The rich keep getting richer. Should we be worried?

A new OECD report takes on the widening income gap

Photograph by Flickr user seven_resist

That the gap between rich and poor has been widening in the U.S. and Britain is old news. What’s new, according to a recent OECD report (PDF), is that in the last 30 years the income gap has been growing even faster in unlikely places: Sweden, Denmark and Germany. Despite their notoriously generous welfare systems, the three have seen the split between top and bottom incomes grow faster than anywhere else in the OECD in the past decade. (Canada also registered a sizable increase in its Gini coefficient, the standard measure of income inequality.)

So why are the rich doing disproportionately better than everyone else? The report highlights an interesting trio of possible causes:

(a) Freer trade is pushing up the wages of skilled workers. This what trade theory predicts will happen in rich countries with increased trade integration. Technological progress is having a similar effect, putting a premium on education and skills, and making many low-skill jobs obsolete.

(b) Rich people are marrying rich people, thus significantly increasing the wealth of households in the top income bracket. In other words, doctors are marrying doctors—not nurses—and lawyers other lawyers—not housewives. I wonder if this is a bizarre side effect of women’s emancipation.

(c) Across the board, governments have been withdrawing from the markets, leading to lower minimum wages compared to average wages, sinking union membership, and fewer state-owned enterprises. Though these changes raised employment levels, they also likely weakened the redistributive mechanisms that used to restrain the gap between rich and poor.

The OECD says it will produce a more in-depth study to look at these factors, and how much they actually contributed to accelerating inequality. In the meantime, the new findings make for the topic of an interesting debate over whether the best way to tackle inequality is shutting our borders or thinking up a new and better way to ensure that the wealth actually trickles down.




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The rich keep getting richer. Should we be worried?

  1. Should we be worried?

    In a word, YES.

  2. Yes we should be worried, as it damages the whole country…and it's directly due to lack of education.

    • I do wish to agree but are we arguing education for personal knowledge or education for purposes of employment?
      It is indeed a privilege to those who can do genuine studies in university without being worried about recouping the monetary cost of the personal experience. For many however there is a measure of debt vs. gain in terms of employment plus income.
      Don't over look quality trades. They require knowledgeable and driven people as well. Many trades require certification and ongoing upgrading.

      • Just once I wish I could post something about education on here without someone promoting trade school

        • If you wish to marginalize an inseparable part of the economy due to ignorance that's your choice.

          • If you just want job training then by all means go into trade school.

            More of the Bob and Doug McKenzie thing.

          • Emily, why don't turn off the SCTV reruns and actually read the OECD report

            "The highest 10% of earners have been leaving the middle earners behind more rapidly than the lowest earners have been drifting away from the middle." (p. 6)

            Regarding trade theory, the OECD notes that "[a] number of international cross-country studies have found supporting evidence for the first prediction, namely an association between trade integration and increased earnings and income inequalities in advanced countries…" (p. 9)

            The report states that in advanced countries increases in education are producing more skilled workers, increasing individual earnings, lifting more individuals into higher income brackets, and therefore resulting in increased disparities in income.

          • I don't watch TV….but I routinely read OECD reports

            And when you find the right one, I expect you to be quiet.

          • Emily- you don't grasp that the bulk of any region or nation's wealthy are self-employed entrepreneurs. The bulk of those are inextricably linked to trades. 75% of our workforce is employed in small business which is dominated by trades. Car dealers employ mechanics, and a surprising number of car dealers are themselves mechanics. Construction companies often have roots in carpentry and home-building. Other construction companies go back to a guy who floated a loan to buy a trackhoe. Manufacturing companies are often built by machinists and welders.
            Very few people grasp that a machinist (or welder or mechanic) with a shop of his own, a handful of lathes and milling machines and lathes, and a small group of dedicated employees, can become just as wealthy as a doctor or lawyer. In fact, very few people grasp that a skilled tradesman can easily earn income exceeding that of many degree holding professionals.
            (not that long ago I had machinists making 90k/yr. working 40-45 hrs/wk.)

          • I know that's an article of faith in the rightwing, but it's simply not true.

            75% of our economy is service.

            And please…no more stories about that mythical plumber making 100K

            Professionals btw make much more than that.

          • Have you paid a plumber recently? 100k seems low.

          • Wealth needs to be made. Doctors and Lawyers are out of luck if no one has money for their "services".

