all that, right?
So how do we get there, given that we’ve mostly failed to do so for millennia? Start with a tax system that actually is progressive, like we had, briefly, during the postwar heyday of rampant and widespread American growth and prosperity. And greatly expand the social platform and springboard that gives tens of millions more Americans a place to stand, where they can move the world.

All of this dweebish arithmetic, of course, doesn’t put across the real crux of the thing: power. Money is power. So it is, so it has been, and so it shall be in our lifetimes and our children’s lifetimes (world without end, amen). This is especially true for minorities, who have been so thoroughly screwed by our recent Great Whatever. Money is the power to walk away from a shitty job. To hire fancy lawyers and lobbyists, maybe even buy yourself a politician or two. If we want minorities to have power, they need to have money.

Add to that dignity, and respect, which is deserved by every child born: sadly but truly, they are delivered to those who have money. You can bemoan that reality, but in the meantime, let’s concentrate on the money.
- And Chris Winters interviews Chuck Collins about the four types of policy needed to reverse inequality and build a fair economy.

- Jeremy Nuttall reports on the effect of foreign workers with minimal rights who are being imported to Alberta to drive down wages and working conditions. And Ben Schneider writes about a push by Australian unions to allow for negotiation by sector or supply chain to ensure that workers' hard-won gains in collective bargaining can't be so easily erased from the picture.

- Meanwhile, Rod Hill discusses how self-insurance for workers (in contrast to even the already-limited Employment Insurance system) is doomed to failure. 

- Finally, Tristin Hopper reminds us that most of Canada faces far higher cell phone plan prices than most of the developed world - and that the lone exceptions are found in provinces including Saskatchewan where a regional provider ensures more fair prices than the big three telecoms would otherwise offer.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Leadership 2017 Links

The latest from the federal NDP's leadership campaign as the first voting window remains open.

- Power & Politics and the Toronto Star have each posted new summaries of the candidates and their plans. Gloria Galloway reports on Charlie Angus' campaign as focusing on taking the NDP back to its roots. And Maura Forrest interviews Niki Ashton about her efforts to pull the NDP to the left.

- Stephen Tweedale examines how Jagmeet Singh's platform addresses both poverty and inequality - including both direct redistribution and protections for vulnerable workers. Dan Donovan offers his endorsement to Angus based in substantial part on his view that Angus is speaking more to a business audience - which makes for a noteworthy contrast with John Ibbitson's argument that Singh would be the candidate to fundamentally change the NDP's orientation toward pursuing immigrant and suburban voters while reducing the relative role of organized labour. And Thomas Walkom argues that Angus may be the perfect candidate for the traditional NDP - but may not be what members are looking for after coming close to winning power. 

- Chantal Hebert points out that conventional wisdom about Quebec voters has been proven wrong repeatedly in recent elections - suggesting that the assumption that Singh's religion will actually be an issue may be similarly flawed. Supriya Dwivedi questions whether a potential coalition which specifically embraces voters motivated by religious discrimination is worth pursuing based on both its unreliability in Quebec, and its message to voters across Canada. And the Globe and Mail calls out the intellectual dishonesty behind Quebec's Bill 62.

- Finally, Christo Aivalis offers his take on what the NDP should learn from the successes of Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn - with particular emphasis on the need to inspire supporters with bold and clear social democratic policies.

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Rachel Bunker writes that Equifax represents the worst of an out-of-control capitalist system, as a poorly-regulated and unreliable credit reporting operation is making profits for itself by reinforcing existing discrimination among other businesses.

- Naomi Klein discusses this summer's spate of wildfires and widespread smoke as showing how climate change is literally causing key parts of our planet to burn. 

- Mario Canseco argues that confusion as to the meaning of a child care program shouldn't serve as an obstacle to implementing a system which offers parents much-needed options in British Columbia.

- Jorge Barrera reports that even as the Libs have pleaded poverty in refusing to provide equal funding for on-reserve education and child welfare services, they've handed out nearly half a million dollars to a party-friendly consultant to reiterate the obvious. 

- Beatrice Britneff and Kyle Duggan report on Apotex' attempt to stifle an investigation into its lobbying of the Libs. And Murray Mandryk comments on the latest revelations of Sask Party wrongdoing from the Global Transportation Hub, while Sean Holman highlights how governments are still suppressing far too much information from Canadians. 

- Finally, Jim Bronskill reports on the Libs' absolute failure to fix the most important problems with Bill C-51.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Paul Krugman discusses how the Republicans' latest attempt to undermine U.S. health care is built on a foundation of cruelty and lies - and is entirely consistent with their usual modus operandi. And Joe Watts reports on new polling showing how popular Jeremy Corbyn's progressive policy agenda is with the UK public.

- Richard Forbes rightly argues that ending tax avoidance should be a multipartisan issue. But Murray Dobbin notes that the preservation of unfair tax preferences is instead cutting across party lines, with the Libs' Finance committee chair Wayne Easter trying to undercut even his own party's insufficient attempt to close some glaring loopholes.

- Betty Ann Adam discusses the urgent need to reduce First Nation youth suicide rates in Saskatchewan. And Joel Willick reports that Saskatchewan is set to fall short of its target for high school graduation rates both in general and among Indigenous students in particular.

- CBC reports that despite a continued need for support, a Swift Current teen shelter is being forced to close due to a lack of funds. But in contrast, Brodie Thomas reports that Calgary's investment in Housing First has led to a significant decrease in the use of emergency shelters.

- Finally, Meagan Gilmore highlights the continued problems with the federal government's Phoenix pay system, which has failing to actually pay employees while costing the public hundreds of millions of dollars. And D.C. Fraser reports on how the Saskatchewan Party has left the province's civil service with a bloated administration and far less workers actually providing public services.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Musical interlude

Arcade Fire - Everything Now

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- The Oxford Martin School has published a new report on the spread of inequality. And Noah Smith discusses the role of offshoring along with automation in stacking the economic deck against workers.

