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The Liberal Establishment is Already Warning Third Parties Not to Ruin the 2020 Election

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 30/01/2020 - 7:02am in

As predictable as death and taxes is the quadrennial injunction from liberals for progressive third parties to cease and desist. Equally predictable is the warning that this will be the most decisive presidential election in U.S. history. Given the prospect of four more years of Trump, do they have a valid thesis, or are they once again just sheep-dogging those of little faith back into the true church of the Democratic Party?

Prominent left-liberals Noam Chomsky, Barbara Ehrenreich, Bill Fletcher, Leslie Cagan, Ron Daniels, Kathy Kelly, Norman Solomon, Cynthia Peters and Michael Albert issued an open letter imploring third parties to “remove themselves as a factor” in the 2020 presidential election to “benefit all humanity and a good part of the biosphere.” 

They were addressing an article by Howie Hawkins titled, “The Green Party Is Not the Democrats’ Problem.” Hawkins is running for the Green Party’s presidential nomination.

Chomsky et al. “agree with much” that Hawkins argues except for the matter of whether third parties should engage in electoral politics. To be more precise, they think that it is perfectly copacetic for third parties to run in safe states where they don’t have a chance of affecting electoral outcomes, but not in swing states. Third parties should feel free to do what the open letter condescendingly describes as their “feel-good activity” if they are guaranteed to be ineffectual, but not otherwise. In short, these left-liberals are adverse to an independent left outside of the Democratic Party.

Shamelessly, the open letter proclaims: “we too are furious at Democrats joining Republicans in so many violations of justice and peace.” These left-liberals agree the Democrats have indeed become ever more odious and indistinguishable from Republicans. They understand that the degeneration of the Democratic Party has progressed so far that sugar-coating it doesn’t pass the red face test. 

The left-liberal mantra is: support the Dems despite their politics, not because of their politics, to avoid an even greater evil. Their solution, however, is to reward bad behavior by pledging – even before the primaries – to vote for whomever the Democrats dredge up. 

Hawkins advises the Dems to stop obsessing about third parties and concentrate on mobilizing their base because they have more registered voters than Republicans. In the long run, replace the Electoral College with a direct popular vote. Republicans Bush in 2000 and Trump in 2016, lost the popular vote.

Further, the best way for the Democrats to avoid losing votes to a progressive third party is to preempt their issues for combatting global warming, reducing income inequality, dismantling the national security state, and ending militarism. A left alternative in the electoral arena challenges the Democrats to be progressive. Otherwise, they have little incentive to raise these crucial issues and instead can content themselves by continuing to whip the dead horse of Russiagate. Removing a third-party challenge from the left is tantamount to encouraging the Democrats to shift to the right with the assurance that their progressive-leaning captured constituencies, such as ethnic minorities and labor, have nowhere else to go. 

When Ralph Nader ran for president in 2000 as a Green, he offered to drop out of the race if Democratic candidate Al Gore would adopt a minimal progressive platform. Gore refused. If progressive third parties don’t contest and raise the crucial issues of the day, those issues will die in the “graveyard of social movements,” also known as the Democratic Party.

The open letter, it should be noted, calls for progressive third parties to capitulate even before the Democratic presidential candidate has been chosen and the platform drafted. That strategy is the opposite of moving the Democrat’s in a progressive direction. 

To use a popular term: there is no quid quo pro. Progressives are implored to drop out but get no assurances in return. What is virtually assured by the open letter strategy is that Democrats will run on a de facto single-issue platform: we are not Trump. Wall Street backers of the Democratic Party will be delighted. 

The fact that the open letter demands that third parties abstain from effectively raising issues is symptomatic of the crisis of liberalism within the Democratic Party and the larger polity. As Chomsky himself perceptively observed, Republican Richard Nixon was “the last liberal president.” Nixon created the EPA and OSHA, recognized the People’s Republic of China, supported the equal rights amendment, expanded food stamps and welfare assistance, substantially cut military spending, and signed a suite of environmental and affirmative action acts. Since Tricky Dick, virtually no major progressive legislation has passed. 

Liberalism, which made progressive contributions in the past, is dead but not down. As exemplified by the open letter, liberalism today has been relegated to (1) attacking and suppressing the independent left while (2) legitimizing the purveyors of neoliberalism and imperialism. 