          • If no one has any money, then everyone is out of luck, plumbers, retailers, car companies…

          • Emily, why don't you pull your head out of that hole you've forced it into and read the report directly citied in this article. You'll find it suggests *gasp* increases in education are pulling middle class individuals into the top 10% of earners resulting in income disparities.

          • It says a lot of things….just not what you want it to say.

          • Yes Emily, the report doesn't say what I directly quoted from it.

          • Final round-up dude….I posted an article with a stat you don't like, and you've now spent the better part of 12 hours attacking me over something I didn't write rather than emailing the author and asking directly.

            And over the course of the 12 hours, you've tried to change the topic around, so you are now in a completely different place than when you started. Did you think I wouldn't notice?

            The fact remains that 42% of Canadians are illiterate….which means they are going to be very low wage-earners. The difference between that and the 50% the author mentions are the people who are literate, but have no specific job training….high school graduates.

            The top half of our population….50%… are college and university graduates….the people making more money.

            And whether you like it or not, automation is replacing huge numbers of people….and their only choice is to live on welfare permanently or get an education that will get them a job in the new economy.

            Otherwise productivity means higher unemployment, and more poverty.

            Now cease with the game-playing and the attacks, alone or in a swarm. It's just boring, and doesn't change reality one iota.

            Over and out.

  3. Depends how poor the poor are.

      • I read the article, and unless Mr. Peters can quantify and provide the numbers to prove his 50% theory, I would have to cry bogus. The fact that he follows up his claim with "a level that even the OECD considers "disturbing."", falsely gives the impression that they are disturbed about the '50% Canadian number', not a number of 50% in general. This leads people to think that the OECD came up with that number.

        • He didn't say it, the OECD did.

          Their reports are online you know.

          • Not exactly. He stated that 50% of Canadians are classified as "low wage" (his quotation marks, by the way). He didn't state where he got the number, or what he considers "low wage". The next sentence says that 50% of people in a "low wage" situation is a level that even the OECD considers "disturbing"". He does not say that the OECD says that 50% of Canadians are low wage. Sneaky.

            Please show me where the OECD says that 50% of Canadians are "low wage", and please provide the definition of "low wage".

    • Actually, it doesn't.

      It's been shown that income disparity has more an effect on making people feel resentful, angry, and depressed than poverty. It's odd but people evidence more dissatisfaction with their lives when they feel they're at the bottom of the scale than they do when they're in a worse situation but it's similar to those around them.

      This resentment and anger enables a person to more easily turn to crime when things get really desperate.

  4. It depends.

    What's more important to me is what's happening with median and lower percentile income earners and families. Even if they've only been holding steady in terms of real wages over say, the past 30 years or whatever, that should still translate into a better standard of living due to technological progress. A situation like that wouldn't be all bad news, but it would perhaps raise some questions about who government policies really benefit and may require some fine turning and more wealth redistribution (tax the rich, toss it into social programs).

    If it real wages for those groups have been falling, then the growing gap is unquestionably an issue.

    • Absolutely.

      The OECD report, as with so many rich vs poor comparisons, miss the point. What is needed is a direct comparison not between classes, but a measurement of progress by the inviduals themselves.

      If a person is classified as “poor” by an objective standard in 1980, is that same person “poor” by the same standard in 2010? Often times — and this is overlooked by “social justice” advocates — no. People in western societies tend to grow out of their poor or poverty-stricken existence as they gain more experience, get educated, etc. This doesn’t apply to everyone, but it applies to many, but of course it would fly in the face of misperceived common thinking among the progressive crowds.

      What matters is not that there is a gap between rich and poor, but rather whether the standard of living among poor people has improved. In most objective reports, they have, at least among OECD nations.

      • While I agree that the income gap isn't a solid absolute measure and may not be immediately useful when discussing poverty, it is informative all the same and the discussions that reports like these generate are almost always worth having even when these statistics and misinterpreted and misused; poverty is still an issue that needs to be better addressed by Canadian society as a whole, not just by governments.

      • I sure would love to know how researchers conclude that the standard of living for poor people has improved in a country where the gap between rich and poor has increased. When you look at major cities across Canada, you have high wage earners driving up rents to the point that anything affordable on a near-minimum wage salary is either filthy or infested with something. Sure, it may be easier to score a free TV on a sidewalk than it was 20 years ago, but this is not the stuff of true financial security.

  5. The only people who should be worried are the non-rich. The rich? Heck – this is the bomb. lol

  6. Now to be serious. Worried, no. Should we research more, to understand what is actually happening, probably.

    If we all really wanted to fix things, we would only buy items marked 'Made in Canada'. – lol

    • Please excuse me while I go beat my head against the wall.

