Economic inequality is not 'realistic'

Please chip in to support rabble's election 2019 coverage. Support rabble.ca today for as little as $1 per month!

"Greed is good and I love money."

There was a time when such a lip-smacking declaration of personal gluttony would have been dismissed as boorish and anti-social.

Yet today this bombastic declaration by wealthy arch-capitalist Kevin O'Leary is treated as reasonable, even given copious airtime by our public broadcaster. (O'Leary currently figures prominently in two CBC TV programs and is soon to add another.)

Presumably, the purpose of a public broadcaster is to offer something not provided by profit-driven private broadcasters -- perhaps an expression of national purpose or a defence of the public interest.

Do CBC executives consider O'Leary's homage to greed -- constantly aired in CBC advertising -- contains some profound message for Canadians?

For that matter, why is greed and love of money considered good in the case of a wealthy investor, while the wider desire for simply a decent living standard is increasingly considered an expectation that may have to be curbed in ordinary citizens?

As deficits pile up, we are soon to be inundated with the message that we are living beyond our means and must learn to do with less.

Certainly, our small wealthy super-elite seems determined to ensure that nothing gets in the way of its right to fully indulge its greed, and that the burden of deficit-reduction is imposed on others.

A conflict appears to be looming therefore between Canada's elite, typified perhaps by Kevin O'Leary, and the aspirations of millions of Canadians who don't want to see programs they value -- health care, education, pensions -- sacrificed to deficit reduction.

In today's federal budget, the Harper government will carefully avoid major cuts to popular programs. But these cuts, made in the name of financial necessity, will be coming if Stephen Harper gets his majority in the next election.

In the U.S., where the hard Republican right has already taken control of the agenda, there's been an open assault on labour, and attempts to convince the middle class that the great advances made toward economic equality in the postwar years (both in the U.S. and Canada) are simply not affordable.

As prominent financial commentator Suze Orman put it in an interview with CNN's John King last week: "It may be you have to tell your kids, sweethearts, I just can't afford to send you to college. I have to pay for my own retirement, my own home."

Orman and King both blithely pronounced the American Dream dead, with Orman suggesting that this was simply being "realistic."

But there's nothing "realistic" about the conclusion that the middle class -- either here or in the U.S. -- must learn to do with less, that we must accept a world where parents are forced to choose between affording their retirement and sending their kids to college.

Both Canada and the U.S. were deficit-free not long ago. Indeed, Canada was running major surpluses until the 2008 Wall Street crash sent the world economy reeling.

What is unsustainable is society's willingness to accommodate the greed of the super-rich.

An "alternative budget," prepared by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, instead sensibly proposes raising their taxes, closing loopholes and increasing the top federal marginal rate from 29 per cent to 35 per cent -- for those with annual incomes above $750,000.

Of course, the rich preach that their uncontrolled greed benefits us all. But hard evidence shows this isn't true. As they've become increasingly dominant in the past 30 years, ensuring deregulated markets and low taxes for themselves, their own incomes have soared, while average wages have stagnated.

No, I'm not suggesting Kevin O'Leary be censored. But why does our public broadcaster treat him as a national icon?

Of course, CBC also gives lots of airtime to environmental activist David Suzuki. But Suzuki deserves it; he uses it to defend the public good.

O'Leary, on the other hand, speaks unabashedly for greed and the elevation of his own interests over everyone else's.

The solution isn't to censor him and his billionaire friends, simply give them less air time and tell them, sweethearts, we're just going to have to raise your taxes.

Linda McQuaig is author of It's the Crude, Dude: War, Big Oil and the Fight for the Planet and The Trouble With Billionaires. This article was originally published in The Toronto Star.

Related Items

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.

rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.

Comments

We welcome your comments! rabble.ca embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on rabble.ca and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:

Do

  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.

Don't

  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.