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Wealth inequality drives poverty

By about noon on Jan. 2, the country’s top-paid executives had already accumulated as much wealth as the average working Canadian’s entire average annual salary.
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By about noon on Jan. 2, the country’s top-paid executives had already accumulated as much wealth as the average working Canadian’s entire average annual salary.

A quick online search of the average salary yields data from Statistics Canada indicates the typical worker brings in approximately $51,000 annually.

Meanwhile, through a review of corporate filings of publicly traded companies, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives calculates that the top executives in this country rake in roughly 200 times as much, about $10 million.

To be clear, nobody is arguing that executives should not be compensated more than the average employee who does not bear as many responsibilities and risks in the decision-making process involved in running a major enterprise.

However, whereas public attitudes seem to generally agree an executive should indeed be compensated more — opinions vary, but usually do not exceed much more than a 5:1 ratio — the reality of the situation is in stark contrast with that belief.

Canada’s roughly 200:1 ratio is bad enough. But in the U.S., where wealth inequality is even greater, that ratio jumps to about 300:1, on average. However, in extreme cases, the gap reaches astronomical proportions in the thousands to one.

Perhaps adding insult to injury, the most grossly overpaid Canadians and Americans have access to a plethora of legal tax loopholes to help them amass even more wealth while the average citizen copes with the stress of paying their bills and putting food on the table.

Estimates of global wealth hoarded in offshore tax havens — as illustrated by the Panama and Paradise Papers — range in the tens of trillions of dollars sitting in shady, yet mind-bogglingly legal, shelters.

Growing wealth inequality drives poverty and the ramifications that result from flawed economic policy that favours the wealthiest few at the expense of the many.

Historically, when the wealth gap gets too big — look no further than the French Revolution and the Great Depression — social change or outright drastic societal upheaval has been the inevitable result.

As the saying goes, desperate times call for desperate measures. When more and more people feel pressed up against the wall without any other recourse for action, we see a collective increase in crime statistics.

And still, millions of people allow themselves to be convinced that the working poor and immigrants are the true source of the world’s problems.

But perhaps it’s time to stop blaming the desperate and impoverished masses, and instead set our sights on the outrageous compensations of top-paid executives.

— Simon Ducatel is the Round Up’s editor