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The Other Path

Northern Reflections - Wed, 01/14/2015 - 06:27

                                                http://www.forgetthebox.net/

Like a Puritan obsessed with sin, Stephen Harper is obsessed with austerity. He is not alone in his obsession. Most of Europe's leaders share it. And their obsession has led The Financial Times' Martin Wolfe to write that their economies suffer from "chronic demand deficiency syndrome." The OECD has also been trying to get those who mistake economics for theology to see the folly of their moralistic crusade.

Not all countries take a moralistic approach to economics. Murray Dobbins writes that the Scandinavian countries -- particularly Norway -- have chosen another path:

A recent study, "How Can Scandinavians Tax So Much?" on Norway, Sweden and Denmark, demonstrates how national governments can actually address underlying structural demand weaknesses -- or rather, in their cases, how to prevent such weaknesses from developing in the first place. The key is not just high government spending but a dedication to revenue collection that comes as close as possible to eliminating leakage in the tax system.

The top marginal income tax rate in the three countries is between 60 per cent and 70 per cent compared to 43 per cent in the U.S. and about 50 per cent in Canada. Add in other taxes like consumption and payroll levies and the average Scandinavian worker gets to keep just 20 per cent of her paycheque. In the U.S. that same employee keeps 63 per cent. How can such high tax rates (which would be denounced as "punitive" here) result in some of the best economic outcomes on the planet -- high standards of living, high labour participation rates, highly profitable corporations and high placements (all higher than Canada) in the world competitiveness sweepstakes?

With the governments pumping billions of dollars into the Scandinavian economies there is no "chronic demand deficiency syndrome." They do not rely on debt-financed consumer demand, and the reduction of private consumer spending makes for more rational economic decision-making overall. The U.S. has accomplished what appears to be a stable recovery by also rejecting the austerity obsession and engaging in repeated rounds of quantitative easing  -- artificially pumping money into the economy through bond purchases. Canada, meanwhile, is actually sucking billions out of the economy through tax cuts to sectors (corporations and the 1 per cent) who aren't spending it.
Over the last thirty years, rather than injecting money into our economy, our governments have withdrawn billions of dollars:

Of course we have withdrawn billions since 1985 -- over $60 billion a year in abandoned revenue at the federal level if you go back and count Paul Martin's huge tax cuts in 2000-2005. If we had that money back to spend, the vast majority of it ultimately ends up being spent in the private sector -- and might actually convince Canadian corporations to invest some of the $626 billion in idle cash they are now sitting on. (An IMF report recently chastised Canadians corporations for accumulating idle capital at a faster rate than any other country in the G7.)
And, rather than taking in money from our petroleum wealth, we have sold that resource at fire sale prices. Norway took a different tact:

In Canada we have virtually given away our energy heritage through criminally low royalty rates over a period of some 70 years. Norway bargained hard with oil companies to develop its relatively new found resource -- and kept ownership of it. The result, as reported in The Tyee last year, is a heritage fund of (as of a year ago) $909,364 billion (Canadian). That puts tiny Norway $1.5 trillion ahead of us and while each Canadian has a $17,000 share of our $600 billion debt national debt, each Norwegian has a $178,000 stake in their surplus. Norway puts aside a billion dollars a week from its oil resource.
Clearly, there is another path. And austerity isn't it.

A Blog Post Recommendation

Politics and its Discontents - Wed, 01/14/2015 - 05:51


I have only one purpose in this brief post, and that is to strongly recommend that you take a look at Dr. Dawg's latest post. A trenchant and incisive dissection of the rot that has beset the CBC, Dawg concludes that there is little worth saving at what he calls the 'MotherCorpse', given its increasingly flagrant disregard for conflict of interest issues, Amanda Lang's case being only the latest.

Who is to blame for this sorry state? Well, you'll have to read Dawg's post for his answer.Recommend this Post

Stephen Harper and the End of the Great Economist Myth

Montreal Simon - Wed, 01/14/2015 - 04:06


Well it must have been a grim scene in the PMO bunker last night. For years the Con propaganda machine has tried to brainwash Canadians into believing that Stephen Harper is a Great Economist Leader.

