Four years after Lehman Brothers collapsed, it’s time to take stock of things by asking a stock political question: Are you better off now than you were four years ago?
Where you stand on the answer depends on where you sit. Many people, businesses and communities are still struggling to regain the ground they lost after September 15, 2008, the day the giant investment banker filed for bankruptcy and triggered the biggest global financial and economic crisis since the 1930s. But for others, things have never been better.
For Canada as a whole, the top line numbers are good, as we’ve heard repeatedly from Ottawa.
Gross domestic product is higher than during the fall of 2008, and more people are employed. But take a look under the hood, and you’ll see how that has been driven by commodities and their rising prices. That’s because globally there has been more demand than supply as the supply chain expanded, and Canada has what the world wants when it’s growing. But emerging economies are slowing down, and that puts Canada’s better-than-most growth at risk.
The head count on employment may be up, but four out of five of the new positions added to job market since the crisis began are temporary. We now have fewer young people (aged 15-24) working than at the worst point of the recession (summer of 2009), though there are more people now in that age cohort. Both trends do not bode well for the future.
In addition to the performance of the market is the performance of government. Taken together, the policy measures undertaken by government net out to accentuate – rather than mitigate – the widening gap between the haves and the have-nots over the past four years.
Without question Canada has done much better than the U.S., which is burdened by higher jobless rates; falling middle class incomes ; andpoverty rates stuck at record highs even though more people are working now than two years ago. High and still rising levels of income inequality seem irreversible, with the top 1 per cent having accounted for 93 per cent of all income gains since the recovery began.
So, yes, Canada is doing better than the U.S., four years on. But the comparison is not apt. In the fall of 2008 we were in a very different place when it came to overleveraged consumers and businesses — and government deficits. ...Read more