The authors of the Open Letter have made immense contributions to progressive causes in the past. Yet leaning on their well-earned laurels does not preclude the bankruptcy of their current position.

But does the imminent threat of Trump render all other concerns moot? From a left perspective, the open letter is right on target in cautioning that the reelection of Trump would be a “global catastrophe.” But would the election of a Democrat avoid such an outcome, or is the problem deeper? 


An article by Green Party candidate Howie Hawkins, pictured above, triggered an open letter warning third parties not to ruin the 2020 election. Mike Groll | AP

The Democratic Party is now the full-throated proponent of neoliberal austerity at home, aggressive militarism abroad, and the ubiquitous national security state. Democrats gave landslide approvals to a record high war budget and renewal of the Patriot Act, while Pelosi’s “pay-go” act doomed prospects for future progressive legislation. 

The last Democratic president’s deportations, drone strikes, wars in seven countries, multi-trillion-dollar upgrading of the U.S.’s nuclear war-fighting capacity, multi-trillion-dollar quantitative easing gift to finance capitalists, extension of the tax cut for the rich, and so forth also rise – giving credit where credit is due – to the level of catastrophe.

But what about the environment? Here, giving credit where credit is due, the Dems may be better but not good enough if avoiding environmental disaster is our metric. The biosphere, to use the terminology of the open letter, has the choice of climate change deniers and those who recognize global warming and do nothing about it. 

In reality, that is giving the Dems more credit than they deserve. To quote no lesser an authority than Mr. Obama: “Suddenly America is the largest oil producer, that was me, people … say thank you.” When oilman Bush the younger was president, U.S. oil production declined; under Obama, it nearly doubled

What is needed is a break from rapacious capitalism, and this will not happen with either of the two parties of capital. Voting for the lesser evil of your choice does not break the calamitous rightward trajectory of worse and worse presidential prospects but perpetuates it. So, yes, Trump is arguably worse than Dubya (now viewed favorably by a majority of the Dems) or Romney or McCain. 

The downward political spiral precipitated by lesser evil voting is reflected in a Time magazine observation in 2011: “Now Obama is fashioning his own presidency to follow the Gipper’s [Ronald Reagan] playbook.” If the vicious cycle of voting for the lesser evil is not broken, future generations of progressives may look back nostalgically to the Trump years. 

Left-liberals toil to influence the Democratic Party from within, and what could be characterized as their feel-good activity, gave us hawkish Hillary Clinton in 2016. To be evenhanded, the outcomes to date seem to suggest that working within the Democratic Party and working outside have had similarly quixotic results.

The progressive third-party perspective is to pull the political spectrum to the left from the outside, which has greater potential than unconditionally joining the lesser evil party. To paraphrase Hawkins, third parties don’t spoil elections; they improve them.

Indeed, left third parties must contest the Democratic Party’s presumptive electoral hegemony with its ruinous directions in both warmongering and environmental turpitude, often outdoing the Republicans in the former and peddling a go-slow, soft-denialist approach to the latter. The open letter is correct that the situation is dire. Their solution is to make it more so.

Trump is the hook; the Dems are the bait. Don’t swallow it and get reeled in by the two-party duopoly. A better world is possible.

Feature photo | Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.,, center, speaks as fellow candidates listen, Jan. 14, 2020, during a Democratic presidential primary debate in Des Moines, Iowa. Patrick Semansky | AP

Roger D. Harris is on the state central committee of the Peace and Freedom Party, the only ballot-qualified socialist party in California.

The post The Liberal Establishment is Already Warning Third Parties Not to Ruin the 2020 Election appeared first on MintPress News.

Why Is Branson’s Healthcare Company Massively Profitable, But Pays No Corporation Tax

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 29/01/2020 - 6:10am in

Mike yesterday put up a piece reporting that Virgin Healthcare has won £2 billion worth of NHS and local authority contracts, but hasn’t paid any corporation tax. The company has claimed that it has racked up losses since it was founded in 2010. Mike said that it didn’t make sense for him for a company to win such contracts with the promise that it would fulfill them in budget and making a tidy profit for itself. He thought someone was being shortchanged, and if he was in a hospital run by Branson’s wretched firm, he’d work out who they were shortchanging in a very short order.

