Wagemark Resources and News

The twelve days of financial hemorrhage (and hope for the antidote)

It’s that week in between Christmas and New Year’s! Bah humbug? Well, actually, sort of. The Montreal-based Centre for Research on Globalization estimates that “the twelve days of Christmas [in the U.S.] now cost $27,673.” You might even say it’s the most unequal time of the year.

But maybe there’s hope: Economists at TD Bank in Canada have recently released a report on the dangers of the widening income divide, titled “The Case for Leaning Against Income Inequality.” The report recommends public investments to reduce inequality, though falls short on recommendations for how to fund such initiatives; as the Toronto Star points out, the closest it comes is “a passing and unenthusiastic reference to increasing income taxes on the top 1 per cent of earners, and a revealing omission of any mention of corporate taxation, non-salary compensation or CEO salaries.” Still, when economists at Canada’s largest lender begin waving red flags around the wealth gap, it’s awfully tough to look away.

Long a central focal point of American fixation (and disagreement), public awareness of inequality in Canada is gaining steady momentum. Alex Himelfarb, a former clerk of the Privy Council Office of Canada, told the Globe and Mail—when asked what keeps him up at night—that inequality is his “number one issue” of concern. In particular, he singles out austerity as the culprit for a “kind of trickle-down meanness,” adding that “capital always talks louder than labour – that’s why it’s called “capitalism” and not “labourism” – but now the bargaining power of capital is through the roof. So money talks louder than ever.” But this, Himelfarb argues, is socially corrosive and politically suppressive, quashing any sense of faith in collective action.

David Lammy would likely concur. The British MP, and Labour hopeful for the London mayor’s seat in 2016, predicts that direct action to combat inequality in the UK is required to prevent more riots like those that rocked the island during the summer of 2011. Lammy points out that with one and four young people unemployed in London and wages continuing to stagnate, “it’s becoming increasingly difficult to get on the housing ladder and face rising rents.” What results is a pressure cooker scenario, with conditions ripe for combustion. He adds: “It’s easy and crude to blame these problems on immigrants,” and recommends wage increases and rent caps as policy priorities to start with. Better that than violent unrest—an inevitability under current conditions.

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