OTTAWA — Canadian taxpayers have been paying to embed federal trade commissioners into business groups representing the country’s arms industry, petroleum firms, and automotive sector. The arrangements, some of which go back to 2010, involve integrating the trade commissioners directly […]
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Ontario managed to raise the minimum wage by 75 cents to $11 per hour, leaving a full-time minimum wage worker not far from 20 per cent below the income poverty level. Is doing almost nothing now to be considered progress in what used to be one of the wealthiest jurisdictions in the world?
Someone recently asked me (okay, multiple people did) where to start to learn about getting Bitcoins? You can start here at my blog, now. A better place to look will be at one of the links below in my 15 minute introduction. Don’t put off learning, it’s the Napster of the financial world, it will […]
Miscellaneous material to start your week.
- Matthew O’Brien is the latest to pick up on the connection between pre-transfer income equality, redistribution and sustainable economic growth: Redistribution overall helps, and at least doesn’t harm, growth spells. That’s because the positive effects of less inequality add to or offset the negligible, or negative, effects of redistribution itself. When redistribution is in the bottom 75 percent, these positive effects are the only ones, and growth lasts longer. And when redistribution is in the top 25 percent, these positive effects make up for the negative ones from taxing-and-transferring so much—it’s a statistically (Read more…)
Benjamin Deniston writing at LarouchePublications:
….The present physical-economic collapse of the United States is the result of four decades of stagnation and attrition. Living standards have collapsed, industry has bee…
WASHINGTON – U.S. employers added 169,000 jobs in August and many fewer in July than previously thought. Hiring has slowed from the start of the year and could complicate the Federal Reserve’s decision later this month on whether to reduce … Continue Reading
The dead economy is the reason why billionaire warmongers are pulling the strings on all the leaders they have propped up as Presidents and Prime Ministers to start an all out war to improve their bank balances…. all at the cost of innocent lives an…
Friday, August 16, 2013
The aggressive austerity cuts carried out by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Finance Minister Jim Flaherty over the past seven yea…
This and that for your Tuesday reading.
- Michael Harris offers a theory for the Cons’ handling of the Clusterduff – from their willingness to pay him off to their subsequent decision to cut him loose: Why were the CPC and the PM’s chief of staff willing to risk what would be an explosive scandal if the facts leaked out, as they did on May 14, 2013? The answer that seems most likely is this: To stop an audit into Senator Duffy trailing back into the 2011 election.
In the early innings of this story, Conservative strategists took the view (Read more…)
I keep encountering anthropologists (mostly but not only in print) who help more in understanding how the world works today than other experts do, even in their own fields. For example, Debt: The First 5,000 Years by young U.S. anthropologist David Graeber, who did fieldwork in Madagascar, illuminates more about the current economic crisis than anything I know by economists. It even points to ways out. U.K. anthropologist Sir Jack Goody, who’s 93 and studied tribal cultures in West Africa, has expanded the idea of democracy far beyond a thing invented in Athens, and then perfected in the U.S. and U.K.
Miscellaneous material to start your week.
- Murray Dobbin writes about the crisis of extreme capitalism:
(T)he “free economy” romanticized by Friedman and his ilk is anything but. Completely dominated by giant corporations whose wealth outstrips all but the richest nations, economic freedom does not exist for anyone else, including the vast majority of businesses who are at the mercy of financial institutions and mega-corporations. This is to say nothing of workers whose “freedom” to sell their labour now means they are free to compete with those who earn a few dollars a day thousands of miles away from their communities.
A free economy has always been a euphemism for liberated capital, and globalization is its obvious expression. While the behaviour of genuine markets as envisioned by Adam Smith was actually rooted in the customs, mores and culture of communities, this is less and less the case. Market behaviour is now typically that of Goldman Sachs or hedge funds. Their coldly calculated and amoral decisions affect every community on the planet and everyone living in them.
One very concrete way of comparing the power of labour and capital is to examine the share of the proceeds of increased productivity each receives. This time capital took it all — virtually every dime over a 25-year period. Had incomes grown at the same rate as productivity the median income would have been $56,826 in 2005 instead of $41,401. But they didn’t. Capital took it all because it could, because year by year democracy and its constraints on the “market” were steadily eroded.
