I try not to have regrets at the close of a year. It seems a good idea to go into the next year with awareness of what I learned from the hard things behind me, but beating myself up about it seems counter-productive. Unfortunately, as we finish 2022, I have some solid regrets…about something left undone in 2020.
Get ready for this. It’s a big one.
I didn’t watch Ted Lasso when it first came out. One of my best friends told me I should. She said I’d like it. I think she said it would restore my faith in humanity.
And it’s not that I didn’t believe her. I just didn’t understand how right she was. Or how much I needed Ted and his footballers. (And yeah, I also held off because I was trying really hard not to get another TV subscription. Damn you, Ted, for being an Apple guy and not a Netflix guy.)
There are a lot of things I like about Ted. Just one of those things is that he’s employed by a professional sport and yet seems completely unfussed about money. So, yeah, it’s fiction. I’ve never understood why we buy-in (literally) to a society where professional athletes make so much money. But of all the weird things we do these days, athletes’ salaries are actually pretty low on my list of concerns.
Back in the spring, a colleague and I attended a celebration of local business and local investing. Of the businesses profiled that evening, one gourmet food supplier casually mentioned that his business had not raised prices – at all – and yet the big, chain grocery stores carrying their products had bumped up costs on those products, substantially.
Well, that’s fascinating. Let me just check on some of those grocery stores and whether they’re ending 2022 with any regrets. Loblaw Companies (you know, Superstore and Shoppers Drug Mart, among others) ended its most recent quarter with revenue of $17.39 billion. But hey! Those guys employ a lot of people, right? They create jobs! And GDP! So it’s especially lucky for those stores’ chief executives to make millions each year while paying minimum wage to others.
It’s not nice to pick on only the grocery stores. So, let’s consider the banks. That’s where we keep our money when we’re not spending it all on the highly-inflated cost of food, so those guys must be our friends…right? Oh wait. Canada’s big bank CEOs actually made more money lately. Well, that’s nice for them.
Lest you think that I’m going to stop this rant anytime soon, let me drive it home a bit further. The top 5 highest-paid CEOs in Canada are making, roughly, $14 million to 26 million dollars per year. According to this calculator, I currently make within the top 10% of all Canadians. And even so, the CEOs I just mentioned are making more than 100 times that.
Here’s the thing that really gets me. As one of my colleagues pointed out a few months ago, inflation doesn’t really matter if everyone’s purchasing power (i.e., wages) grows at the same rate. But in this current situation, that’s not the case. The wealthiest are becoming wealthier, and the lower and middle classes are ending the year with concern over costs.
I haven’t been able to get this graph of the wealth gap out of my head. But before you go accusing me of wanting to hold back the rich folk that work really hard, I would like to note two things: 1) Minimum wage workers also work hard. I have a lovely office job. I will happily keep it rather than stand on my feet all day while being berated by customers trying to save money on sweatpants (based on just one of many recent examples I have witnessed); and 2) I am a good little capitalist who can stomach someone making a couple million bucks per year.
It’s the couple million times 10 that really gets me. Particularly while other people are struggling to feed their families and fill their cars to get to their underpaid jobs.
If you’ve read this far and you’re still thinking I’m just whining, or if you think I might have a point but you’re not yet planning to factor it into how you vote, shop or write letters…cool, cool. I mean, Scrooge would still have been Scrooge-ing if he wasn’t visited by those ghosts. And the Grinch was probably just fine living on his own and not caring about anyone else (some days that’s a pretty appealing lifestyle).
But since we don’t live in a Dickens novel or a Dr. Seuss tale – or even, sadly, in a world that includes Ted Lasso – there are cautionary tales from reality to be mindful of.
When I wasn’t watching Ted Lasso today, I listened to some podcasts. In the first 11 minutes of this one by The Economist, you can hear about how the 1500s were remarkably similar to today. And while I’d rather live today than 500 years ago (e.g., as much as I hate going to the dentist, I’m very glad dentistry exists), our current inflation situation could end very, very badly before it gets better.
Fortunately, we can still do something about it. I think.
Ted would tell me to try.
2 thoughts on “What would Ted do?”
You going Pinko on me?? Ha ha!!
Thank you for your latest writings which was interesting, as always.
I haven’t watched Ted Lasso as I don’t have Apple TV but I have watched some clips on You Tube so I kind of know Ted and where he is coming from. My sister Deirdre tells me the movie is great.