The steady hand on the wheel, steering us to prosperity, the only leader who knows ANYTHING about economics.
Even as he put all our economic eggs into one oily basket, decimated our manufacturing sector, flooded the country with foreign workers, drove down wages, and failed to come up with an industrial strategy, or create enough jobs.
But today that absurd myth finally fell apart, after the Great Helmsman's boat collided with the hard rock of reality. 
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The Con Regime Goes After Another Veteran's Advocate

Montreal Simon - Tue, 01/13/2015 - 22:59


Yesterday I told you how Erin O'Toole, Julian Fantino's equally ghastly replacement, had gone after Mike Blais and his veteran's group. 

Now it turns out that wasn't an isolated incident, it's part of an all-out offensive.

Because today we found out that the Cons are also going after the distinguished veteran's advocate Keith Neville. 
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Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

accidentaldeliberations - Tue, 01/13/2015 - 20:07
Lounging cats.




Unfriending the CBC

Dawg's Blawg - Tue, 01/13/2015 - 10:39
When an institution that I can remember from my childhood—a staggeringly long time ago—starts to rot, it’s usually from the head, like the proverbial fish. We cannot blame the MotherCorpse’s current condition, of course, on the Harper government, or the... Dr.Dawg http://drdawgsblawg.ca/

Counting On Oil

Northern Reflections - Tue, 01/13/2015 - 06:31


Falling oil prices should stimulate the world's faltering economy. But they won't do the Harper government a lot of good. That's because the Harperites have nailed their political flag to eliminating the deficit. And that has become more difficult than they anticipated. Scott Clark and Peter DeVries write:

In other words, cheaper oil will have a net positive effect on real economic growth in the oil-consuming provinces and on their budget balances — but it will have the reverse effect in the oil-producing provinces and in Mr. Oliver’s department.

That growth forecast of 3.7 per cent for nominal GDP already included a downward adjustment for lower oil prices and an additional ‘risk adjustment’ factor — which, according to Finance, together lowered budgetary revenues by $5.5 billion in 2015-16. The drop in oil prices has burned up all of this fiscal ‘slack’ in the deficit forecast. In other words, the collapse of a single commodity has completely undermined the government’s commitment to a balanced budget in 2015-16.

Count on it: Nominal GDP growth of only 2.5 per cent for 2015 means, in the absence of any offsetting cuts or other policy actions, a deficit in 2015-16.
We won't know what the real numbers are until after the election. So you can also count on Mr. Harper selling the same old snake oil. But, remember, he didn't see the Great Recession coming, either.

The Prime Minister has always been a one trick pony. He has always counted on oil to bring Canada prosperity. And, after nine years, it's painfully obvious that he can't count very well.

Alberta faces recession…

Trashy's World - Tue, 01/13/2015 - 05:57
Because of falling oil prices. I predicted this about a two years ago. Right here. … and Ontario bounces back. With the lower price of oil and a lower dollar,it was inevitable. And I bet the short pants in the PMO are beginning to regret their short-changing and put-downs of Canada’s most populaous province. They have surely […]

The CBC: The Ethical Slide Continues

Politics and its Discontents - Tue, 01/13/2015 - 05:55


H/t Canadaland

The once-prized principle of journalistic ethics continues its precipitous decline at the CBC. Following last years's timid management response to conflict of interest allegations against chief correspondent and resident sycophant Peter Mansbridge and its sophistic treatment of oil shill/resident crank/climate-change denier Rex Murphy, the Corporation's management is at it again in defending its senior business correspondent, Amanda Lang.

Two days ago, Canadaland reported the following:
Multiple sources within CBC News have revealed to CANADALAND, under condition of anonymity, a shocking campaign Amanda Lang undertook in 2013 to sabotage a major story reported by her colleague, investigative reporter Kathy Tomlinson.The story that Lang tried to block was uncovered by reporter Kathy Tomlinson and her Go Public team. It revealed that the Royal Bank of Canada was
using an outsourcing firm to bring in temporary workers for its Canadian employees to train... in order to sack those Canadian employees and ship their jobs overseas.
Canadaland reports that as CBC journalists across the country were gathering more information to follow up on the story, they were summoned to a conference call with Tomlinson and Amanda Lang:
Lang, they recall, relentlessly pushed to undermine the RBC story. She argued that RBC was in the right, that their outsourcing practices were “business as usual,” and that the story didn’t merit significant coverage. She and a defiant Tomlinson faced off in a tense, extended argument. Two of the CBC employees we spoke to recall a wave of frustrated hang-ups by participants.

