Falling Behind is the title of a report by the Ontario Common Front published Aufgust 29 2012. You can download a copy of this report by googling “falling behind report Ontario”. It is also the title of a 2007 book by Robert H. Frank the larger title of which is “Falling Behind, How Rising Inequality Harms the Middle Class”. Both report and book are additions to the growing discussion of how the growing inequality leaves us all worse off. Also addition information cal be gained from excellent Podcasts available from TV Ontario’s Big Ideas. There appears to be an ever increasing agreement on the harm of inequality but less agreement on the solution. The inextricable link between Social Inclusion and Social Justice is made by this discussion. The inextricable link between declining Community and Social Capital and the risks to democarcy of increasing inequality is also made.
Archive for the ‘Social Justice’ Category
Humans come in different shapes and sizes; they come with different moral capacities, different intellectual abilities, different amounts of benevolent feelings and sensitivity to the needs of others, different abilities to communicate effectively, and different capacities to experience pleasure and pain. The principle of equality is not a description of an alleged actual equality among humans beings: it is a prescription of how we should treat humans beings. (Singer 2002, Animal Liberation).
But inequality is expanding.
Among the 24.6 million Canadian taxpayers in 2007, the richest 1% made more than $169,000 and had an average income of $404, 000. They took almost 32% of all growth in income in the fastest growing decade in this generation, 1997 to 2007 and by 2007 held 13.8 % of the income in Canada. The richest 0.1 made more than $621,000 and had an average of $1.49 million, The richest .01 made more than $1.85 million and had an average income of $3.83 million. In 1948, the top marginal tax rate was 80%, on taxable income over $250,000 which would be $2.37 million in 2010 dollars. The top rate in 2009 averaged across Canada was 42.9% above $126,264. In 2009, the financial research institute Investor Economics identifies 544,000 “high-net-worth” house controlled 67% of the total financial wealth in Canada. ( Armine Yalnizyan, The Rise of Canada’s Richest 1%, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, http://www.policyalternatives.ca/publications/reports/rise-canadas-richest-1(December 2010)
Canadian Business Special Edition Winter 2010/2011 reports that the top 100 richest hold $185.1 billion, up 70% since 1999. The top 20% hold 70% of the wealth. The writer asks the obvious question: Why hasn’t the spike in equality led to outright class warfare? The answer they give : ignorance and comfort. The population in general doesn’t realize the level of inequality that exists. And, as somewhat comfortable individual in Kenora, asks, “What’s the big deal, anyway. You can only eat so many hamburgers.”
Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett in their 2009 book The Spirit Level , Why Equality is Better for Everyone, point out that everyone is better off with equality once minimum levels of wealth have been accumulated: less health and social problems, higher self esteem, greater community trust, lower mental health problems and use of illicit drugs, less obesity, less crime less violence etc. So is there growing dismay about increasing inequality? Apparently not.
On the Saturday following the release of the House of Common’s Federal Poverty Reduction Plan Report, the Toronto Globe and mail reported on some polls that had been completed during the recent past from 2004 to 2007 (2004 Canadian Election Study, 2006 World Value Survey; Angus-Reid 2007 and Environics) indicated:
In 2004, 61 % of Canadians outside Quebec agreed that “People who don’t get ahead should blame themselves, not the system.”
In 2006, just over half of Canadians gave more value to the statement “We need larger income differences as incentives” over “Incomes should be made more equal.”
In 2007 only 34% of Canadians polled agreed that poverty is a very serious problem”, 46 % said government programs to improve conditions for the poor are “having no impact either way” and
18% per cent said programs make the problem worse.
The Kenora Association for Community Living borrowed a paragraph from an earlier report to the Provincial government as its principle statement regarding the right to equality
All people in Ontario are entitled to an equal assurance of life opportunities in a society based on fairness, shared responsibility, and personal dignity for all. Society has a responsibility for the well being of all its members. The support that society provides is not to be understood as a gift or privilege, nor as charity to the disadvantage. Rather it represents a right to which all members of society are entitled.
Yet equality is a far away goal. Perhaps a more immediate goal is the alleviation of poverty. The greater number of Canadians with disabilities are living in poverty. Too often, as identified by CACL, their income is insufficient to benefit from tax credits like the Disability Tax Credit. Canadians with disabilities are too often served by inadequate, stigmatizing and ineffective systems of income support that were never designed to provide long-term income support. The goal of most government plans is not to get people out of poverty but to assist them to live in a state of poverty
Two federal reports, The Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology, Subcommittee on Cities, In From the Margins: A Call to Action on Poverty, Housing and Homelessness in December 2009 and the House of Commons committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development, Federal Poverty Reduction Plan: Working in Partnership Towards Reducing Poverty in Canada (FPRP) report which recommended that government should get serious about getting rid of poverty rather than to continue to manage it.
Poverty among seniors has steadily declined from 30.4% in 1977 to a low of 4.9% in 2007 (Human Resources and Skills Development Canada, Financial Security-Low Income Persistence, Indicators of Well Being in Canada http:www4.hrsdc.gc.ca/.3ndic.1t.4r@-eng.jsp?iid=83, Reported in Page 27 of the Federal Poverty Reduction Plan).
KACL believes that such improvements have come about as a result of the introduction and expansion of federal income security programs such as Canada Pension Plan (CPP), Old Age Security (OAS) and Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) programs. While we welcome the recent addition of the Registered Disability Savings Plan we believe that this is insufficient for lifting people with Disability out of poverty.
This Association calls on all levels of government to work to immediately provide a guaranteed annual income at least equal to the levels provide by Old Age Security (OAS) and Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) ($14033 in 2010) to persons with disabilities.
The goal of social justice is full and equal participation in a society that is mutually shaped to meet their needs. Social justice includes a vision in which distribution of resources is equitable and all members are physically and psychological safe and secure. We envision a society in which individuals are both self-determining (able to develop their capacity) and independent (capable of interacting democratic with others). Social justice involves social actors who have a sense of their own agency as well as a sense of social responsibility toward and with others, their society, and the world in which we live. These are conditions we wish not only for our own society but also every society in our interdependent global committee. (Adams, Bell, Griffin
Many could take the above quote taken from Teaching for Diversity and Social Justice by Adams, Bell and Griffin just about sums up what many believe is the full and complete Mission of KACL.
The books is fairly expensive by KACL standards but the book will serve a valuable resources especially the higher you go on the responsibility scale for teaching diversity and values to staff at KACL.
Of particular interest to me is Chapter 1 Theoretical Foundations for Social Justice Education.
The first issue which may cause KACL staff to react is the use of the term “oppression” rather than discrimination, bias, prejudice or bigotry to emphasize “the pervasive nature of social inequality woven throughout social institutions as well as embedded within individual consciousness. The term oppression encapsulates the fusion of institutional and sytemic discrimination, personal bias, bigotry, and social prejudice in a complex web of relationships and structures that shade most aspects of life in our society”.
The second issue that may cause some KACL staff to react to is why we have to be concerned about so many other groups. Why can’t we just concentrate of the disabled group. Why the answer that us given is extensively enlarged in this text the answer I would give is similar to that which we give for the need for all to be included in our goal of social inclusion. You can’t be in favout of inclusion just for some.
The book is chalked full of usefull material and I would recommend it to all staff.