See:  https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2020/01/27/virgin-healthcare-has-won-2-billion-in-nhs-contracts-and-paid-no-tax-why/

The snippet from the Mirror article Mike’s report refers to quotes health campaigner Dr. John Lister, who called the company ‘parasitic’ for this. And his right. Branson is a parasite, who’s had his scolex in the guts of the British state and NHS for a very long time. He was chums with John Major’s government, and when that fell switched sides to supporting Blair. Among other services, Virgin Healthcare runs some of the polyclinics or health centres Blair set up.

Mike wondered if Branson’s firm was able to dodge paying tax through creative accounting. And he’s right about this, as well. The Canary’s Emily Apple also wrote a piece about this story. She also quoted the Mirror’s article, which reported that Branson’s firm had a turnover of £248.8 million last year, making a cool profit of £503,000. But this was wiped out by losses elsewhere in the group, so that Beardie’s firm didn’t have to pay cough up £96,000 in corporation tax. Oh yes, and you won’t be surprised to learn that its registered in the Virgin Islands, where Branson has his home. A notorious tax haven.

Dr Lister (any relation to the man who discovered antiseptic?) called Virgin Healthcare parasitic because, fragmenting services and poaching NHS-trained staff and undermining nearby NHS trusts, and not paying corporation tax, it only took from the state and added nothing of value.

Branson’s firm was criticised by former leader of the Green Party, Natalie Bennett, and Labour leadership candidate Keir Starmer. Prem Sikka tweeted that this wasn’t the only company Beardie owned that was trying to get more state money. So was the airline Flybe, which Beardie has a 30 per cent stake in. However, it can’t offer collateral as billionaire investors already hold charges over many of its assets. He summed this up as the wealthy elite continuing to pick everyone else’s pockets.

Devutopia also remarked that Branson’s firm wasn’t the only one profiting from the NHS. Linking to a story published last year by the Mirror, that noted 10 connections between them and the NHS, he stated that the Tories had also been using the health service as their cash cow. He wondered when the Beeb and Sky were going to notice this.

Apple concluded:

Between these deals and whatever deals Johnson ends up concocting with Donald Trump, our NHS needs us more than ever. It’s already being sold off piece by piece with parasites like Branson feeding on every bit he can get his sticky fingers into. We need to wake up. This is happening now. And if we don’t act now, it’ll be too late, and what’s left of our NHS will be auctioned off to the highest bidder.

See: https://www.thecanary.co/trending/2020/01/27/richard-branson-didnt-need-a-trade-deal-to-royally-screw-over-the-nhs/

Absolutely. The NHS needs protecting from parasites like Branson and the Tories. We need to wake up, and take action – NOW!

Bring Back British Rail’s Email Urging People to Vote for Labour or Greens

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 10/12/2019 - 3:12am in

Yesterday I received this email from the pressure group, Bring Back British Rail, which campaigns to have the railway service renationalised. It urges everyone to vote for either the Labour Party or the Greens, as these parties have both pledged to take the railways back into public ownership. It also gives the contact details of the organisations across the UK taking on the Rail Operating Companies, as well as online petitions to have the buses in Glasgow, Greater Manchester and Bristol also taken back under council ownership. They’re also advertising their own merchandise.

Greetings from Bring Back British Rail

As the General Election looms, this is a crucial week for our volunteer-run campaign for publicly-owned public transport, founded in 2009.

Both Labour and the Greens have pledged to bring railways and buses back into public ownership in their 2019 manifestos. This General Election on 12 December could mark the change of policy we need to create the fully-integrated, reliable and affordable public transport network which can re-connect all corners of our county and tackle the climate emergency. So please make sure you get out and vote on Thursday!

We’re celebrating 10 years of campaigning with a #GE2019 Merch Special Offer. If you don’t already have one of our popular Rail Card Wallets, Enamel Badges or Embroidered Patches, now’s your chance to get the set for yourself or a friend. All proceeds support campaign materials and activities. Please share on FacebookInstagram or Twitter. Orders must be placed by end Tuesday 17 December 2019 to receive in time for Christmas.