In that missing $15,000 a year you can find the crisis of consumption, Canadian chapter. If millions of Canadian workers and families had actually kept pace with productivity the astonishing level of debt they now face would be much lower and they would be spending money in the economy. Last October the debt-to-income ratio of Canadian families hit a new record of 163.4 per cent. The comparable figure in the U.S. — where it is also considered dangerously high — is 110 per cent. As if that wasn’t bad enough, money borrowed against home equity totals $206 billion, equal to 12 per cent of Canadian GDP (it’s 4 per cent in the U.S.).
This refusal of the federal government to collect adequate revenue to address this huge deficit in infrastructure is one of the best examples of just how perverse neo-liberal ideology has become. A modern economy cannot function efficiently with crumbling roads, bridges, mass transit systems and sewer and water systems, yet government policy continues to contribute to the crisis. And this is just one category of service that corporations rely on — cuts to education and medicare, and the lack of investment in social housing and child care are equally irrational from a business perspective.
Yet the current management committee of capitalism will respond to its crisis based on the theory that got them here in the first place — Milton Friedman’s edict that democracy is the problem. The greater the crisis, the more democracy will have to constrained. If the medicine doesn’t work, increase the dose. Inequality will not be addressed; it will be institutionalized.
- As a case in point, Dene Moore reports on Taseko’s sheer glee at the prospect of a federal government willing to gut environmental assessment processes to facilitate the destruction of important lakes in the name of mining profits. And David Climenhaga points out the chutzpah of oil apologists who are willing to stand in front of a disaster scene and claim we should trust their judgment in how to avoid disasters.
- Joseph Stiglitz discusses how draconian intellectual property laws exacerbate inequality:
The Myriad case was an embodiment of three key messages in my book “The Price of Inequality.” First, I argued that societal inequality was a result not just of the laws of economics, but also of how we shape the economy — through politics, including through almost every aspect of our legal system. Here, it’s our intellectual property regime that contributes needlessly to the gravest form of inequality. The right to life should not be contingent on the ability to pay.
The second is that some of the most iniquitous aspects of inequality creation within our economic system are a result of “rent-seeking”: profits, and inequality, generated by manipulating social or political conditions to get a larger share of the economic pie, rather than increasing the size of that pie. And the most iniquitous aspect of this wealth appropriation arises when the wealth that goes to the top comes at the expense of the bottom. Myriad’s efforts satisfied both these conditions: the profits the company gained from charging for its test added nothing to the size and dynamism of the economy, and simultaneously decreased the welfare of those who could not afford it.
While all of the insured contributed to Myriad’s profits — premiums had to go up to offset its fees, and millions of uninsured middle-income Americans who had to pay Myriad’s monopoly prices were on the hook for even more if they chose to get the test — it was the uninsured at the bottom who paid the highest price. With the test unaffordable, they faced a higher risk of early death.
When the legal regime governing intellectual property rights is designed poorly, it facilitates rent-seeking — and ours is poorly designed, though this and other recent Supreme Court decisions have led to one that is better than it otherwise would have been. And the result is that there is actually less innovation and more inequality.
Indeed, one of the important insights of Robert W. Fogel, a Nobel Prize-winning economic historian who died last month, was that a synergy between improved health and technology accounts for a good part of the explosive economic growth since the 19th century. So it stands to reason that intellectual property regimes that create monopoly rents that impede access to health both create inequality and hamper growth more generally.
- Paul Krugman comments on the Republicans’ determination to ensure that less-wealthy Americans go hungry as further evidence of a political party genuinely dedicated to destruction for its own sake. And lest anybody consider the Cons any different, Lee Berthiaume finds that hundreds of millions of dollars budgeted for foreign aid have been held back for no apparent reason.
- Finally, Susan Delacourt discusses the relationship between the Harper Cons and the civil service – featuring an ideal case in point as to why we should be concerned about the Cons’ short-sightedness:
Kenney, for instance, apparently told his officials that his political insights counted as much, if not more, than standard research and surveys. Griffith describes this tension as a challenge that needed to be overcome by the public servants — many of whom greeted the work-culture change with classic stages of grief: anger, sadness, denial and, finally, acceptance.
