A visit that made a lot of cents

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Linda McQuaig discusses the problems of too much money at the top during book promotion at the U of R

Sarah Ferguson
Contributor

Canadian journalist Linda McQuaig spoke to a large audience at the University of Regina Oct. 21 about her controversial new book The Trouble with Billionaires: Why Too Much Money at the Top is Bad for Everyone. She spoke passionately about her latest work in an hour-long discussion about economic inequality.

McQuaig, who co-wrote the book with tax professor Neil Brooks from Osgoode Hall Law School, has written eight bestsellers in the last two decades..

The latest book’s subject, corporate greed, is the leading concern of the protesting “99 per cent” in the Occupy Movement, which began in New York City just over one month ago.

“We associate the lives of billionaires with glamour and we view that as positive, But the truth is that when all the money in society is controlled by that ‘top one per cent’, it threatens the heart of democracy,” McQuaig said. Her book documents how society’s glamorization of the rich has prevented the public from seeing how the concentrated economic power of the rich harms the country’s economy.

McQuaig said that although the release of her book was timed perfectly with the recent protests, the subject of economic inequality is one which has been plaguing the North American economy for several decades.

“Until recently it wasn’t OK to even examine those people,” she said. “It was considered taboo, and you didn’t talk about it.

“The Occupy Wall Street movement is a good beginning, because it challenges the business narrative that dominates public discourse and puts the spotlight on the top. The people on the top are the real problem – they have too much wealth and too much power.”

McQuaig addressed several issues in her discussion, but made special mention of the growing income gap in North America.

“The average Canadian has to work twice as hard to live these days, and meanwhile the rich are getting richer,” she said. “A two-income family is the norm; in the last thirty years, the majority of society’s income has gone to that top one per cent of the population – that small concentrated group has a larger share of Canada’s income than ever before.

“As a result, there are no full-time jobs anymore; everyone has to work part-time jobs with no security – the rich are waging a class war against society and we’ve got to start fighting back.”

McQuaig said the best way for the public to rectify the problem of financial inequality in North America’s economic system is to reframe societal attitudes toward taxes, which she said have been demonized by the rich.

“It’s always been assumed that high taxes in a society destroy economic growth, but taxes are the price everyone pays for living in a democratic society,” McQuaig said. “They pay for services and redistribute those bloated undeserved incomes at the top to the remainder of society.”

In her discussion, McQuaig also made a call to restore progressive taxation.

“We’ve stopped taxing the rich,” she said. “What they used to pay in taxes, they now pay in philanthropy, which ultimately turns into a tax deduction.

“We need to fight for a more equal society for everyone, not one that just caters to the one percent.”

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