Merch Special Offer

Taking on the TOCs

In 2019, we’ve been using our national network to continue supporting local groups fighting back against different private train operating companies (TOCs) all over the country through own ‘franchises‘ initiative. Please support:

• Norfolk for the Nationalisation of Rail fighting Abellio Greater Anglia (aka Nederlandse Spoorwegen, owned by the Dutch government)
• Association of British Commuters fighting Govia on Thameslink, Southern & Great Northern (part-owned by Keolis, owned by the French government)
• Northern Resist taking on Northern (aka Arriva, aka Deutsche Bahn, owned by the German government)
• Public Ownership of Scotland’s Railway taking on ScotRail (aka Abellio, aka Nederlandse Spoorwegen, owned by the Dutch government)

If you know of campaigns in other parts of the country, or want to start one yourself, please get in touch: info@bringbackbritishrail.org

Taking back our Buses

In 2019, we’ve also been supporting local campaigns around the UK taking on the private bus companies. If you’re in GlasgowManchester or Bristol, please join:

Get Glasgow Moving
In Glasgow? Sign the Petition:
you.38degrees.org.uk/p/takebackourbuses
Follow on: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Better Buses for Greater Manchester
In Manchester? Sign the Petition:
www.betterbusesgm.org.uk
Follow on: Facebook | Twitter

Better Buses for Bristol

In Bristol? Sign the Petition:
www.change.org/p/bristol-city-council-take-control-of-bristol-s-buses
Follow on: Facebook

If you know of any other campaigns for publicly-owned buses, or want to start one yourself, please get in touch: info@bringbackbritishrail.org

In my view down here in Bristol, the transport network should never have been privatised. I am very well aware that British Rail was a joke, and there were severe problems with bus services, at least here in Bristol, when they were under council ownership. But they were better run and in the case of British Rail, cheaper and more efficient than today. We are paying more in public subsidies for today’s privatised network for a poorer service. Labour has pledged itself not just to a renationalisation of the railways, but all the public utilities so that they will be better funded, better managed and provide a better service, including the royal mail, water, electricity and broadband.

So I say, vote Labour on Thursday.

The Mysterious Vanishing Tories – Jacob Rees-Mogg

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 06/12/2019 - 6:43am in

Mike over at Vox Political has been putting up a number of articles about how publicity-shy various Tory candidates are. Some of them are so wary of actually talking to the media that they’ve actually been spotted running away from them and members of the public. Yesterday he put up a video from EvolvePolitics about the Tory candidate for Peterborough, Paul Bristow, who had gone into self-imposed media silence. Channel 4 news had been looking for him to get an interview about what he felt about the challenge from a rival candidate for the Brexit Party. But, like Jo Swinson for the Remain campaign during the EU referendum, he was nowhere to be seen. The journo ended up waiting for him outside his house after their attempts to contact him about arranging an interview got absolutely nowhere. Eventually he turned up, and when they ran towards him he started closing the door, claiming that he couldn’t speak to them because he had a meeting. He told them to phone or email his office. The hack told him they had, and got through to one of the gentlemen with him, but had got nowhere. But the door closed, and so another Tory remained silent. Safe from media scrutiny.

Terrified Tories are running from media scrutiny

Like the current leader of the House of Commons, Jacob Rees-Mogg. Mogg was due to appear at a hustings in Midsomer Norton at 7.00 O’Clock this evening. Points West, the local news programme for the Bristol, Somerset, Gloucestershire and Wiltshire area, was also down there hoping to catch him when they were on air at 6.30. But he hadn’t shown up. It seems Mogg has also been told told to keep his head down by the Tory party. He hasn’t given an interview for a month since he opened his mouth on LBC and made his highly ill-advised comments about the victims of the Grenfell fire. The programme said that the Tories had stated he hadn’t given interviews and would not give any for the next month. The Beeb’s journo then did a vox pop of three members of the public, who had turned up for the hustings. They were not impressed with Mogg’s avoidance of public and media scrutiny. A young woman said that it showed a disrespect for the public. An older man said that he wasn’t surprised Mogg wasn’t talking after his comments about Grenfell. They were disgraceful! He also spoke to the candidates for the other parties – the Greens, Lib Dems and Labour, who were hoping to tackle Mogg at the hustings. And they had the same view of Mogg as the ordinary citizens the Beeb had just interviewed. Their man in Midsomer Norton ended that part of the programme by saying that the Tories had assured them that Mogg would be at the hustings, and they’d give an update to the story at a later bulletin.

This tells you all about the high confidence the Tories have in their candidates. They really don’t want anyone interviewing them, asking them any awkward questions. And they’re doing their best to run away from the cameras and microphones as fast as their legs can carry them. Mind you, with people having written ‘Get Mogg Out’ on the top of a slag heap near Midsomer Norton earlier today, perhaps it’s unsurprising that Mogg was in no hurry to get to the hustings there.

