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No struggle for what you believe in is ever futile.
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Saturday Morning Links

Sat, 10/22/2016 - 07:43
Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Scott Sinclair and Stuart Trew applaud Wallonia's principled stance against the CETA. And Joseph Stiglitz discusses the need to set up social and economic systems which actually serve the public good, rather than favouring corporate interests:
Where the trade agreements failed, it was not because the US was outsmarted by its trading partners; it was because the US trade agenda was shaped by corporate interests. America’s companies have done well, and it is the Republicans who have blocked efforts to ensure that Americans made worse off by trade agreements would share the benefits. 
Thus, many Americans feel buffeted by forces outside their control, leading to outcomes that are distinctly unfair. Long-standing assumptions – that America is a land of opportunity and that each generation will be better off than the last – have been called into question. The global financial crisis may have represented a turning point for many voters: their government saved the rich bankers who had brought the US to the brink of ruin, while seemingly doing almost nothing for the millions of ordinary Americans who lost their jobs and homes. The system not only produced unfair results, but seemed rigged to do so. ...There are two messages US political elites should be hearing. The simplistic neo-liberal market-fundamentalist theories that have shaped so much economic policy during the last four decades are badly misleading, with GDP growth coming at the price of soaring inequality. Trickle-down economics hasn’t and won’t work. Markets don’t exist in a vacuum. The Thatcher-Reagan “revolution,” which rewrote the rules and restructured markets for the benefit of those at the top, succeeded all too well in increasing inequality, but utterly failed in its mission to increase growth. 
This leads to the second message: we need to rewrite the rules of the economy once again, this time to ensure that ordinary citizens benefit. Politicians in the US and elsewhere who ignore this lesson will be held accountable. Change entails risk. But the Trump phenomenon – and more than a few similar political developments in Europe – has revealed the far greater risks entailed by failing to heed this message: societies divided, democracies undermined, and economies weakened. - Jesse Brown rightly questions whether Canada is living up to its self-image as a progressive example for the world, while Cindy Blackstock notes that continued discrimination against First Nations children is just one crucial area where a change in government hasn't led to improvement in substance.

- Leilani Farha discusses the need to start seeing housing in terms of human rights rather than market commodities. Elisheva Passarello describes how transitional housing allowed her to move from poverty and homelessness toward improvement in all facets of her life. Beatrice Britneff reports on a new study  showing that we could end homelessness in Canada in a decade. And Rachel Zeineker notes that at least in Yellowknife, the public is well aware that homelessness ranks ahead of everything else a problem demanding immediate attention and resources.

- Erika Shaker makes the case for zero tuition (while countering some of the usual spin which has resulted in the cost of education being borne increasingly by students without the means to pay it).

- Finally, Stewart Prest discusses the "yellow dog effect" as an important argument against first-past-the-post politics.

Musical interlude

Fri, 10/21/2016 - 18:04
Yuri Kane feat. Melissa Loretta - Daylight

Friday Morning Links

Fri, 10/21/2016 - 07:34
Assorted content to end your week.

- Mainly Macro offers a useful definition of neoliberalism, while highlighting its relationship to austerity. And Ed Finn writes that we shouldn't be too quick to presume neoliberalism is going to disappear just because it's proven to be harmful in practice - and that it will take a massive shift in our politics to actually create real change:
We should always keep in mind that neoliberalism is as much a methodology as it is an ideology. Perhaps more so. It is the deeply entrenched doctrine through and by which corporations exert and maintain their dominant economic system. Global capitalism could not survive without the prevalence of neoliberalism, or some equivalent belief system that rationalizes its brutally inequitable operations.

No matter how vigorous the upsurge of anti-establishment populism becomes, it will never on its own topple the titans of corporate rule. That could only happen when countries have genuinely democratic governments instead of governments that function mainly as the flunkeys of big business. We live in a world where nearly all governments (including Canada’s) have embraced and deployed neoliberalism as zealously as the corporations — and on behalf of the corporations.

As long as the corporations can rely on this powerful political support, neoliberalism will remain unassailable. Without the levers of reform that only governments can provide, the dissidents can never succeed in their crusade, no matter how large their numbers. This is the grim reality.
There is some hope that, if a massive multitude of voters could be mobilized against the nabobs of neoliberalism, it could be concentrated into a powerful electoral force. What if every MP who favoured neoliberalism — or even a majority of them — were defeated in the next election and replaced by a candidate who wanted it scrapped? If duplicated in every large industrial country, could this international tsunami of anti-establishment populism sink global neoliberalism?

