Naomi Klein famously said “capitalism is stupid”. She wasn’t wrong. Capitalism is not sentient, so it would be unwise to expect it to have any moral compass and do the right thing. The only skill capitalism has is to make money. That is, all it knows is the bottomline – how to make the most amount of profits in the shortest amount of time. That’s it.
The new year started with news that Canada’s richest CEOs make more money than the average worker’s annual salary before most of them have even had breakfast. That is, by about 9:43 a.m. these CEOs will have earned roughly $58,000. This isn’t new news though – as of 2020, Canada’s top earning CEOs were making 202 times more than the average worker’s salary. According to the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA), the 100 best-paid CEOs in the country make 243 times what the average worker earns. Crazy, right?
It was disheartening – to say the least – to read this news after two and half years of hearing about how the pandemic has brought us to a crossroads and that either we can return to normal, or create a new one. Guess what – we returned to old times in a big way, assuming we ever left the wild wild west.
We’ve come to expect less and nothing from big corporations. We expect them to ruin the environment, to pay workers less and to make sure everything runs in favor of the biggest shareholders. All in the name of profit.
Another report by Canadians for Tax Fairness revealed that Canada’s top companies made enough money by January 7 to pay all of their taxes for 2022.
The constant reminder of the stupidity of capitalism has led to lower our expectations and demand little change from big companies and top CEOs.
Well, my resolution for 2023 isn’t to get a gym membership, to meditate 10 minutes a day, skip out on that $6 oat milk latte to save up for a downpayment on a house, but to demand more of super large corporations. I’m talking about the Shopifys, Loblaws and Lululemons of the world.
This year I wish to permanently revoke the get out of jail free cards of super big corporations that they always seem to have on them in case the cops flag them down, which never happens. This year I demand that they step up already – greenwash less, and treat the environment and workers with respect and dignity.
When we call capitalism stupid, we forget that the system is in fact bred by humans, who are the polar opposite of stupid, and acting in ways that benefit the few at the cost of the many. Top companies and CEOs are, in fact, taking advantage of us and making us believe that any changes to the system will lead to lower productivity or in them departing to another country with their business.
It’s time governments stopped taking the threats of corporate departures sitting down and increase corporate taxes in order to increase government revenue and provide public services. In the absence of such increases, we will see governments increase individual taxes. And they are. Toronto mayor John Tory is increasing taxes to meet budget deficits. As a result, Torontonians will be paying higher property taxes in 2023, more for transit, water and garbage.
The problem is that we’ve become complacent to the rhetoric – that if too much is asked of big corporations, they’ll take their jobs and move away. Supporters of low corporate income taxes claim it will entice corporations to create jobs and boost the economy. In reality, however, Canadians for Tax Fairness write that over the last 30 years, as corporate taxes have dropped so has corporate investment in productive capacity.
The mainstream society we’ve created requires production. But it doesn’t demand a deepening wealth and income gap, nor does it need to happen at such a huge environmental cost. Two years of a pandemic, and with an ongoing recession, I know we’re hoping for some normalcy in 2023. I’m wishing for normal too. But let me tell you, CEOs making the average worker’s full salary for the year before their first cup of coffee is not normal.