17 October 2017

This week in Progressive News:


The IMFs Suggestions for Inequality


Are you now or have you ever been a ‘centrist’?

Election up in the air


Can you think of a small, stable, beautiful country where the polls opened a month before election day, Labour blew a potentially winning position by being fuzzy on tax and then, after the vote, a mildly conservative centre party kept the country waiting while it decided to go with the conservative government or a red-green left bloc?


Yes, Norway:



Meanwhile, far far away, we will bring you our ideas for the new government once we know what it looks like.



IMF on Inequality


The IMF made headlines globally last week by pointing out that inequality iOS worsening in developed countries, and that fiscal policy can make a difference. Governments really can tax and spend their way to a better outcome for their country.


“In advanced economies, fiscal policy offsets about a third of income inequality before taxes and transfers—commonly known as market income inequality—with 75 percent coming from transfers.”


In other words, three quarters of tax policy is about taking money off the haves and giving it to the have nots. The IMF doesn’t say as much but the argument it’s making is not for the policy design the left easily adopts: Taxing the have-not-very-muches to give to the have nots.  Instead, they are pointing out that inequality can be reduced by governments but it needs smarter design.


Talk of a UBI is viable - and it would help reduce inequality and poverty, but it does so less efficiently than other policy options because of its inefficiencies in taxing people who are not all that well off:


A UBI has potential for having a significant impact on inequality and poverty as it covers all individuals at the bottom of the income distribution. But, being universal means it is costly. The Fiscal Monitor estimates that it would cost the average advanced economy 6½ percent of GDP to provide a UBI set at 25 percent of median per capita income, and the estimates vary considerably across countries. Thus, the discussion of a UBI cannot be disentangled from a discussion of its financing to make it budget neutral. Key considerations for its introduction are its consistency with other fiscal priorities—to avoid crowding out investments in infrastructure, education and health, for instance—and the method of financing, which needs to be efficient and equitable. A UBI could be an option where it substitutes for inequitable and inefficient social spending.




Are you now, or have you ever been, a centrist?




The word “neoliberal” migrated from describing a particular kind of political ideology to a catch-all for anything vaguely capitalist the speaker didn’t like. “The term is frequently used somewhat indiscriminately and quite pejoratively to mean anything ‘bad’,” write the academic authors of The Handbook of Neoliberalism. “Such lack of specificity reduces its capacity as an analytic frame.” 


This argument is not popular with many on the Left, who feel that if the term is retired, or its use curtailed, something they value is being taken away.


“Centrist” is now doing a similar job. In the way it is used by the Labour left, the world is divided into three categories: them, Actual Nazis, and everyone else, who is a centrist. Unsurprisingly, that’s not how everyone else sees politics. 




Here’s where the US gets its energy from:





And Tony Blair’s former speech writer, Philip Collins, analyses his picks for the best speeches ever. 


Churchill, King, Kennedy, and Obama are there - although alongside only two women. Like any top ten list - think sports and music - there is plenty to disagree with and plenty for the amateur political historian. 



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