Griffith also notes that Kenney and the public service had different attitudes toward risk — while the public service was thinking in the long term, the minister was focused on the short-term, political calendar.
A company called Career Builder recently released a list of what it called the ten hottest jobs in Toronto, based on data about the occupations with the fastest increases in employment between 2010 and 2013.
That made me wonder: how does Toronto…
It’s been 30 years since Vancouver gallery owner Frans Wynans had a flash of inspiration, pulled some strings with his connections in New York and arranged for 22-year-old hockey superstar Wayne Gretzky to spend an afternoon with Andy Warhol — […]
This year marks the 100th anniversary of Ontario’s first Royal Commission on workers’ compensation, conducted by Chief Justice Sir William Meredith from 1910 to 1913. To celebrate this centennial and bring awareness to the ongoing struggle of injured workers, a “People’s Commission“ has been appointed by injured workers and activists to explore the state of the worker’s compensation system in Ontario.
Playing the part of the present-day Meredith is Dr. Robert Storey, Director of Labour Studies at McMaster University and author of the forthcoming People’s Commission Report on Workers Compensation.
As part of our continuing series of commentaries celebrating the 50th anniversary of Mel Watkins’ classic article, “A Staple Theory of Economic Growth,” we present the following commentary by Marc Lee, economist with the B.C. office of the Canad…
Assorted content for your Sunday reading.
- Chris Dillow discusses how a shredded social safety net may turn into a vicious cycle – as voters are more prepared to cast ballots based on resentment when their own livelihood is less secure: Marko Pitesa and Stefan Thau first manipulated subjects’ perceptions of their income by inviting some to compare themselves to high incomes ($500,000 per month) and others to low incomes ($500 per month). They found that people primed to believe they had low incomes then expressed harsher judgments about violent acts than those who were primed to think themselves rich. (Read more…)
WASHINGTON — “The pitchforks were out in the street with the white heat of anger,” the ex-congressman was saying, recalling the free-fall on Wall Street in the fall of five years ago. “I thought we might lose control of the […]
Our brave new world where everybody has lost their bearings and where false compliments and lies are the new truth and truth is shunned like the plague.
….Even before the sheer pants scandal, there were signs of trouble: like when founder Chip Wilson admitted he named the brand Lululemon because it was fun watching Japanese people struggling to pronounce the name. ….
………On Tuesday, the yogawear brand announced scorned founder Chip Wilson is stepping down, following a series of blunders – including telling women that yoga pants aren’t meant for everyone’s bodies…
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Two Saturday mornings ago, I started my Christmas shopping, but I didn’t hit the likeliest of spots. Instead, I wandered down Ottawa Street, a stretch that acts as a throwback to Hamilton’s industrial past. The street, which once housed the booming garment and textile industry during WWI and WWII, is still known for its fabric shops, as well as many cozy cafés and antique stores, the latter being the reason for my visit.
“There’s class warfare, all right, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.” — Warren Buffett
When I hear the word austerity, I think of something else: class warfare.
It is not really about budget deficits or go…
Hondurans are not lazy, they’re not inferior and they’re not communists. They are, however, victims of a (self-devouring) globalized corporatocracy, especially since the military coup in 2009 destroyed the fledgling democracy of president Manuel Zelaya, and reversed his attempts to use public resources for the benefit of Hondurans.
Ever since that transformative moment, freedom and democracy have been extinguished, as have the lives of many peaceful, freedom-loving Hondurans, while those who commit or support these crimes –with impunity — control the levers of power.
Here, starting from Nattavudh Powdthavee and Andrew Oswald’s study to discuss on how people have trouble telling the difference between luck and merit (particularly when they’re enjoying the benefit of the former) – and how we should take that gap into account both personally and politically.
I’ll add here one point omitted from the article. I’m skeptical in general of the all-too-common trend of public institutions like hospitals, libraries and schools being forced to rely on fund-raising lotteries rather than being funded directly. But the study hints at a hidden side effect – as a “successful” lottery which provides (Read more…)
Miscellaneous material for your weekend reading.