Simply to pose this fanciful scenario, however, exposes its improbability — if only because the destruction of neoliberalism also entails the destruction of capitalism.

Neoliberalism is the lifeblood, the very beating heart, of modern capitalism. So it will be fiercely defended by both corporations and their obsequious political allies, regardless of the social, economic, and environmental devastation it wreaks.- Alison Grizwold discusses how the gig labour market looks disturbingly like the pre-industrial economy in its total lack of security or protection for workers.

- Aditya Chakrabortty writes that anti-social populism is a natural response to the spread of trade agreements as a substitute for democratic control over policy. Steven Shrybman analyzes (PDF) the utterly ineffective "interpretative declaration" which is supposed to offer some comfort against the obviously worrisome terms of the CETA. And Brent Patterson points out that Ontario is claiming it's bound by existing trade rules as an excuse for refusing to protect needed water sources from corporate exploitation.

- Finally, Elizabeth Goiten calls attention to the U.S. government's reliance on secret laws, while pointing out the obvious dangers of sidestepping both public review as to what laws are in place and the ability to know what legal burdens have been applied. Edward Snowden discusses the politics of fear behind C-51 and other surveillance legislation. And Matthew Behrens laments the fact that even CSIS' supposed watchdog is going out of its way to defend the use of information obtained by torture (however grossly that violates international law).

New column day

Thu, 10/20/2016 - 09:11
Here, on how Brad Wall's call for Canada to stop funding international climate change adaptation and mitigation reflects just one more example of his government's tendency to kick down at the people least able to defend themselves.

For further reading...
- Gregory Beatty again documented the background to Wall's abandonment of an equalization system which would properly account for resources (in favour of a climate change policy intended to ignore the pollution they generate).
- For details on Canada's international climate contributions, see here.
- Howard Leeson writes about the futility of Wall's choice to literally tilt at windmills. And for noteworthy comments on Wall's plan itself, see the responses by Andrew Leach, Mark Cameron and Christopher Ragan, the Pembina Institute, and Murray Mandryk.
- Finally, key comments on the Wall government's latest cuts to social supports can be found here and here. And CBC reports on protests against the Saskatchewan Party's cuts to disability programs.

Thursday Morning Links

Thu, 10/20/2016 - 06:51
This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Owen Jones highlights the toxic stress and other health problems borne disproportionately by members of the LGBT community who face systematic discrimination. And Tayla Smith and Jaitra Sathyandran discuss how temporary foreign workers (and others facing precarious work situations) tend to suffer preventable harm to their health and welfare.

- Meanwhile, Robert Devet reports that Nova Scotia's NDP is proposing to relieve an important part of economic insecurity by making it a mandatory human rights obligation to ensure people have access to food, water, housing and basic services. Which in turn fits nicely with Trevor Hancock's reminder that we're better off investing in public health, rather than paying for after-the-fact treatment only once an illness or injury has surfaced.

- Reynard Loki discusses the impending global water crisis, while pointing out there's much to gain by ensuring people have access to clean and safe water.

- Andrew Coyne asks whether Justin Trudeau is trying to pull a fast one on electoral reform. Kelly Carmichael argues that the Libs need to be held to their clear promise to end first-past-the-post politics.

- Meanwhile, Dr. Dawg takes a more general look at how Trudeau is presiding over another term of Harperite government. Chantal Hebert points out that the list of similarities increasingly includes a refusal to engage constructively with anybody outside the federal government. And Robert Fife and Steven Chase report that cash-for-access is standard operating procedure for Trudeau's cabinet.

- Finally, CBC reports on Oxfam's latest study documenting the connection between the gender pay gap and the wider problem of inequality.

Wednesday Morning Links

Wed, 10/19/2016 - 10:37
Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Peter Fleming writes that the promise of entrepreneurial self-employment has given way to the nightmare of systematic precarious work:
(T)he move to reclassify people as self-employed follows a very simple formula: it helps reduce labour costs and maximise profits for businesses that would rather use contractors than a permanent workforce. This includes Uber, Hermes, universities and many other organisations.

