No 2131 Posted by fw, December 27, 2017
“The horrific consequences of our country’s neglect of its children are most starkly exposed during the pre-Christmas period. That’s when well-off Canadians join in a national campaign to provide the pauperized children in our midst with toys to play with, warm clothing to wear, and a traditional holiday meal. We increase our donations to the food banks, the Salvation Army, the Toy Mountains. We take pride in our efforts to help poor kids and their families share in the Yuletide celebration. But few of us ever ask ourselves why child poverty in such a rich country is so rampant that it makes the provision of pre-Christmas food, toys and clothing so necessary. And we block our minds, too, from the grim realization that, after their temporary relief from penury, after the Christmas lights are dimmed and the carols stop being sung, these hundreds of thousands of indigent children will slip back into the blight of destitution and deprivation.” —Ed Finn, rabble.ca
Edward (Ed) Finn, age 91, is a Canadian trade unionist, journalist, editor, author and former Newfoundland politician – and one of my personal role models for a life well lived.
Below is a repost of Ed’s article with my added subheadings, text highlighting and selected bulleted formatting. Alternatively read it on rabble.ca’s website by clicking on the following linked title.
Oh God! That bread should be so dear,
And flesh and blood so cheap!
—Thomas Hood, “The Song of the Shirt.”
Canada falling behind in global poll of emotional states of people
In my recent op-ed on world happiness, I cited a couple of polls that ranked Canada well below other countries in assessing their population’s level of happiness. We managed to come seventh in the 2016 United Nations World Happiness Report, but lagged much further behind in Gallup’s annual Global Emotions Atlas, which ranked Canada below Costa Rica and eight other Latin American countries, as well as Norway, Denmark, Switzerland, Austria, Spain, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, and even the United Arab Emirates.
Ed Finn cites 4 reasons for poor results
I attributed Canada’s poor showing in the Gallup Poll to our
Canada fares poorly on children’s welfare according to latest UNICEF report
The latest report from UNICEF puts Canada 37th on its list of 41 rich countries for the number of children suffering from inadequate nutrition.
Canadian census data confirms UNICEF’s latest findings
UNICEF’s figures are substantiated by the last Canadian census, which also found that 1.2 million of our children are victims of poverty while living in low-income households. The agency defined “low income” as “after-tax household income that is less than the median of $22,133 for a single-person household, or less than $44,266 for a four-person household.”
Canada ranks at bottom in provision of early child-case services according to previous UNICEF report
An earlier UNICEF report had Canada tied for last place among 21 developed countries in its provision of early child-care services. Unlike countries in Europe, Canada still lacks a national, accessible, affordable, quality child-care network. Most European nations have committed to providing an ECEC (Early Childhood Education and Care) place for all their children, either by legislating a legal entitlement or by making attendance available and compulsory. Eight of these countries — Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Germany, Slovenia, Estonia and Malta — guarantee a legal right to ECEC for all children soon after their birth.
More grim statistics
Other statistics gleaned from the last census and from various socioeconomic agencies tell us that:
‘… lives of millions of Canadians and their children are wretched, precarious, unhappy, and often tormented by cold and hunger.”
This is just a sample of the statistical evidence that the lives of millions of Canadians and their children are wretched, precarious, unhappy, and often tormented by cold and hunger. Especially appalling is our country’s inexcusable failure to attend to the needs of its youngest and most vulnerable citizens.
Federal and provincial governments slashed spending on social programs, while rewarding ruling class
Our federal and provincial governments, instead of maintaining their tax revenue so as to significantly reduce poverty levels, have drained their treasuries with huge tax cuts for corporations and the affluent elite. This deliberate depletion of their financial capacity gives them the contrived excuse that, when it comes to helping poor kids — “as much as we’d like to do more, we simply can’t afford it.” Instead, they have slashed their social spending to a level that is among the lowest in the developed nations.
Canada ranks 24th in spending on social services in 2016 according to OECD report
The latest OECD report on the social expenditures of its 34 member countries ranks Canada 24th for its meagre 17.2 per cent of GDP spent on social services in 2016. Many of the 23 countries that surpass Canada have social spending rates of 25 per cent or more, and several, including Finland, Denmark, Sweden, France, Belgium, Italy and Ireland, have rates higher than 28 per cent. Incredibly, even the United States ranks above Canada with a social spending rate of 19 per cent of GDP.
A not-so-happy Christmas
Canadians appear to wilfully ignore the facts and consequences of child neglect
The horrific consequences of our country’s neglect of its children are most starkly exposed during the pre-Christmas period. That’s when well-off Canadians join in a national campaign to provide the pauperized children in our midst with toys to play with, warm clothing to wear, and a traditional holiday meal. We increase our donations to the food banks, the Salvation Army, the Toy Mountains.
We take pride in our efforts to help poor kids and their families share in the Yuletide celebration. But few of us ever ask ourselves why child poverty in such a rich country is so rampant that it makes the provision of pre-Christmas food, toys and clothing so necessary. And we block our minds, too, from the grim realization that, after their temporary relief from penury, after the Christmas lights are dimmed and the carols stop being sung, these hundreds of thousands of indigent children will slip back into the blight of destitution and deprivation.
Traumatized by their government’s callous dereliction, they and their parents will still have to depend on the food banks and other charities next year to save them from starvation.
The poor are the “victims of the dominant economic system — uncontrolled and unregulated capitalism”
Globally, they are among the billions of victims of the dominant economic system — uncontrolled and unregulated capitalism. It’s a stark “survival-of-the-fittest” system that promotes competition over co-operation, greed over grace, force over fairness, wealth over welfare. It’s a horrendous aggrandizement by the rich and powerful that maximizes wealth for the privileged few and poverty and inequality for the many. Inevitably, it has resulted in eight multi-billionaires amassing more wealth than three billion of the world’s inhabitants.
Canada among the neoliberal governments “dedicated to serving the powerful corporations and affluent elites.”
Still, deep poverty and inequality are not rife everywhere. They are social malignancies that propagate in the rich countries with neoliberal governments — Canada among them — that are mainly dedicated to serving the powerful corporations and affluent elites.
It doesn’t have to be this way — Dozens of countries have governments not slaves to business barons
As the World Happiness polls disclose, however, dozens of countries (poor as well as rich) are blessed with governments that are not subservient to the business barons. They are progressive regimes truly committed to enhancing the well-being of all their citizens. They do this either through an equitable tax system based on ability to pay that enables them to fund comprehensive social services (e.g., Denmark), or by doing the same by fairly apportioning their smaller but adequate GDP (e.g., Costa Rica).
In these genuinely democratic countries, poverty and inequality may not be entirely absent, but the relatively few affected are much better treated and cared for. Needless to say, child poverty in such countries is minimalized by universal social programs.
Where “free market” ideology rules, life is a “free-for-all brawl” that does not favour those at the bottom
However, in countries where “free market” ideology rather than the public interest dictates a government’s agenda, the national income is disbursed through a free-for-all brawl that favours the most cunning, callous, and ruthless. The sensitive and ethical contestants don’t fare well in such a melee, and many wind up in low-paid jobs and poverty.
As long as food banks and charities provide social services, governments are off the hook
For neoliberal business and political leaders, that’s an unavoidable outcome of the economic system they prefer and profit from. As long as the food banks and other charities take them off the hook, they feel safe at election time. They can even afford to contribute generously to the food bank drives themselves.
And as long as Canadians elect neoliberal governments, impoverishment social policies will continue
As long as most Canadians continue to elect such regressive neoliberal governments and tolerate the preventable mass impoverishment their policies precipitate, Canada will remain low on the list of the world’s happiest countries — even at Christmas time.
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