“I cannot emphasize enough how wrong it was,” said one CBC employee we spoke to. “That another journalist, not involved in a story, would intervene in the reporting of others and question the integrity of her colleagues like that. I haven’t seen anything like it before or since.”Lang's efforts did not end there, and extended to on-air efforts to undermine the story, as you will see if you read Canadaland's full report.

Canadaland has since learned the apparent reason for Lang's efforts to subvert the story:
CANADALAND can now confirm that CBC Senior Business Correspondent Amanda Lang’s ties to RBC go beyond sponsored speaking events.

Sources close to Amanda Lang, who spoke to CANADALAND on the condition of anonymity, confirm that she has been in a romantic relationship with RBC Board Member W. Geoffrey Beattie since January 2013 at the latest. This relationship is ongoing, and the two were involved in April 2013, when Lang acted within the CBC to scuttle a colleague’s reporting on abuses of Canadian labour law by RBC.Predictably, CBC management is circling the wagons.
CBC News Editor-in-Chief Jennifer McGuire said in a memo to staff Monday that the allegations about business reporter Amanda Lang’s involvement in the story on RBC’s use of temporary foreign workers were “categorically untrue.”End of story. Or so the CBC might wish. But with the kind of fine investigative work being done at Canadaland (they were, in fact, the first to uncover the Jian Ghomeshi accusations), I suspect that this story is far from dead.

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Tuesday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Tue, 01/13/2015 - 05:51
This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Hugh Segal discusses the need for an open and honest conversation about poverty and how to end it. And to better reflect Canadians' continued desire for a more fair society, Roderick Benns makes the case for a basic income as Canada's next major social program.

- Matt Bruenig writes about the U.S.' income inequality as compared to other developed countries- and it's well worth noting that Canada's distribution is only slightly less distorted than the U.S.'.

- Margo McDiarmid reports on the Cons' latest steps to block any evaluation of the environmental damage done by the tar sands. Dennis Gruending rightly points out that environmental activism will be of limited use if it can't influence government policy, as the major challenges we face demand more coordination than citizens alone can muster. And PressProgress notes that Canada is missing the boat when it comes to developing the renewable energy which will power the world in the decades to come.

- Finally, Jennifer Hollett argues that it's long past time to get rid of our embarrassing leaders. And Michael Harris observes that Stephen Harper remains at the top of that list, with his party's "rage over reason" attitude serving as a particularly important basis for concern.

Stephen Harper's Sinister Plan to Kill Our Medicare System

Montreal Simon - Tue, 01/13/2015 - 03:32


Over the years I have written dozens and dozens of posts about the way Stephen Harper is planning to slowly strangle our precious medicare system.

This one being the latest.

And the reason I have is because NOTHING he is doing bothers me more. For it would cause mass misery, and be the end of the Canadian dream.

So I'm really glad to see that people like Linda McQuaig are also raising the alarm. 
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Stephen Harper, Joe Oliver, and the Latest Porky Ad Scandal

Montreal Simon - Tue, 01/13/2015 - 00:27


As you may have noticed, Stephen Harper has stopped bragging about his government's economic record.

Now it's all about the Great War on Terror, and the dangerous jihadis Justin Trudeau and Tom Mulcair.

But then who can blame him?

If I had screwed up the economy like that, I'd also be hiding in a closet.

But sadly that still hasn't stopped him from using OUR money to pump out even more porky ads like this one...



Even if it is totally fraudulent.
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New Harper Stooge Goes After a Veteran's Group

Montreal Simon - Mon, 01/12/2015 - 15:59


Last week I predicted that Erin O'Toole, who replaced Julian Fantino as the Con Minister of Veteran Affairs would turn out to be no better than his predecessor.

Or just another Harper stooge.

