By Linda McQuaig, Toronto Star, March 8, 2011
...hedge fund manager John Paulson made $3.7 billion in 2007, while a typical nurse earned about $45,000.
(T)here’s nothing natural or innate about the marketplace. The so-called “free market” is nothing more than a set of laws devised by humans.
Change the laws, and you end up distributing income very differently.
Hedge fund managers, for instance, have been able to score fabulous jackpots in recent years because of the particular laws that govern banking and finance. Under the very different set of laws that governed banking and finance 30 years ago, such massive windfalls weren’t possible. (And yet the overall economy did well back then; indeed, it did much better than today.)
Similarly, today’s CEOs earn dramatically more than CEOs did 30 years ago — largely because of changes in laws governing executive stock options. (After these changes were implemented in the 1990s, stock options became much more lucrative. The value of stock options for Canadian CEOs in the 1990s exceeded the value of their salaries by 300 per cent.)
In other words, incomes are heavily determined by the particular laws in place at a given time. And those laws are determined by which groups have power and are able to influence governments. So, as labour has lost its political clout in recent years, governments have watered down laws protecting labour, and workers’ pay has declined.
It is the blatant "thumb-your-nose" attitude of those on the right who have created the laws that make it possible for hedge-fund managers and CEO's to earn so much more, comparatively, that wrankles this scribe. In the world we all grew up in, this would have been called "white-collar crime" but today, we take it all in stride, or so the lack of street protests would indicate.
It is not just the inequity between what men and women earn, and this injustice needs to be changed, it is the towering and unfair advantage of sending an NBA basketball team into a high school gym to play a team of high school seniors. There is simply no contest. The giants will defeat the pygmies every time.
And the financial giants, not only those few at the very top, but those in the middle whose role models are at the top, could care less about the pygmies.
Only trouble is, without the pygmies' consent, the giants are unable to rule.
So, it is to the pygmies, the financial ordinary citizens, those who want to work and cannot find a job, and those whose jobs have been shipped overseas, and those who are trained to work, but whose work has disappeard for whatever reason, the teachers, and nurses and the delivery men and women, and the store clerks and the factory workers (the few who are left) and the transit drivers and mechanics....it is to these people that we must direct our attention. And this attention must be directed to these people because without them the system simply stalls, and the giants cannot take home their millions and billions.
And so long as we continue to nominate and elect the self-proclaimed elite, to seek and win government office, we will continue to have government tilted toward those same elite.
And, we pymies have only ourselves to thank when the laws creating even a modicum of balance are stripped leaving the jungle to the giants, because we have not had enough funds ourselves, or friends with enough funds to make government membership an option.
That's why we need to re-configure the union movement, restoring a credibility and respectability that once earned the confidence of the public generally.
That's why we need to re-think campaign finance laws, especially in the U.S., but also in other countries, making it fiscally feasible for ordinary pygmies to offer their names to the electorate for election.
That's why we need a grass-roots movement, of whatever political stripe, that gives ordinary people the voice, not only of the right but also of the left, from where the historic voices of enlightenment have always emerged, in order to re-balance our society.
When a Toronto daily includes a poll, a yes/no vote on the question, "Should the federal government proceed with its $6 billion corporate tax break proposal?" and the percentage of opponents is 69% to those in favour (30+%), for example, the government, by stubbornly insisting on going forward with the proposal, is not listening to the pygmies. It's political base are the target of the proposal and that base has been receiving letters almost daily from the poolitical party asking for more money to wage the upcoming campaign...and they must be "looked after"...
Whose rule is it that constitutes the core of political life: "Scratch my back and I'll scratch your's"
And what kind of government does that create? The kind where those who have deep pockets, favour those with deep pockets, ignoring those with shallow pockets, even though the characters of the two groups may be the inverse of their pocket size.