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Of the 1%, For the 1%, By the 1%

April 12, 2011

1-minute read

The first leg of the federal election campaign has featured much debate over who benefits from different proposals. At least indirectly, it has been a discussion about income inequality as the federal parties reveal proposals that could widen or close income disparities while growing the economy.

Against this noisy foreground, two important essays about the problems posed by growing inequality have been released in the past few days:  One by Joseph Stiglitz, former Chief Economist of the World Bank; one by The International Monetary Fund, referenced in this blog in The Economist.

The IMF article provides a compelling argument that lower inequality spurs longer spells of high economic growth.

The Stiglitz article plumbs deeper into the soul of the inequality story. The title says it all:  Of the 1%, For the 1%, By the 1%.

Last week I gave a speech linking economics, inequality and democracy for TVO’s Big Ideas series, which will be aired on the last weekend before the election is called I’m told.  I referenced the Stiglitz article.

A journalist who attended, and is not easily persuaded, later asked how relevant it was to Canada.

My answer is here.

At the time of writing, the Harper Conservatives are within striking distance of a majority.

They are the only politicians who have not addressed the deep concern posed by continuously rising inequality, and growing post-recession poverty.

Like all the other parties, they speak as if their platform is targeted squarely at families in the middle. Nothing could be further from the truth.

It’s hard to think of a federal party in our history that has done more to concentrate incomes, wealth and power in the hands of a shrinking number.  It’s hard to think of a federal party in our history that has done more to render low-income and equity-seeking groups invisible and voiceless.

It’s hard to think of a federal party that has so consistently been found to bend and conceal the truth to advance its agenda.   It’s hard to think of a federal party that has so vigorously pushed the limits of the law to get what it wants.

It’s hard to think of what a Harper majority might do to the role of government and our daily lives.

The stakes are indeed very high in this election.

So are the costs of ignoring income inequality.

For, though Stiglitz’ words were written as a cautionary tale for Americans, it would seem, here in Canada, we are moving ever closer to a government of the 1%, for the 1%, by the 1% .

I can think of no better time than a federal election to debate this issue.

Armine Yalnizyan is a Senior Economist with the CCPA.

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