The chattering class has been chewing over the bombshell revelation that regarding the economic strength of the middle class, we are longer No. 1. Canada is. According to The Guardian:
“Median after-tax income for a family of four in both Canada and the United States hit $75,000 in 2010 and as later income surveys show that Canadians have earned larger wage gains than their counterparts south of the border in the years since then, Canadian income now is ahead of that in the US. The gap is even wider further down the wealth ladder.”
Setting aside the irony that the conservative tongue waggers who have lauded the income and wealth inequality in this country are also shocked (Shocked!) that our middle class could no longer be No. 1, most of the comments are on Canada’s sensible use of collective action (Socialism! Socialism!). Canada has subsidized college fees, single payer health care, limitations on executive pay, rational control of the banks and financial and housing markets,etc. The fact that the taxes necessary to support all of those collective actions haven’t crushed ordinary Canadians further perplexes the conservative punditry. The fact that reasonable regulation of these industries resulted in there being no financial collapse in Canada as there was here (the Great Recession) also puzzles them. I mean those regulations aren’t supposed to work.
“Canadians are doing better with unions than we are doing without them.”
What most haven’t mentioned, and I wonder why, is the primary lever in moving middle class wages up: labor unions. In the 1960’s both Canada and the U.S. had about a third of its jobs as union jobs. Union wages are higher than nonunion wages and put upward pressure on the wages of nonunion employees as their bosses want to avoid unionization. The situation in Canada is unchanged, while the proportion of union jobs in this country has shrunk drastically. If you think this reduction in union jobs was an accident, think again. Now, if you are a regular Fox (sic) News viewer and think this is indicative of labor unions being rotten at their core, or some socialist plot, you have to stop smoking what you are smoking until your head clears. Canadians are doing better with unions than we are doing without them. Unless, of course, your definition of “better” has nothing to do with people in the middle and at the bottom of the economic spectrum.