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The Progressive Economics Forum

Archive for November, 2007

200,000 Served

This morning, someone viewed Relentlessly Progressive Economics for the 200,000th time. Since reaching 100,000 views in June, our previous website has crept up to nearly 122,000 even though we added nothing to its 600 classic posts. Since being created in June, the current website has added 259 posts (including this one) and been viewed almost […]

Re-Regulating Finance

So argues top Financial Times columnist Martin Wolf in a piece that will warm Jim Stanford’s heart: “What seems increasingly clear is that the combination of generous government guarantees with rampant profit-making in inadequately capitalised institutions is an accident waiting to happen – again and again and again. Either the banking industry should be treated […]

Whither the US Trade Balance?

TD Economics have released an interesting study on changes in US trade flows as a source of continung strength and offset to their considerbale domestic difficulties. Exports are up, fuelled by the US dollar depreciation and strong global demand. However, exporters to the US, mainly Asian, are holding onto their share of the US market […]

The Howe on Interest Rate Cuts

I note that 4 of the 9 economists  on the CD Howe’s rather grandiosly titled Monetary Policy Council are supporting a rate cut  by the real folks at the Bank of Canada next week, and two of them (including Ed Carmichael from JP Morgan Chase) even call for a half point cut.  http://www.cdhowe.org/display.cfm?page=monetaryReleases The bare […]

More Comments on John Richards, “Tough Love” and Poverty

John Myles (University of Toronto) points out that his research on the decline of poverty among lone mothers, cited by Richards, shows that “soft love” (day care in Quebec) probably has the biggest “social policy effect.” He notes that  “tough love” does “work”  in the following sense. Cut other cash benefits to the bone and […]

We May Look Rich, But We Aren’t Rich

Statistics Canada released an interesting but utterly misleading technical paper last week on Canada’s supposed “Reversal of Fortune.”  They examined Canada-U.S. comparisons in national income (a concept that is subtly but importantly different from GDP, as I’ll explain in a minute), and decided that Canada has become the star economic performer of the continent.  Since […]

John Richards on “Tough Love” and Poverty

I was a friend of John Richards many years back, in the late 70s, when we shared a common passion for prairie left populism. He’s a bright guy, and a great writer. What bugs me is that he is still treated as a progressive by the media – based on his very brief history as […]

US Recession Watch, or Larry Gets Gloomy

Wake up to the dangers of a deepening crisis By Lawrence Summers Published: November 25 2007 18:51 | Last updated: November 25 2007 18:51 (From Financial Times) http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/b56079a8-9b71-11dc-8aad-0000779fd2ac.html?nclick_check=1 Three months ago it was reasonable to expect that the subprime credit crisis would be a financially significant event but not one that would threaten the overall […]

Harper’s Christmas present for the US entertainment industry

Copyright lawyer Howard Knopf, writing in the Hill Times, summarizes what he expects from the Conservatives in updating the Copyright Act to attack file sharing, all to the benefit of a US entertainment industry that has been feigning injury better than any elite soccer player. Knopf also points out many areas where Canadian copyright law […]

The Ontario-Quebec Deal: TILMA 2.0 ?

Today, Premiers McGuinty and Charest kicked off “free trade” negotiations between their provinces. The key question is whether this process will be a sweeping “race to the bottom” like the BC-Alberta Trade, Investment and Labour Mobility Agreement (TILMA) or a focused effort to develop common standards in the few areas where problems may exist. As […]

Declining Pension Coverage and Rising Inequality

There’s quite an interesting piece on pension coverage in today’s Daily from StatCan. http://www.statcan.ca/english/freepub/75-001-XIE/2007111/articles/10405high-en.htm  The study suggests that some of the statistical series showing sharply declining pension coverage are rather suspect, and they provide a series from tax data showing the proportion of taxfilers with a positive pension adjustment. This is a larger number than […]

Carbon tax vs cap-and-trade

Carbon tax or cap-and-trade? Oh, my ass gets sore sitting on this particular fence. Each has its pros and cons, and for each the Devil is in the details of implementation. And maybe it does not have to be either-or. With data now telling us that things (like arctic ice cover) are worse than the […]

Is Canada Facing Acute Skill Shortages?

Given the rapid expansion of the temporary foreign worker program and the frequent complaints of employers that workers are hard to find, one might expect that Government of Canada research would support the view that there are, and will continue to be, pervasive skill shortages. Yet this is not the case. The most recent ten […]

The Australian Election: A Hollow Victory?

Although my knowledge of Australia’s politics is limited, they always interest me. Not only is the country similar to Canada in many ways, but it also had among the most successful labour movements and Labor Parties in the English-speaking world. (The party changed its name from “Labour” to “Labor” in 1912, when it seemed that […]

The Economist on Temporary Foreign Workers

Today’s edition of The Economist magazine includes a good article on temporary foreign workers in Canada. It extensively quotes Gil McGowan, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour. The present regime allows employers to import workers from abroad without seriously demonstrating the unavailability of Canadian workers for the job. Once the foreign workers are in […]

Canada’s Un-Development and the Loonie

The Commons Finance Committee, spurred by my old debating opponent John McCallum, is holding hearings in the next two weeks on the economic and fiscal consequences of the loonie’s unsustainable flight. (I kind of miss crossing swords with John, actually: In the good old days he was the evil but friendly Bay Street banker, justifying […]

Economic Apocalypse Soon?