- Katie McDonough reports on new research showing the devastating effects of poverty on an individual’s ability to plan and function:
According to researchers at Harvard University and the University of British Columbia, people living in poverty experience reduced cognitive functioning as a result of regularly wrestling with how to make ends meet. People struggling to get by were found to suffer a drop of as much as 13 points in their IQ, approximately the same difference found in people who go an entire night without sleep.
“Past research has often blamed [poverty] on the personal failings of the poor. They don’t work hard enough; they’re not focused enough,” University of British Columbia professor Jiaying Zhao, who co-authored the study, told the Washington Post. “What we’re arguing is it’s not about the individual. It’s about the situation.”
- Meanwhile, Larry Hubich points out some of the progress Saskatchewan has helped to lead in the past – while lamenting the fact that our current government insists on making life more difficult for workers. And anybody looking for inspiring news about the future of Canada’s labour movement will want to tune in to Unifor’s founding convention.
- Eric Horowitz discusses how less forceful arguments may be more effective in convincing people who start with an opposing set of assumptions. But I do think it’s worth highlighting that any strategy along those lines has to be based on a limited set of circumstances – as the separate goal of building a strong movement with shared goals generally requires motivation based on strong points of agreement.
- Finally, the Cons’ latest abuses of power include new rules to prevent international musical acts from performing in Canada, and hiring a new Parliamentary Budget Officer with the explicit intention of serving their own interests rather than the public’s.
Rallies last week in Toronto, Nanaimo and Montreal drew attention to the excessive secrecy in the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade negotiations which continued in Brunei behind closed doors. The actions were co-ordinated by the Council of Canadia…
This and that for your Thursday reading.
- Jenny Carson asks what governments are doing to lift poor workers out of poverty. (Spoiler alert: the Cons’ answer is “why would we want to do that?”).
- Meanwhile, Kemal Dervis and Uri Dadush discuss the desperate need to rein in inequality in the U.S.: As it turns out, high and rising levels of inequality may well be a cause of increased macroeconomic instability. But the negative spiral doesn’t end there: High inequality also contributes to a fraying of the political consensus, is associated with boom-bust credit cycles and (Read more…)
They were vastly underestimated.
.@theturner And yet @SaskPower as recently as 2013 was highlighting a #solarpower study from 2000 to guide their grid planning. #skpoli— John Klein (@JohnKleinRegina) August 14, 2013
Here’s info about that out of date solar power study that SaskPower was touting.
@JohnKleinRegina Maybe mention to @SaskPower that installed PV costs in Alberta have declined by 90% since then with no govt support at all.— Chris Turner (@theturner) August 14, 2013
This and that for your Tuesday reading.
- Frank Graves comments on the fundamental political choices we’re facing in determining whether to continue operating based on corporatist orthodoxy – and the reality that the vast majority of Canadians don’t agree with the side chosen by the Harper Cons:
(T)he devil’s trade off of more inequality, lower tax rates for the wealthy and corporations and a minimal state isn’t producing the promised trickle down benefits. Monetarism, and the bumper sticker simplicity of “lower taxes + less government = prosperity for all” has been laid bare as a cruel hoax. And the myth that inequality might be tough medicine — but that it provides a springboard for greater social mobility and economic efficiency — has also been punctured. It is now vividly clear that those places with the greatest level of inequality (which is rising throughout the advanced western world) are the places with the lowest levels of upward mobility. The Gatsby curve shows that it is the U.S. that now has the greatest levels of intergenerational reproduction of wealth and social order (along with the U.K.). Canada is moving with similar rapidity towards a more unequal society. If you want to see where opportunity expresses itself best, where the most able rise to the top, don’t go to the United States or even Canada. If you want to live the American dream, move to Denmark, which incidentally is one of, if not the top performing, Western economies in term of standard of living.
