Individuals shouldn’t bear the brunt when inflation bites

Individuals shouldn’t bear the brunt when inflation bites

This column is an opinion of Alice Curitz, a Charlottetown-based mental health clinician, mental health and social justice advocate, and founder of Our Landing Place Therapy Collective. For more information about Opinion Department of CBCPlease take a look… FAQ.

We’re getting burned and we need to talk about it.

I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of being sold the misconception that inflation is inevitable and that it is our responsibility to cut spending to meet escalating prices on necessities like food and housing To be taken into account while the corporate titans essentially Lead this country are reporting record profits.

This is not new, and it is not due to unprecedented times (read: COVID-19).

Remember when the government announced its plan to significantly reduce single-use plastics by allowing companies to charge pennies for a plastic bag at the checkout, all in the name of sustainability and community engagement in slowing climate change?

woman at the cash register
Statistics Canada data shows that in November, PEI had the highest inflation rate in the country for the 21st consecutive month. (Shutterstock)

At the time I was working for one of Canada’s largest retailers and was thrilled to see such an impressive and environmentally conscious initiative. However, that excitement quickly subsided when I realized that the company was making a profit selling plastic bags that it had previously given away at a low cost to its bottom line, and was hiding behind this deception in order to change the public’s perception of sustainability to strengthen values.

Had major retailers truly committed to the mission of significantly reducing single-use plastics, they would certainly have moved on to offering free paper bags, or perhaps giving customers a five-cent discount if they brought their own reusable bag.

Their decision, backed by the government to not only ease the cost of what has historically been an expense for them, but actually make more money from it, sounds all too familiar.

Although home sales fell in November, the benchmark home price rose to $355,000 — a nine percent increase from a year earlier, according to the Canadian Real Estate Association. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

We’ve been conditioned to accept that big companies deserve to grow their profits every year and that prices are bound to rise – while many of us struggle more and more to make ends meet. Inflation of the kind we have seen recently will not thrive unless corporations price-gouge, make profit, plunder the environment’s finite resources and exploit the world’s most vulnerable populations, all in the name of record profits.

Corporations not only increase their profits through choreographed inflation, they also deliberately drown
small businesses to eliminate any competition they might have and eventually make us all dependent on them with no ability to vote with our dollar.

Maybe that sounds a bit extreme, but bear with me. When was the last time you bought something nearby that is also available in a large store? Why did you decide to spend more money from a local supplier for the same product that would have cost you less if you bought it from a big company? Were you privileged enough to be able to make that choice, or were you constrained by having to offset the financial strain of your income not increasing at the same rate as your cost of living?

Filling up can be a shock depending on the fluctuating price of gas. (Robert Kurz/CBC)

We have been pitted against each other, and instead of coming together and fighting these corporations that sit so deep in the pockets of national and international governmental bodies, we are distracted by pitting ourselves against each other, the very people with whom we share our communities.

The 1% widen the gap

Those making $250,000 a year and those making $20,000 a year may see themselves as very different, but the truth is, financially speaking, there are more similarities than differences.

It’s not people using government funds and community resources who are abusing the system and stealing your hard-earned taxpayer money; it is the select few in the one percent who hoard wealth, drastically widening the gap between the haves and the have-nots.

Us against them, not you against your neighbor.

Canadian bills
Some companies report surpluses, while Canadians cut back on essentials. (Peter Scobie/CBC)

What are we doing about it?

Are we all off the grid, growing our own food, homeschooling our kids and making our own clothes? While this may sound ideal to some, the reality is that we are both participants and captives in the capitalist system that is spreading and weaving through Western societies.

Decades ago, we grew beyond the point where single-income families thrived. Most of us need multiple incomes to cover our basic needs and therefore don’t have the time to take care of the household as well.

Shift attention away from competition to unity

I’m not proposing a big, radical uprising (although I’m certainly not opposed to it). What I propose is that we turn our attention away from competing against each other and unite against the entities that are single-handedly making it increasingly difficult to get through.

Humans shouldn’t be struggling to survive, they should be supported to truly thrive. Mutual aid should be complementary, not primary. We should hold these corporations, and the governing bodies they bed with, accountable for deliberately decimating not just our economy, but our access to a world where we all celebrate each other’s joy and success, because we know that Failure to do so will jeopardize our own survivability.

It is time to demand a reduction in corporate profits, a cap on further price increases, an end to oligopolies, a higher minimum wage, mandatory paid sick leave, and accessible sources of funding to help everyone in our community thrive.

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