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New Payroll Survey Yields Startling Findings: We’re All Broke and We’ll Always Be Broke

Oh wait, does that read "startling"? Should read "obvious." Sorry about that.

by Tannara Yelland
Sep 10 2015, 2:17pm

Have you heard of this show Mr. Robot? If you like this post you'll probably want to watch it. Screenshot via YouTube

Bad news, average Canadians: the economy is shit and it's treating you like shit. Of course, you already knew both those things, but maybe you didn't realize most of the rest of us are also in that boat. A new poll by the Canadian Payroll Association found that nearly half of Canadians are living paycheque to paycheque, and that more than one third of Canadians feel "overwhelmed" by debt.

The findings of the CPA survey are bad enough on their own (and there's more where those two facts came from), but consider a Globe and Mail story from last week about household savings. The average amount of savings per household in Canada was $41,694 in 2014 even though less than half of Canadians have saved more than $10,000.

Of course most households have no savings, you may be thinking. How are you going to keep the cost of a low-end Rolex lying around when you wouldn't be able to make one paycheque stretch an extra week in a pinch? And, yes, I have to agree. That is obvious. But what the Globe piece refrains from saying outright is that averages come from somewhere. In order to have an average of just over $40,000 when half the group is clocking in at one quarter of that, tops, that means there's a small group saving (and, it follows, earning) vastly more than the rest of us.

Again, perhaps you're sitting on your couch (your dirty third/fourth/fifth-hand couch that came with your apartment because the friends whose lease you took over couldn't be bothered to move it and there was no way you could afford a proper second-hand one from Craigslist) reading this and thinking, yes, duh. But look, here's the thing: the economic landscape is terrible, and it's not getting better any time soon.

As we all remember, the entire global economy almost collapsed in 2008, and things were touch-and-go for quite a while after that. Greece is still slowly imploding as a result of that collapse. People have stopped worrying about Spain and Italy following suit, but maybe that's just because the thought is too terrifying.

The whole thing was caused by rampant greed, stupidity, and ego on the part of bankers. And all of that—the disappearance of trillions of dollars, another $16 trillion (or more) spent bailing out banks, the destruction of Iceland and Greece's economies—wasn't enough to cause more than a blip in the continual chugging of the global capitalist machine. Occupy came and went, bringing to the fore a wider class consciousness, and still aside from one guy from Credit-Suisse, not a single one of the 2008 crash's principal architects has spent a day in jail. Not even Jamie Dimon or Lloyd Blankfein, and there's a better chance than not that those two are directly descended from Satan.

But the problems we're facing today didn't begin in 2008, and they haven't gone away with the gradual recovery from that recession. The deregulation of the banking sector that led to the subprime mortgage crisis was just one part of a neoliberal agenda that eroded employment security, benefits, and the stability of the entire economy. Anything to feed the beast, and the beast demands quarter-over-quarter growth!

Income inequality is still growing. Precarious labour is still rapidly replacing jobs with any semblance of security. People are working harder and longer for less money and fewer benefits. As ever Canada isn't doing quite as poorly as America, which has ten times the population and the world's largest economy, but that doesn't mean we're doing well here.

At least, as the payroll survey shows, we now recognize this. Two thirds of Canadians have little faith in the economy improving over the next year and more than three quarters of respondents said they've saved less than 25 percent of what they need to retire. The other quarter probably answered all questions about retirement with a hearty, mirthless laugh.

The only thing for it, until we're all mad and broke enough to start toppling governments and occupying bank headquarters, is to keep talking about the awful capitalist hellscape in which we live, reminding each other that we all have it roughly as bad as the next person. We need to stoke each other's anger and camaraderie, and most importantly, we need to constantly remind ourselves that we are not alone. We are in this together. Except for Chad. Chad's making $150K at his PR job, rapidly moving up the corporate ladder. Chad is preparing to take a junior VP role as soon as he manipulates the higher-ups into firing the woman who has the job now. And worst of all, he thinks it's because he's smarter than us rather than because the otherwise cruel gods of the market happened to smile on him.

Chad will be the first to go when the revolution comes.

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