• The Low Down

Inequality: waiting for action

Noted American economist, Robert Reich, recently remarked that if working Americans had seen their minimum wage level match the pay/bonus increases of corporate executives, their minimum wage would be $33 an hour.


The question is, do high flying executives merit their exorbitant pay raises? Have their huge pay increases made our society commensurately better? How is their increase justified, while the pay of lowly paid workers creeps along at poverty level lines?

Rectifying the economic inequality of our society merits a closer look. There is so much antipathy and lack of progress on the issue. The resistance comes from the wealthy. They hide their wealth in off-shore accounts and they find every imaginable tax dodge, using high priced accountants and lawyers if necessary. The mechanisms offering tax loopholes comes gratis from the government, which is very slow and ineffective, and which seems unwilling to catch tax dodgers.


The Canadian federal government in its recent budget announced a $15 minimum wage, but with legislative action pending. With the possibility of an election this year, the government has found billions to fund a $10 a day day-care system across Canada; a good idea and needed by families, but one of many things Canadian families need.


Inequality: of course we know it’s the system. But the system keeps working wages down. And this is entirely by design, by economic policy. Some say that people need to deserve higher pay before they can access it. Another cry is that the system cannot afford to pay everyone a decent living wage. But we can afford to pay excessive, redundant remuneration to the well off ! Giving a wage that allows people to survive with dignity and the ability to make good life choices is too much for our society to handle: but the rich can play with impunity with their excessive wealth.


So the idea of a universal basic guaranteed income is shelved, even though it was put forward on the political agenda and debated by those who want to see a just and humane economic system. So why is it ok for rich folk, including the top 1 per cent who own 25 per cent of the nation’s wealth, not to have to share their wealth with those who have less?


During the pandemic the federal government saw the cracks developing in the system and suddenly found the resolve to let the coffers flow in recognition that dire circumstances awaited so many who were losing their jobs. Rather than make this a one-off affair, our statesmen and women should put their shoulder to the grindstone. Find a way to make it work for everyone, permanently. Eradicate poverty and hopelessness.


We say such trite things as, “we are all in this together” or “we can through this together.” In reality, we need more than rhetoric. We need to show true colours and find solutions that work for everyone, even those sacrificing themselves in their line of work for a pittance of pay that the rich are getting.


Carl Hager is a retired educator, community volunteer, and active with the Pontiac NDP Association.