But the peeps on the programme were right. The behaviour of Mogg and his fellow Tory candidates trying to keep themselves out of the media, so they don’t put their feet in it, does show a basic contempt for the voting public. As well as their hypocrisy. After all, it wasn’t that long ago they were calling Corbyn ‘chicken’.

Tactical voting is not enough. To stop Brexit – and save democracy – we need a Coupon Election.

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 03/11/2019 - 1:13am in

The General Election that will take place on 12th December is the most important in modern British history. It is an election that will decide not just whether the UK leaves the European Union – and hence whether the Brexit project, a project of the far Right that aims to embed austerity, succeds: it is also about whether the United Kingdom survives as an entity and, most importantly, is one that will decide whether Britain takes the road to Trump-style populism (whether of Right or Left) or whether it reasserts its faith in empirical, progressive liberal democracy.

At the heart of decision is the fact that Brexit has become far more than a matter of whether the United Kingdom leaves the European Union. Brexit has become the central issue in a culture war, one in which democracy has been subverted by the insistence that a Brexit that reflects the assumptions and aspirations of the far economic Right – one that destroys jobs and services, that sells the NHS to US health-care providers and big pharma, that destroys environmental and food standards, and removes rights of both UK and other EU citizens to freedom of movement – is “the will of the people”. And that claim institutionalises a referendum – advisory in law and corrupted by malpractice – as a legitimate expression of democracy that stands above the right of Parliament to decide. It is a Brexit that has elevated the outcome of a narrow, corrupted, three-year-old plebiscite into a democratic act in which the choices that have been made by politicians – often out of fear of the extremists in their own parties – into an expression of the popular will. It has led to a situation in which unlawful data manipulation, contempt for Parliamentary and democratic norms, open gerrymandering through controlling electoral registration, and threats of violence against politicians who dare to speak truth to power have become commonplace.

And it is a Brexit in which the leadership of the Labour Party is just as culpable. The evolution of Labour’s Brexit policy makes Finnegan’s Wake look like a model of narrative simplicity, but its confusion and tortuous contradictions are the result of one central fact; its determination to “respect the referendum”. But in order to do that, you have to accept that a marginal result in a corrupt election is something that sets in stone the most important decision of our time; and accepts that Parliament does not have control any more. There are many courageous Labour MPs who have understood that democracy means putting the interests of your constituents first, and that democracy is about far more than obedience to a corrupt plebiscite in order to deliver a Brexit framed by politicians of the Right; but they are the minority.

So, we have a divide that has cut right across the two main political parties in the UK. Other parties have been clearer: the Liberal Democrats, SNP, Plaid Cymru and the Green Party are all Remain parties. However, the Conservative Party has, since the election of Boris Johnson as Leader – and the installation of Dominic Cummings as his ideological minder at No 10 – purged its liberal wing with a ruthlessness and efficiency that the supporters of Jeremy Corbyn – who have presided over a similar attempt to ensure ideological purity in the Labour Party – must envy. Liberal Tory MPs have been expelled or are standing down in their droves; especially women. Meanwhile, the Labour leadership – to the despair of many of its MPs, and of those of its members who have not left already – is largely controlled by people from outside the democratic Labour tradition. As I have argued in my book, they draw their politics from a Leninist model of political organisation in which political direction is given by a vanguard elite, with the only role of the ordinary members ( the “rank and file”) being to give that vanguard democratic legitimacy by voting its decisions through.

The one beacon of hope in all of this has been the willingness of Parliament to seize control. Assisted by the efforts of a courageous Speaker who has been willing to stand up for the rights of Parliament against an executive that has openly agitated against its independence, MPs have taken control of the process. They are the people who have ensured that we are still in the EU, and have stood firm against both the intellectual dishonesty of Brexit and the bullying of a Conservative Party leadership that has no respect for democratic norms.

So, what is to be done?

I think the answer from a Remainer and democratic perspective must be – we need to get past party labels and ensure the election of a Parliament of remainers – which, because of the resonances of Brexit, means a Parliament that is willing to assert the values of empirical liberal democracy. A Popper Parliament, one might say. My own view – for what it is worth – is that Brexit in its broadest sense represents a political convulsion which will see a realignment of party politics; and that at the heart of that realignment will be a reassertion of liberal values against populism. But whether that happens or not, my belief as a democrat is that populism, whether of right and left, must be defeated.

