Are we fiddling while Rome rebuilds?

In a compelling read today, Toronto Star columnist Christopher Hume makes the case that North Americans are complacently letting their society crumble while other nations are rebuilding to meet today's challenges.

He writes, "Empires don't collapse overnight and certainly for many North Americans, everything's just fine, thank you very much. But the signs are there. In ways big and small, local and global, we are falling behind. It's not just that we have let the environment go ... or that we live in a culture of reruns, it's more that we have lost the capacity to deal with these issues. We are paralyzed, inert."

For the better part of a year, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives has been bringing to light the many and varied aspects of Canada's growing gap between the rich and the rest of us.

We have shown how exorbitant CEO pay is climbing in tandem with stagnant workers' wages and poverty-level minimum wages.

In fact, workers' wages have been in a holding pattern for 30 long years while corporations are banking 40-year high profit shares.

The richest 10% of families in Canada now make 82 times more than the poorest 10% -- in 1976 they earned only 31 times more.

And it's not just a problem for the poor. The middle class is feeling it too. When 80% of Canadian families are taking home a smaller share of Canada's economic pie than families did a generation ago, it's time to sit up and take note.

We could fiddle while North America burns. Or we could do something about it. What can we do? For starters, see our poll showing what Canadians think our governments should do about rising income inequality. They want to see our governments raise the minimum wage so that a full-time, full-year worker isn't living in poverty. They want affordable housing, child care and university tuition.

These are just for starters.

Why does it matter if we do something about income inequality? A growing gap between rich and poor is a sign of societal decline. It is a red flag in an otherwise red-hot economy. The sooner we act to address this inconvenient truth, the better off all Canadians will be.

-- Trish Hennessy