Social Policy, Now: Next steps for income support and income insurance in Canada

Three next steps for social policy involve: 1. Maximizing auto-enrollment and just-in-time program delivery; 2. Offering full income support with engagement; and 3. Offering broad income and earnings insurance with agency. In this post I introduce the detailed discussion of these proposals that you can also download.

 

On March 24th, 2020 the Government of Canada Tabled Bill C-13, “An Act respecting certain measures in response to COVID-19,” in the House of Commons, and the next day the Bill received Royal Assent, unleashing the most extensive and quickest change to Canadian social policy in living memory, if not in the history of the country.

The Canada Emergency Response Benefit is the most notable part of the Bill, offering $2,000 of income support every four weeks to all working age Canadians who made at least $5,000 in the previous 12 months and lost their source of income due to the COVID-19 crisis.

Almost immediately the public policy discussion turned to “what’s next?” Certainly this was so in the short-term as the government and the public service became fully engaged in meeting the evolving needs of citizens and businesses in response to the most serious health and economic crises the country has experienced since World War II.

But increasingly, as the weeks and months passed, it was also so in the longer term: What’s next for the design of social policy in light of the needs and the gaps that the COVID-19 crisis has revealed?

This is the question I address in a detailed presentation that you can download.

In this post I introduce the issues and options for discussing the next steps for social policy, the word “Now” in the title having three meanings that guide this approach.

Continue reading “Social Policy, Now: Next steps for income support and income insurance in Canada”

COVID-19 is not the great leveller, it’s the great revealer

Source: https://twitter.com/stphnmaher/status/1249767849352101890?s=20

In a medical sense, COVID-19, as highly contagious as it is, can be thought of as the great leveller. No one has immunity, and we face the health risk of this virus with a sense of our common humanity.

But in a socio-economic sense, it is not as contagious. The jobs some of us hold give us an economic immunity, and we face the economic risk of this virus with a very different sense of our interconnectedness.

Continue reading “COVID-19 is not the great leveller, it’s the great revealer”

Poverty and equality of opportunity: three pictures to motivate policy for social mobility

Read my comments presented to the Public Economics Forum on “Intergenerationally Disadvantaged: Newest Evidence and What it Means for Policy,” organized by the Melbourne Institute for Applied Economic and Social Research, on November 26th, 2019 in Canberra, Australia.

Social mobility varies across countries, but it varies in a particular way, a way that I argue is relevant for the conduct of public policy.

Inequality begets inequality. Up to 50% of income inequality is passed on to the next generation in countries like the United Kingdom, Italy, and the United States, but only 20% or even less in countries like Norway, Denmark and Finland, where there is a much smaller gap between parent incomes.

Incomes are stickier across generations where inequality is higher

But different kinds of inequality matter in different ways for social mobility.

Research using the variation of social mobility within countries like the United States and Canada shows that intergenerational cycles of low income are more likely in communities that have more bottom half inequality, the correlation with overall inequality and with top end inequality being much weaker. Upward mobility is easier when the poorest incomes are not that far off from middle incomes.

The bottom line for public policy is don’t let inequality increase in the bottom half of the income distribution, indeed strive to reduce it in a way that encourages labour market and social engagement.

Continue reading “Poverty and equality of opportunity: three pictures to motivate policy for social mobility”

Tax the rich! Tax the rich! Tax the rich? But why?

Jagmeet Singh’s promise in his election night speech that “we’re going to make sure the super wealthy start paying their fair share” was met with cheers, the decibel level rising as his fellow New Democrats chanted: “Tax the rich! Tax the rich! Tax the rich!”

The leader of the New Democratic Party addresses his supporters.

It is not entirely true that the federal election ignored big policy issues, but if it was issues-driven, how did a wealth tax fly under the radar?

At some point in the coming weeks Mr. Trudeau will meet Mr. Singh over coffee to talk tax policy. Sadly, the election left Canadians no wiser as to what divides progressives on the issue, but if you want the full picture look south to the Democratic leadership campaign.

Continue reading “Tax the rich! Tax the rich! Tax the rich? But why?”

Equality of opportunity is a choice

Tony Atkinson, the great British economist, encourages us to think of inequality as a choice, something that can be influenced by public policy.

If this is the case for equality of outcomes, then it is surely also so for equality of opportunity; the significant differences in social mobility between the rich countries hinting at the role governments play in determining the degree to which family background is destiny, the rich raising the next generation of rich adults, the poor seeing their children face low chances of upward mobility.

Some of these differences may simply reflect different social priorities, but others may teach us about the power of different policies. Continue reading “Equality of opportunity is a choice”

Ever wonder where to find the Trump Tower? Then take this “Trump Walking Tour” with me, and learn even more

Meet at the southwest corner of 53rd Street and 6th Avenue, under the large statue across from the Hilton Hotel, the tour guide will be holding a “Social Justice Tours” sign.

That is what The Municipal Arts Society of New York website counsels, and indeed, Dan is there … Social Justice Tours being the non-profit he started three years ago, that is taking off quite nicely, nicely enough—thank you very much—to have its website hacked by someone with a Russian IP address. You might have a little trouble reaching them at socialjusticetours.com for at least the next week or so, until the volunteer IT guy gets things fixed.

But this much I could get from my web search “Social Justice Tours engages New Yorkers in critical dialogue by exposing injustice & highlighting inequality in an effort to encourage thought & inspire action.” So who better than to run a Jane’s Walk—the grassroots celebration of the famous urban activist Jane Jacobs—called Trump Walking Tour.

Sounds like the walking tour for me. Last week a tourist on 5th Avenue gingerly approached me in halting English to ask for directions to”Tower Trump?”, so maybe I should know a bit more about Trump’s New York than just simple directions when standing a half a block away from the famed (sometimes inflamed) building.

This is a tour about Trump history, not Trump presidency. Dan assures us that he has read four books about Donald Trump. We are going to stick to the facts about the man himself. But we also recognize that other agents—whether the shady underworld, the commercial banks, the criminal justice system, or failures of public policy—facilitated his rise: he is not just an individual.

His story shows us how the real estate industry has shaped New York into a billionaire’s city, in many ways trampling over the commoners, but not without observing some lessons about the importance of organizing and collectively fighting back against bullies and bulldozers.

This is a social justice tour after all.

“I have yet to have a Trump supporter on my tour.” The crowd of 16 New Yorkers cheers this opening line with approval, one proudly proclaiming “I’m a Never Trumper.” And we’re off.

Continue reading “Ever wonder where to find the Trump Tower? Then take this “Trump Walking Tour” with me, and learn even more”