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Ten proposals from the 2018 Alternative Federal Budget

Sat, 2018-02-24 13:28

I’ve written a blog post about this year’s Alternative Federal Budget (AFB).

Points raised in the blog post include the following:

-This year’s AFB would create 470,000 (full-time equivalent) jobs in its first year alone. By year 2 of the plan, 600,000 new (full-time equivalent) jobs will exist.

-This year’s AFB will also bring in universal pharmacare, address involuntary part-time employment among women, eliminate tuition fees for all post-secondary students in Canada, speed up implementation of the federal carbon tax, and increase the corporate tax rate from 15% to 21%.

-I’m particularly intrigued by the AFB’s poverty reduction measures, which include a sizeable top-up to the GST rebate, a $4 billion annual transfer to the provinces and territories, increases to seniors’ benefits, and $3.5B in new spending for housing.

The full blog post can be found here.

Categories: News for progressives

The Working Poor and the Working Income Tax Benefit

Thu, 2018-02-22 22:51

Here is a short research paper I wrote for the Broadbent Institute.

https://d3n8a8pro7vhmx.cloudfront.net/broadbent/pages/7073/attachments/original/1519312305/Canada’s_Working_poor_and_the_Working_Tax_Benefit_-_Report.pdf?1519312305

And here is a short summary:

The Liberal government have promised to make progressive changes to the Working Income Tax Benefit (WITB) in next week’s budget.

Let’s hope that they deliver. The increased insecurity of work and low hourly wages for many workers mean that many Canadians live in poverty even though they have a significant attachment to the paid work force.

The WITB is directed to the working poor, that is, individuals and families who have significant earnings, and sometimes even work full-time for a full year, but still live in poverty. About one half of all working age persons living in poverty have significant earnings.

Higher minimum wages in some provinces mean that a single person working full time for a full year will earn enough to be above the poverty line. But most of the working poor can only find part-time and insecure jobs, and need additional income support

The WITB currently delivers a meagre average benefit of just $807 per year, and the benefits for a single person are phased out once income passes a very low threshold of just $12,000, well below the poverty line.

The benefit should be significantly increased, and phased out at a much higher level of earnings.

The WITB was also intended to make work pay and to help people transition from social assistance. But just 8.8% of social assistance recipients get any benefit from the program.

Many social assistance recipients would like to work, but face multiple barriers such as loss of health and housing benefits and high claw back rates on every dollar of earnings. The WITB could help, but benefits are paid only after a long lag of up to one year.

The WITB could, together with decent minimum wages, help lift the working poor out of poverty.

But major changes are needed.

 

 

 

Categories: News for progressives

Homelessness in BC

Tue, 2018-02-20 02:57

In anticipation of tomorrow’s provincial budget in British Columbia (BC), I’ve written a blog post about the state of homelessness in that province.

Points raised in the blog post include the following:

-Public operating spending by BC’s provincial government has decreased over the past 20 years.

-Even after controlling for inflation, average rent levels across the province increased by 24% between 1990 and 2016.

-Over the past several decades, various reforms to BC’s social assistance system have made it harder to qualify for benefits and have resulted in lower benefit levels to those who are eligible.

-A lack of affordable housing is making it very challenging for front-line practitioners to practice the ‘housing first’ approach (i.e., providing a homeless person with immediate access to affordable housing).

-BC’s new NDP government has undertaken important initiatives that may have the effect of reducing homelessness.

The full blog post can be found at this link.

Categories: News for progressives

Panel discussion at federal NDP policy convention

Sun, 2018-02-18 21:47

Yesterday I spoke on a panel discussion on economic inequality, along with Andrew Jackson and Armine Yalnizyan. We were guests at the federal NDP’s policy convention in Ottawa. The panel was moderated by Guy Caron.

Topics covered included the minimum wage, basic income, affordable housing, the future of jobs, gender budgeting, poverty among seniors, Canadian fiscal policy in historical perspective, and Canadian fiscal policy in comparison with other OECD countries.

The discussion was 30 minutes long. You can watch it here.

Categories: News for progressives

Toward a Better World

Fri, 2018-02-09 22:46

That is the well chosen title of a marvelous new book by Gerry Helleiner,  sub-titled Memoirs of a Life in International and Development Economics. Helleiner, from his home base at the University of Toronto, tells us in this most readable book, in his own modest way, the stories, notably from Africa, of how he devoted his life as an economist to that end. His rewards include his membership in the Order of Canada.

Helleiner describes himself as a progressive economist and is so judged by scholars. He has a strong commitment to social justice, to aiding the cause of poor countries, particularly the smaller of them, and the poorest within those poor countries.

His advise has been frequently sought by those involved in economic development in what we now call the Global South.  His students have pursued successful careers in developing countries and with NGOs in the developed countries, and he is justly proud of that.

There is an abundance of quotable quotes. “Economics is not where everyone goes for inspiration or excitement. But I must say that my life as a teaching and practicing economist has been deeply fulfilling and at times wildly exciting.” Surely a great recommendation for being a progressive economist.,

For Helleiner economics is not a dismal science. “I believe the record of the past half century [with particular reference of Africa] which, in truth, does make some despair, can instead inspire hope for the kind of dramatic positive change that is possible.” This is a powerful message to progressive economists of hope in hard times.

On an issue that should be dear to the heart of progressive economists, Helleiner appeals for graduate studies in economics to be more heterodox, and less theory-driven . He describes how his own department at Toronto fell victim to these North American tendencies and how this  has adversely affected the program in  economic development. (So too was my own field of economic history.)

Ultimately, of course, economics which preaches the virtue of markets must itself respond to their evident failures. Helleiner’s passionate pleas should hasten that day.

Categories: News for progressives

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