- Meanwhile, Mike Blanchfield reports on the U.S.' refusal to allow workers to participate in any opening of borders under NAFTA or other trade agreements.

- Erin Schumaker highlights how paid sick leave is crucial to both physical and mental health - while the lack thereof causes needless damage to both. 

- Diana Sarosi writes that tax loopholes and other regressive elements of Canada's tax system have particularly harmful consequences for women. And while Tim Harper notes that it's the upper end of the spectrum raising a misguided complaint against even small steps toward tax fairness, John Ivison recognizes that the attempt to pretend the closing of loopholes will affect more than a highly privileged few is doomed to fail once people are aware of the facts.

- Finally, in the wake of the Equifax personal information hack, Bryce Covert makes the case for credit reporting to be a public function rather than a source of private profit.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

New column day

Here, on how Jagmeet Singh looks to be a strong favourite as the NDP's leadership campaign reaches its first voting window - and how concerns about Quebec secularism may have been laid to rest by the challenger who previously gained the most by emphasizing them.

For further reading...
- I've previously written about Singh's prospects in Quebec among other campaign issues here, here and here.
- As I posted earlier, Guy Caron's apt response to Martine Ouellet is here:

- For further commentary on Singh's prospects, see Karl Nerenberg's take that Ouellet is ultimately complaining about nothing more than how Singh dresses, and Aaron Wherry's discussion comparing Singh to the NDP's most-beloved past leaders.
- Finally, my own leadership ballot ranking is here.

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Phillip Inman and Jill Treanor write about the debt time bomb facing UK households. Jim Edwards discusses how widespread underemployment has become the norm in the UK - making unemployment alone a misleading indicator as to workers' well-being. And Owen Jones highlights how those developments are the result of deliberate policy choices by the governing Conservatives:
“Stand on your own two feet” has been a convenient rationale to redistribute wealth and power to the top, though. The individual earns money by their own efforts – a baseless myth – and therefore taxes on the rich should be slashed to reward hard effort. But it is a sincere belief among the Thatcherite true believers who designed our society that only by breaking collective bonds can the individual truly flourish, and an entrepreneurial economy be built.

That promise has never been fulfilled. Indeed, in the past five years, consumer debt has surged by nearly a fifth. That’s because we have an economic model that, even when it generates growth, is incapable of increasing living standards for millions of people. Instead, it actively breeds financial insecurity and forces millions to rely on credit.
The stripping away of secure jobs has had its impact, too, thanks to privatisation of utilities and deindustrialisation. The proliferation of zero-hours contracts, bogus self-employment and temporary and agency contracts increasingly defines modern work. This benefited employers, because casualised work is harder to unionise, and it means rights that workers once took for granted – such as a pension, or paid sick and maternity leave – can be stripped away. This is an intentional strategy by bosses, enabled by Thatcherite deregulation, and one New Labour failed to reverse. In 2009, the CBI – the bosses’ federation – called for the recession to be used to create a “flexiforce”, with a reduced core workforce and more casualised labour. And what does precarious employment mean? Sudden drops in income – and a consequent dependence on debt. The precariousness of work adds to the debt problem.
Over the past seven years, the still-hostile Tories have imposed real-terms cuts on in-work benefits, slashed disability benefits, and punished the victims of the housing crisis by taking the axe to housing benefit. The explosion of benefit sanctioning, where benefits can be stopped for the most arbitrary reasons, has left some without any money at all. Those on the receiving end have often been compelled to make up the shortfall by borrowing. A government that professes itself concerned about debt pushes poor people into it daily.
Thatcherism built our economic order on insecurity. Insecurity, we were told, was about setting the individual free. But since then we’ve learned much about insecurity, even if the Tories haven’t. It is oppressive. It leads to anxiety and stress. It forces would-be parents to delay having families. And, as we see, it saddles the individual with debt.
- Meanwhile, Chris Renwick details why a secure welfare state is more necessary now than it's ever been. And Dylan Matthews discusses new research from Mexico on the effects of a basic income - including a strong refutation of the complaint that a secure income will lead to inflation.

- Amy Wilson-Chapman charts how the wealthy around the world are hiding their cash from taxation. And Quito Maggi examines how Canada's tax system is becoming less progressive - both in the amount of revenue used for public purposes, and the source of the money collected.

- Finally, Jennifer Wells writes that limiting the use of income sprinkling is at least a small step forward toward tax fairness. But Luke Savage reminds us that the Trudeau Libs have allowed the wealthiest CEOs to avoid paying their fair share in taxes. And Jeremy Nuttall talks to Dennis Howlett about Canadians' fatigue with anti-tax rhetoric - particularly when it's being used to favour the people who already have the most.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

On principled responses

In the wake of the NDP's leadership campaign, it seems the Libs have responded by finding somebody to distill their very essence even more thoroughly than Justin Trudeau.

At least, if we can confirm that centrism.biz is supported by tax-sheltered trust fund dollars.

Leadership 2017 Links

The latest from the federal NDP's leadership campaign.

- CBC reports on Nathan Cullen's endorsement of Jagmeet Singh - which may make for one of the few shows of support capable of influencing members at this stage of the campaign.

- Althia Raj highlights Charlie Angus' rebel yell, while Alex Ballingall writes about the Star editorial board's meeting with him (which includes somewhat more direct talk about potentially approving pipelines than we've heard through much of the campaign). Rob Rousseau is the latest to write about Niki Ashton as a Canadian counterpart to Bernie Sanders. And Guy Caron's reply to Martine Ouellet's attack on Singh offers a prime example as to how the NDP can and should respond to any attempt to use religious bigotry to silence minority voices.