And that means moving the focus away from parties to candidates. As well as considering who is most likely to win in an individual constituency, it’s important to consider what each candidate’s position on Brexit is – and, if they are an MP seeking re-election, looking at their record. There is no point in voting tactically in favour of a former MP who has simply toed Corbyn’s line – which is that Labour should be delivering a better Brexit. Or one who follows the line being sent out from Corbyn’s ideological minders that Labour should be neutral on Brexit; because if you want to preserve the NHS, protect jobs and services, maintain workers’ rights, keep environmental and food standards, and preserve freedom of movement, you simply cannot be “neutral” on Brexit. You are voting for a Labour MP who, in truth, has morally and intellectually capitulated to the Brexiters’ neoliberal agenda.

And, by the same token, that means rewarding Labour MPs who have stood up againt Brexit. To take an example: Cardiff Central is one of the Liberal Democrats’ top targets in Wales, but Labour’s Jo Stevens resigned her front bench post over Brexit, and has been a staunch supporter of the People’s Vote campaign and has been with us front and centre in the campaign against Brexit in Cardiff and Wales more generally. She has earned the vote of every Remainer in that predominantly remain constituency. Likewise, we should back liberal Tories: people like Dominic Grieve, standing as an independent, or Antoinette Sandbach, seeking re-election under Liberal Democrat colours in Eddisbury, deserve the unstinting support of remainers.

And we should not accept simply being content with tactical voting. We Remainers seem unduly reticent about our strength. It was us, not the Brexiters, who twice got more than a million people – protesting loudly but peacefully – on to the streets of London. It was us, not the Brexiters, who managed to get six million signatures on a petition to revoke the UK’s Article 50 notification. Only today, the Brexiters promised a mass rally in Doncaster – nobody, literally nobody turned up: not even the Weimaresque local Labour MP Caroline Flint who has chosen to back the Johnson deal in the hope that it will save her seat. It’s time we in the Remain movement realised that we are powerful, and organised. I can understand that the national remain movement has sought to keep out of party politics; but we in the grassroots need to use our strength and back candidates of whatever party who stand firm against Brexit, stand firm against the leaderships of both Labour and Tories, who want to deliver Brexit.

Above all, we need to convince Labour people to vote for good candidates from other parties – especially Liberal Democrats. Yes, I know what the Liberal Democrats did in 2010; it was appalling and they paid for it politically. But things have moved on; the Orange Bookers have been routed and this election is about the future, not the past. The fact is that any Brexit means you will not be able to deliver your aspirations for a society that is more equal, more just – a society for the many, not the few: even the soft cuddly Brexit that Corbyn (wrongly) thinks the EU will allow him to negotiate. Jeremy Corbyn claims to lead a member-led party, but the Leninists around him have treated you with contempt. They haven’t listened to you, they have dismissed you, they have done everything they can to ensure your beliefs are not reflected in Conference policy, they have reminded you that you need to remember your place in the so-called “rank and file”. It is surely time for you to rediscover your self-respect and vote for what you know is right, not what will get you a pat on the head from your local Momentum enforcer. Your grandchildren are more important; give them an internationalist and democratic future.

And ultimately we need a list. The tactical voting websites appear to have been largely discredited before they have begun. We need to move on from party. We need to be able to say to candidates; it’s your choice. You can have the remainers’ coupon, or you can stand up for your Brexiter party leadership in Westminster. But there are millions of us, and probably our numbers in your constituency are probably enough to seal your fate.

But above all it’s time we stopped being defensive. We need to organise, and at a national level, Remainers should be issuing our coupons. We are counted in our millions and we should use our power. And if we do, we can stop Brexit and defeat populism at the most important election of our time.

Canada: Green Party is more inclined to creating jobs rather than financing a basic income

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 14/10/2019 - 7:17am in

Elisabeth May. Picture credit to: Mission City Record.   Elisabeth May, Canada’s Green Party leader has spoken about a “robot tax” which, according to the party’s Platform, focuses on large companies (exempting slam businesses) laying off employees due to investments in artificial intelligence (AI). In this scheme, these companies would pay the equivalent amount of income tax which would be

How do the party platforms address the changing nature of work, pay, and poverty?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 07/10/2019 - 1:17pm in

The world of work is changing and creating anxiety about jobs and incomes. There is some overlap on how the major parties contesting the Canadian federal election propose to deal with these challenges, but the Conservatives are definitely the outlier. The Greens score high on vision but low on feasibility,  both the New Democrats and Liberals put a list of reasonable proposals on the table, with the Liberals offering a bigger vision that is also feasible. The Conservatives don’t seem to propose anything to address the world of work, imagining citizens as consumers, and implicitly offering a smaller role for government in the workplace.

