Wednesday Night #1864

Written by  //  November 29, 2017  //  Wednesday Nights  //  No comments

At the top of most lists today is the cliff-hanger topic of the battle for “tax reform” in the U.S. Congress. Equal in ferocity is the battle in the media over its questionable benefits.
Paul Krugman calls it The Biggest Tax Scam in History ; his colleague Dave Leonhardt singles out The Four Big Tax Deceptions ; The New Yorker’s Sheelah Kolhatkar writes that The Republican Tax Plan Contains More Middle-Class Pain Than Even Its Critics Are Saying ; and Jeff Frankel writes in Project Syndicate: “Should Republicans secure the legislative victory they so desire, the entire country – with the exception, perhaps, of the wealthiest few – will lose”
Nonetheless, late Tuesday afternoon, the Budget Committee voted to pass the Republicans’ $1.5 trillion tax package, clearing the way for the full Senate to vote on the bill later this week.
What’s going on with US tax reform? Let Quartz explain… is one of the better collections of articles on the subject.

The to-do list for Congress doesn’t end with the tax bill. There is the not negligible problem of avoiding a government shutdown, which on Tuesday seemed less likely (avoidance, that is) according to some Chances for government shutdown rising following some undiplomatic Trump tweets.
Plus lawmakers are butting heads over a third tranche of emergency aid for hurricane-ravaged areas. Key surveillance powers used by the National Security Agency need to be renewed. Funding for a health insurance program benefiting 9 million lower-income children is already long expired, with several states close to running out of cash.   Congress stares down shutdown amid December deluge Speaking of deluges, The National Flood Insurance Program, which has become financially strapped after the spate of powerful hurricanes this year, also needs to be reauthorized by Dec. 8.  And the GOP is scrambling to distance itself as far as possible from Roy Moore, who, unbelievably may win the Alabama Senate race on December 12.

The OECD has released its Economic Outlook that sees the global economy strengthening, but says further policy action needed to catalyse the private sector for stronger and more inclusive growth
“The world economy has strengthened, with monetary and fiscal stimulus underpinning a broad-based and synchronised  improvement in growth rates across most countries, according to the OECD’s latest Economic Outlook. Annual growth of the world economy is projected to improve slightly  in 2018, but remains below the pre-crisis period and that of past recoveries. Longer-term challenges inhibit stronger, more inclusive, and more resilient economies.”
Nobel Laureate in economics Michael Spence believes that the global economy will confront serious challenges in the months and years ahead, and looming in the background is a mountain of debt that makes markets nervous – and that thus increases the system’s vulnerability to destabilizing shocks. Yet the baseline scenario seems to be one of continuity, with no obvious convulsions on the horizon. (The Global Economy in 2018).
Back home, The Bank of Canada released its latest financial system review on Tuesday and warns that risks to the Canadian financial system remain elevated largely because of historic levels of household debt that are continuing to rise. Bill Watson, referencing the government’s recent apologies to the First Nations of Newfoundland & Labrador and LGBT community makes a semi-serious(?) suggestion that Ottawa offer an official apology to taxpayers (Warning: Not everyone finds this funny).

On a somewhat related note (taxpayers’ best interests), we are very pleased to share Mario Iacobacci’s recently published examination of Public Infrastructure Projects Business Cases that looks at which projects create value for the public at large and which do not. It then focuses on transit projects in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver over the last 10 years. Mario adds that “In Montreal, the picture is ugly, because we are completely in the dark as to whether these projects are justified from a public interest perspective. Things get better as you go westward.” He will be with us on Wednesday, 13 December to elaborate on the subject. Our first thought: wouldn’t it have been nice if the same logical approach had been taken with the MUHC and CHUM?

It’s often hard to tell the players without a program: Robert Mugabe is out, replaced by The Crocodile; Uhuru Kenyatta is in (again); Angela Merkel is down but not out; Saad Hariri has ‘unresigned’
In God’s Middle East Playground, Dominique Moisi asks: “With the war against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria winding down, will the region’s main strategic rivals shift their proxy war to Beirut? Lebanon, having long suffered from a combination of domestic institutions that are too weak and neighbors that are too strong, now finds itself in the crossfire between Iran and Saudi Arabia.”

While the world is, rightly, deeply concerned about events in the Middle East, we often neglect the plight of Africa. In the December 4 edition of The New Yorker, Ben Taub writes a lengthy and devastating, detailed account of Lake Chad: The World’s Most Complex Humanitarian Disaster. Meanwhile, CNN’s exclusive and chilling report on the slave trade in Libya People for sale is attracting international condemnation, but there seem to be few, if any, ways of putting a stop to it.

North Korea has conducted its first ballistic test launch in two months, reigniting tensions in the region and giving us all something else to worry about. On the same day we learned about the launch, it was announced that Canada will co-host a meeting about the ongoing crisis in North Korea as tensions in the region continue to escalate Representatives from all 16 of the “sending nations” that provided troops during the Korean War will be invited, including Australia, France, South Africa and the U.K., however, the meeting won’t happen until after the holidays.

For those who follow media matters as avidly as we do, three stories this week are of concern:
— Trump’s attack on CNN which, as GQ’s Jay Willis points out, has global consequences
— The attempted -and fortunately clumsy- entrapment of Washington Post journalists by Project Veritas in an effort discredit WaPo for publishing real fake news [A woman approached The Post with dramatic — and false — tale about Roy Moore. She appears to be part of undercover sting operation.]
The sale of TIME Inc. to the Meredith Corporation, backed by the Koch brothers known for their libertarian-infused conservatism. Trump is likely rejoicing, the new owners may be more inclined to put him on the cover. A propos that story, Donald Trump’s Obsession With Time Magazine Makes Almost Too Much Sense is a good (and somewhat nostalgic, read.

Our beloved Charlevoix will have to be disinfected after the G7.
Canada braces for a Trump visit in 2018
The U.S. president is finally coming to Canada for June’s G7 summit. The plan so far? Keep him far away from ordinary people.

Ending on a happy note,  Save the date of the CBC Sing-In: Sunday, Dec. 10 at 3 p.m. at the Church of St. Andrew and St. Paul .
Doors open at 2 p.m. and all seating is general admission.
For the first time ever tickets are available in advance

 

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