Growing inequality in COVID times

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For decades, we’ve been bombarded with the fairy tale that lower corporate taxes are good for the economy and benefit us all; the more corporations make, the more they reinvest, sparking economic growth and more jobs. Despite ample evidence to the contrary, the narrative persists.

For decades, we’ve been bombarded with the fairy tale that lower corporate taxes are good for the economy and benefit us all; the more corporations make, the more they reinvest, sparking economic growth and more jobs. Despite ample evidence to the contrary, the narrative persists. Even the ultra-conservative International Monetary Fund has stated “Progressive taxation is a key component of effective fiscal policy” asserting that tax rate increases at the top can be done without sacrificing economic growth.
However, since 2000, Conservative and Liberal governments alike have almost halved corporate tax rates from 28 to 15%. Furthermore, a 2019 Parliamentary Budget report found corporations avoided paying $25 billion in taxes by moving their money to offshore tax havens. The Canadian Revenue Agency estimates the wealthiest Canadians have over $240 billion hidden in foreign accounts to avoid paying taxes.
And now in the middle of a pandemic, a Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives study found that Canada’s 20 richest billionaires have increased their wealth by a cumulative $37 billion. Loblaws, who offered workers a $2/hour wage increase at the start of the pandemic, recently announced an increase in shareholder
dividends due to increased profits but refused to reinstate a pay raise for workers who are constantly exposed to the virus.
While the rich get richer, the rest of us are made to pay in various ways: from a lack of clean drinking water in some Indigenous communities to the awful conditions in long term care homes revealed through the pandemic. Politicians often feign outrage and pay lip service in these circumstances, but their actions speak louder than words.
A recent parliamentary vote rejecting an NDP motion calling for a modest 1% tax on wealth over $20 million along with “an excess profit tax on big corporations profiting from the pandemic” is an excellent example of this. A significant majority of Canadians (78%) support this idea. The Liberal throne speech in September stated the goal of finding “additional ways to tax extreme wealth inequality” including “tax avoidance by digital giants”; this chance to show serious intent was squandered.
Thus far, the majority of parliamentarians continue to defend corporate interests and policies responsible for absurd levels of inequality and unprecedented increases in corporate power and influence. At a time when many find themselves in precarious financial situations and where environmental destruction casts a dark shadow over our futures, we must use our collective power to demand justice and hold elected officials’ feet to the fire.

Vagner Castilho
WAKEFIELD