 

The “changing nature of work” has to be—right up there with climate change—one of the hottest issues facing Canadians, a big cause of uncertainty and insecurity that underlies the middle class malaise that all of the parties contesting the Canadian federal election are hoping to address.

And quite rightly so. The future of work and globalization should raise a lot of anxiety. Richard Baldwin’s latest book, The Globotics Upheaval: Globalization, Robotics and the Future of Work, argues that as powerful innovations in digital technology meet globalization many higher paid workers in service jobs will be confronted with the disruptions that workers in manufacturing jobs had to deal with during the first wave of globalization during the 1990s.

If, as he argues, its “coming faster than most people believe,” then what should the politicians vying for our votes be doing about it? The first step for public policy is to foster higher and more secure incomes, and to offer better insurance.

How well do the platforms and promises stand up? I offer a review of the four major parties in the same spirit as the excellent review by Trevor Tombe and his co-author on climate change policies. Read “How The Four Federal Parties Climate Plans Stack Up” published in Chatelaine, and you will notice that my labour market and social policy scorecard is essentially the same.

There is in fact a good deal of overlap between the platforms, with one exception: the Conservatives have not come to the game with anything to offer. But all the other parties would:

raise the minimum wage to $15 for those industries in federal jurisdiction

ban unpaid internships

address workplace training but in different ways

But looking at where they differ, the Greens score higher on vision but much lower on feasibility, and both the New Democrats and Liberals put a list of reasonable proposals on the table, but with the Liberals offering a bigger vision that is also feasible.

The Green Party scores high on vision, low on specifics

“The world of work is changing rapidly,” say the Greens. The biggest transition they imagine is that facing workers in the fossil fuel sectors as the green economy grows and displaces them, but they do recognize the coming challenges that machine learning and artificial intelligence, without necessarily appreciating that this will impact all workers in all sectors.


Source: Green Party (2019) “Honest. Ethical. Caring. Leadership.” page 31.

That is why the part of the platform addressed to “ending poverty” rings true, offering a backstop to the incomes of all Canadians. The platform states that “Of all Canada’s social problems, child poverty may be the most shameful.” But the platform goes even bigger, proposing a “Guaranteed Livable Income” for all. Now that is vision.

OMG, I can’t believe this, as I sat here writing these very words the door bell rang and two volunteers from the Green Party stood on my door step anxious to explain the party’s platform to me. I kid you not!

“We will institute a Guaranteed Basic Income.”

“What is that?”

“A Basic income that everyone will have a right to?”

“You mean if I stopped working right now I would get money from the government? How much would that amount to?”

“Well I don’t really know.”

Indeed, the Parliamentary Budget Officer does not appear to have received a request from the Party to cost a Basic Income proposal, but to be fair the platform puts no specifics on the table, and only talks about entering into negotiations to establish a program, stating that the Party will:

Establish a universal Guaranteed Livable Income (GLI) program to replace the current array of income supports, such as disability payments, social assistance and income supplements for seniors. … payment would be set at a “livable” level for different regions of the country. The negotiation to implement a livable income across the country would take place through the Council of Canadian Governments. Unlike existing income support programs, additional income would not be clawed back. Those earning above a certain total income would pay the GLI back in taxes. (Green Party 2019, page 30).

Vision outpaces specifics on another important policy. The Green platform is certainly correct in suggesting that “We are overdue to modernize our Employment Insurance Program to better meet the needs of today …”

The federal government has almost complete authority over the “Employment Insurance” program, making it the first and most obvious thing to address job and income insecurity. But nothing else is said about this program with the exception that benefits should be made portable. But Employment Insurance benefits are already portable. Yes, this program is long overdue to be modernized for the new economy, but the Greens offer no specifics.

New Democrats offer some tried and true policies with a nod to guaranteed income

The New Democrats are at least much more concrete on what they would do with Employment Insurance, but in way that increases generosity without offering big innovation for a new world of work.

