Income Inequality

Bitter old man

A person shilling for the pension funds management business complained about my recent article revealing extravagant salaries at the BC Investment Management Corporation (BMI). He wrote that I was a “bitter old man” and specifically said my statement about Washington State Investment Board (WSIB) returns was inaccurate.

What I wrote here, was:

Before you suppose that WSIB is an inferior organization, be aware that it manages C$170 billion in assets and its last reported annualized return was 17%.

Assets under management at BCI were C$145 billion as of March 2018 and the corporation reports its return for the year was 9%.

When the article was written, the most recent report from WSBI was for the quarter ended December 2017. It included this:

wsib return 480

I understand why people in the wealth management business are bothered when extravagant remuneration and questionable business conduct is examined. It’s human nature. Hedge fund managers in the USA earned billions but, finding that inadequate, they lobbied hard to maintain tax breaks that had them paying lower rates of income tax than the janitors who cleaned their offices.

Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941), a Bengali writer and philosopher, was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1913. He once wrote:

The greed of gain has no time or limit to its capaciousness. Its one object is to produce and consume. It has pity neither for beautiful nature nor for living human beings. It is ruthlessly ready without a moment’s hesitation to crush beauty and life.

Tens of thousands of pension recipients in BC have been negatively impacted by benefit reductions. Lew is sensitive to their plight.

A person, not a politician, who has worked in the public arena for many years suggested I consider legal action against my attacker:

…you are being demeaned and your character is being called into question, all because you reported salient facts relating to a matter of public interest.

Your capacity is being called into question, the idea that your age affects your judgment. And your motives – you are accused of evil motivations – envy, revenge, bitterness – arising from some kind of selfish animus against these individuals.

All of this is tame stuff compared to the usual social media smears. But it never comes from wealthy individuals and wealthy organizations with money to lose….

Today’s situation is somewhat reminiscent of the numerous times Bill Good allowed his CKNW program to be a platform to criticize people not in corporate media, if they dared to criticize vested interests.

Vaughn Palmer called us nut cases and “Nincompoops ranting in their underpants.”

Keith Baldrey described us as “weirdos.” Bill Good laughed.

I’ve spent years writing about public affairs, not out of bitterness, but out of love for the province that has allowed my family and friends to live fulfilling lives. We are among the most fortunate and privileged people in the world and I hope that my grandchildren and their fellow citizens say the same in fifty years time.

The growing inequality evident in many poverty-stricken parts of British Columbia should offend all of us. In Vancouver, it is not difficult for a couple to run up a $300 to $500 dinner tab but, while walking Vancouver’s streets, they might have to step aside repeatedly as emergency crews treat fallen souls.

I find it dishonourable to reward some public servants with multi-million salaries at the same time that abject poverty and hopelessness stain our communities. Yet, that is a subject about which corporate media remains largely silent.

Maverick journalist Glenn Greenwald wrote:

A key purpose of journalism is to provide an adversarial check on those who wield the greatest power by shining a light on what they do in the dark, and informing the public about those acts.

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9 replies »

    • I agree about Greenwald. I read him with enthusiasm ten years ago, but questioning the purpose of his more recent work, I moved on. There are too many great writers to waste time on the inadequate. Regardless though, the Greenwald quote is a good one, worth repeating.

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      • Yes Norm,

        Unfortunately, lot’s of earlier people said it better, or just the same, and held it close, all their lives.

        And again, thank you for holding truth to power.

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  1. Norm, your comments are both moving and accurately targeted. We live in what I believe are precarious times. Truth used to be championed. Now in many ways it is silenced. Good and evil have seemingly changed positions….

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  2. Is there any way at all you might consider running as an mla some day? The schools are broken, I know all too well. When the superintendent of a district begins carrying the designation of “CEO”, things are all too twisted. But my belief is that someone like you could be more effective at a higher govt level I know…time away from family, Victoria bound (didn’t some ex-preem call Victoria toxic?), all that stuff…but it would be nice to see someone like you with more influence!

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  3. As a relative recent reader, I appreciate Norm’s work. He mentioned the emergency responders tending street people who are victims of drugs and other ailments often associated with long-term poverty. Any of us who move through the downtown eastside will have seen this frequently.

    The paramedics who are saving lives are the same people the former government treated with intentional disregard. Both wages and resources were suppressed and many were forced to take part-time positions and were expected to be available at a phone call, but without reasonable standby pay. It wasn’t just the financial pressure tactics that bothered, it was the palpable disrespect.

