Capitalism Sickens Canadians

Making the news today in Canada is a new report that shows the degree to which the economic “downturn” (put politely) is literally sickening Canadians. On the other hand, “upturns” are sometimes accompanied by increased consumption of meat (and the added hormones), increased obesity and diabetes. The sickness described is the sickness of stress and loss, rather than gain.

As reported by the CBC, “the economic downturn has affected how Canadians care for their health, particularly those in the lowest income groups — with people eating and sleeping less, spending less on prescriptions and skipping medical and dental appointments.” This is according to the 9th annual National Report Card on Health Care in Canada, published by the Canadian Medical Association. Listed among the study’s findings, based on a survey of over 4,000 Canadians (see pages 18 through 21):

  • 40% feel stressed and/or overwhelmed by financial concerns. Among those who earn less than $30,000, that number rises to 51%.
  • 25% said they have delayed or canceled a dentist appointment as a result of financial worries. The figure is 34% among Canadians who earn less than $30,000.
  • 16% of those polled said they skip meals to save money, with the figure rising to 28% per cent in the lowest income bracket.
  • 32% have spent less money on food, nationally, with 44% of people in lower income groups cutting back on spending on food.
  • 23% said they are losing sleep over economic worries, with the figure rising to 33% among those without a university degree.
  • 14% said they had delayed or stopped buying their prescription medications because money was tight.

(In terms of sleep loss, one can make impressionistic observations of marked differences in ostensible sleeping patterns as likely evidenced by the number of darkened homes/apartments in different class neighbourhoods. For example, I live in a polarized mixed-class setting, with buildings occupied by working-class tenants (paying as low as $600 per month in rent), and luxury condos where even two-bedroom units can sell for over a million dollars. At night, the dwellings of the wealthy are almost always totally dark after midnight, while in those of the working-class numerous lights remain on, lights from televisions flickering, computer screens lit, etc., suggesting activity going on through the night.)


The interesting coincidence in the appearance of this report is that it accompanies news of tumbling stock markets, as investors catch up to the reality that the “recession” has severely impacted the middle- and working-classes, with less money to spend, increased job losses, foreclosures, little or no saving, and massive personal debt. News of the resurrection of the economy have been wildly exaggerated.

It is one of those “mysteries” of capitalism where investors can experience “confidence” and “hope” even while job losses increase — one has to wonder: who do they think would be purchasing their products?

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6 thoughts on “Capitalism Sickens Canadians

  1. “who do they think would be purchasing their products?”

    Well, I certainly need to work harder on economics, but I would say that the accumulation of fictitious capital (fictitious but turned into real incomes, at the expense of the more genral population) is neither impeded by a deterioration of the real production, nor by an increase of real poverty. In fact, I suspect that increased real poverty in the lower stratas and increased wealth in the upper stratas (“hope”) are two faces of the same coin.
    If I am right, (and I would love to be corrected if I am wrong), this is what can be called “accumulation by dispossession”.

  2. Max,

    It seems like, in the U.S., the economy is showing signs of recovery – or, rather, of slowing decline. Stock markets are going up, productivity is up, etc.

    Despite that, unemployment and inequality are increasing, and wages are decreasing. I also read recently that unemployment insurance is drying up.

    The average American worker is going through a very tough time and is no doubt suffering from the same health problems as Canadians – but in the context of an inferior health system.

    If the recovery continues without any benefit for the average worker, I think there could be some very serious civil strife here. You can’t put this much strain on the population without it snapping eventually.

  3. I agree, but they seem very slow to “snap” in this part of the world. I have to wonder why in so many other parts of the world the citizenry seems more capable of questioning and rebelling. Even after all these years I am still laughing at the Cold War American description of Russians as “robotic,” when they underwent two major social revolutions within the same century, while in the meantime Americans were deciding “Democrat or Republican this time?”

  4. “I have to wonder why in so many other parts of the world the citizenry seems more capable of questioning and rebelling. ”

    It’s an interesting question. There’s been constant dissent and some progressive gains made in the last 4 decades, but there hasn’t been a movement that posed a real threat to the power structure since the late 60s.

    I think America’s relative wealth has been a factor. As long as people can own a home, a car and live more or less comfortably, their incentive to stir the system drops. I also think the Propaganda system is exceptionally refined here in the United States, as are barriers to power. There’s something that looks like debate in the major Media (though it’s very narrow), and elections aren’t rigged outright.

    Obama is a good example of that subtle control. He represents the same corporate-friendly policies, but makes them sound sensible and benign instead of short-sighted and callous.

    It’ll be interesting to see how long that can hold up, though. The economic situation will make Americans more desperate, and I have hope that the Internet can chip away at some of the propaganda efforts.

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