The business logic is rather brutal. If you’re self-employed then all the costs that a normal employer would cover must now be paid by you – including training, uniforms and vehicles, not to mention basic provisions for pensions and sick pay. This is the case even when a contractor works for the firm on a de facto permanent basis.
The problem is that successive governments have completely swallowed the “entrepreneurial society” propaganda that is spouted by neoliberal economists. As a result, the laws and regulations that protect the permanent workforce don’t apply here. Not even the minimum wage. Clearly this has been exploited by employers.
Perhaps the message cuts to the heart of the self-employment movement. It’s all about power. While some may end up on top, most workers find themselves perilously dependent on an employer, and with few rights or protections, not to mention less pay.

What can be done? Well, the airline pilots had the right idea. The only way to rebalance what is now a very unequal power relationship is to collectivise. Workers at Deliveroo and Uber have arrived at similar conclusions.

The so-called “gig economy” sounds glamorous and fun, like trendy graphic designers working from a laptop in a Shoreditch cafe. Sadly it’s turned out to be something of a bad gig for many struggling to make ends meet. The conflict between workers and capitalism hasn’t disappeared. It might have got even worse. - Hina Alam reports on a new Forum poll showing widespread public support for a $15 minimum wage across Canada.

- Tom Parkin rightly pushes back again the claim that we should encourage pay-for-play health care due to the cost of ensuring that everybody has access. And Steven Hoffman makes the case for an increase in public health resources to prevent injuries and illness rather than merely reacting after they've materialized.

- Meanwhile, Laurie Monsebraaten highlights how many people would benefit from a public child care system based on their inability to afford daycare now.

- Abbas Rana discusses Bradley Birkenfeld's thus-far-rejected efforts to help Canada to recover billions in tax revenues from offshore accounts.

- Finally, Neil MacDonald writes that Canada is increasingly reliant on the war business - and the Trudeau Libs are putting large amounts of time and energy into furthering that niche.

On false prophets

Wed, 10/19/2016 - 06:41
It wasn't long ago when a series of Canadian federal elections saw Stephen Harper and his Conservatives take more and more power - culminating in over four years of a false majority government - even as upwards of 60% of voters opposed virtually everything it stood for.

Some of us then figured it was worth doing something to fix the first-past-the-post system which Harper was able to exploit - especially when every national opposition party included electoral reform among its top priorities as part of the effort to oust Harper.

But Justin Trudeau has apparently given up the pretense of caring about implementing a system which represents Canadians. Instead, he's abandoning the promise that we'd seen our last FPTP election - because he's apparently perfectly happy trading an artificial claim to barely-checked power with Harper-style Conservatives as long as his party gets a turn.

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Tue, 10/18/2016 - 18:31
Nestled cats.

Tuesday Morning Links

Tue, 10/18/2016 - 05:39
This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Peter Rossman explains why the CETA falls far short of the mark in accounting for anybody's interests other than those of big business. And Dani Rodrik discusses the dangers of laissez-faire fundamentalism, particularly to the extent it threatens to undermine the foundation of a functional society:
(T)he lesson from the 1980s is that some reversal from hyper-globalization need not be a bad thing, as long as it serves to maintain a reasonably open world economy. As I have frequently argued, we need a better balance between national autonomy and globalization. In particular, we need to place the requirements of liberal democracy ahead of those of international trade and investment. Such a rebalancing would leave plenty of room for an open global economy; in fact, it would enable and sustain it.
The key challenge facing mainstream political parties in the advanced economies today is to devise such a vision, along with a narrative that steals the populists’ thunder. These center-right and center-left parties should not be asked to save hyper-globalization at all costs. Trade advocates should be understanding if they adopt unorthodox policies to buy political support.

We should look instead at whether their policies are driven by a desire for equity and social inclusion, or by nativist and racist impulses; whether they want to enhance or weaken the rule of law and democratic deliberation; and whether they are trying to save the open world economy – albeit with different ground rules – rather than undermine it. - Michael Enright writes about the obvious failure of Canada's corporate sector to convert billions in giveaways into economic investment. And that track record in relying on the corporate sector offers all the more reason to be wary of Justin Trudeau's plan to sell off what's left of our common wealth.
- Casey Quinlan examines how corporations are using underfunded public school systems in the U.S., while Daniel Boffey notes that private schools in the UK are creating new barriers for poor children.

