Stuart Hertzog

 H E R T Z O G

Haves and Have-Nots

There’s a growing income gap in our society

Victoria, BC February 21, 2006

There’s a growing gulf between those in our society that have — jobs, income, property, family — and those who have not. And that gulf is widening to include many more formerly middle-class people in the ‘have-not’ category.

The same gulf between the rich and the poor exists in spades between the so-called ‘developed’ nations and the euphemistically-designated ‘developing’ nations, which used more accurately to be called the Third World.

But the problem isn't just between ‘us’ and the Third World. I want just to focus on what's happening here in North America for now.

“ In my parents’ day, it used to be that one breadwinner, almost invariably the male, could support a wife and family. Now, it takes two incomes just to remain vaguely middle-class.

In my parents’ day, it used to be that one breadwinner, almost invariably the male, could support a wife and family. Now, it takes two incomes just to remain vaguely middle-class. And Dog help you if you are a single parent (usually female).

The advanced industrialised nations — the Western World — enjoyed a few brief decades of distributed prosperity following the Second World War. The 1960s and ‘70s saw average incomes rising to a comfortable level, and the salary spread between the bottom and top of the corporate ladder was not so severe.

Since the 1970s, all that has changed. Increasingly, income is flowing to the top of the pyramid, and less and less is trickling down.

I've suggested in a previous post that this polarisation has been planned and deliberate. Whether you believe it has been deliberate or not, the numbers show that it's happening for sure.

An increasingly greater percentage of the world's wealth is being held in the hands of an increasingly-shrinking number of people and families. Even in the so-called ‘advanced’ industrialised nations — the First World — societies are rapidly dividing into the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots.’

“ An increasingly greater percentage of the world's wealth is being held in the hands of an increasingly-shrinking number of people and families. Even in the so-called ‘advanced’ industrialised nations — the First World — societies are rapidly dividing into the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots.’

The consequences of this are just starting to be felt, and I believe that soon they are going to be felt by many more. But like the frog in a slowly-heated bucket of water, those who have not yet been affected live blissfully in denial.

While life is OK, with money flowing in and the family intact, there isn't time for the average person to be too concerned about the indigent or the homeless. Life is too full of going to work, paying the bills, running the kids around in the SUV, and watching sport on the TV. Who has time for anything more?

It's a very different story when the financial support of a well-paid, fulltime job is removed. After a period of employment insurance, a former breadwinner is on his or her own. It's amazing how quickly savings can evaporate when income no longer matches lifestyle.

Only then does the Great Divide loom. But by that time, often it's too late. The stress of lowered expectations leads for many to drug or alcohol dependency, or divorce. Without the support of a family, the meagre government social support becomes seen for what it is — totally inadequate.

In today's increasingly privatised and gated society, there’s a huge gulf between having an income and not surviving.

For many, that gulf is going to prove impossible to bridge.

Last updated: November 1, 2006