When I returned to Australia 5 ½ years ago, after living overseas for 8 years there were a couple of things that struck me. Firstly, how overweight Australians were, especially young Australians and I had just come from Cambodia where people were malnourished, starving and didn’t have enough to eat. Here we are slowly eating ourselves to death.
Also the growing gap between rich and poor and people’s attitude towards that but what really shocked me was the increasing amounts of homeless people. Hence me volunteering at the Breakfast Club, a soup kitchen which I have been doing every Monday for just on 4 years.
When I started on average, we would serve around 35 plus meals each Monday. In the last couple of months, we are consistently serving 60 plus meals. We did 83 the other day. For a long time, most of the people who came in were elderly people who were lonely or people struggling with Mental Health, Drug and Alcohol issues. Now we are getting families coming in.
This increase is, I believe caused in part by a number of factors. Wage stagnation, increasing rents and the casualization of the work force. All three have caused the perfect storm.
In the last 10 years company profits here in Australia have risen on average 10% plus whereas wages have risen 2% or flatlined in some industries.
With interest rates going up these increases have been passed onto renters. Also, in the last 25 years our Governments have spent less and less on social housing as we all want lower taxes.
“Taxation is the price we pay for civilization” to quote Oliver Wendell Holmes.
With COVID and the lockdowns the casualization of the work force was really exposed especially in the aged care sector. No surprise as this sector is mainly staffed by migrants with a high level of ladies working in it.
But all sectors have been casualized.
Casual workers find it near on impossible to get a bank loan to buy a house. So, we are deeming a whole section of society to a constant cycle of renting. Who benefits there?
All the while, here the politicians are talking about “leaners and lifters” Our previous PM’s line was “Have a go to get a go” try telling that to a 60 year old trying to get a job. It doesn’t happen. Basically, they are saying some people are lazy bludgers and are less deserving. That’s shocking!!
I’ve always wanted to live in an inclusive society not an exclusive society where people withdraw into their gated communities leaving the riff raff locked outside.
As you rightly point out CEO’s wages rise but companies fight like hell to raise the minimum wage.
When I was a kid we pretty much had full employment with good wages. Bank managers lived in the same street as workers and earnt 2 maybe 3 times their wages. Now it’s 20, 30 or more times their wages.
I’m no economist and I have been told that reducing tariffs and opening up our economy has changed Australia for the better. That might be true but I do know that by deregulating and cutting red tape it has allowed some shonky people into different industries with some shady practice’s.
We have seen whole industries go offshore. Clothing, footwear, and fabrics were the first to go but since then heaps have gone. Where can you work if you aren’t the brightest or smartest or don’t have the skill sets?
Now we do services. Cafes, restaurants, mostly on minimum wage and mostly casual. I get workers in my Uber who are called out at the last minute for 3 hour 45 minute shifts because if you work longer than 4 hours you have to have a 15 minute break. And if you don’t turn up the boss won’t phone back.
I’m not sure what the answer is, but I do have this constant line that I mention to anyone who wants to listen….. for me it’s all about what sort of society you want to live in. if you’re comfortable with people or families living on the streets, fine. I’m not, especially in a country as wealthy as Australia.
What I think we do need to do is increase taxes, provide more public housing, raise the minimum wage and make jobs more permanent so people feel they are part of the solution rather than being the problem.
At the election before the last one the Labour opposition went to the election with a raft of monetary changes but they were voted down. It was a shame as I thought most were great. And yes, most of these policies would have affected me.
As for me, am I going Pinko?
My father used to quote to me “if you’re not a socialist by the time your 20 you have no heart but if you are still a socialist by the time you are 40 you have no brain”
Going on that I figure I’m brain dead because I have always been left leaning, dear I say socialist in my views but on the flip side for the last 25 years I have derived a percentage of my income from investments/shares. And yes, I own shares in all 4 major banks here in Australia.
I guess I’m a social democrat. Is that a cop out??
But again, it’s about what sort of society you want to live in
So, what would Ted do?
I guess your right, he would keep trying.
Happy New Year. I hope 2023 is going to be a good year??
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Full disclosure to others: Mark emailed me this response and I asked him to consider posting it. I think he did a better job of saying what I was trying to say! And it feels important to me that we recognize these shifts are happening in multiple countries. It’s not just a North American thing where we seem to be valuing profits (for a few) over people.