- Eric Grenier offers a look at some of the policies on offer from the leadership candidates. And John Geddes interviews Avi Lewis about the policy discussion within the leadership campaign - and Lewis' hope to expand what's seen as possible. 

- Finally, Tom Parkin offers his reasoning for placing Caron and Singh at the top of his ballot. Alice Funke makes a case for Singh as a step toward greater diversity and energy within the NDP, while Tim Harper discusses Singh's ability to get noticed beyond party lines as a key advantage. And Chantal Hebert analyzes the campaign while viewing Singh as the likely victor.

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Matthew Yglesias offers his take on how to strengthen the U.S.' economy through full employment and improved wage and family benefits. And Richard Florida discusses how everybody can benefit if an increasingly important service sector starts to provide higher wages and better work:
The only way to close Canada’s yawning economic divide and rebuild the middle class is to upgrade the wages and working conditions of Canada’s service workers.

Increasing the minimum wage, as Ontario is doing, is an important first step. And, it is important to link the minimum wage to the steep variation in the cost of living across cities: $15 an hour buys a lot less in expensive cities like Toronto and Vancouver than in does in many smaller places. Indeed, nearly half of Canada’s low-paid service workers are concentrated in the nation’s five largest metros — Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal, Calgary and Edmonton. But it is only a first step.

The real key is to upgrade the millions of low-wage service jobs that workers across Canada toil in. We fail as a society if 40 per cent of Canada’s workforce is condemned to toil in such low-wage precarious jobs.
It has been done before. During the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s, Canada and other advanced nations turned low wage manufacturing work into middle-class family supporting work. Henry Ford famously initiated his $5 a day pay policy to enable blue collar workers to purchase the cars they were making on the assembly line.

The government created new labour laws that enabled workers to form unions and bargain collectively enabling blue-collar wages to rise higher. Manufacturing companies developed strategies to involve more high-paid blue-collar workers in efforts to improve quality, productivity and ultimately profits, creating a win-win cycle. The same can be done for low-wage service work, the analog of blue-collar factory work today.
- Hugh Muir discusses how only the wealthy few actually benefit from selectively open borders - including the ability to purchase citizenship or immigration rights when it becomes convenient.

- Amanda Carver writes about the importance of using evidence-based approaches to solving homelessness - including the Housing First model that has proven successful. Jordan Press writes that the Trudeau Libs are willing to talk about a right to housing, but not to back it up with any meaningful steps to actually provide it. The Star's editorial board comments on how the growing use of food banks to paper over the unmanageable cost of rent highlights the need for a housing benefit. And Robert Booth reports on new research showing how housing has become unaffordable for young workers in the UK.

- Mike De Souza highlights how the same National Energy Board which has shrouded pipeline approvals in secrecy has been entirely reckless with the personal information of journalists trying to report on its activity. And Justin Gillis discusses how human behaviour is the great unknown in trying to project the damage to be done by climate change.

- Finally, Gary Mason writes that John Horgan's NDP is finally bringing British Columbia into the 21st century with effective campaign finance rules - leaving Saskatchewan as the only laggard. And Bob Mackin's slightly dated report on the B.C. Libs' advertising spending is worth noting again, as it shows the party which is now set to scream bloody murder over public financing for political parties had no scruples whatsoever about using similar amounts of public money solely for its own self-promotion.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Grounded cats.

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- George Eaton discusses how some U.S. state governments are taking steps to fight inequality with taxes at the top of the income scale.

- The Canadian Coalition for Tax Fairness is coming together to push for a tax system where everybody pays their fair share (including changes far beyond those put on the table by the Trudeau Libs), while the Council of Canadians lends its support to the effort. And R. Sacha Bhatia suggests that if doctors prefer being salaried employees to being paid fees for services under a tax system without massive loopholes, that move may be best for everybody involved.

- Shannon Daub and Zoe Yunker highlight how the B.C. Libs outsourced the writing of their climate change policy to the Calgary oil sector. And that history of corporate ownership of government is exactly why the NDP's move to replace big money with public investment in politics figures to be so important.

- Meanwhile, Laurie Monsebraaten reports on the challenge of getting people to believe that a basic income actually comes without strings attached after decades of welfare scolding.

- Barrie McKenna responds to the Calgary Flames' demand for a publicly-funded arena to funnel profits into Murray Edwards' hands by pointing out the lack of any public benefit to doing so.

- Finally, Fay Faraday writes that due to pay inequity, Canadian women are effectively working for free for the balance of the calendar year.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Monday Morning Links

Assorted content to start your week.

- Ritika Goel writes that good jobs lead to all kinds of ancillary benefits to both the health of workers, and the strength of the overall economy:
We are in a time of increasing part-time, casual, temporary and contract work, with less access to benefits, insurance and pensions. Women, racialized people, single parents and immigrants like Michael are more likely to be in these positions of precarious work, which we know are bad for your health. 

Precarious work is linked to higher rates of repetitive strain muscular and joint conditions, as well as worse mental health. We also know that food-handling workers, like Michael, who have an infectious stomach illness cite not being able to afford taking a day off as the reason to come into work sick, potentially passing on their sickness.

A decent wage would allow Michael to contribute to his local economy by meeting his basic needs, save money to send to his family, perhaps move closer to this workplace, have time to build social connections and improve his mental health. Having paid sick days would allow him to recover when needed and not put the public at risk by handling food when unwell. In fact, having these measures implemented would allow Michael to better do his job. A study looking at employers who provide paid sick leave found that doing so was associated with fewer workplace injuries benefitting employers with a healthier workforce.

