Opinion Letters

Rich and poor should try and work together: LETTER OF THE DAY

I was born and raised in Canada through the 1980s and 1990s. According to a November report by Coalition 2000, 10% of Canadian children still live under the poverty line. I was one of them.

But my parents loved us and taught us to work hard, whether on the farm or in school. Each of us now contributes meaningfully to our workplaces and communities.

On the one hand, I sympathize with the 'Occupy' protesters because, 'between 1980 and 2005, the median real earnings of Canadian workers stagnated, while labour productivity rose 37%. (International Productivity Monitor, Fall, 2008)'

This is in part due to international trade agreements that have brought cheap labour into competition with ours.

Yet those trade agreements have also improved our exports, bringing jobs, and made our imports cheaper, like a trip to Walmart reveals.

Furthermore, although our standard of living has stalled, global improvements have gone through the roof. It's bitter-sweet for my frustrated unemployed friend to hear, but this summer the United Nations reported that by 2015 the overall poverty rate is expected to fall below 15%, well under the 23% target set in the Millennium Development Goals.

For instance in East Asia, including China and India, the number of people rising above extreme poverty (less than $1.25 a day) between 1990 and 2015 is estimated at 775 million. Do we comprehend how valuable that is? Interestingly, it is largely trade liberalization and global spending that accomplished this, the same ingredients that created the wealthy 1% that the 'Occupiers' protest against.

The classic words of 18th Century philosopher Adam Smith and his 'invisible hand' seem to ring true: "By pursuing his own interest (an individual) frequently promotes that of the society more effectually than when he really intends to promote it."

So while I sympathize with the 'Occupy' movement, I respectfully disagree with their basic premise that the rich should be taxed more.

Three reasons: First, I don't say this because I am rich and have something to lose, but because I have been poor and see that the world has gained a great deal.

Besides, I admire their work ethic and smarts.

The economic pie is bigger because of them (and thus, apparently, our greed to have a bite we haven't earned).

We already benefit from the wealthy because their companies and spending employ us, and their taxes contribute far more than I ever will.

In fact, the rich are not only taxed at a higher rate than I am but also indirectly through corporate taxes, since most of their wealth is generated corporately.

Second, we made them wealthy by purchasing the products, services and entertainment we needed or wanted.

And they offered it to us in an intensely competitive global economy, ensuring that we weren't hosed at the till like monopolies would do.

Finally, comparisons of wealth are all relative. Of course the richest 1% have more than I do, but so do the poorest in Canada compared to the poorest in India.

Should we tax the poor here to benefit the poor there, just because there is a great disparity? We all might bellow, 'but I worked hard for that'. Indeed.

So have the rich.

Then let each of us -- rich or poor -- seeing the needs of the world around us determine in our hearts before God what we should both spend and give away for the greatest good, as in fact, many of the world's rich already do.

Daryl DeKlerk Barrie

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