This is a letter I sent to Macleans Magazine after reading Andrew Coyne's opinion piece A phony class war which I read on October 25, 2011, the same day I sent this letter. I have no idea if they've published it - I don't subscribe to the magazine and I don't think they put their letters online . . .
I cannot quibble with Mr. Coyne as to the content of this piece, although the title rings a bit false. The situation in Canada is indeed very different from what is going on in the U.S.A, where fraud and illegal activities on the part of banks etc (mortgages, securitizations, improper disclosures . . .) will take years to resolve and leave many home- and securities-owners with a cloud of uncertainty over their heads. This is not the case here.
He has, however, missed an important nuance to this widespread discontent. When people are losing their jobs because of "cut-backs" while executives enjoy ever larger compensation packages something is off. When managers are told to pretend inflation doesn't exist and to keep operational budgets "flat" for years on end, almost any organization ends up teetering like an upside-down pyramid. It is a failure to invest in people - and not in terms of salary, but the information, tools and environment in which they work - rather than the product, and profit, they produce. By ignoring the human in their human capital many companies are in fact hollowing out their own employees.
The dissatisfaction cuts across many lines: political, socio-economic, ethnic, employment status as well as nature of employment. It is rooted in the experiences of the suit-wearers and the work-a-day folk alike that tells them logarithmic compensation growth for the mucky mucks in the face of ever constrained budgets seems, well, hypocritical.
I am one of the lucky ones: mostly satisfied, enjoying simple pleasures of love, home, friends and family. I give no thought to those who have more - so what? I give thought, action and dollars towards those who have less. I greatly value the goods and services that come with paying my taxes, believe there are ways to do things better with what we have, and have a preference for keeping as much of my own money as possible.
With all this, I just cannot believe anyone is worth tens of millions of dollars a year for what they do, be it in professional sports, acting in a film or running a company. The idea that one person delivers that much "value" is nothing more than a cult. And when you see the disparity in a graphic like the one here: http://www.ritholtz.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/Distribution.png, well . . . .