      If we really wanted to fix things, we'd increase productivity.

      • Increasing productivity will create more poor.

        • I love this: we'll create more poor by creating more wealth.

          That is the best thing I've seen today, by far.

          • If you persist in being silly about it, there is no sense continuing.

        • Dead wrong. Productivity is about producing more wealth with the same effort. How that wealth is distributed determines the effect on the income distribution. The assertion that the benefits of productivity rises necessarily flow to the rich is dead, dead wrong.

          • You cannot make the same effort and yet raise the outcome.

            Productivity means 5 men doing what used to be the work of 10

          • Bollocks. Your logic says that 20 men with pitchforks and shovels is better than one woman with a backhoe.

            Same with sea containerization. Before sea containers, shipping was slow and laborious as hundreds of men painstakingly loaded ships, taking weeks to jam goods into every nook and cranny. It was back-breaking work. Sea containers boosted productivity enormously and created great huge amounts of wealth, and dockwork, while not easy, is certainly less back-breaking than it one was.

            This is what productivity is. It's not some evil supervisor cracking the whip and trying to make you type faster at your keyboard, etc. That kind of productivity improvement quickly runs into physical constraints. You can only expect someone to carry so many bricks onto the ship or walk so quickly. Real productivity improvements require working smarter, not harder.

          • It has nothing to do with me, or my logic. Stop it.

            It's a standard definition of 'productivity'

            Dockworking is much less back-breaking than it was….there are also far fewer of them

            Whenever men can be replaced by machines….they are.

            Hence high unemployment ….and then poverty.

          • You might want to read up about the lump of labour fallacy.

            If one person with a backhoe can generate the same amount of value as twenty people with shovels, that value is captured somewhere. If it increases the rate of return on investments, then that will cause more investment (capitalists like making money!), and thus more employment or higher wages. Backhoes cost a lot more than shovels, because much more resources go into making them, importantly labour (people build backhoes rather than digging holes).

            Rising productivity means the creation of more value with a given amount of resources. You seem to be saying the demand for value is fixed, so once we hit that value cap, excess resources will go underutilized (like labour). In reality, the market tries to maximize value (you agree with that, right?). So you use the same resources to create more value.

            I know you're incapable of admitting fault, but I really encourage you to do some reading about the lump of labour fallacy. It's very important to these discussions:
            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lump_of_labour_falla

          • I'm an analyst in economic development.

            Machines replace people….it's not rocket science.

          • And yet unemployment is not at all-time highs.

            I can't believe anyone pays you for your economic analysis. Sorry. You sure don't sound like someone trained in economics.

          • Depends on where you are, Andrew.

            And I have no interest in what you 'believe'….you don't even know what productivity is.

          • Where is unemployment at all-time highs? What is special about this place where productivity results in ever rising unemployment, but not in at least some, if not all other places?

            Emily. I'm going to come out and say this. I think you're lying about your line of work. There is no way someone who is an expert in this area would speak in such unsophisticated and vague terms about the subject. Please articulate your grand theory of how productivity is bad for humanity, or why we should ban machines. I'm waiting with bated breath.

            Hand-waving about how it's really quite simple, and that machines replace people isn't going to cut it.

          • Also, feel free to provide some theoretical basis for your paradigm and I'll be satisfied. If this theory is how the world really works, surely someone other than you has written extensively and compellingly about it.

          • And you're another one with no actual interest in the topic, and no knowledge of it either.

            But it's late, and your bored, and you think you can change reality by shouting nonsense at it….sorry, no.

            PS…unless you want to be relegated to that 42% illiteracy group, stop misquoting me.

          • I have tonnes of interest in the topic. I am genuinely interested to see a cogent stating of the theory you espouse. I can't recall ever seeing anything like it, but I would be fascinated to read about it.

            I am quite sincere in wanting to see theory, and I'm hoping you can help me out.

          • I didn't 'espouse any theory' dude, automation has been with us for quite some time.

            Yer just spinning your wheels now. LOL

          • But surely there is some explanation of how automation leads to more poverty, with econometric analysis. I'm asking you to enlighten me.

          • No you're not, you're just playing games, and wasting my time.

          • Emily, I'm with Andrew. I certainly think with Globalization there's a race to the bottom for low-education positions, and this might have an interesting intersection with machine labour in terms of economies being able to effectively employ everyone, as it was you who started with the somewhat glib "educate everyone". But you were presented links and good arguments, and you refused the debate. Pity.