There is no doubt that the strong connection between good jobs and good health is widely proven in research. It thrills me to see that this is now also becoming a common perspective in the business world. At the Smart Employers Talk conference I attended this week, I got to hear directly from business owners who understand the importance of investing in their staff, so much that one employer referred to his workers as his company’s greatest asset. 
While I know some businesses have raised concerns about not being able to afford a $15 minimum wage, it gave me confidence to meet businesses owners from a variety of sectors who are already implementing and benefiting from these higher labour standards. They are proof that this can be done, and will benefit businesses on top of the health of workers and public health.
- Meanwhile, Paul Walsh discusses the pitch economy - where everything is a matter of constant competition - as the ultimate example of harmful precarity in work and life. And Jacqueline Nelson reports on a new study from the Bank of International Settlements showing how Canada is at risk due to high household debt levels.

- Melinda Trochu reports on a push by the Canadian Union of Postal Workers to ensure that our postal system provides needed services including banking and food shipping.

- Colin Perkel reports on Canadian doctors who support tax fairness - and are fighting to avoid being lumped in with professional associations and lobbyists invoking their profession to try to hinder it.

- Finally, Ross Belot writes that the Libs' hot air on climate change hasn't been matched with anything approaching commensurate action.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Leadership 2017: The Ballot

Despite the federal NDP's candidate showcase there hasn't been much change since last week's rankings - and so I won't update those for this week. Rather than ranking the candidates based on their perceived likelihood of winning, I'll instead take the opportunity to offer my own endorsement and ballot ranking, along with some explanation as to how I've made my own choice among four strong candidates. (For further reading, Alice Funke offers a must-read summary as to the array of expectations and responsibilities for the NDP's leader.)

1. Guy Caron

The key for Caron has been to establish that he could demonstrate the capacity to grow in a campaign with relatively limited resources. And in the end, he's done just that - offering strong and popular individual policies within an effective philosophical framework, and managing to win over a far larger number of supporters on sheer personal appeal than I'd have anticipated.

The most important sticking point for me with Caron is then his tendency to put process and jurisdiction ahead of underlying values at times. That's been most obvious in his take on Quebec's Bill 62, where I'll note that he may be best served taking a lesson from Thomas Mulcair's response focusing on fundamental values rather than political calculations. And it's also been notable at other times when he's demurred on ambitious social policy proposals by pointing to jurisdictional questions.

But on the balance, Caron looks to have the best prospect of winning Canadians over to a progressive vision - just as he's won over supporters throughout the leadership campaign.

2. Jagmeet Singh

Singh too has done a highly effective job of situating worthwhile policy proposals within a framework of well-defined values. The primary factor placing him behind Caron is that those values don't overlap with the ones I'd like to see promoted to quite the same extent: on one set of key economic issues in particular, Singh has gone out of his way to express principles which are both contrary to NDP policy, and problematic from the standpoint of winning voters over to a coherent progressive philosophy.

That said, Singh's showcase today suggests that he's both tightening up his economic message, and making strides in tying it to his personal experience. And the areas of concern within the leadership race should be ones where he'll have reason to be on the proper side of any debate across party lines.  

Moreover, Singh has lived up to his own "love and courage" theme with strongly principled stances in other areas where I'd have expected him to play it safer. And that offers me enough comfort on policy to place him second in light of his success in building an organization and appealing to the public.

3. Niki Ashton

Ashton's deeply progressive platform and strategy based on the successful movement-building exemplified by Jeremy Corbyn and Bernie Sanders hold a great deal of appeal to me. And today's presentation was likely her strongest in putting those together. But Ashton ranks below the top of my ballot because of some uncertainty about her ability to execute that strategy.

While Corbyn was eventually able to build up his UK Labour party despite a combination of internal grumbling and a dismissive press, he's done so based in large part on the demonstrable strength and breadth of the movement behind him. Corbyn only won the opportunity to face the general electorate by twice winning the support of a strong majority of his party's members - and it's the endurance of his personal support among members that's allowed him to withstand storms both internal and external.

Based on how the media has treated her throughout the leadership campaign, Ashton stands to match Corbyn's status as a lightning rod for press attacks. But she hasn't yet shown much of a movement behind her to answer issues as they've arisen. And so Ashton's most plausible path to victory looks to represent a potentially dangerous outcome for the NDP as a whole: the most difficult road for the party may involve a multi-ballot vote in which Ashton narrowly noses ahead despite modest enthusiasm, then has to face an onslaught of media criticism with relatively little internal support.

4. Charlie Angus

Finally, Angus finishes fourth on my ballot based on a leadership campaign which hasn't lived up to either Angus' potential or his competitors' choices in terms of either policy development or progressive values.

To be sure, Angus has been able to secure the endorsement of plenty of prominent voices who are willing to trust him. But I have to wonder whether the relatively unfocused populism he's relied on during the leadership race will be ameliorated - or produce better results - against the NDP's competition. And if not, then Angus poses the risk of losing ground in terms of both party results and issue advocacy.

Again, that's not to say Angus wouldn't have a strong opportunity to succeed as the NDP's next leader. But it does mean he falls behind his fellow candidates on that score - and thus to the bottom of my ballot.

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Matt Bruenig examines who is living in poverty in the U.S. - and how policy choices result in many people who can't feasibly earn wages being stuck below the poverty line:
(C)hildren, elderly, disabled people, and students make up around 70 percent of the poor. If you add in carers and those already fully employed, the number goes to around 90 percent. There is room to activate some of these folks into the labor market, especially carers through the provision of child care and paid leave benefits. But for the most part, the poor are people who cannot and should not work.
(B)enefits already do a lot to hold down poverty. The official poverty rate in 2016 was 12.8 percent. Without benefits, it would have been 21 percent.

If we want to build on that kind of success, what we need to do is expand the coverage of the welfare state as well as the generosity of its benefits. Every child should get a modest monthly stipend paid to their parents. Minimum benefit levels for old-age and disability pensions should be increased. Students should get a living grant. Carers should get paid leave and caretaker allowances. Unemployed people should get higher benefits, and some minimum level of benefits should be available to new labor market entrants who have not yet secured a job. It is through these kinds of reforms that serious poverty reduction will ultimately be made.

