Occupy movement - The Trawler.org
To commemorate the one-year anniversary of the initial occupation of Zuccotti Park in New York City on September 17, 2011 (S#17), Miles Corak, professor of economics at the University of Ottawa, provides a Canadian perspective on some of the messages and outcomes that have emerged from the Occupy movement.
“The real price of inequity is in the first instance political, and only secondly economic,” says Corak, referring to the Occupy movement’s inabilities to come up with concrete policy proposals from the very beginning. However, the vagueness of Occupy Wall Street (OWS) in terms of omnipresent policies is hardly a death sentence for the movement’s relevance because it gave the average person basic facts about how labour markets function.
According to Corack, this sort of newly accessible information has “profound implications for how we should think about inequality, and the underlying causes like technical change and globalization.” For example, a 2008 Statistics Canada report from the 2006 census noted that the median earnings of Canadians employed full-time rose only $52 dollars in a quarter century (from $41 348 in 1980 to $41 401 in 2005).
Meaning that between 1980 and 2005, the amount of money the average Canadian made per year went up by an insignificant $2.08 every year. In the final year of the study (2005), that represents only a 0.05% increase in annual salary. Inflation on the other hand, went up 2.37% between that same 25-year period. This gross inequality is important to average Candians because markets and politics have never been separate spheres, and changes to one affect the other as well.
Therefore, both the subtle rules regarding how industries and special interests are regulated, and the overarching norms governing the design of taxes and social policy, are interconnected in a way that is more favourable for the wealthy. Before the movement, this was only clear to an academic crowd. Now, thanks in large part to OWS, expanding income disparity gaps have bridged the gap to join the everyday discourse.
Due to this interconnectedness of politics and economics, the longer-term significance to the movement to Canadians and people all over the world will not be how it articulates economics demands (which as we have seen, it has great trouble with), but how it changes the political terrain. A terrain which, as the numbers show, needs to equalize its fiscal gradient sooner rather than later.
While Corack’s reliance on statistics is new for an Occupy piece, it seems to be a disservice to the movement. When he speaks of working within the political terrain to amend current inequalities, he seems to be clashing with the very ideals of radicalism and non-conformity that the movement was founded upon. There are many activists within Occupy that would staunchly discredit his analysis as that of another disconnected academic.
Therefore, while it is great that Canadians and the world are now aware of the gross inequalities thanks to a year of hard work from the movement, the 99% is going to need much more than basic information if they are going to change the status quo. In short, for Occupy to be as great of a movement as Corack claims it to be, it needs to accomplish much more than he claims it to have done.