Friday, August 2, 2013

Poverty amidst untold wealth

Next time you hear that we “can’t afford” decent pay, working conditions and pensions for those who actually make the wheels turn round, here are a few facts to consider. In 2011, Canadian CEOs made $7.7 million on average, or 171 times more than the median Canadian wage of $45,448, according to the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. In the Globe and Mail’s new listing of Canada’s top 100 CEOs, Canadian Pacific Railway boss Mark Harrison was number one, taking home $49,151,065 for the year. The remaining top 20 on the Globe’s list all topped $10 million. For example, Gordon Nixon, the CEO of the Royal Bank of Canada, raked in $13.7 million. Yes, that’s the same Royal Bank which took advantage of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program to replace 45 employees in its Securities division, until RBC’s insatiable greed was inconveniently exposed to the public.

And the greed‑fest is getting uglier. The Globe writes about “a fevered pace of CEO turnover… as firms pay millions in severance to former executives while also shelling out to attract new leaders”. No wonder that a Pew Research Centre study finds that 76 per cent of Canadians think income inequality is worsening. Overall, 74 per cent of people polled in the developed capitalist countries said the economic system favours the wealthy and is unfair to most people.

We live under a system which functions very well indeed for the top sliver of the 1%. But for those on the bottom of the heap ‑ minimum wage workers bringing home $15,000 a year, social assistance recipients starving on less than $8,000 a year, unemployed students graduating with massive debt loads ‑ the capitalist system is a life sentence of poverty in the midst of staggering wealth. Makes the idea of a socialist Canada sound pretty good, doesn’t it? 

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