Until we come to terms with the fact that market income distributions inherently leave out a massive swath of society, our system will continue to fail its poor people. Markets are not designed to get income to where it is needed. It is up to society to construct programs to do that.
- Michael Sisak and Emily Schmall report on a prime example of the U.S.' continued disaster capitalism, as FEMA has been selling off disaster trailers at cut-rate prices even as it's been scrambling to providing housing in responseto this summer's spate of hurricanes. And Josh Boak discusses how the Trump administration is pushing corporate tax giveaways in the face of abundant evidence they'll serve only to further enrich those who already have the most.

- Hadrian Mertins-Kirkwood examines the state of NAFTA negotiations and concludes that there's no realistic prospect of reaching a meaningfully progressive agreement.

- Stephanie Taylor reports on the high rates of opioid poisoning in Regina and Saskatoon.

- Finally, Bruce Livesey reports on institutional racism and bigotry within CSIS and the RCMP which is both preventing them from addressing real threats, and resulting in the rendition and torture of innocent people based on their race and religion.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Leadership 2017 Links

The latest from the federal NDP's leadership campaign as tomorrow's showcases approach - and as members begin to fill out their ballots.

- The Star's editorial board has been meeting with the candidates, resulting in articles about Niki Ashton's determination that the NDP not be outflanked by Liberal rhetoric on the left and Guy Caron's pitch as the candidate who can win in Quebec, as well as Martin Regg Cohn's column arguing that Jagmeet Singh stands above his fellow candidates. Canadaland is interviewing the candidates, beginning with Guy Caron. Andrew Autio reports on Charlie Angus' take on the campaign so far and his position as voting begins. And Joanna Smith discusses Jagmeet Singh's familiarity with racism (and the need to respond with grace and purpose).

- Caron has released his nation-to-nation platform for reconciliation with Indigenous peoples. And the Star's editorial board offers its support for decriminalizing drug possession as mentioned by Singh - though it neglects to note that both Ashton and Caron also expressed interest in the idea.

- Eric Grenier follows up on the significance of the endorsements made so far, while Campbell Clark picks up on Angus' surprising lack of support within the current caucus. Angus did add a potentially significant endorsement from Libby Davies as one of the NDP's most-admired voices from the left.  And Joel-Denis Bellavance reports on Alexandre Boulerice's decision to stay neutral - which is particularly interesting based on the view of one of the NDP's most prominent Quebec MPs that any of the candidates can succeed in his home province.

- Maura Forrest reports on a glitch which saw some members receive more than one ballot.

- Christo Aivalis offers his review of all of the candidates, while Alex Ballingall offers profiles from the Star.

- Finally, Ballingall discusses how the leadership candidates fit into the NDP's overarching goals as a party, while Jeremy Appel offers his take as to the impact of each candidate on the 2019 campaign. And Dennis Gruending highlights how the leadership campaign will affect Canada's broader political scene.

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Phillip Inman reports on a new UN study (PDF) showing that the inequality caused by austerity results in particular harm to women who are forced to take on more unpaid labour.

- David Sloan Wilson interviews Sigrun Aasland about the mix and balance of public and private development that has led to Norway's combination of wealth and wellness. And David Suzuki discusses the importance of identifying and applying better indicators of progress than GDP alone.

- But Adair Turner worries that we've come to accept a distorted and dangerous economic model (with debt taking the place of shared prosperity) as our new normal. And Sheila Block examines how the 1% is pulling away from the rest of Canada.

- Meanwhile, Justin Ling reports on the Cons' deliberate plan to further distort public discussion about tax policy by misleading Canadians about the effect of closing high-end loopholes. And Lana Payne comments on the importance of following through on the commitment to develop a more fair and progressive tax system.

- Brent Patterson points out how the Libs' talk about changing NAFTA's dispute resolution mechanisms serves little useful purpose.

- Finally, Steven Chase reports on polling showing a strong majority of Canadians opposed to the sale of weapons to Saudi Arabia.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Musical interlude

Watchmen - Say Something

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Leslie McCall and Jennifer Richeson offer another look at what happens when Americans are properly informed about the level of inequality in their country:
What effect did this information have? First, more respondents came to believe that “coming from a wealthy family” and “having well educated parents” were essential or very important to “getting ahead” (43 percent, compared with 27 percent among those who did not get the information).

Conversely, fewer respondents who saw information about inequality said that individual factors, such as “having ambition” and “hard work,” were essential or very important (81 percent vs. 90 percent).

In short, being told about rising inequality made Americans a bit less likely to believe that economic success was about individual effort and much more likely to think it was about luck.

Information about rising inequality also changed people’s views of economic policy. In particular, we asked separate questions about whether “the government ought to reduce the income gap between the rich and the poor” and “major companies ought to reduce the pay gap between employees with high pay and those with low pay.” Respondents could answer on a scale of 1 to 7, ranging from strong opposition to strong support. Among the people who read about inequality, 53 percent indicated some degree of support for government efforts to reduce the income gap, compared with 43 percent among those who did not read about inequality. Similarly, people became more likely to support efforts by major companies to reduce pay gaps (58 percent vs. 51 percent).
(I)nforming Americans about the extent of economic inequality, or simply making the issue salient, can change attitudes about economic opportunity by foregrounding the role of luck in getting ahead — and that in turn tends to increase support for policies designed to reduce inequality. For this reason, the instinct to focus on economic opportunity instead of inequality seems misplaced. In the minds of Americans, the two can be linked quite readily.
- Matt Bruenig examines who is poor in the U.S. and why - with the lack of an adequate welfare state serving as the overwhelming cause of poverty. Luke Williams writes about the connection between low incomes, precarious work and suicide. And Leslie Young notes that Canada's latest census shows 1.2 million children living below the poverty line, while Roderick Benns offers a look at poverty in action while asking why we continue to put up with it.

