Four (more) arguments against real-world basic income

With the Ontario Liberals rolling out their basic income pilot project to much fanfare this week, it’s an opportune time to dive into the debates around BI once again.

1 Political aspects of unemployment

A few weeks ago I attended a debate on basic income and the left in Toronto hosted by The Leap. During the debate, the proponents of BI returned again and again to those who are outside the labour force. This focus is important. Welfare in Ontario and elsewhere is equivalent to poverty. And those outside the labour market are central to the current plans for basic income, which are more replacements for welfare rather than the kind of universal schemes argued for by some on the left. What BI fans forget is that even those outside the labor force have important functions under capitalism. While there was much said about people who can’t for various reasons participate in the labour market, there was scant attention to their position within our economic system.

A number, primarily women, are “outside the labour force” but performing the invisible, difficult, unpaid labour that makes the system tick: childcare, housework, non-market food production. Their work is valuable for society but needs to remain unpaid as long as it isn’t done for profit. The other part of those of working age but outside the labour force are key in a different way. They are a reminder that those of us don’t have any wealth have to work for a wage to survive…or else. John Clarke, who has been consistently critical of neoliberal BI schemes, made the point early in the debate that unemployment, poverty and homelessness have a political function in capitalism: they are part of the apparatus of economic coercion. People become examples for others: “Don’t want to end up on the streets/in dire poverty/…? Better get to work.”

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Budgeting for the oil bust in Saskatchewan and Alberta

The resource price bust is already a few years old but it’s still hitting parts of Canada hard. Two guests talk about the impact of the downturn on fiscal policy in the Canadian prairies and what this augers for the bigger question of a transformation of the economy away from fossil fuels. First I speak with Charles Smith, associate professor of political science at the University of Saskatchewan. He is the co-author, with Andrew Stevens, of a great analysis of the Saskatchewan budget, titled “Building the “Saskatchewan Advantage” : Saskatchewan’s 2017 Austerity Budget” over at the Socialist Project Bullet. Next, I speak with Ian Hussey, research manager at the Parkland Institute, a social democratic thinktank in Alberta. He contrasts the Alberta NDP’s more stimulative approach to public finance; however, there remain many questions about the scale of the shift and the need for real climate action.

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Women on strike in the US and Poland

For International Women’s Day, two interviews on women’s protests and strikes, in the USA and in Poland.

My first guest is Barbara Smith. Barbara is an icon of the US women’s movement, particularly it’s Black radical wing. She helped establish Black women’s studies as a discipline, was a founding member of the Combahee River Collective in the 1970s, helped establish Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press and went on to run and win an insurgent campaign against the Democrats for a seat on Albany city council. She is presently on the National Planning Committee of the International Women’s Strike USA, which is bringing a much-needed radicalism to this year’s International Women’s Day in the US.

My second guest is Joanna Grzymala-Moszczynska. Joanna is completing her PhD in psychology in Krakow and is a leading member of Razem, the new left-wing party in Poland that narrowly missed out on parliamentary representation in the 2015 elections that brought the reactionary PiS (or Law and Justice) party to power. She was among the organizers of last October’s women’s strike in Poland that brought a reinvigorated women’s movement out onto the streets and stopped a tightening of Poland’s already-barbaric anti-abortion law.

As always, remember to subscribe to get new episodes as they appear, rate the show on iTunes and donate to help keep this going. Thanks!

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Ours to own, not theirs to profit

It seems the public sector is under attack from all directions these days. Despite historically low public financing costs, despite proven efficiency and innovation, the public sector gets a bad rap in the public eye—something all manner of politicians from hardened right-wingers to cosmpolitan neoliberals take advantage of, letting markets further seep into the very functioning of health, education and other basic services.

I have two guests today to talk about the threats to public services and how to combat them. First, Chris Parsons, Coordinator of the Nova Scotia Health Coalition, talks to me the problems with public-private partnerships (P3s), and takes us on a tour of bungled P3 schools in Nova Scotia. Second, Adrienne Silnicki, National Coordinator of the Canadian Health Coalition, discusses the state of public healthcare in Canada, both the threats from the private sector and the ways to fight for a better public system.

As always, remember to subscribe using the links below the player to get new episodes as they appear (you can also donate to help keep the show going).

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No, Canada’s economy will not collapse if Trudeau stands up to Trump

Trudeau met Trump on Monday but voiced no criticism. He stayed mum on Trump’s racist travel bans for Muslims and refugees—silent even about Canadian Muslims being arbitrarily denied entry at the US border. Many commentators in the media were quick to jump to Trudeau’s defense, excusing his total lack of spine with considerations of real economik: Canada’s trading relationship with the US is too valuable for us to go even mildly criticizing Trump.

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Of course, Canada’s economy does rely heavily on the United States. But while over 75% of Canada’s exports go to the US, our trade relationship looks different than what many imagine it to be. And, in fact, the economy is much less of an excuse for Trudeau’s cowardice than it seems at first glance.

Here’s how Canada’s exports to the US break down:

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Trudeau’s Growth Council is back with more bad ideas

Justin Trudeau’s friends in finance, consulting and big business dominate the grandly named Advisory Council on Economic Growth. A few months after recommending a giant privatization scheme, the gang is back with more ideas, many very good for them but very bad for you and me.

