Links have a new look! Starting this week, we will be posting our links as separate posts in order to keep each one digestibly short and a bit less eclectic (this makes it easier to have focused discussions in the comments too).
Ten ideas to save the economy. Robert Reich, UC Berkeley professor and former Secretary of Labor under Bill Clinton, is halfway through releasing a web-series called ‘Ten Ideas to Save the Economy‘. The proposals focus on the U.S., but arguably apply to Canada as well. Five posts in, they are:
(1) Raise the minimum wage (to 15$/hr). Reich argues that increasing the minimum wage would pay for itself economically by bolstering consumer demand (via poverty reduction), expanding the workforce (because working would become an economically viable option for more people), and reducing the burden of poverty on food stamps, welfare, Medicaid and housing assistance. This last point is an important one. If full-time workers are not paid enough to live on, their dependence on the safety-net becomes an effective subsidy to their employer – a form of corporate welfare.
(2) Make work family friendly. Reich proposes mandating equal pay (among men and women) for equal work, mandating predictable hours for employees so they can effectively plan their childcare needs, providing universal childcare (pre-school and after school), and mandating employer-provided paid medical and parental leaves.
(3) Expand social security. Reich suggests significantly increasing Social Security benefits (which help seniors and the disabled, among others), and paying for it by removing the cap on wages subject to the Social Security payroll tax (currently all wages over $118,500/year are exempt).
(4) Bust up Wall Street. Reich suggests reinstating the Glass-Steagall Act that separates investment and commercial banking, putting a small tax on every financial transaction (to prevent speculative high-frequency trading), and busting up the big banks (“Any bank that’s too big to fail is too big, period.”).
(5) Reinvent education. Reich suggests making tuition free at public universities, providing skilled trades education options for senior high school students, paying teachers better (in order to attract the top talent), and reducing standardized testing (and related ‘teaching to the test’). The unifying rationale of these proposals is that broad access to high quality education is key to both maintaining productivity growth (through human capital) and achieving equality of opportunity.
Beyond the fact that these are all good ideas, I like Reich’s series because it encourages big-picture outside-the-box thinking about our economic problems, and it explicitly considers how to pay for new programs (rather than the sort of hand-waving that tends to translate to large public deficits in practice). The same could be said of the proposals for guaranteeing minimum income and housing, discussed last week. I hope these conversations continue.
Two headlines this week point to green shifts from big oil:
Suncor Energy CEO calls for a carbon tax. In a keynote speech at an event sponsored by Canada’s Ecofiscal Commission (a non-government research and advocacy group, led by leading academics and former politicians), Suncor Energy (one of Alberta’s largest oil companies) CEO Steve Williams said that he supported a carbon tax (in particular, one that targeted consumption in addition to production, like the one in B.C.). This means that the Harper government’s non-policy on climate change – seemingly motivated by concern for the oil and gas industry – has few remaining allies.
Saudi Arabia plans to be powered entirely by renewable energy, prince suggests. This might be hot air, as The Guardian noted when they broke this story, but it nonetheless adds to the evidence that even the big players in oil and gas see the clean energy shift coming and recognize the importance of getting out ahead.