          • a) There is no debate to be had. The planet is globalizing, and all the debate in the world won't change it.

            b) Anyone uneducated in the 21st century won't be working. Period

          • Emily lying? I'm shocked, shocked I tell you!

            Emily the internet business entrepreneur? Emily the export development big wig? Emily the former Reform Party riding president? Emily, of too many careers and fields of expertise to mention?

            Emily is so talented that she is not only able to have currently or formerly had a career in every topic currently discussed, but still have time to comment on Macleans 24/7. Why would she make up credentials just to fallaciously appeal to authority?

            Oh yeah, because she isn't worth talking to. Save your time.

          • Emily is 64. I've done a lot of things in my life.

            Not my problem if you've never been more than 5 miles away from home.

          • Assuming again? Such projection.

          • Like in the hollow of a tree, moonlighting as an economic consultant for the Keebler elves.

        • It doesn't have to though, that's the rub. As productivity increases, new requirements for different skill-sets open up. We build more fork-lifts, we need more mechanics, welders, tire-makers, etc. We computerize the tire-making, we need CAD programmers, robotics engineers, etc.

          I see what you're getting at.. if all we're concerned about is increasing productivity, automation can do that without really making people's lives much better. However, I think a better way to state it would be that focusing on education is a more sustainable goal than increasing productivity.

          • We'll have more jobs, true….in fact we have thousands of jobs we can't fill right now.

            But they aren't at the fork lift, mechanc, welder level. They require a much higher level of education.

            Yes, automation has been taking over for years….first it was machines people could use to make work easier, and now the 'machines' are doing the entire job by themselves.

            No need for people….so productivity as an end in itself means higher unemployment…and hence poverty.

            PS…and thank you btw for being so pleasant.

      • And yet productivity is certainly higher than it was 30 years ago. But, and this research has been done, the median income earners have seen stagnant real wages at best, decline at worst, while the actual poor have gotten poorer. And unemployment keeps creeping upward. Worldwide, the ones at the top of the income distribution seem to get the rewards from increased productivity, while everyone else maintains standards of living only by going deeper into debt.
        How will increased productivity fix this? Productivity's fine, but if every time I produce more you pocket the extra it doesn't do me any good. Not a lot of the market system's vaunted "incentive" there. Eventually you'll start getting the Soviet syndrome: They pretend to pay us, we pretend to work.
        Incidentally, the reason income inequality has been growing in Sweden is simple: Lately they've had right wing parties take over which have begun watering down their redistributive programs. Just like with the rest of us.

        • Increasing productivity is something that should be done regardless of if median and lower percentile income is rising or falling; more wealth creation is better, period. If median and lower percentile income in falling, as I said above, that's something that can be dealt with.

          On a related note, apparently we have a flat tax.

        • This is applied orthogonality. You haven't established causation here. Perhaps, just maybe, the rise in inequality is because taxes on wealth have plummeted and many social programs have been curtailed or scrapped.

          Productivity is not the enemy.

          • Established? I didn't say anything about causality, nor did I say increased productivity was a bad thing.
            But surely if increased productivity has happened on an ongoing basis but median-and-lower income has not improved, it's hard to argue that the way to increase that income is to increase productivity. It's a cliche, but "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results".

            Something additional is obviously needed. In any case, increased inequality and cheap labour are bad for productivity. Capital investment in improved productivity is very often a response to more expensive labour; when labour is cheap and you need something produced, you just hire a bunch more starving people for pennies.

      • You did see the lol, right?

        It is not a solution, but it clearly shows why there has been a gap growing. These types of jobs have went overseas. They will not come back, regardless of our productivity. We need to think outside the box, and try to foresee the economy of the future.

        I personally think Canada should focus on services.

        • I did, I did. It didn't stop me from wanting to beat my head against the wall :P

          I'm going to politely disagree with you: the last thing we need is to try and guess the economy of the future, if you're suggesting government intervention. Simply, the government isn't exactly the best when it comes to picking and losers. Instead, the best thing to do is to let the market decide, profit incentive is a wonderful thing.

          Edit: Re-reading that it sounds pretty trite, I'm not used to having to make "benefits of the free market" posts (is this what I get for voting NDP?)

          Basically, though, while it is a fine thing for the government to invest in research and education, and to promote business to do more research and to be forward-looking, and to better invest in technologies that would boost productivity, there's absolutely no sense in the government taking any kind of a direct hand in trying to pick and promote one industry over another.