    The point I take from these articles and comments is that our society doesn’t mind granting its most privileged people huge pay raises but will fight hard to keep ordinary men and women from gaining reasonable rewards.

    Inequality has been getting worse steadily. I fear where our society will be in another 25 years.

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  4. Hello Norm:
    Remember when the financial institutions were hyping “Freedom 55”. That turned out to be a complete hoax … I guess unless you were a politician.
    Then the mantra became … “You are richer than you think.” You only got richer if you could avoid the taxman by hiding your wealth offshore in some tax haven that was protected by our Federal Government … who have not gone after some of Canada’s wealthiest families.
    People who are negative, complain and criticize others are just trying to Justify why they haven’t done as well.
    Ignore the whiners … hangout with folks who know how to smile.

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  5. From one bitter old man to another, keep it up.

    For far too long the elites of the main stream media have been shilling for their favourite establishment, because there is no profit in actually being honest with the news.

    “Vaughn Palmer called us nut cases and “Nincompoops ranting in their underpants.”

    “Keith Baldrey described us as “weirdos.” Bill Good laughed.”

    I have been called worse.

    My gig was and still is transit and the one radio type who actually took the time to vet what I was saying, the late Rafe Mair” found I was very accurate and I was often a guest on his radio show.

    In fact he once hinted that, through my efforts he found some unsettling connections with a former Premier and a well know Canadian Engineering firm, who tended to bribe their way, obtaining contracts.

    Then he was fired from CKNW, on what would be called today, trumped up charges.

    I was hitting bullseye after bullseye with both BC Transit and Translink, with transit planning and their pet transit system, ALRT/ART/Innovia light-metro.

    Now TransLink maneuvered me from being a radio guest almost 20 years ago, because they and their highly paid shills (one is now a MP, no surprise there) were playing fast and loose with the truth and still are..

    The Vancouver Sun, will not even let their reporters interview me and when some do phone for information, it is all hush hush. I am considered toxic to the real editors back east, who vet who is to be interviewed and who is not.

    Since the mid 1990’s i have offered to have an open debate about transit and SkyTrain in general, but there is no takers and in fact at on transit meting so many years ago, the BC Transit chap called me the “idiot savant” of transit, not really knowing what the term actually meant.

    The audience did, much to his embarrassment.

    Like the money managers, TransLink is a gold-bricks paradise where scores of 6 figured salaried people literally do nothing to earn their wage; the waste at TransLink is breathtaking and the amount of false information, emanating from their ivory towers, is nothing short of scandalous.

    When people or organizations start calling you names, you know damn sure you are scoring hits and as the rhetoric ramps up, those hits become broadsides.

    Now many people here probably do not agree about my thoughts on transit, though based on real advice by real transit experts, but where is the mainstream media? Where are the Palmer’s; Baldrey’s and Bula’s, asking real questions, and not soft ball tosses from Translink’s spin doctors.

    I rather have “Bitter Old Men” dealing with facts, over lazy and bought off reporters and journalists who report news releases as if they were real news, any day.

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  6. OMG, that is funny, calling you a bitter old man. He obviosly is a scared man. Any one who knows you would never describe you as a “bitter old man”. As that bit about OLD, wonder how old the other guy is. You’re not old. You’re a recylced teen ager, young and vibrant and an endless pain in the ass to any number of politicians and as we can read, to “wealth management types.

    You’d almost have to feel sorry for the other guy, if all he can come up with is “bitter old man”. He hasn’t been able to produce any information to even suggest your post was inaccurate. When you can’t produce evidence contrary to the truth about all you can do is call the other person names. Not much to advance his arugment.

    The money gap, if it continues, will return countries to the conditions prior to WW II. That didn’t turn out too well for any one. You have to wonder what will be enough for some people? Then again you have to wonder what they would trade to maintain their health if they were to be delivered the message they had a terminal disease. Poverty can and is a terminal disease. Stats are out there which clearly state the life spans of those who are well to do vs. those who live in poverty.

    When I worked I had a sign over my desk which went some thing along the lines of in the 1960s corporations paid approx. 80% of the taxes in this country by the late 1980s that had changed to individuals paying the 80% while the corporations were paying 20% of the nation’s taxes.

    It is doubtful we will see any government do a reversal on that one, but it would certainly even things out.

    with corporations and the 1%ers being able to off shore their money the average tax payer will continue to pay more and more taxes for the growing needs of our country. these 1%es and their corporations make money in this country because its a good place but its only a good place because since the end of WW II things improved for the working class. If that changes, no one is going to be happy and those in the 1% may see a revolution in 50 years because the working class has nothing left to loose.

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