- Mark Suzman reviews how greater financial equality for women leads to overall economic and social progress. And Lizzie Buchan reports on a push by UK unions to punish employers for perpetuating pay inequity.

- Michael Harris warns Justin Trudeau and his entourage that they are supposed to be accountable public servants, not royalty to be catered to at public expense. And Stephen Maher writes that Dean Del Mastro is now in jail due in large part to his bringing political hubris to his defence for election law violations.

- Finally, Brent Patterson points out how Trudeau is falling short on his promises to rebuild Canada's environmental regulatory structure. And Helena Bottemiller Evich discusses how soaring greenhouse gas emissions are making our food less healthy.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Andrew Jackson, Tavia Grant et al, Kate McInturff and Trish Hennessy each look at Statistics Canada's new income data which shows worsening inequality and persistent poverty over the past decade.

- Jordan Brennan offers a needed response to a Financial Accountability Office of Ontario report which is being torqued to attack a fair minimum wage. And Alia Karim talks to Malka Paracha about the role organizing around wages has played in fighting prejudice in Ontario workplaces.

- The Star's editorial board discusses the need for legislation to protect temporary workers from systemic abuses.

- Charles Smith writes about the dangers of mixing big money with politics. And Alex Soloducha reports on the lack of both competence and ethics from the Saskatchewan Party government bought and paid for largely by the corporate sector, as the Global Transportation Hub has turned into a money sink as well as a scandal. 

- Finally, Bill McKibben writes that it's far too late to talk about catastrophic climate change as a hypothetical threat rather than a current reality. And George Monbiot writes that Hurricane Irma should leave no doubt that unfettered capitalism is the problem, not part of the solution.

New column day

Here, on how the Libs' weakness in closing even modest loopholes is allowing tax entitlement to win out over tax fairness.

For further reading...
- Justin Ling offers a useful look at the minor moves to rein in the abuse of private corporations in this year's budget. Konrad Yakabuski rightly argues that the entire fight is primarily over politics rather than revenue. And Susan Delacourt speculates that such a minor change affecting a small number of incorporated businesses will result in as much controversy as the GST.
- James Laxer discusses how the reaction to the Libs' proposed changes represents class warfare by the wealthy. And Don Pittis writes about the clash between the public's desire for a fair tax system, and entrenched interests looking to preserve their perks.
- For a reminder, David MacDonald studied Canada's unfair tax expenditures, including the billion-dollar stock option loophole. And Dennis Howlett lamented the Libs' decision to leave that wide open for exploitation.
- Finally, for examples of the type of revenue options on the table in the NDP's leadership campaign, Niki Ashton, Guy Caron and Jagmeet Singh have each proposed substantial revenue increases to fund needed social spending, while Charlie Angus' plan includes targeting corporate tax havens.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Ben Steverman examines the unfairness of the U.S.' tax system - which, like Canada's, offers gratuitous giveaways to wealthy investors which force workers to pay more:
Politicians have intentionally set tax rates on wages much higher than those on long-term investment returns. The U.S. has a progressive tax system in the sense that well-paid workers sacrifice much more than poor workers on their “ordinary income.” But Americans with so-called unearned income—qualified dividends and long-term capital gains—get a break. A billionaire investor can pay about the same marginal rate as a $40,000-a-year worker, a fact Warren Buffett has famously lamented.
There’s a big flaw, though, in the argument that lower taxes on the rich stimulate longer-term investment, and thus jobs, famously labeled as “trickle-down economics.” While tax rates might affect the timing of some investor decisions in the medium term, it’s much harder to see how they affect long-term behavior. No matter the tax rate, investors ultimately look for opportunities to get richer.

“There is little empirical evidence showing that taxing investors less stimulates savings and growth,” said Emmanuel Saez, an economist at the University of California at Berkeley.

Supply-side economists disagree, and can point to tax cuts in the 1980s that seemed to spur the U.S. and U.K. economies. But there’s little evidence of a relationship between economic growth and investment taxes over the long term.
- Annette Alstadsæter, Niels Johannesen and Gabriel Zucman connect (PDF) the wealth hidden away in tax havens to its national sources - and then to develop a more accurate estimate of top-end wealth which has been siphoned off. And the Equality Trust offers a set of policy proposals for Labour to reduce inequality in the UK - with both regional imbalances and social ownership among the key economic priorities.

- Meanwhile, Brent Patterson examines how the oil industry - with the assistance of Lib insiders - is trying to limit public regulation of pipelines through NAFTA.

- Kevin Quigley notes that while a trial of the conductor involved in the Lac-Mégantic rail explosion will offer some testing of the causes of the disaster, more important systemic issues are going unaddressed in the absence of a broader inquiry.

- Finally, Don Pittis examines the social benefits of post-secondary education which are being lost in an effort to extract money from students. And Erika Shaker points out that Statistics Canada is making it more difficult to compare tuition across provinces.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Interactive cats.

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Penney Kome raises the question of who will be responsible for the damage wrought by climate change. And Trish Audette-Longo reports that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is set to start examining how human behaviour contributes to, and is affected by, a changing climate.

- But Adam Klesfeld notes that the IMF looks to be enforcing about the least fair assignment of responsibility possible by squeezing Barbuda at a time when it faces the need to rebuild from Hurricane Irma. And Jonathan Ford discusses how privatized water infrastructure in the UK seems aimed at little more than extracting money from citizens.

- Stephen Gordon points out how a lack of awareness as to how privileged Canada's upper middle class is contributes to an unduly narrow public discourse, while Heather Mallick notes that more progressive taxes on the wealthy are generally a political winner as well as desirable public policy. Paul Willcocks discusses how easily-exploited loopholes make it impossible to develop a fair tax system. And the Canadian Labour Congress applauds the Libs' first step in dealing with a few particularly glaring ones - while pointing out the need to go much further, including by keeping their promise to end the stock option loophole.