- Sarah Smarsh theorizes that the rise of Donald Trump can be explained in part by the failure of the media and other cultural institutions to provide a voice for many working people. And David Beers warns us that we shouldn't trust the mainstream right to recognize the risk of a Trump-style demagogue.

- Finally, Dougald Lamont reminds us why we shouldn't pretend the Canadian Taxpayers' Federation stands for anything other than unaccountable corporate influence. And DeSmog Canada examines the grossly insufficient state of political finance regulations in British Columbia.

Monday Morning Links

Mon, 10/17/2016 - 08:30
Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Vanessa Williamson writes that plenty of Americans want to see wealthy individuals and corporations pay their fair share of taxes - only to have that strong desire ignored by policymakers. And Joseph Stiglitz and Erika Siu discuss the glaring need for stronger tax enforcement around the globe.

- Andrew Coyne rebuts the assumption from Brad Wall and others that there's no cost to ignoring the harms of climate change.

- Murray Mandryk points to the Saskatchewan Party's slashing of funding for teachers for Northern Saskatchewan as a prime example of austerity being inflicted most directly on the people who can least afford it.

- Geoff Leo pieces together the story of the Saskatchewan Party's Global Transportation Hub scandal - now featuring a second, failed attempt to enrich Brad Wall's cronies at public expense before the purchase which was ultimately pushed through. And the question which figures to reverberate for some time given the Saskatchewan Party's refusal to answer it is which shady operator was granted privileged access to Bill Boyd to that end.

- Karen McVeigh reports on Nevsun's use of forced labour and intimidation tactics in Eritrea as the latest example of mining-industry abuses around the world which should be a source of significant shame for Canada.

- Finally, John Washington tells the story of a widespread strike among U.S. prisoners being exploited for their cheap labour whose large-scale protests have received virtually no public attention. And Larry Schwartzol and Abby Shafroth point out how prison debt prevents people who have served a sentence from building a life afterward.

Most! Progressive! Ever!

Sun, 10/16/2016 - 13:27
Shorter Bill Morneau:
I take great pride in the fact that other elites are starting to come around to my party's "make a show of dropping at least a few crumbs for the plebes" philosophy.

Sunday Morning Links

Sun, 10/16/2016 - 10:30
This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Ellen Gould comments on how the CETA and other trade deals constrain democratic governance - and the fact that corporate bigwigs are threatening any government which considers giving effect to popular opposition doesn't exactly provide any comfort. Meanwhile, Scott Sinclair points out the dangerous effects of the CETA on Canadian public services and water security.

- In a column from September, Robbie Nelson points out the need for our political system to rein in corporate excesses (particularly in the financial sector). And Sebastien Malo points out the World Bank's observation that nowhere near enough investment is going into planning for the effect of climate change on people living in poverty and precarity. 

- Fran Boait writes that capital-focused quantitative easing has done far more to increase inequality than to boost growth - signalling the need for fiscal and economic policy to be used to benefit workers. Jordan Brennan studies the value of investing in people rather than imposing austerity in Nova Scotia. And Armine Yalnizyan discusses how an improved minimum wage leads to bottom-up development. 

- Nicholas Keung reports that a federal fee grab is severely reducing the number of applicants for Canadian citizenship.

- Finally, Lana Payne discusses the challenges that reality-averse candidates like Donald Trump pose for the media. And Matt Taibbi notes that Trump has exploited and amplified the absolute worst elements of the U.S' aristocratic political system. But I wouldn't take that commentary as reason to buy into Jeffrey Tucker's repudiation of politics in general when it can instead offer us a basis to build a political environment that actually builds community.

Saturday Morning Links

Sat, 10/15/2016 - 10:18
Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Joel Wood highlights the social cost of carbon as a crucial reason to work on reducing greenhouse gas emissions rather than insisting on doing the absolute least the rest of the world will tolerate. And needless to say, Brad Wall's idea of an argument for the position that we should have no policies aimed at actually reducing emissions is rather less than compelling - particularly given Chelsea Harvey's warning that we can't rely on technology to remove emissions from our atmosphere later on.

- Max Ehrenfreund notes that for all the criticism too often leveled toward public housing, it actually produces dramatic improvements in the opportunities for children who grow up in it:
Comprehensive new data published this week challenges the cultural consensus on public housing. For all their flaws, housing projects can have remarkable positive effects on the children who grow up in them, researchers conclude in a paper published by the nonpartisan National Bureau of Economic Research.

