Wednesday, September 21, 2011

A Just Society?

The phrase was Pierre Trudeau's, and it caught on. Canadians like to think of themselves as citizens of a Just Society. Certainly, they believe, things are better here than in the United States. But, Carol Goar wrote recently, we have been emulating our southern neighbours. In fact,

Since the mid-1990s, income inequality has been rising faster in Canada than the U.S. They’re still in top spot, but we’re catching up. Our Gini index, which measures income equality, rose by 9 per cent over the last decade. Theirs increased by 4.7 per cent.

And that conclusion is based on old numbers:

It is based on six-year-old statistics. But all of the indicators suggest the trend is accelerating. Since 2005, our tax system has become more regressive, our social services have shrunk, our manufacturing base has deteriorated and we’ve gone through a painful recession that hit the poor hardest.

When Trudeau retired, Canada's tax system became more regressive:

Until 1988, we had 10 income brackets. Then the government of Brian Mulroney “flattened” the tax system, leaving three brackets. It was a welcome change for the rich whose marginal tax rate dropped from 34 per cent to 29 per cent. Everybody else got tax credits to ease the transition. Subsequent prime ministers made the system more regressive by reducing the taxation of capital gains, cutting corporate taxes, offering tax breaks to the wealthy and creating lucrative investment incentives.

And nobody is talking about it. In the last federal election, none of the parties talked about income inequality. They are not talking about it during Ontario's election. It seems to have become a fact of life.

When politicians become courtiers for the wealthy, the poor and the middle class become peons.

This entry is cross posted at The Moderate Voice.


The Mound of Sound said...

Of course no one is talking about it, Owen. Certainly no Liberal is demanding this change. That sort of policy might resonate with the voting public, reconnect the party with the Canadian public. Can't be having that sort of thing in an emerging petro-state. It just wouldn't do.

If you haven't already, I urge you to read "The Spirit Level." It deals specifically with income inequality and the ravages it inflicts on societies. The authors, prominent British epidemiologists, compare every OECD nation and, separately, each US state, on relative inequality and their outcomes on longevity, health, crime and imprisonment, obesity and disease, teen pregnancy and divorce and similar criteria. In every case, the nations or states with the greatest inequality had the worst levels of these scourges.

More recently, the International Monetary Fund released research showing that income inequality undermines economic performance. The narrower the gap between rich and poor, the more robust and higher performing the economy.

So where are all the supposedly progressive Liberals on this? Nowhere. It now falls to the NDP to do the Liberals' job and it's no wonder they captured second place. The LPC has forfeited any claim to that spot.

I am very concerned with inequality in Canada. With the challenges our children will face in the course of this century Canada will need the strongest, most cohesive society possible. This cannot be achieved without rectifying the wealth gap.

Owen Gray said...

A long time ago, Mound, I went to graduate school in North Carolina. Back then, it was crystal clear where white Americans lived and where African Americans lived. That obvious inequality was accepted as a fact of life.

When Barack Obama was elected, I thought that things were changing. Obviously, not much that is progressive has happened.

It should also be crystal clear why Stephen Harper insisted that the word "Progressive" be dropped from his party's brand.

And it's galling to see the Liberal Party define itself as "Conservative-lite"

Colette Amelia said...

The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie--diliberate, contrived, and dishonest--but the myth--persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic.
- John F. Kennedy

Owen Gray said...

Absolutely true, Colette. And the economic nostrums of the last thirty years are just that -- myths.

They have more in common with theology than they do with science.