          • I agree with the market deciding, and the gov't picking losers, to a point. I wasn't talking about the gov't starting or backing businesses, I was more talking about education for the future.

            Right now, the gov't picks up the tab for about 75% of all post secondary education costs. There is no reason people should be getting educated for a field that is useless (unless they want to pay the full 100%).
            We can start to steer the kids to careers that will be useful in the future.

          • And what's useful in the future?

            Here in Alberta, after years of cuts and low funding for health care, the government finally gave the nurses union a hugely rich contract in order to try and lure people back. The nursing program at the U of A, which had been producing relatively few grads all of the sudden got a huge boost. Then, the recession hits and the government immediately puts in place a hiring freeze right before graduation, basically the whole class that year was left out in the cold.

            Governments kind of suck at making those decisions.

          • I would qualify that last sentence further with "reactionary governments". It is possible for a government to have a long-term plan and to stick to it, but that requires a balance between realism and idealism (as political science uses those terms).

            Conservatism usually lives on the reactionary end of the scale. And people who worry about NDP governments are, I think, essentially worried that all the decision-making will come from theoretical "would be nice" areas without taking the real world into sufficient account.

            The realities of governing, and the limited scope of realistically available choices, usually means that realists and idealists get dragged toward a more centrist balance. But Alberta has been so Blue for so long that there may be some inherent problems in coping with the idealist end of the scale that we won't see in other regions that swing back and forth.

            I don't think that's a good enough reason to say that government can't make productive, forward-looking plans to shape future development and guard against problems before they emerge as crises.

          • My objection to intervention has to do primarily with how it was suggested:
            Having the government pick specific sectors of education to promote could easily have some very bad outcomes and it is really easy for events to out-pace government action.

            That isn't to say there is nothing that can be done, but how to properly incentivize growth and development is a discussion where I am more than happy to admit that I'm out of my depth; I know enough to know I don't know enough. I'm sure someone like Andrew Coyne would have a lot to say on this particular topic, though.

          • (Coyne is a must-follow on Twitter, by the way, if you do that sort of thing.)

          • You know, most countries which have seen high, sustained growth in their economies and standards of living in the post WWII period did so because of government intervening in the economy, picking winners and losers, trying to shape the economy of the future. From Japan to South Korea to Singapore to China, but not only Asia–also Argentina back before the IMF took over and created an economic meltdown . . . all these places had active industrial policies not mere laissez-faire.
            The whole "Governments shouldn't get involved because they're terrible at blah blah" is a myth which runs almost directly counter to real-world experience. Governments should pick winners . . . at least winning sectors. Governments should promote hard industry and high technology and value added. This is even more true when there are few barriers to foreign investment. I live in British Columbia, where forests are a big business. As British Columbians, our interests are served by getting as much out of our wood as we can. A foreign-owned private sector business, however, may have interests best served by chopping down our trees and exporting them as raw logs, with as little value and as few jobs actually created in British Columbia as possible. It doesn't matter how marvellous the profit incentive may be if it's working against you rather than for you.

          • India and China are probably the most widely recognized examples of how freeing economies from government control creates wealth and jobs. Compare Hong Kong to the rest of China. One of Hong Kong's British governors actually refused to hold a census because it might give the government things to 'fix'. It's been one of the most economically free places in the world for several decades, and one of the wealthiest. The problem with government picking winners is that it keeps on picking them regardless of whether they keep winning. Compare a chart of the most economically free countries with the wealthiest countries… the corellation is amazing.

        • We have a 75% service economy already. It is the beginning of the knowledge economy…the next stage.

    • And how many would you find?

      • That is pretty much my point, and probably the biggest reason that there is a gap growing between rich and poor. Not that someone planned it, but that we have outsourced labor to cheaper countries.

        What I am told is that in the future, things will level out. As those countries develop, they won't be working for 50 cents a day.

        • Yes, manufacturing has moved to China….and it ain't coming back.

          • This is to some extent a transient phenomenon. China dominates manufacturing while there is a wage differential. As the wage differential is compressed, manufacturing moves closer to the final consumer. Wage is not the only factor in deciding where to do manufacturing. Time to market and lead times are important. Some goods are hard to transport. For this reason, windmills will generally be made in North America, for instance.

            Japan was poor and started making trinkets and electronic do-dads. They hardly do any of that anymore as they've grown wealthier.