- Meanwhile, Shannon Rohan and Kevin Thomas write that the business lobby which is attacking a fair minimum wage is missing the forest for the trees in arguing against wages which can support a stronger economy.

- Aruna Dhara writes that Canada can learn from Australia's example in establish a national pharmacare plan.

- Finally, Roderick Benns interviews Gary Bloch about the value of a basic income in overcoming both structural barriers to access to income, and stereotypes which result in poverty being seen as acceptable.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Monday Morning Links

Assorted content to start your week.

- George Monbiot offers his suggestion for a new political narrative to build a better world than the one currently dominated by neoliberalism:
(B)y coming together to revive community life we, the heroes of this story, can break the vicious circle. Through invoking our capacity for togetherness and belonging, we can rediscover the central facts of our humanity: our altruism and mutual aid. By reviving community, built around the places in which we live, and by anchoring ourselves, our politics and parts of our economy in the life of this community, we can restore the best aspects of our nature.

Where there is atomisation, we will create a thriving civic life. Where there is alienation, we will forge a new sense of belonging: to neighbours, neighbourhood and society. Community projects will proliferate into a vibrant participatory culture. New social enterprises will strengthen our sense of attachment and ownership.

Where we find ourselves crushed between market and state, we will develop a new economics that treats both people and planet with respect. We will build it around a great, neglected economic sphere: the commons. Local resources will be owned and managed by communities, ensuring that wealth is widely shared. Using common riches to fund universal benefits will supplement state provision, granting everyone security and resilience.

Where we are ignored and exploited, we will revive democracy and retrieve politics from those who have captured it. New methods and rules for elections will ensure that every vote counts and financial power can never vanquish political power. Representative democracy will be reinforced by participatory democracy that allows us to refine our political choices. Decision-making will be returned to the smallest political units that can discharge it.

The strong, embedded cultures we develop will be robust enough to accommodate social diversity of all kinds: a diversity of people, of origins, of life experiences, of ideas and ways of living. We will no longer need to fear people who differ from ourselves; we will have the strength and confidence to reject attempts to channel hatred towards them.

Through restoring community, renewing civic life and claiming our place in the world, we build a society in which our extraordinary nature – our altruism, empathy and deep connection – is released. A kinder world stimulates and normalises our kinder values. I propose a name for this story: the Politics of Belonging.
- Nazrin Mehdiyeva reviews Sonja Zmerli and Tom W G van der Meer's Handbook on Political Trust as an important contribution to the questions of how citizens see their governments - and what can be done to rebuild the trust which once allowed for necessary collective action.

- Gerard Di Trollo discusses the importance of basing opposition to free trade deals on their favouritism toward corporations on both sides, rather than on discrimination against the citizens of other countries. And Scott Sinclair comments on the prospect that NAFTA could bad "right to work" anti-labour laws, while Steven Greenhouse offers a U.S. perspective on Canada's request to that effect.

- Finally, Shree Paradkar talks to Robyn Maynard about her book shining a light on Canada's history of racial violence (and highlighting the emptiness in trying to claim virtue in not being as bad as the U.S.).

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Leadership 2017 Candidate Rankings - September 10

No, there isn't any change in this week's rankings compare to last week's positioning. But I'll post nonetheless to discuss how the candidates performed in today's debate, and how that looks to set up the balance of the campaign.

1. Jagmeet Singh (1)

While some different metrics continue to point in various directions, all candidates seem to be operating based on the premise that Singh is ahead of the pack at this point. And today, he was able both to respond to other candidates' challenges when they arose, and to find some useful contrasts against Charlie Angus as the strongest apparent competitor. (Most notably, a stronger position on harm reduction and decriminalization than Angus was willing to offer may help Singh to win down-ballot support.)

The one possible misfire on Singh's part was a closing statement oriented solely toward identifying target regions - which seems unlikely to be new to anybody already leaning his way, while raising more questions than answers with voters looking for a core message based on principle rather than political calculation.

2. Charlie Angus (2)

That makes for a particularly unhelpful contrast in light of Angus' closing statement, which capped an effective overall performance with a strong message about his motivations and values.

Angus carried out an ideal strategy for a second-place contender looking to both extend the campaign by challenging the front-runner, and ensure that he doesn't get overtaken from behind. And in particular, conciliatory themes toward both Guy Caron and Niki Ashton may help to limit the prospect that they or their supporters will decide to reject both frontrunners.

3. Guy Caron (3)

Once again, the main basis for my ranking between the remaining two candidates is Caron's room for growth on later ballots. There 's at least a foreseeable path to victory based on the other candidates' apparent bases of support if Caron is perceived as the most progressive remaining option to Ashton voters choosing among the other three candidates, then the more grassroots-friendly option to Angus supporters on a final ballot against Singh.

4. Niki Ashton (4)

Finally, the key late-campaign problems for Ashton are minimal public growth at a point when all of the other candidates can claim substantially more public momentum, and the lack of a clear path to appeal for final-ballot support against either Singh or Angus. And while I'd still consider her a relative favourite to claim third place on the first ballot, it's looking more plausible that Caron may be able to pass her on that front.

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Janine Jackson interviews Sarah Anderson about the lack of any public return on massive U.S. corporate tax breaks. And Greg Jericho discusses a new IMF study finding the same result for high-end tax cuts in developed economies generally, as giveaways to the rich fall short of promises of paying for themselves while harming public well-being.

- Monia Mazigh comments about the infiltration of our public policy by a neoliberal ethos. And Yves Engler discusses how the fight against fair taxes on professional corporations can be traced back to a historical push by far too many doctors to treat medical care as a matter of profits rather than public interests.

