America’s Middle-Class Defeat: How Canada Shamed the Wealthiest Nation on Earth
A few summers ago, I spent six weeks in Canada, as part of a 10,000-mile Great Lakes Circle tour. From Pigeon River on Lake Superior to Kingston on Lake Ontario, I drove and camped my way across Ontario. On Manitoulin Island, I went on a fishing charter captained by a retired nickel miner named Tom Power. The Nickel Belt is a stronghold of Canada’s most socialistic party, the New Democrats. When the conversation turned to politics (as it often did with Canadians during the George W. Bush years), Tom made a statement that would have tabbed him as a Marxist crank on the other side of the lakes.
“I don’t understand why anyone has to earn more than $200,000 a year,” he said. “I mean, honestly, what are you going to do with all that money?”
Right then, my rod bent toward the water, so I had to abandon our discussion of economics to land a six-pound salmon. But I thought about it again in Toronto, when I visited Jane and Finch, an immigrant neighborhood that was reputedly the most dangerous turf in the Greater Toronto Area. I expected to see Johnny Too Bads in beehive rasta caps, and dingy apartment blocks with smoke burns around broken windows. To my disappointment, it didn’t look like a slum at all. It looked like my grandparents’ civil-service ghetto in a suburb of Washington, D.C. The housing projects were clean white monuments. Ranch houses looked out on barbered greensward parks.