While it is now only just over a year since the Occupy Wall Street movement began to draw attention to the wide and growing gulf between the 1% and the 99%, many have been quick to dismiss its staying power. After all, it was pointed out from the very beginning that the Occupy movement really did not have much to offer in terms of concrete policy proposals. Asked by the Wall Street Journal last October about his views on OWS, Martin Feldstein, the prominent Harvard economist, could only say: “I can’t figure out what that’s all about…I haven’t seen what they’re asking for.”
But the vagueness OWS projects in terms of its policy proposals is hardly a basis for dismissing its significance.
Governments at all levels in Canada have embarked on an austerity agenda that includes reducing public sector employment and efforts to privatize public services. This policy direction will slow economic growth, harm the quality of public services, and the loss of services will have a larger impact on low-income Canadians than higher income Canadians. Along with these other impacts, this austerity agenda will increase income inequality.
Increased inequality is a phenomenon that has affected many countries since the 1980s—industrial, emerging market and developing. At the same time, some countries have become more unequal than others. Thus, it is important to try to distinguish factors that have been at work universally from factors that have served either to retard or to exacerbate inequality at the national level. The latter category comprises, among others, income transfers, progressive income taxation and active labour market policies aimed at generating decent jobs and full employment. However, this note focuses on the former—the universal factors.
Posted by Julia Christensen, Colleen Davison & Leah Levac · November 29, 2012 7:12 AM
The Canadian North, which includes the Yukon, Northwest Territories, Nunavut, Nunavik, Labrador, and Nunatsiavut, is a vast region rich in Indigenous cultures, pristine landscapes and waterways, natural resources, and increasingly diverse communities. It is also a region known for having the highest rates of chronic housing need in Canada. Across the North, where more than half the population is Inuit (including Inuvialuit), First Nations (including Innu), or Métis, there is chronic housing need (lack of affordability, inadequacy, unsuitability, unavailability) and lower rates of home ownership than in the southern provinces. The 2006 census found home ownership in Nunavut and the Northwest Territories to be 22.7 and 52.9 per cent, respectively, compared to 71 per cent in Ontario or 73 per cent in Alberta. In most small, northern communities in Canada, social housing is the main, if not only, option, with very few opportunities for home ownership. Limited opportunities for home ownership are compounded by the high rates of unemployment in many small, northern settlements.
Posted by Peter Puxley · November 22, 2012 5:53 AM
"The ideas of economists and political philosophers … are more powerful than is commonly understood. Indeed the world is ruled by little else. Practical men who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influences, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist." - John Maynard Keynes, The General Theory of Employment Interest and Money (1936)
In economics, hope and faith coexist with great scientific pretension and also a deep desire for respectability. - J.K.Galbraith, New York Times Magazine (June 1970)
The policy community praises the ideal of “evidence-based” policy – policy with a solid research base. In the real world, however, we all know that public policies, as implemented, are more often than not only vaguely related to research results and the best available data.
This is the first section of a three-part commentary by Sheila Block on our Equality Project report. Stay tuned over the coming weeks as we release parts two and three.
The Broadbent Institute paper provides an overview of the complex range of causes of Canada’s increased income inequality. They range from changes in how economic activity is organized and located internationally to domestic policy decisions. Some, like changes in patterns of international trade and production or technological change, can make the problem seem very large and intractable. That is why it is particularly important to identify those government policies that have contributed to increased inequality. These policies that concentrated wealth and power in the hands of the few to the detriment of the many were not inevitable. The politicians who implemented them made choices, and those choices can be reversed. Reversing these policy decisions is an important step to addressing inequality in Canada.
Posted by Sheila McDaniel · November 15, 2012 8:40 AM
Inequality seems to be the watchword of the moment in Fall 2012. It is on the minds of many, it seems, sometimes forming on surprising lips. Lloyd Blankfein, the CEO of Goldman Sachs, had this to say in a mid-September talk in Toronto to financiers, bankers, executives and lawyers: “In the U.S. over the last generation, we have been much better at generating wealth and much less good at distributing it." President Obama mentioned inequality in his acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention, as did others who spoke there, notably Elizabeth Warren, then a Harvard Law Professor, now a U.S. Senator for Massachusetts, and co-author of the 2000 book The Fragile Middle Class. And the recent report of the World Economic Forum, The Global Competitiveness Report 2012-2013 focuses on the fundamental importance of social and environmental sustainability (including efforts to diminish social inequalities) to any country’s global competitiveness.
It is uncertain which is more puzzling: the sudden surge in inequality in developed countries in recent times, or the failure of this to generate a sufficient response in the form of a countervailing politics.
When Red Tories hear that union leaders, trade union economists, academics and thoughtful politicians of the left (and Red Tories believe there are many) are planning to engage and advocate on the issue of inequality, we have cause to worry a little. We worry because their focus is often on legislating outcomes that must be glaringly and unabashedly equal. We also worry about polemicists on the far right who argue that most unequal outcomes happen because the winners worked harder, took more risks, had more skill and well, that's how freedom and free markets are supposed to work, even though many of the winners were winners because their parents were or because they were at the right place at the right time. Both biases are deeply unhelpful to finding genuine solutions to inequality.