Globe readers talk back on income inequality

TheGlobeandMail.com – commentary/The Conversation/Talking Points
Feb. 02 2013.

The opening paragraph of your editorial Hug The 1 Per Cent – “… They are a net benefit to Canada. Occupy that” – had me and my colleagues laughing out loud. Well put! A statistic that should be more widely discussed by the students and others living off the avails of the state. -Penelope Hedges, Vancouver, letter

I don’t think many of the top 1 per cent of income earners are looking for a “hug” or anything like that. I think most would simply be fine if the bottom 50 per cent of taxpayers, who collectively pay 4 per cent of the country’s tax bill, would stop complaining that the top 1 per cent, who pay over 21 per cent of the tax bill, are not paying “their fair share.” -Tony, digital reader

Our system is one of guaranteed opportunity, not outcome. What people do with that opportunity will determine whether or not they hit the top 1 per cent. -Winch, digital reader

Hug The 1 Per Cent? Good idea, Globe. Squeeze ’em hard. -John Warden, Toronto, letter

I am nowhere near the 1 per cent, but I don’t want to destroy the incentive for people to aspire to be part of the 1 per cent. It is in my best interests. -Koop2, digital reader

The Globe’s praise of the super-rich for allegedly doing more than their bit for society is misguided. True, the 1 per cent pay more than 21 per cent of the income taxes that help support government services – but they get more than their money’s worth.

Government provides the framework of laws and treaties that protect property and business, and the muscular arm of the police and armed forces that back up that framework. It provides infrastructure for moving materials and goods through the production chain and smoothly off to market. And infrastructure that flies executives off to global meetings and carries workers back and forth from home to job to store. Government educates those workers to be skilled employees and subsidizes the health system that helps keep them fit to work. Government also subsidizes research at universities and by private companies that generate new means and methods for generating wealth, most of which accrues to the already rich.

The 1 per cent have seen a pretty good return on their investment since 1982: an income raise of almost $180,000 a year (just under 50 per cent). Those of us who pay the other 80 per cent of income taxes gained about $1,700 on average. -James Russell, Ottawa, letter

This is called trickle-up economic theory: the massive transfer of income and wealth away from the middle and lower classes toward the fat cats at the top. History teaches us that this is the ideal food for social unrest and violence. -Claroch, digital reader

Why is a solid and strong middle class such a difficult concept? Economies grow because people (lots of people) buy stuff, the more they can buy the more it all grows. So why are the “leaders” of these businesses so opposed to paying employees a salary and increasing it fairly while they give themselves gratuitous raises and bonuses? We need our leaders to look beyond their own interests and see the whole picture, that’s what leaders do (or so we’ve been lead to believe). -Regular Guy, digital reader

The issue here is standard of living equality. Income disparity is not really an issue if those at the bottom still live a good life. Unfortunately, I don’t think that is the case in Canada. -Reggie93, digital reader

Once you lose the middle class, democracy is also on its way out. We’re on our way to becoming the next Brazil, where life is very good for the 1 per cent. -Doug Fir, digital reader

Your suggestion that we should be grateful for the taxes paid by the top 1 per cent is faulty in both its analysis and conclusions.

It is true the top 1 per cent pays a higher share in income taxes, but when all taxes (including sales, payroll, property and other taxes) are considered, they pay a lower share of their income in taxes than the poorest 10 per cent, as comprehensive analysis by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives has shown.

It is also incorrect to assume that escalating top incomes are unrelated to stagnant incomes for other Canadians. Not only do many consider rising inequality to be one of the causes of the economic crisis, but the IMF, OECD and many others now agree we would all be better off with greater equality. It’s time others understood this as well. -Paul Moist, national president, Canadian Union of Public Employees, letter

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