- Mariana Mazzucato suggests that the elites using Caribbean islands as tax havens should foot the bill for their reconstruction in the wake of the ongoing series of hurricanes. And Peter Frumhoff and Myles Allen discuss how to quantify the specific harm major corporations have inflicted on our climate.

- Meanwhile, Ed Pilkington writes about the divide between rich and poor Miami residents in responding to impending disaster, while Elizabeth Renzetti discusses how a crisis can expose and exacerbate existing inequality. And Kiley Kroh reports that some Florida Republicans are finally asking why their party's national leaders have so recklessly contributed to climate change while doing nothing to prepare for it.

- Finally, Gerry Georgatos argues that Australia needs to move beyond mourning to take action against a suicide epidemic among Indigenous people - a lesson which applies with equal force in Canada.

Saturday, September 09, 2017

Leadership 2017 Links

The latest from the federal NDP's leadership campaign in advance of tomorrow's final official debate. (Though the Huffington Post is advertising another to come on the 27th.)

- Elizabeth McSheffrey paints Charlie Angus' purpose as being to rebuild public trust in politics as a means of giving a voice to people.

- Jagmeet Singh's response to a heckler ranting about Sharia law with a call for love and courage has received attention on an international scale. And Jeffrey Ansloos views the incident as emblematic of a test for Canada's left in responding to religious diversity.

- Peter Julian's endorsement of Singh offers one more example of a key party figure with strong Quebec ties rejecting any concern about his prospects in the province - though it's particularly worth watching whether any of Julian's own Quebec endorsers follow suit.

- Djaouida Sellah's support for Charlie Angus, Scott Duvall's backing of Guy Caron and Morgane Oger's endorsement of Niki Ashton also provide noteworthy boosts as the campaign reaches the home stretch. (Meanwhile Pat Stogran's endorsement of Angus looks like more of a double-edged sword - Stogran certainly has his followers, but any association between his poorly-thought-out attacks on the NDP and Angus' campaign may raise concerns among the core supporters Angus is relying on.)

- Finally, James Laxer argues that now is the moment for the NDP to reemphasize democratic socialist values.

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Naomi Klein examines how climate change has contributed to a summer of extreme weather disasters, while David Suzuki highlights how we can work with nature to respond to increased flooding. And Emily Atkin discusses the outsized damage 90 corporate behemoths have done to our climate.

- Meanwhile, Abacus Data polls Canadians about energy development, and finds both strong support for a shift toward renewables and an expectation that we'll begin a transition away from fossil fuels (even among the provinces and parties which operate based on demanding increased production). And Dave Cournoyer rightly argues that Alberta (like other provinces) needs to start reducing its reliance on ongoing resource royalties.

- Sara Mojtehedzadeh offers a disturbing look at how fake temp agencies are used to saddle workers with precarious employment and unacceptable working conditions. And Adam Turner talks to Dennis Skinner about ensuring that the working class is represented in government.

- Monika Dutt rebuts the claim that privatized health care does anything but undermine the public system Canadians depend on. And Alex Munter makes the case for mental health care to be added to our public health care system.

- Finally, Alan Freeman asks for some reasonableness on all sides of an overheated debate over a proposal which involves closing only a few tax loopholes for a modest revenue benefit.

Friday, September 08, 2017

Musical interlude

Phantogram - When I'm Small

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Rachel Sherman writes about the steps taken by wealthy Americans to hide how much they spend to paper over income inequality:
Over lunch in a downtown restaurant, Beatrice, a New Yorker in her late 30s, told me about two decisions she and her husband were considering. They were thinking about where to buy a second home and whether their young children should go to private school. Then she made a confession: She took the price tags off her clothes so that her nanny would not see them. “I take the label off our six-dollar bread,” she said.

She did this, she explained, because she was uncomfortable with the inequality between herself and her nanny, a Latina immigrant. She had a household income of $250,000 and inherited wealth of several million dollars. Relative to the nanny, she told me, “The choices that I have are obscene. Six-dollar bread is obscene.”

An interior designer I spoke with told me his wealthy clients also hid prices, saying that expensive furniture and other items arrive at their houses “with big price tags on them” that “have to be removed, or Sharpied over, so the housekeepers and staff don’t see them.”
The ways these wealthy New Yorkers identify and avoid stigma matter not because we should feel sorry for uncomfortable rich people, but because they tell us something about how economic inequality is hidden, justified and maintained in American life.

Keeping silent about social class, a norm that goes far beyond the affluent, can make Americans feel that class doesn’t, or shouldn’t, matter. And judging wealthy people on the basis of their individual behaviors — do they work hard enough, do they consume reasonably enough, do they give back enough — distracts us from other kinds of questions about the morality of vastly unequal distributions of wealth.

To hide the price tags is not to hide the privilege; the nanny is no doubt aware of the class gap whether or not she knows the price of her employer’s bread. Instead, such moves help wealthy people manage their discomfort with inequality, which in turn makes that inequality impossible to talk honestly about — or to change.
- And Chris Bryant discusses how the UK's aristocracy has retained massive amounts of wealth and power based solely on hereditary entitlements.

- Scott Courtney highlights the importance of offering voters a genuine workers' party to rein in structural inequality. And Robert Greene II writes about the need for progressive organization to be patient and aimed toward lasting policy change, not reflected only in immediate reactions to events.

- Joseph Stiglitz points out the utter lack of preparation for foreseeable natural disasters such as hurricanes as a prime example of market failure which needs to be addressed through collective action. And David Sirota discusses the role of corporate secrecy and deregulation in endangering the first responders who were willing to put their health and lives on the line without being informed of the risks they faced.

- Finally, Katherine Ellen Foley reports on new research showing that the papers used to question the reality of climate change can all be traced back to faulty assumptions, methodology or analysis.