The idea of an unregulated market (the idea of greed unregulated) has gradually dug deeper into the pockets of many and the nature of contemporary capitalism has and is changing the nature of the human being. It exploits the human condition’s needs and forces the person to translate an over-priced living.

Comparing the cost of goods and services and the amount of income the average household makes and saves to that of a few decades ago, it’s more than evident that one has far outgrown the others.

For the past few decades, the cost of living has grown annually, and unfortunately, the amount of money the average person takes home hasn’t kept up with that growth.

Through the Consumer Price Index (CPI) the Canadian Government and leading financial institutions track the cost of products and services, and according to the Bank of Canada the CPI increased 134.13 per cent between the year 1980 and the year 2005. What that means is that if a product or service cost $100 in 1980 in the year 2005 that same product or service cost $234.13.

In comparison, and according to Statistics Canada, the pre-tax earnings of a full-time employee for the year 2005 had increased approximately 1 per cent more than what a full-time employee earned in the year 1980. In the year 1980 a median full-time employee earned $41, 348, and in the year 2005 a median full-time employee earned $41,401. However; and between the same time period, the pre-tax median family earnings did increase by approximately 11.1 per cent to $66,343. (Two or more incomes are combined to calculate the median income of a family.) But even that increase wasn’t nearly enough.

Needless to say, the amount of money a person can earn didn’t keep par with the increase in the cost of goods and services. Now, you might be led by some to believe that households are wasting money and for that reason the household expenditures outweigh the median household income. But according to the data provided by Statistics Canada (check the sidebar), the majority of a household’s expenditures were dedicated to the contemporary basics.

According to a study commissioned by the Vanier Institute of the Family, 48 per cent of household incomes couldn’t cover the annual household expenditures for the year 2005. To compensate for the shortfall either assets were sold or a debt was incurred. A study conducted by the Certified General Accountants Association of Canada Where Does the Money Go: The Increasing Reliance of Household Debt in Canada indicated that for the past 30 years debt has increased at an annual rate of 4.7 per cent and 84 per cent of Canadians were in debt. In total, it’s estimated that in the year 2005 Canadians had a debt of $760 billion (three-quarters of that debt is accounted for by mortgages).

As you might guess, the Canadian personal savings rate declined as debt increased. On average, an individual saved 1.2 per cent of his or her earnings in the year 2005, but two decades earlier, an individual was able to save 20.2 per cent. It should also be mentioned that, according to The Certified General Accountants Association of Canada and the Vanier Institute of the Family, more than half of the people are unable to save enough money for any unexpected costs like a death in the family, the birth of a child, the loss of employment, or a flood in the basement.

Ironically, recent studies conducted by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives indicate that on average people are annually working 200 hours more than they did in the mid-1990s. So, it would seem that the average person is working harder, earning and saving little and paying too much. Coincidentally, during the same time period that incomes stagnated, savings declined, debt increased and the cost of living skyrocketed, the idea of neo-liberalism/neo-conservatism was in full swing.

For over the past few decades politicians, CEO’s and the media have told us that institutionalizing the idea of neo-liberalism/neo-conservatism — by way of deregulating the economy, privatizing public good, cutting corporate taxes, reducing the tax load of the rich, bailing out the rich, reducing government market share and influence, and decreasing tariffs – would bring about better living conditions for the many. However; the opposite slowly happened and for the past few decades the chains have gradually thickened.

All the same, institutionalizing the idea did stimulate the economy and between 1980 and 2005 national labour productivity rose 37.4 per cent. However, many people didn’t benefit from that increase in productivity even though they were responsible for that increase and the beneficiaries of that increase were the richest 10 per cent of the population (Centre for the Study of Living Standards).

For over the past few decades the idea of neo-liberalism/neo-conservatism has guided the evolution of the economy, and by extension, society, and the golden era promised to the many has yet to reveal itself. On the contrary, the chains have only thickened and nothing is trickling-down. I think the majority of us were bamboozled.

Mike Bhangu