Children who spend more time in public housing will earn hundreds of dollars more each year than they would have if their parents had not received housing assistance from the government during those years. Children who benefit from public housing are also less likely to be imprisoned, according to the data.

Not having to worry about paying private-sector rents, parents might have more time to spend on their children — helping them with their homework, keeping them out of trouble and guiding them to a more successful adulthood, the researchers theorize. - Meanwhile, Dawn Foster writes that the differential treatment of owned housing (which can be inherited) and rental tenancies (which can't) results in inequality being exacerbated over the course of multiple generations.

- Nicole Kozloff, Carol E. Adair, Luis I. Palma Lazgare, Daniel Poremski, Amy H. Cheung, Rebeca Sandu and Vicky Stergiopoulos study the success of Housing First programming in assisting homeless youth. But Laurie Monsebraaten and Hina Alam point out the desperate lack of federal and provincial funding to support municipal housing programs.

- And in a similar vein, a group of citizens concerns about B.C.'s education cuts highlights the dangers of relying on fund-raising rather than public revenue to fund necessary educational services. 

- Finally, Kate McInturff examines the gender gap across Canada's cities, and finds that the major cities on the prairies are clustered near the bottom when it comes to gender parity.

Musical interlude

Fri, 10/14/2016 - 16:25
Gorgon City feat. ROMANS - Saving My Life

Friday Morning Links

Fri, 10/14/2016 - 09:11
Assorted content to end your week.

- George Monbiot discusses the importance of recognizing our social connections in making our political choices, rather than treating the world as merely a collection of unconnected individuals:
It is not hard to see what the evolutionary reasons for social pain might be. Survival among social mammals is greatly enhanced when they are strongly bonded with the rest of the pack. It is the isolated and marginalised animals that are most likely to be picked off by predators or to starve. Just as physical pain protects us from physical injury, emotional pain protects us from social injury. It drives us to reconnect. But many people find this almost impossible.

It’s unsurprising that social isolation is strongly associated with depression, suicide, anxiety, insomnia, fear and the perception of threat. It’s more surprising to discover the range of physical illnesses it causes or exacerbates. Dementia, high blood pressure, heart disease, strokes, lowered resistance to viruses, even accidents are more common among chronically lonely people. Loneliness has a comparable impact on physical health to smoking 15 cigarettes a day: it appears to raise the risk of early death by 26%. This is partly because it enhances production of the stress hormone cortisol, which suppresses the immune system.

Studies in both animals and humans suggest a reason for comfort eating: isolation reduces impulse control, leading to obesity. As those at the bottom of the socio-economic ladder are the most likely to suffer from loneliness, might this provide one of the explanations for the strong link between low economic status and obesity?

Anyone can see that something far more important than most of the issues we fret about has gone wrong. So why are we engaging in this world-eating, self-consuming frenzy of environmental destruction and social dislocation, if all it produces is unbearable pain? Should this question not burn the lips of everyone in public life?- Meanwhile, Meghan Joy and John Shields discuss the folly of putting programs in the hands of the corporate sector through social impact bonds which prioritize single contractual metrics over broad social outcomes. And Murray Dobbin criticizes corporate control over hospital food as a prime example of necessities being turned into cash cows, with no benefit for either the public purse or the people being served.

- Jim Stanford points out that implausible denials of the downside of corporate globalization will only strengthen the rise of divisive and destructive alternatives. Paul Waldie reports that two of Belgium's regions may put the ratification of the CETA on hold indefinitely. And Rob Ferguson highlights one of the reasons that's for the best, as the largest award ever under NAFTA has just been ordered due to Ontario's change in renewable energy policy. 

- Finally, Sam Levin reports that multiple social media sites handed over access to user data to a private security firm to track individual Black Lives Matter protesters.

New column day

Thu, 10/13/2016 - 09:02
Here, on Regina's upcoming municipal election - and the need for voters to break with expectations to elect a municipal government far more willing to stand up for its constituents than the one we've had in recent years.

For further reading...
- Elections Regina's main page is here. David Robert Loblaw is providing a handy central resource site here. And the QCIB has the tape from the one mayoral debate so far here.
- Geoff Leo reported on the City's suppression of a report on provincial downloading during the election campaign which would have offered the public a chance to do something about it. And the Leader-Post's editorial board weighs in on the problems with the City's actions.
- Finally, Tiffany Paulsen notes that Saskatoon faces much the opposite situation confronting Regina voters: it has a hotly contested mayoral race, but virtually no competition for the council seats which will have the voting power to set the city's direction.