And sure enough it hasn't taken long for him to show his true colours.
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"Dirty Secrets From The Man Who Worked For Harper"

Politics and its Discontents - Mon, 01/12/2015 - 14:35
This needs to be watched by all Canadians concerned about our country's future. Please circulate widely:



H/t Operation MapleRecommend this Post

Fey and Poehler at Their Best

The Disaffected Lib - Mon, 01/12/2015 - 13:10
As a human rights lawyer, she's represented Wikileaks' Julian Assange and former Ukrainian prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko.  She's served the UN and has investigated both the Egyptian judiciary and the assault on Gaza.  And, after all that and so much more, Amal Clooney gets this:

New Year resolution

Cathie from Canada - Mon, 01/12/2015 - 12:47
Our one-word resolution this year: Clean.
We have had a difficult fall and winter due to dealing with the illness and long term care of a relative, including cleaning out a two-bedroom apartment, and it was even more complicated because we needed to travel to another city to deal with it. But everything is handled now, at last.
As a result of this experience, my husband and I have adopted a firm resolution: we will clean up after ourselves.
We will not leave a tangled mountain of stuff for our kids to have to sort out, clean up, or throw away. Deciding what to do with the furniture and so forth was hard enough, but then came the closets and the shelves and the drawers -- old photos and pictures, mementos of trips that nobody can remember, clothes unworn for twenty years, fabric for projects unstarted, Christmas cards a decade old, chequebooks and statements for accounts long-closed, stacked sets of forgotten linens and towels, dishes and cookware last used before the turn of the century, tchotchkes and geegaws and ornaments of all kinds.
We promise we will never say "but its still good" or "maybe I will use this again someday" or "we can't throw this out until we check with ...." -- any of these are a license to put something back on a shelf and never pick it up again. We are going to get rid of our extra stuff come hell or high water -- come to think of it, high water might be the answer!
And if you are in the habit of opening your mail, perusing the contents, carefully folding everything up again, putting it all back in one of the envelopes, and tucking it away into a drawer -- please STOP!

The Harper Strategy Strikes Again

Politics and its Discontents - Mon, 01/12/2015 - 11:47
To which of the myriad Machiavellian Harper strategies do I refer? It's the one that says if you don't like what a group is saying, muzzle them or shut them down.

The Hill Times today reports the following:
Newly-appointed Veterans Affairs Minister Erin O’Toole has informed an advocacy group for wounded and psychologically injured veterans that it is no longer a stakeholder adviser to the Veterans Affairs department.

Mike Blais, who helped launch Canadian Veterans Advocacy in 2011 to advocate for veterans and serving Canadian Forces members who did combat tours in Afghanistan and their families, told The Hill Times that Mr. O’Toole (Durham, Ont.) gave the bad news to the group in a voicemail he left on Mr. Blais’ phone service Jan. 7.Mr. Blais' group, which had been part of a Veterans Affairs Canada Stakeholder Committee established in 2012,
had been one of the most vocal critics of the department’s treatment of injured veterans and Canadian Forces members in the months leading up to Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s (Calgary Southwest, Alta.) decision to shuffle former Veterans Affairs minister Julian Fantino (Vaughan, Ont.) out of the post last week, following scathing criticism from Auditor General Michael Ferguson for delays in treatment for veterans.What prompted the termination, which the 'classy' Mr. O'Toole left in a voicemail message to Mr. Blais? Here is what the former said last June in the House:
“As a veteran myself, I have been quite offended by some of the work that group does. It is not sincere. It is not based on sound policy. I understand, at committee, that they have acknowledged that their funding has come from unions”.Setting the record straight, Blais offered the following:
The advocacy group lobbied against government budget plans in 2012 that would have resulted in job losses at Veterans Affairs Canada, he said, after which the union representing the employees provided Canadian Veterans Advocacy a donation of $2,000.

“Every department at that time took a 10-per-cent hit except Veterans Affairs Canada,” Mr. Blais said.

“We worked hard on that and the Union of Veterans Affairs Employees made a donation of $2,000, no strings attached, just a donation to the war chest. There is not tit for tat, no, nothing, right. As a consequence to that, even though it was three years ago and a meagre $2,000, they’ve been attempting to label us,” Mr. Blais said.Julian Fantino may have been replaced as Veterans Affairs minister, but his malignant, vindictive spirit clearly lives on.

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