Friday, June 4, 2010

Cultural Shift Needed to close Growing Income Gap

From the Fact Sheet of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives by Armine Yalnizyan

The internationally respected Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development threw out a warning flag to Canada this week.
It says the income gap between Canada’s rich and poor is growing faster than most of the other 30 developed nations in the world, and that our governments need to stop that trend.
The news is about as sober a warning as it gets. Canada is falling behind internationally. We used to be above the average when it came to income equality. Now we’re below average. And there’s really no good excuse for it.
As a nation, we are richer than most. Ours is the ninth largest economy on the planet. We have seen one of the strongest, most sustained periods of economic expansion in our history.
But most of the gains of economic growth have gone to the richest 10%. Earnings for those in the middle have been stagnant for 30 long years, and workers at the bottom are losing ground compared to a generation ago.

This is harldy news, since we have been hearing about the growing gap in incomes for the last decade, in both Canada and the U.S.
It is the culture that gives these facts immunity that needs to be changed.
And until the culture is changed, any attempt to reduce or eliminate the gap will amount to little more than "tweeking" at the edges.
Only yesterday, we learned that the five chartered banks in Canada earned a total of $5.1 Billion in the first quarter of this year.
By charging mortgagees 5-plus percent on their mortgages, while paying a meagre 1-2% on savings accounts, even though the interest rates are relatively low, there is a significant gap in those figures. Little wonder they are making huge profits, robbing Peter (the poor) to pay Paul (themselves).
More importantly, the literal "reverance" for corporations and the values of those corporations has left individuals, families and towns and cities at the mercy of the decisions and the values of those corporations.
Humans are considered "raw material" for the purposes of the accounting calculations in the corporate board rooms.
Use them as you would a piece of iron ore, in the process of making steel and spit them out when they prove to be too costly.
It is as if there is a finite "brass ring" around which only a finite number of hands can grasp, and the hands on the ring are attached to feet that are kicking all those who would like a piece of the ring away from even touching it.
One sector that is failing is the media. And we now learn that those media corporations that spend more on "reporting/writing/editing" than on newsprint will likely survive while those spending more on newsprint than on the "human" functions will not.
That is a reasonable and a responsible paradigm for other sectors...look after the people at the core function/purpose/essence of your business and there is a good chance you will survive and grow.
Even people like Lee Iacocca were yelling about the "merger mania" and the ruthless, greedy grab for the buck, at the expense of human beings, and jobs and the long-term survival of the economic system as far back as 1988, when he was the head of Chrysler.
Aphorisms like "being our brother's keeper" and "a hand up not a hand-out" and recognizing that CEO's don't need, deserve or can they sustain, incomes at hundreds of times the average wage of their employees. That gap used to be a comfortable 10-20 times.
And the corporations are putting so much money into the campaigns of all politicians that no laws can be easily enacted that would right the balance, because the people at the bottom of the economic ladder cannot and will not match the campaign contributions of those huge corporations.
It is not only money that has shifted the balance to the richest 10%; it is also a significant shift in political power to make changes.
And pieces like the one you are reading here, and the CCPA's fact sheet will remain lone voices in the wilderness, until the whole society erupts in a burst of consciousness that the people really do have the power to make change.
And yet waking up is not the likely result of an education system geared to the preservation of the political power of those in charge, and they are aligned with the rich, and the politically powerful, given the extreme sycophancy of the Canadian education system at all levels. We are breeding "politically silent" conformists in our schools and colleges!
We need an education of radicals, and in order to achieve that we need to find leaders who are unafraid of their own political reputation and for that we need educators and writers to remind us of those who "fought for justice and equality" in our past.
Only now, the face of those leaders will be multi-coloured, from multi-ethnicities, and from multi-regions of the world, and that new "wave" will require a significant shift in openness, receptivity and collaboration from the indigenous so that their new surge of energy, ideas and restlessness that accompanies all new pilgrims can make a meaningful difference in attitudes, and then policies and then the lives of individual families.
Where are the next David Lewis's and the Tommy Douglass's and the Ed Broadbent's and the Ed Shreyer's and the Stephen Lewis's? They are not apparent in the current political farce in Ottawa.

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