That said, they put a major change on the table that will go a big way in making this form of insurance more accessible: Canadians will need only 360 hours of insurable unemployment to qualify for benefits regardless of where they live in the country.

The existing “Variable Entrance Requirement” has been a source of contention in many parts of the country, particularly in Ontario where the unemployment rate is usually lower. Canadians living in a region with a local unemployment rate less than 6% are required to have worked 700 hours in the past 52 weeks to qualify for benefits, those living in areas with an unemployment rate twice as high require as little as 420 hours.

So a uniform rule of 360 hours is a major change to this program, making it easier to get access regardless of where you live. But the New Democrats go further. The replacement rate would increase to 60% of maximum insurable earnings from the current 55%, and a floor would be put on benefits so that no one receives less than $1,200 a month.

This latter “low income supplement” is a guaranteed income of sorts, but falling short of the kind of vision the Greens image as it is conditional on having had enough work to qualify and subject to the existing 14 to 45 week maximum benefit entitlement. These changes should be welcomed by many workers, particularly in Ontario, but they continue along the lines of making Employment Insurance a stop-gap for lower paid and intermittent work, rather than insurance for big long-term loses, and of potential benefit to workers paid more than the average.

I can’t seem to find any information, neither in the platform nor from the Parliamentary Budget Officer, on the cost of these proposals.

The New Democrats also propose to create 300,000 good jobs, and mandate that all employers spend one percent of payroll on training their workers. It is not clear how they would do this. But they do say that they would “work with the provinces to launch a national basic income pilot project, in addition to continuing Ontario’s program, to gather data about this approach to tackling income precarity.” A smaller vision than the greens, but no more feasible.

Liberals strike a balance between vision and feasibility

If, as the Green Party’s platform says “Of all Canada’s social problems, child poverty may be the most shameful,” then the Liberal platform offers a solution, having in essence already created a basic income for families with the Canada Child Benefit, they propose to enhance this program in a number of ways.


Source: Liberal Party (2019, page 9)

But the biggest proposal is to introduce a

Guaranteed Paid Family Leave – an ambitious program that will make sure that parents who don’t qualify for paid leave through Employment Insurance, or who don’t get enough because they’re between jobs, earn little, or haven’t worked enough hours, will receive a guaranteed income during the first year of their child’s life. This will be especially helpful for women, who
typically carry more family responsibilities, and will
mean that every single Canadian parent will be able
to afford to spend the first year at home with their
child, when it matters most. (Liberal Party 2019, page 9).


Source: Liberal Party (2019, page 11).

This addresses family and demographic risks, and the fall-out of job loss for families with children, saying nothing to those living on their own, where a big and increasing chunk of the poor are to be found. So whereas the Green vision for ending poverty extends to all, but with no specifics, the Liberal plan covers families and children with a proven and explicit set of proposals.

The most important and most relevant change to Employment Insurance to address the future of work is the “Career Insurance Benefit”, an enhancement of regular benefits that will offer insurance not just for the time unemployed in the search of a new job, but also for the income loss from taking a lower paying job.

This is a form of “wage insurance“, and will take an innovative step in making Employment Insurance more relevant for many workers, who may never have collected benefits in the past and are laid off from jobs that they have held for at least five years. No other party has offered anything of the sort.

The Liberal platform is distinguished by having these proposals costed by the Parliamentary Budget Officer. There is a vision here, but it is interesting the Liberal Platform does not state it more boldly, not even offering a restatement of the Poverty Reduction Strategy that only months ago was passed into law and which offers an official poverty line and a set of explicit targets.

The Conservative platform is silent on the world of work

The Conservative party has not released its platform, so it is hard to comment on the total package of policies and assess how it might address the new world of work. Their web site does announce “Andrew Scheer to Make EI Matrenity Benefits Tax-Free,” but the actual policy proposal falls short of that. As described by the Parliamentary Budget Office the policy actually involves a non refundable credit reducing the rate payable to the lowest federal marginal income tax rate, and besides if you are already in that tax bracket it is of no use to you.

Not a big innovation here, and certainly not as generous as the specific proposals put forward by some of the other policies.

It is hard to say much more. To the extent that the Conservatives have a vision for the future of work it would seem to treat Canadians as consumers not workers, and there is no discussion of changes to workplace regulations, insurance, social and incomes policies.