Most of the linkages to the strong preference for a more active government are unsurprising. Quebec is more statist, and Alberta less so. Women are much more likely to favour an active government. But the most notable finding is that after nearly 40 years of being told that the merits of less government are the preferred recipe for shared prosperity, there is not a single group in Canadian society that does not clearly reject the path of less active government in the long term future. Whether this is a product of current pessimism about the future, or growing awareness that the big winners in the new world order (both democratic and authoritarian) all seem to have active state involvement in the economy, we can at this stage offer only broadly suggestive commentary. But perhaps it is time for us admit that monetarism and the pursuit of the night watchman state seems ready to be consigned to the dustbin of historical failure.
- Simon Tremblay-Pepin points out the disproportionate corporate focus on dividends in recent years – particularly in light of the 2008 crash.
- Kevin Drum writes that austerity forced by Republicans has cost the U.S. 3 million jobs. And Linda McQuaig documents Stephen Harper’s role in spreading the blight of gratuitous economic destruction around the globe:
By early 2010, Keynesianism was losing ground on the international scene. But it was the G20 summit in Toronto later that year which “above all” resulted in the world’s rich nations changing course and embracing austerity, according to a recent article by British financial journalist Martin Wolf in the New York Review of Books.
Harper played a key role in that lamentable change of direction. At his urging, the G20 nations agreed to commit themselves to halve their deficits by 2013 — a draconian approach that returned the developed world to obsessing about deficits and ignoring unemployment.
(Ironically, the high unemployment produced by austerity reduces tax revenues and increases social spending, making deficit-reduction difficult. Much to its embarrassment, the Harper government has had to revise its deficit estimates upward. So far this year, Canada’s deficit is rising, not falling.)
But the fixation on deficits, which has dominated public discourse for much of the last 30 years, has helped divert attention from the fact that austerity is part of a larger agenda (including tax cuts and privatization) that’s redistributed money toward the top.
- Josh Eidelson continues to discuss the spread of fast-food and retail strikes in the U.S. as workers seek a reasonable living wage.
- And finally, Ralph Surette puts involuntary testing on hungry First Nations Canadians into context as another ugly aspect of our history.
OTTAWA — The Conservative government is looking to ease restrictions on the sale of weapons and military equipment to Brazil, Chile, Peru and South Korea in what is believed to be the latest effort to bolster Canada’s arms exports. While […]
<– L-R: applicants Dror Bar-Natan, Simone Topey and Michael McAteer who are challenging the need to swear allegiance to the Queen to become a citizen. ‘Repugnant’ citizenship oath to Queen should be illegal, court hears. The monarchy represents inequality, class division and a history of slavery, say three permanent residents of Canada who appeared in an […]
WATERLOO REGION — Is your family budget getting tighter? You’re in good company. Tax records show the typical local family was $1,360 poorer in 2011 than in 2007. That’s after accounting for inflation. Statistics Canada released the data Wednesday after … Continue Reading
Most of us know the old adage, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” That’s why we’re told by teachers to keep our kids home from school when they’re sick, so they get better and they don’t get others sick as well. It’s why there’s …
Thursday, October 17, 2013
The U.S. federal government has been paralyzed for two weeks by a lack of budget spending authority, with hund…
WASHINGTON – A private survey shows U.S. businesses added just 130,000 jobs in October, as the 16-day government shutdown slowed an already-weak job market. Payroll processor ADP also says companies created just 145,000 jobs in September, many fewer than the … Continue Reading
Here is a very intriguing and creative entry in our continuing series of commentaries marking the 50th Anniversary of the publication of Mel Watkins’ classic article, “A Staple Theory of Economic Growth.” We are delighted to have the participati…
“Among Group of Seven (G-7) countries, such as the U.S., Germany and Japan, Canada has had the strongest record of growth and job creation over the economic recovery.” - 2013 Budget
“Canada now leads the G-7 — in job creation; in income growth; and in keeping debt levels low.” - Speech from the Throne, October 2013
“Our job creation is the envy of other advanced countries…” - 2011 Budget Speech, June 6, 2011
OTTAWA — Justin Trudeau has spent his first eight months as Liberal leader trying to address two key reasons for the federal Liberals‘ decade-long demise: the party’s lack of a ground game, and its tendency to stand for nothing. The early results […]
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Imagine finding $7.96 million in your stocking on Christmas morning. For Canada’s top 100 CEOs, that happy day has arrived. These 100 Canadians earn more than 99.9 per ce…