Nouriel Roubini – professor at NYU and noted blogger on the global economy – tends to the gloomy but is now seriously worried about where  we are headed. With the Economist now out with a front page story on the likelihood of a serious US recession, his views seem to be entering the mainstream.   […]

File sharing is good for you (and the music industry)

A lot of people assume that file sharing is a bad thing for artists and their recording labels. This independent study done for Industry Canada, by Birgitte Andersen and Marion Frenz, suggests exactly the opposite: file sharing increases exposure and can increase record sales. Below is the abstract, and after that some interesting post-study commentary […]

Saskatchewan’s Incredible Shrinking Government

During the sixteen years that the NDP governed Saskatchewan, provincial expenditures fell from just over 30% to just over 20% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). This accomplishment is dubious for a political party committed to using government as a vehicle to redistribute wealth and finance important public programs. Why did the proportion of Saskatchewan’s economy […]

Organized crime [hearts] Stephen Harper

In business news, shares of Hells Angels Inc and Rock Machine SA soared on the introduction of the Conservative’s new “get tough on drugs” legislation. Industry sources report they are pleased with the new initiative that will push up prices and profit margins. This is seen as a welcome about-face from the federal government compared […]

Marc hears a squeal from the National Post

One of my colleagues likes to say, “if you throw a rock in a barn and hear a squeal, you know you’ve hit a pig.” So it goes with a National Post column attacking my tax incidence paper. I guess my study caught their attention, though I feel like I really deserved a rebuttal from […]

Following the money not the currency

The ride of the Canadian dollar is on every good policy wonk’s mind. Labour is concerned about its impact on jobs. Manufacturers are concerned about what exchange rate volatility means for their  bottom lines when their sales are in one currency and costs in another. (Note: like border line-ups, exchange rate volatility is a real […]

It’s Time to Cut Interest Rates

Today’s Consumer Price Index (CPI) release reveals that inflation has dipped to 2.4% and core inflation has fallen to 1.8%, its lowest level since June 2006. These figures undermine the argument that interest rates should be maintained to slow inflation. As the National Post reports, “A weaker-than-expected rise in the inflation rate for October could […]

Worst Diane Francis Column Ever

Diane Francis has written many unsubstantiated columns. On July 6, for example, she claimed that “Canada has the highest corporate taxes in the world.” However, based on the following quotes, Tuesday’s column probably takes the cake. If last week’s election upset is any indication, Saskatchewan is going to be on a roll for a few […]

Crowding Out Bill Robson

Tuesday’s Financial Post featured an op-ed by William Robson, President and CEO of the C. D. Howe Institute, arguing that “The expansion of the public sector in an economy with no slack is squeezing the private sector, driving up interest rates and the dollar in the short run, and threatening Canadian prosperity in the long […]

Rogoff fails to connect the dots

Ken Rogoff gets off to a good start on the topic of inequality and the super-rich (by way of explaining the world to his 11-year-old son) in this Guardian column: The latest Forbes list of America’s wealthiest individuals showed that last year’s highest nine earners, whose ranks include New York City’s mayor, Michael Bloomberg, managed […]

Caledon on Dion’s Anti Poverty Plan

Here’s a really useful commentary from the Caledon Institute on the substance of the Liberal poverty reduction plan, especially emphasising its timidity in terms of reversing the ill thought- out Conservative changes to child benefits.  They share my view that we need a better poverty target.  http://www.caledoninst.org/Publications/PDF/659ENG%2Epdf

Mr. Dion’s Anti- Poverty Plan

I’m a big fan of setting clear and attainable targets and timetables to eliminate poverty, and applaud last week’s Liberal Party commitment to reduce the number of those living in poverty by 30% and the numbers of children living in poverty by 50% within 5 years. http://www.liberal.ca/story_13293_e.aspx Clear targets and timetables have recently been called […]

BC’s Climate Plan and TILMA

Here’e a piece that I wrote with Caelie Frampton, the Campaign Coordinator of the STOP TILMA Coalition. No pick-up in the major dailies but The Tyee has promised to run it at some point: TILMA a Major Hurdle to BC Climate Action Plans By Marc Lee and Caelie Frampton Premier Gordon Campbell has positioned BC […]

Canada’s Energy Exports: The Fine Print

The relative importance of oil in Canada’s exports bears on the debate about oil prices and the exchange rate. A challenge is that the most widely-cited figures often lump oil and natural gas together. I compiled the following table from the merchandise-trade figures that Statistics Canada updated through September today: Canada’s Energy Trade, 2007 year-to-date […]