Most Canadians have been completely sidestepped by the benefits of economic progress for a generation – precisely because of the erosion of the institutions designed to share the wealth (like income security, collective bargaining, and progressive taxation). Real incomes for the richest 1% doubled in the same period, and real incomes for the super-rich (the top 0.01%) tripled. So by the definition of relative poverty (being worse off than those around you … and, in this case, much worse off than those you read about and see on TV), poverty has indeed increased in Canada.
Jim Stanford in Income inequality in Canada: What’s the problem?
by Konrad Yakabuski, The Globe and Mail
by Konrad Yakabuski, The Globe and Mail
I always choose the Jim Stanford quote because Jim Stanford is the gold standard for economists as far as I am concerned.
This quote comes from a conversation published in the Globe and Mail about income inequality. The article is part of a series called The Wealth Paradox.
Canada is at a crossroads. A gap has grown between the middle class and the wealthy. Now, that divide is threatening to erode a cherished Canadian value: equality of opportunity for all. This article is part of The Globe's Wealth Paradox series, a two-week examination into how the wealth divide is shaping Canada's cities, schools, social programs – and even its national sport.
And here is what Jim has to say about that cherished value of equal opportunity:
Lucky individuals do not take a place among that small, well-off group because they somehow deserve it. And there will be many millions of tech-savvy workers who are as poor and insecure as any of the rest of us – by virtue of their skills being subject to automation or offshoring. I do suspect that absent deliberate efforts to support mass prosperity, a situation much like what Cowen envisions will emerge. But the causation at work is not merit, it’s power. The top 1-2 percent will do extremely well thanks to their financial wealth and control over businesses. Another 10-15 percent will do fairly well thanks to (at least temporarily) unique skills or characteristics, proximity to those with wealth, or other fortunate factors. The rest of society will scrape by, and what we know as the middle class will largely disappear. There’s nothing inevitable or “economic” about this trend. It all reflects deliberate policy and political choices that have been made: about how we collectively choose to regulate our business , trade, and employment relations. Different choices* in each of these domains can also be made.As this internet-famous quote from United States Senator Elizabeth Warren so eloquently posits:
And back to Jim to hear what he says about those *choices:
First off, government doesn’t have to spend a cent to start to address inequality. I would implement wage-boosting measures like the minimum wage, collective bargaining, sectoral wage standards to address the effects of precarious work. Pushing employers to stop devaluing work will do more for inequality in the long run, than trying to offset the social consequences of low wages through public subsidies. Then, with the surtax , I would target two measures: expanding the child tax benefit, and revitalizing supports for affordable housing.
Income inequality is receiving some attention here in Toronto because of a by-election in the riding of Toronto Centre. The Liberal candidate, Chrystia Freeland, and the New Democrat candidate, Linda McQuaig, have both written books about income equality: Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super-Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else and Billionaires' Ball: Gluttony and Hubris in an Age of Epic Inequality respectively. You can see all the candidates for this riding talk about the economy and other topics on this episode of The Agenda. The debate turns to income inequality at 20:30 and the conversation lasts about 19 minutes.
And because we are educators around here, I'll end this post with Jim Stanford on education:
I am a huge believer in public education, and we should collectively spend more on it. But don’t hold your breath hoping that education will moderate the rise in inequality. A greater share of Canadians already have higher education than in any other nation. That didn’t stop the income gap from growing. And a large share of new jobs in the future will not realistically require higher education at all. Among the career categories expecting the biggest increments in new positions are truck drivers, health care aides, and retail workers and managers. So unless we start paying truck drivers, health care aides, and retail workers better, the current trajectory will not change, no matter how well educated Canadians become.So our challenge as educators is how, in a time when funders and policy makers are insisting on assessing success based on employment outcomes over academic attainment, do we sustain learner-centred, worker-positive programming? And how do we talk to our colleagues and students about our expectations for what we can accomplish together?