Saturday, December 10, 2011

Poverty in Canada

Margaret Wente:

I'm not trying to be Pollyanna-ish. We have pockets of terrible deprivation in this country – just look at Attawapiskat. We still need food banks. But malnutrition is virtually extinct. Many experts argue that standard measurements of income dramatically understate the real gains in wealth, because they don’t adequately measure tax transfers and fail to reflect huge gains in purchasing power. Two American academics, Bruce Meyer of the University of Chicago and James Sullivan of the University of Notre Dame, make the startling claim that, if you take these factors into account, the incomes of U.S. middle-class families rose by more than 50 per cent in real terms between 1980 and 2009. Poor families fared almost as well.

Walmart and the rise of Chinese manufacturing has been the best thing to happen to lower income families. When I was a kid, I could buy a doll for a dollar at the dollar store. You can still do that today. Many of the products we buy today have the same prices-- or lower-- than twenty or thirty years ago. When I was in university, a computer could easily cost over $2000. Now you can buy a decent one for $500. A nice blouse cost you about $50. You can still find quality blouses for that price today. There's so much competition in pricing, there's so many savings of scale that it has allowed poor people to be able to access products that was impossible for them to purchase when I was a kid. Now you can get an air conditioner for $100 and a decent television for $200.

All this to say that there are few genuinely poor people in Canada, i.e. people who lack what they need. Walmart and capitalism has made that happen.