O Canadon’t

From an op-ed in this weekend’s Bloomberg, which begins promisingly:

On July 1, Canada Day, Canadians awoke to a startling, if pleasant, piece of news: For the first time in recent history, the average Canadian is richer than the average American.

According to data from Environics Analytics WealthScapes published in the Globe and Mail, the net worth of the average Canadian household in 2011 was $363,202, while the average American household’s net worth was $319,970.

A few days later, Canada and the U.S. both released the latest job figures. Canada’s unemployment rate fell, again, to 7.2 percent, and America’s was a stagnant 8.2 percent. Canada continues to thrive while the U.S. struggles to find its way out of an intractable economic crisis and a political sine curve of hope and despair.

The difference grows starker by the month: The Canadian system is working; the American system is not.

As for the reasons behind this remarkable reversal:

Since the 1990s, Canada has pursued a hardheaded (even ruthless), fiscally conservative form of socialism. Its originator was Paul Martin, who was finance minister for most of the ’90s, and served a stint as prime minister from 2003 to 2006. Alone among finance ministers in the Group of Eight nations, he “resisted the siren call of deregulation,” in his words, and insisted that the banks tighten their loan-loss and reserve requirements. …

Martin also slashed funding to social programs. He foresaw that crippling deficits imperiled Canada’s education and health- care systems, which even his Conservative predecessor, Brian Mulroney, described as a “sacred trust.” He cut corporate taxes, too. Growth is required to pay for social programs, and social programs that increase opportunity and social integration are the best way to ensure growth over the long term. Social programs and robust capitalism are not, as so many would have you believe, inherently opposed propositions. Both are required for meaningful national prosperity.

I seem to recall that there are quite a few Canadians who disagree with that particular path to prosperity. And with good reason.

Source: Guardian

Source: University Affairs

Source: Financial Post

Addendum 1: While I realize the Quebec protests are in response to cuts at the provincial level, it is hard to imagine the local government feeling empowered to raise tuition by 75% over five years if Martin hadn’t normalized the idea of breaking the apparently not-so-sacred (at least to the government) trust.

Addendum 2: Anyone who has a chance to go to Oh, Canada at Mass MOCA in Adams, MA should absolutely go – it’s  a fascinating exhibit at an excellent museum.

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