The Conference Board of Canada is the latest to sound the alarm. Inequality in Canada is growing at a rate even faster than in the U.S. The wealthy are capturing an ever-increasing share of our economic growth. We see inequality growing. We see and feel its consequences. We know that inequality, if allowed to just keep growing, gradually erodes trust, divides us, dampens aspirations. Yet – or more accurately, for these very reasons – we seem unable to reverse course. And the longer we wait the further we fall into this inequality trap.
When a former Clerk of the Privy Council and Cabinet Secretary warns about the corrosive effect of a widening gap between the super-rich and everyone else, it’s time to listen. This isn’t some wild-eyed revolutionary trying to ignite class warfare.
In the United States nowadays, the very notion of progressive taxation is treated as heresy. That’s the result of more than three decades of atavistic far-right stupidity. It’s not much of a leap to start feeling concerned about Canada going down the same road.
Dr. Himelfarb’s warning is part of a long-overdue pushback. Ever since the Reagan revolution, the parameters of acceptable discourse have been pushed farther and farther to the right. The result? Our friends to the south find themselves in a situation where the teabaggers determine fiscal policy and people like Michele Bachman are taken seriously. Ignorance, belligerent stupidity and insularity are treated as virtues and indicators of authenticity; the most depressing illustration thereof is the readiness among working-class Americans to embrace policies that benefit the wealthy and hurt them.
When someone with Dr. Himelfarb’s credentials voices this kind of concern, one can hope it’ll create a space for others to speak up as well.
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