The biggest news: a recommendation to increase the retirement age from 65 to 67. Trudeau has been breaking promises and sticking with Stephen Harper’s policies left, right and centre, so it’s no surprise to see his economic advisors raising another Conservative corpse from the dead—despite the fact that Trudeau actually rolled back Harper’s shift of the retirement age up to 67 in his first budget. Of course, when Harper proposed it, it was mean-spirited, when Bay St. wants it, it’s the bleeding edge of innovative growth strategy!

Beyond this one terrible idea, the Council’s report is full of warmed-over buzzwords and overblown market-speak. Recommendations will “re-imagine the role of government (specifically, as a convener/catalyst and as an investor)” and “catalyze the formation of business-led ‘innovation marketplaces.'” There’s a bit of Sheryl Sandberg feminism for the 1%: gender inequality ameliorated via “a corporate gender diversity challenge.” Yet elsewhere the ideological bent is more transparent: “much of our potential is untapped, held back due to policies (e.g., excessive regulations).” Chamber of Commerce talking points shouldn’t be a surprise in a document prepared in the C-suite, but they’re being sold as “inclusive growth.”

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Learning from the rise of the right in the global South

With only two days left until Donald Trump’s inauguration, today’s two guests look at the turn to the right that’s already well under way across parts of the global South.

First, I speak with the historian, journalist and author Vijay Prashad about the nationalist Narendra Modi’s economic agenda in India. Vijay’s books include The Darker Nations A People’s History of the Third World and The Poorer Nations: A Possible History of the Global South. He teaches history in the northeastern US.

My second guest is Sabrina Fernandez, who discusses the permanent austerity being implemented in Brazil by the draconian Temer government. Sabrian is an activist on the radical left in Brazil and she recently completed a PhD in sociology focusing on the left in Brazilian politics from Carleton University. She spoke with me from Brasilia.

I finished each interview by asking what lessons the lefts of their countries hold for those of us battling an empowered right in the North.

As always, remember to subscribe using the links below the player to get new episodes as they appear (you can also donate to help keep the show going).

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#RealChange wearing thin: A look back at Trudeau’s first year

We’re one year into Justin Trudeau’s government of #RealChange, yet it’s mostly the rhetoric not the policies that have changed. Some of the shine is finally wearing off. Whether approving pipelines, settting electoral reform up to fail or privatizing airports and transit, the Liberals are showing themselves to be the good capitalist managers they’ve always been, not the anti-austerity crusaders of the last election campaign.

Today, three guests—Derrick O’Keefe, Clayton Thomas-Müller and Luke Savage—take a look back at this first year of the Liberal government and look forward to how opposition to it can develop. Derrick is a journalist, author and editor at Ricochet Media. He’s based in Vancouver and currently working on a book on BC politics and history. Clayton Thomas Muller is a climate campaigner with 350.org based in Winnipeg. Luke Savage works for the Broadbent Institute at its Press Progress media outfit and writes frequently on US and Canadian politics.

All the best to you and yours! Back in the New Year!

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The road tolls for thee

Last week, Toronto mayor Join Tory announced a plan to toll two major Toronto highways, the Gardiner and the DVP. The city is starved for cash with huge shortfalls for both infrastructure (new housing, new transit lines) and even everyday operating expenses. Tolls are supposed to help close this gap. But despite the absolutely huge revenue needs of this city, there a case to be made against tolls from the left.

There is a simple practical argument against the proposed tolls: they won’t raise very much money and any revenue is years away. City planners calculate about $200 million per year of new money once tolls are in place. That may sound like much but Toronto needs are in the vicinity of $30 billion just to catch up with a growing population and ageing infrastructure. And the city needs the money now.

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John Tory has challenged those who oppose the tolls to spell out the alternative. Taxing parking spaces would raise $500 million and could be done right away. Getting residential and commercial property taxes to at least match long-term inflation and beat it, even with the necessary rebates for those house-rich, income-poor, would raise another huge chunk of cash. This isn’t even getting to more creative options—many of them included in an appendix to a KPMG report commissioned by Metrolinx.

Given the revenue crisis, lefties could easily come up with a viable, progressive money-raising plan even from a list prepared by the market-friendly consultants at KPMG. A municipal income tax? Why not since the province and the feds are raising less then they used to through this measure. Even a municipal sales tax with hefty rebates for low-income and working-class folks. It’s not a question of options but political strategy.

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No shortcuts: Jane McAlevey on organizing that can transform unions and society

Today’s epsiode was recorded live at an event with union organizer and author Jane McAlevey in Toronto last week to launch her new book, No Shortcuts: Organizing for Power in the New Gilded Age. I was honoured to share the stage with Jane and Stephanie Ross, who teaches in labour studies at McMaster, to discuss this important and very readable book that lays out the organizing approach that can save today’s ossified and crumbling labour movement. Stephanie and I took turns asking questions and before we knew it an hour was up!

This is my second interview with Jane; the first is available both as a podcast and transcribed. As always, remember to subscribe using the links below the player to get new episodes as they appear (you can also donate to help keep the show going).

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