          • No, it's not transient….the jobs aren't coming back

            And size of product has nothing to do with it

            China is not Japan.

          • This is not an argument. It's just an assertion. Make an argument or concede the point.

          • No, it's standard economics. They can do it cheaper than we can.

          • They can do it cheaper than we can… for now. Are you suggesting that the Chinese will be able to do it less expensively for 1000 years? No? One hundred years? Fifty years? Thirty? You're saying that Chinese wages will never catch up to Canada. Sorry–I'm not buying it.

          • Yes, they can.

            And already Vietnam and Malaysia are undercutting them….and there's some movement from Africa now.

            However, we'll make a switch to more robotics long before it gets that far.

          • There is a term for Emily's position: mechanical fetishism. Dirty girl.

          • That link is dead; it is as unproductive as your argument.

        • True. They simply won't be working as the companies move on to other pastures where people will work for 50 cents a day. Seriously, if it happened here, what on earth makes you think it won't happen there?

          • Vietnam and Malaysia are already undercutting China…and then there is Africa….but somewhere along the line it'll simply be more robots.

          • Robots cost money. Cheap labour actually inhibits technological improvement–it reduces the incentive to spend money investing in such things.

          • Everything costs money.

            And eventually labour, cheap or expensive, isn't worth it…and substitutes are necessary. Many companies already use just robots. They don't put in grievances, they don't go for lunch, and they work 24/7/365.

          • Hear, hear. The rural inland regions of China have already begun to undercut China's industrial port cities. China has bigger problems; their pension system is unsustainable. Against the Law: Labor Protests in China's Rustbelt and Sunbelt is very informative on this topic.
            http://www.amazon.com/Against-Law-Protests-Rustbe

  7. If one wants to decrease the amount of poverty in this country, I think we can all agree that the first nations reserves are the most pressing concern.

    There will be different theories on how to this though. I think the best thing to do would be to end the experiments on shared property and planned economies on reserves, and allow aboriginals to do an overhaul on how they organize their governments, while giving them a body that can independently investigate reserve governments for corruption without violating the sovereignty of the first nations.

    • Bravo and I would be the first to applaud if any Canadian government put an end to endless sinkhole and gong show known as the Indian Affairs department. Who knows, maybe if the natives were not under the senseless baby-sitting of the government and given a chance to rule their lives without such a department we might truly get a chance to see them flourish for once.

  8. There has been much written about this over the recent years. One of the more prominent …
    http://www.amazon.ca/gp/product/6134258873/ref=pd

    3-4 decades of stagnant middle class income with purchasing power maintained only by two-income families and
    increasing household debt. And the poor … well,nobody talks about them anymore …

  9. Depends. Is it a disparity in genuine wealth or is largely on paper?
    Measure buying power. Such the how many typical working hours does it take to earn basic food and shelter? We all have expenses that previous generations did not have as well. Whether or not our lives require cell phones, second cars and cable is easily debatable.
    It really would hurt less for future generations if the debt mess were to be paid before worrying about toys and vacations.

  10. Why are the rich getting richer? Rent seeking behavior distorting the economy in an attempt to satisfy the impossible-to-ever-fully-repay cost of private financing charges (rent premiums on new money).

  11. Another factor is the governments of 30 years ago were borrowing an enormous amount of money that was used to — at least in part — provide much of that distributed wealth; however, that proved to be an unsustainable model in most cases, and it was done on the backs of the productive workforce of the last 15 years that had to repay this debt either through surplus budgets or the forgiveness of debts of foreign nations. Of course the US kept borrowing but had the productivity gains to compensate.

  12. I searched the OECD website and sound nothing to this effect. That was why I was asking you. The OECD information is online, yes, but there is nothing saying that 50% of Canadians are 'low wage'.

    • Well I have no idea what headings you're looking at….the OECD has a massive amount of data on poverty in all their countries….and wage levels. Look there.

      • Did you want me to send you all the links that I looked at? Yes, there is tons of info there – nothing that comes close to showing the numbers Peter posted.

        My belief is still valid: I feel that he did it to intentionally lead people to the conclusion that the number comes from the OECD.

        • No, I want you to stop expecting me to do the work for you.

          If you believe a prof at Laurentian university is lying to you, then I suggest you email him and ask.

          • I never said that he lied. I said that he put the 50% number there, and put 'low wages' in brackets. The next sentence then says that a 50% group in the country would be disturbing, by OECD standers.

            I don't claim that he says that the OECD is stating it. I actually am saying that it is written as the OECD doesn't state it. It is written, though, to appear that the OECD believes this number, and claims that it is true with Canada.

