The middle class in Canada is now more wealthy than in the United States, according to a new survey commissioned by the New York Times. Conducted by the newspaper in conjunction with the data centre LIS, the study concludes that after-tax median income in the U.S. is now lower than in Canada, with Western European countries hot on America’s tail. The U.S. remains the richest country in the world on a per capita basis (at least according to the Times, there is debate on this). So while America is still the best country in the world to be rich, things are deteriorating for the middle class and are becoming even worse for the poor. Below-median incomes in the U.S. have long lagged those in other developed nations.
Time was when being part of the middle class meant being able to afford a decent, if not opulent, lifestyle- a nice house, a new car every couple of years, a summer vacation, a stable job. Somewhere along the line, that version of America disappeared, melting away into something we can only tell our grandchildren about. The combination of recessions, offshoring, automation, and the corporate drive to “create new efficiencies” have all but killed off the middle class. Instead of the rich, the middle class, and the poor, only the rich and the poor remain, with most of what was previously the middle class moving down a notch.
Would you like fries with that??
Like many Americans, I grew believing in American Exceptionalism, the idea (simply put) that we’re #1. Bar none. Why else were people from around the world beating a path to our shores? If we weren’t something pretty special, why would so many sacrifice so much to become American citizens? American Exceptionalism, if it every really existed, is now touted only by those on the Right with a vested political interest in maintaing the illusion of Amerika über Alles…because the truth doesn’t support the propaganda.
The study showing that Canada’s middle class is now better off than our own should hardly come as a surprise. Over the past 25 years, we’ve devoted far more resources to war and war-fighting technology than things that would have made a tangible benefit here at home- education, health care, infrastructure, etc. Because we’ve lacked the will and the foresight to invest in America, we’re suffering the consequences of that neglect.
We’ve expended trillions of dollars and thousands of young American lives in the belief that we were “exporting democracy.” Now our bridges are crumbling, our health care delivery system is an embarrassment, public education doesn’t begin to prepare children to compete in an increasingly global economy, and our electrical grid is held together with duct tape and chicken wire. I could go on, but why belabor what should be obvious?
Canada (and Western Europe as well) devotes a far smaller portion of GDP to its military. That frees up billions to invest in things Canadian taxpayers have a right to expect. Those billions help create living wage jobs, develop markets domestically and overseas, and support the develop and modernization of the country’s infrastructure. This also helps to lesson income inequality, because more people will be better educated and prepared to compete in the global marketplace.
In America, those billions are squandered on maintaining a bloated military dedicated solely to waging war. Because we’ve taken on significantly out of proportion defense responsibilities for Canada and Western Europe, those economies can reinvest in things that have tangible benefits at home. Our self-appointed role as the world’s moral policeman means that the resources which would be better spent at home are frittered away overseas, with little if any benefit accruing to American taxpayers. We have a military presence in more than 100 countries. Is that really where our money should be invested?
Is it any wonder Canada’s middle class is better off than our own?