Wednesday Morning Links

Wed, 10/12/2016 - 08:39
Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Alex Himelfarb discusses why a proportional electoral system can be expected to produce better and more representative public policy:
The adversarial approach often means major policy lurches when the government changes. For example, the Harper government undid some important initiatives of the previous government, including the Kelowna Accord, signed by all provinces and aboriginal leaders, and child care agreements signed by all provinces, to name a couple. Now we are watching the current Liberal majority spending much of its legislative time undoing Harper government initiatives (e.g., restoring the census, and undoing various refugee and immigration policies). We see similar lurches with virtually every change of government, but especially when that change also represents a significant shift in ideology.

These policy lurches belie the claims that our FPTP system offers stability. They undermine our capacity for long-term planning, even long-term thinking, and waste considerable legislative time effectively going around in circles. Such policy lurches are far less common in countries with more proportional systems, where cross-party co-operation is the norm. It’s not surprising, therefore, that political scientist Arend Lijphart (2012), who has undertaken the most extensive comparison of policy outcomes in countries with differing electoral systems, found that for those issues that require a long view and policy continuity, countries with proportional systems—where coalitions are the norm—outperform FPTP countries.

For example, countries with proportional systems score significantly higher on Yale University’s Environmental Performance Index, which measures how well human health and ecosystems are protected. Other researchers have come to similar conclusions. Countries using PR were more ready to pay the price of strong environmental policies, more likely to use renewable energy, and therefore produced a lower share of carbon emissions (Orellana, 2014; Cohen, 2010). The greater co-operation and continuity in proportional systems evidently yield environmental dividends.
Orellana further argues that PR-elected governments are less inclined to “quick-fix” solutions and, because of the greater diversity of their governments and parliaments, more open to policy innovation.   For example. they are more likely to have adapted their welfare and tax policies to changes in the economy and labour market.  Orellana also demonstrates that they tend to be policy leaders on highly sensitive issues such as assisted dying, LGBT rights and freedom to marry.  This openness to change and policy innovation is particularly relevant in a fast-changing world where old nostrums and standard practices are increasingly part of the problem. It should be no surprise, then, Orellana (2014; 2016) and Lijphart (1994; 2012) also find better fiscal performance in countries with PR. There is even some evidence, though it is admittedly mixed, that countries with PR produce more robust economic growth (Knutsen, 2011).
Public policy can only benefit from a system that is less vulnerable to special interests, in which every vote influences the outcome; a system that yields more diverse representation reflective of the diverse values and interests of the electorate, and promotes less adversarial elections and more co-operative parliaments. Governments elected by PR would experience fewer policy lurches, take a longer view, be more responsive to the interests of the many, and even, arguably, more creative and open to policy innovation. - David Madland points out how a modernized system of labour laws (including more widespread multi-employer bargaining) would produce far better outcomes for workers. Augusta Dwyer writes that a shorter work day could result in substantially improved productivity to go with an improved quality of life. And both Rana Foroohar and Peter Fleming observe that unions need to play a central role in defining and improving working conditions.

- Matt Huber argues that progressives shouldn't settle for a market-based frame in discussing why and how we need to combat climate change. And David Suzuki points out the folly in assuming we can dig our way out of the environmental hole we're now facing.

- Finally, CBC reports on the World Health Organization's recommended tax on sugary drinks as a means to improve public health outcomes.

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Tue, 10/11/2016 - 16:57
Layered cats.

Tuesday Morning Links

Tue, 10/11/2016 - 08:03
This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Baratunde Thurston makes the point that even beyond income and wealth inequality, there's an obviously unfair distribution of second chances in the U.S. depending on one's race and class. Denis Campbell reports on the link between poverty and childhood obesity, while Jen St. Denis highlights how poverty can cause and exacerbate mental health problems.

- Kyle Bakx points out how a systematic effort to encourage people living in poverty to file their tax returns can result in help getting where it's needed most. And conversely, the Star 's editorial board writes that piling fines on people with no means to pay them serves no useful purpose.