            I believe he put 'low income' in brackets, as it might be his own level that he is using.

            I searched the OECD site before I posted. I didn't find anything to support his view. That is way I was asking you, as you seem to claim that this info is out there. I say that it isn't. Please prove me wrong, or accept that I am right.

          • Like I said, email him and ask.

            And stop asking me to do it for you.

  13. I don't know but I've been thinking that this is because the poorest in countries like India and China have been advancing. In worldwide terms the very poorest are catching up more than ever. Closing borders would be the answer to that – at the cost of the world's poorest people and everyone's standard of living.

    I'm not perfectly easy with the idea of a big spike at the top but I am certain that what matters is that the incomes of the poorest rise as much as possible regardless of what happens to the relative disparity.

  14. Where are they online? Online is a big place. If I write an article and reference somebody else, I give the exact place to find where they said that or else it's just junk and hearsay.

    The Toronto Star article did not supply a link (as far as I could see) to any OECD articles, and as such I believe modster99's point is valid. I don't believe anything I see that isn't properly referenced. This MacLean's article links to the report they are talking about and I would consider that to be good reporting.

    • If you're that concerned email the author of the article and ask him.

      • If my students don't reference their papers I don't email them, I fail them.
        :)

        • So go fail Professor John Peters PhD at Laurentian University.

          • I would if he had submitted it to me, but alas he did not.

            Since I don't know Professor John Peters (PhD) I have no reason to believe him. If you think the fact he has a PhD impresses me, it doesn't, It's really not that difficult to include the source that he is referring to and it would make this conversation completely irrelevant and his article 100% believable.

            How difficult is it to embed a link? That's all I ask for. No link, no credit, no matter who you are. That's my opinion.

          • In other words, you're too chicken to ask why a newspaper column isn't footnoted like a thesis.

            I'm not surprised.

          • Down to name calling, are we? You would do well on Stephen Harper's ad team.

            I'm not asking for a footnote; I'm asking for a link, or even just a brief mention of what report/person/policy statement that is from. It's not even your job to write and you supplied a link, so why can't the article?

            Yes or no; would the article have been improved by providing links to the data, thereby allowing the reader to verify the writer's opinion? I say yes. If you could supply a simple yes or no answer with reason I would be much obliged.

          • You haven't the slightest interest in this topic, and no knowledge of it either

            It's just late and you're bored, so you're trying to be smartass with me.

            Isn't working….you don't have the chops for it.

          • You over rate yourself Emily. You're not that original.

    • Thank you Lee :)

  15. The biggest reason the wealth ends up at the top is that those at the top own the stuff we buy, and the places we buy it in (either directly or through investment). If someone near the bottom of the income scale gets $100.00 they go right out and spend it (thus stimulating the economy) — the folks further up the chain "invest" it, since they already have most of the things they want.

    That's why I remain amazed when the wealthy scream in outrage at any idea of income redistribution — if we give the poor some of their money they'll find it coming back up the stream almost immediately.

    • It's called C-A-P-I-T-A-L-I-S-M. Greed is good and I love Money!!! It is most definitely logic not

  16. I'm so glad I read this article. More importantly I am so happy that I'm rich!

  17. But did anyone notice that the US increased it's budgets for police and so has Canada. And why is the priority of increased spending for the prison system on the agenda? But as the NDP campaign manager iterated: the trick to growing-up is after the loss of innocence to keep youthful idealism alive

  18. The governments intrusion by taxes & fees has made it too costly to start small businesses & too expensive to maintain them. You cannot push those in poverty up until they are free to 1/ want to move up 2/ be free to start their own business 3/ not have the government as a silent partner. We manipulate the market to the enth degree and then wonder why it isn't working. Those who are unmotivated can sit back & receive generous minimum income social programs from cradle to grave.

    • More brilliant analysis. In the US, the tax rates on the wealthy have gone from roughly 90% in the 50s to 28% now. Deregulation has been de rigueur for about 30 years and still people like you come along and spout this nonsense. Are you insane? One of the trite definitions of insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting a different result.

      No, I doubt you're insane; you're just dumb.

      • Why do the bottom 47% of Canadians pay NO income taxes? If some must go on about "paying a fair share", why is no one saying those who consume the most social spending should pay their share. Wait, I'm saying that.

        • If you're planning to trot out a welfare queen argument, don't expect me to argue with you. I can't be bothered debating a fool.

