By: Tarek Fatah
My column last week endorsing a guaranteed basic income triggered a surprising denunciation by many as a “left-wing” writer with quite a few accusing me of pushing a “Communist “agenda.
If that diatribe were not enough, the unemployed, homeless, disabled and people out on their luck who stood to regain their dignity as fellow Canadians, were depicted as lazy and a drain on the country’s resources.
Added to this was the perennial argument and question that is always brought up whenever Western societies have move moved toward egalitarianism — “who will pay for this largesse?”
So, allow me to list a few ‘leftists’ who have endorsed the idea of such a guaranteed income.
1. Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg. Musk suggests it will become necessary as automation eliminates jobs, while the Facebook CEO sees it as a way to give people a safety net to support entrepreneurship
2. 100 Canadian CEOs, who in 2018 urged Premier Doug Ford to rescue Ontario’s basic income project.
3. The United Church of Canada believes, “A [basic income] program would help provide an adequate living level for everyone and address the persistent inequities within our country.”
4. Pope Francis, who wrote after the coronavirus pandemic, “This may be the time to consider a universal basic wage … that would ensure and concretely achieve the ideal, at once so human and so Christian, of no worker without rights.”
5. The Anglican Church of Canada. In May, 41 bishops of the Anglican and Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada wrote to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau: “We recommend [a basic income], not just as an astute financial policy, but also because it marks our identity as a country who cares for one another.”
Some middle-class Canadians seem traumatized at the thought, that their working-class low-income fellow citizens would get “free money.” But the same people who feign concern over Canada’s deficits, seem to have no problem with Canadian billionaires making a killing while COVID-19 was killing people.
During an economic crisis that has left millions of Canadians out of a job, Canada’s top 20 billionaires collectively have become $37 billion richer.
We all need to pay attention to a report from the Parliamentary Budget Officer this year that found the top 1% of wealthy Canadians account for more than a quarter of the country’s wealth, while the bottom 40% account for a measly 1%.
It is that bottom 40% that seems most hostile to the basic income idea along with the ideological ultra-right, who massage the egos of the working class to fight against its own interests.
Thus, when the Toronto Star reported that millionaire Maple Leafs Darcy Tucker and Shayne Corson were being accused of participating in a ‘sham’ to avoid paying their fair share of taxes, don’t be surprised if it generates no anger among the ‘petit-bourgeois’.
If evidence was needed of how this group holds our governments and institutions in contempt, it came with the leaking of 25,000 documents on Monday that listed the money laundering of two trillion dollars from right under the nose of the US Treasury and with the tacit involvement of big banks in U.K., the U.S., Germany and then disappearing into secret bank accounts in China. That is $2,000 billion.
Even Fox News host Tucker Carlson expressed outrage at the billionaire class who he termed as “a threat to our democracy.”
Not a bird chirped in protest at the stolen trillions.
Two books may help those who find the concept of economic equity offensive. Both are titled “Capital”, one by Karl Marx and the other by Thomas Piketty. It took me a year – as an 18-year-old in a prison cell – to understand Marx, but less than a month to absorb Piketty.
Read both. It’ll make you realize the homeless and the disabled are better deserving of your solidarity than the billionaire class you seem so desperate to please.