- David Cay Johnston examines the U.S.' tax rolls and finds a large number of wealthy Americans paying no income tax at all:
In 2014, the latest year for which we have data, more than two million of the 148.6 million tax-filing households reported negative incomes. The number of such households has been rising for years. In 1994 it was 0.8% of income tax returns, but in 2014 it hit 1.4%. That's one in 73, up from one in 125.

Some of these households have one-time losses, usually from failed business. But many must be wealthy, too, benefiting from liberal tax avoidance laws set by Congress.

My detailed analysis of the official data shows that those who reported negative incomes on average are wealthier and enjoy more cash flow by far than the average American.

Some surprising facts:
  • More than a fourth of these non-taxpaying households had paying jobs in 2014.
  • These households had vastly more investment income than all but the top half of 1% of all households.
  • One in three negative-income households reported receiving taxable interest, compared to 29% of all taxpayers. The average amount they reported was $6,939. For comparison, those making $75,000 to $100,000 in 2014 reported average taxable interest of just $860.
What we do not know is how many of these are people reporting negative income just once – and how many, like Trump, have reported negative income year-after-year, despite huge incomes that they collect free of income tax.
When you get to even richer households, Donald Trump territory, you still find negative-income taxpayers: The 410,300 tax households reporting incomes of $1 million or more in 2014 had an average income that was more than $3.3 million. But 444 of these million-dollar-plus households – about one in 900 – paid no income tax.- Doreen Nichol rightly argues that children living on reserves shouldn't face continued systemic discrimination, while Jody Porter reports that First Nations residents needing medical travel are facing regular breaches of privacy compared to other patients. And CBC reports that the Idle No More movement is rightly demanding that Justin Trudeau live up to his promises, rather than pretending that rhetoric is enough to make up for continued unfair treatment.

- In a similar vein, Nathan Cullen discusses the need to hold the Libs to their promise of electoral reform. And Tavia Grant reports on the Libs' failure to follow through on a commitment to ban the use of asbestos.

- Finally, Judith Lavoie comments on the need for renewed anti-SLAPP protection to allow people to participate meaningfully in public debates about the issues that affect them. And Michael Geist offers his suggestions for the future of Canadian journalism.

Monday Morning Links

Mon, 10/10/2016 - 08:41
Assorted content to start your week.

- Bruce Johnstone notes that rather than further attacking public services which have already been under siege throughout his stay in office, Brad Wall and his government should be looking to question Saskatchewan's inexplicable giveaways to businesses:
Well, if Doherty is looking for some “low-hanging fruit” to make our tax system more “competitive, simple and fair,” he might want to start plucking a few of the hundreds of millions of dollars spent every year on subsidies, exemptions and tax breaks for rural Saskatchewan, especially the farm sector.
According to the 2016-17 budget, the rationale for tax exemptions or tax expenditures for certain sectors, like manufacturing, farming and small business, is to allow governments to “attain some of their social and economic goals by reducing the taxes paid by certain taxpayers.”

But provincial auditor Judy Ferguson couldn’t find any justification for the fuel tax exemption. Her 2016 report says the government “has not clearly defined, in a measurable way, its fuel tax exemptions for farmers and primary producers.” And the fuel tax program is getting more expensive; since 2010, the cost has increased by $22.5 million, she said.
When the provincial government or its third-party agencies, like health districts, start cutting funding to emergency shelters, laying off nurses, closing down community correctional facilities, shutting down northern educational programs, reducing subsidies to low-income families and people with disabilities, then it’s time to take a long, hard look at the revenue side of the ledger.

Like Doherty said, everything should be on the table.- Sujata Dey highlights the difference between trade and plutocracy, while noting that the agreements sold as promoting the former are almost entirely oriented toward entrenching the latter. Daniel Gros points out that we're all worse off as a result of blind faith in big business, while even Lawrence Summers is recognizing the reality that the combination of economic stagnation and inequality is unsustainable. And Maude Barlow and José Bové discuss the damage the Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement would do to the public interest.

- Sara Mojtehedzadeh reports on the needed push for decent work in Ontario - while noting that businesses are predictably trying to avoid offering anything of the sort. And Hannah Finnie notes that the millenial generation is seeing bleak employment prospects as its reward for pursuing unprecedented levels of education - but points out that a renewed union movement is vital to ensuring security for new workers.

- Finally, Michael Vonn warns that CSIS is assuming all the powers of a secret police force - which we should see as antithetical to government by and of the people.