          Removing the basic personal deduction is going to hurt you as much or more than someone on minimum wage (assuming you're not, which is not an assumption I am willing to make).

          • Hey you brought out the queens, not me. My guess is it's not your first time either. I simply asked why the people who produce wealth, and contribute ioverwhelmingly to the tax base are the ones depicted as "not paying their share". I tend to think if you consume more of anything, you should be dinged appropriately for it.

            The BPD is a strawman argument. Not that we expected anything else from you. There are other methods of taxation rather than our "progressive" tax system. I would think that someone with your extensive "knowledge" would know that. But that, as a fool once said, is not an assumption I am willing to make.

          • Congratulations to you on voting my comment down. A convincing win!

            "People who produce wealth." That's just a lie. Very few people in this country produce wealth. Energy projects in Alberta, for example, put lots of money in people's pockets, but only by draining the pocketbooks and the environment of far greater tolls.

            You are just too shortsighted to see it. You can call my argument a strawman argument. You can call it anything you want, but you very obviously failed to offer any real information in your rebuttal.

            Just so you know, I am one of those intellectual elites with a household income significantly above 100K and I didn't even have to leave the Maritimes. Picture me wiping your dust off my shoulders now, clown.

          • Actually, the oil in the ground puts no money in pockets, except for speculators. The basic personal deduction argument of yours (I'll be generous and call it an argument) is a straw man because there are other ways of calculating tax burdens. And that's all your homework I'm going to do.

            Please, do yourself a favour and remove your nose from Suzuki's butt, it demeans both of you. The oil sands projects are infinitoisemally small portion of the Alberta area.

            And frankly, I don't want to know anything about you, especially that you consider yourself an elite. That delusion is only demeaning to you.

          • And here I thought someone called Trudeau hater would consider anyone with a high school diploma an intellectual elite.

            I may have misjudged you. At least you have the sense to know oil sands are a net loss for everyone except maybe Suncor executives.

            For that, I offer you a thumbs up. You deserve it.

  19. Time For Revolution….

    EAT THE RICH !!

  20. I have two university level degrees, they cost me about $200,000 including all incident expenses while obtaining said education. The average wage for graduates like me right now is $15-18 per hour with no job security and limited potential for growth. As I see it, the rich are only rich as a result of the hierarchy which transfers large sums of money to them in exchange for their 'skills'. If someone else could do their 'job' for a fifth or a tenth of what they cost, then they automatically become poorer than poor.

    This is my goal in life… to live so lean, and so minimized, while staying infinitely versatile and infinitely capable and educated, so as to, slit the throat of every person i meet with an 'equivalent skill set'. Not only do i know what i am doing, but i can do it for such a small amount of money, and still prosper while my prehistoric counterparts will suck the flesh off each others' bones just to stay alive.

    The world is not ready for my generation; we intend to take everything you take for granted, and via a mode that no one who is elder can understand now. In order to compete with the young generation properly, you will have to sacrifice your entire concept of standard of living…. that is my generation's gift to all of the intransigent older folks out there; get ready to fight in the ditches and the mud with us resourceful youth, or roll over, give us everything you have, and get out of our way; you all had your chance.

    • Dude, I love your philosophy. I live that way too.

      • YIR, you are about 1 in 1000 of the youth today. I will sleep well at nights.

        • He's right, kiddo. Most of your generation has yet to even get off mommy's teat. Generation Y or the "me" generation or whatever they are calling you guys now is laughable. In my place of work, they bring a pile of you mouth-breathers aboard and pay about double minimum wage while you do make-work projects like read up on corporate policy and pass out summer 50-50 tickets.

          You may be the next entrepreneur of the century and I hope you are, but I can assure you that those of us who are about 10-15 years your senior are not losing any sleep. The Y generation can barely get out of its own way — let alone scare your elders into action.

          Oh, say hello to your mother for me. She's probably packing your lunch for tomorrow as I type this.

  21. How many of the "very worried" people here are donating their after-tax income to charity? Oh, sure, not all of it, but at least enough so they can share the pain of the "poor", as well as alleviate some of the inequity? Cue the crickets.

  22. The rich are in a higher tax bracket, but their net tax percentage once all the tax credits are applied is the same as the middle class. My favorite example is the capital gain which only half of it is taxed! If they're in the 29% marginal bracket, that means they will pay 15%.

  23. I have a solutuion, stop spending your money and start saving it. Pretty soon the rich will go broke and you wil take thier place. LOL

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