- Bill Kerry writes that extreme inequality serves to reinforce itself - and points out what needs to be done to counter the temptation to kick others down:
One of the major difficulties in tackling inequality is the way it coerces many people into accepting and even promoting it. In a steep social hierarchy people will often choose to shore up their own precarious social position by kicking down on poorer, weaker folk rather than challenging the richer more powerful folk above them.- And Ryan Meili comments on the growing consensus that inequality needs to be remediated, while recognizing the factors which have limited the policy progress so far:
So what do we do about it? Well, it’s quite straightforward if not at all easy; we have to reduce economic inequality. It is material differences that create social distances. To narrow social distances we have to reduce material differences. If this all sounds rather abstract just consider your own social life. Chances are your friends are pretty much like you in terms of material status. How many of us can genuinely say that we have friends that range widely across the income spectrum? Generally, we mix with people not too dissimilar to ourselves. We usually stick to our socio-economic hefts – where we feel comfortable and where reciprocity is likely if not guaranteed; in other words, where we feel safest and most secure, free from judgement or reproach by others. And sometimes, when our hefts are invaded by those not quite PLU (People Like Us) we can feel uneasy.
Unless we reduce the material differences between us, our society will continue to fracture and the quality of our social relations will deteriorate. Those at the top of the income and social spectrum will continue to weave myths about their own talents and falsehoods about the shortcomings of others. Those in the middle who believe (erroneously it seems) that they have the chance to join the top table will increasingly buy in to these twisted ideas and those at the bottom will likely feel the need to fight harder amongst themselves for status and respect at the bottom. Not a pretty picture and one that can be avoided if we act to reduce inequality and start to build social solidarity instead.
However much attention this issue merits, there is an inconvenient truth that few in the realm of politics are willing to discuss. To deal with income inequality, and thus prevent the economic and social harms it causes, some people have to be paid less than they’re currently earning and some people more. The incomes of those at the top of the scale and those at the bottom aren’t going to magically gravitate toward one another.- Meanwhile, PressProgress highlights the connection between high levels of unionization and reduced levels of poverty - while also pointing out Peter Edwards' recognition of the role of unions in winning basic labour rights. And Matthew O'Brien discusses the link between poverty and a readily-observed (and theoretically simple to resolve) health issue - as poor people are significantly more likely to be hospitalized due to hypoglycemia as their access to food runs out at the end of each month.
There needs to be a conscious decision, before or after taxes, to increase equality.
Perhaps this uncomfortable fact explains the fleeting attention paid to the whopping salaries of the top earners relative to the rest of us. Despite the growing chorus of concern, governments have been loath to legislate increased wages or even to effectively tax executive compensation (much of the pay of the highest earning CEOs is in stock options which are taxed at a lower rate than cash income). The flattening of tax rates and a laissez-faire approach to the economy are simply too sacrosanct to address, even in the face of mounting evidence of their harm.
- Monique Beaudin reports on the finger-pointing contest as every single corporation with ties to the Lac-Mégantic rail explosion tries to evade responsibility for the damage it caused. And Ned Resnikoff discusses the devastating effect of a pipeline spill in Mayflower, Arkansas.
- But of course, the Cons and their oil-sector allies are doing their utmost to prevent anybody from pointing out the dangers of an effectively unregulated rip-and-ship economy. And while the likes of Stephen Maher and Bruce Johnstone spend at least as much time challenging Neil Young's comments about the tar sands as recognizing that he raises points which demand some public discussion, Tim Gray recognizes the only action which could actually answer the concerns shared by Young and many Canadians:
It is time for our governments and leaders to come to terms with the shortfalls of the tar sands, which are some of the highest polluting oil in a carbon-constrained world. We still have time to catch up in the clean energy economy, but it is only going to get more difficult the longer we wait. Right now, many countries around the world, including the U.S., are investing many times more per capita than Canada in industries and jobs related to the clean economy. Canada is at risk of being left behind.
Instead of pouring money into massively expanding the tar sands, let’s invest more of the wealth they and other industries are producing in solutions, such as renewable energy technologies that lessen our dependency on oil, new manufacturing processes that are cleaner and more efficient and changes to transportation systems that improve people’s lives and reduce pollution. All of these initiatives are creating hundreds of thousands of new jobs around the world and it is time that Canada had our fair share.
Rather than attacking Neil Young, the oil industry should be working to clean up its act, and our leaders should be working to transition to a modern economy powered by safe, renewable sources of energy.