Friday, January 25, 2013

Deficit elimination goal won't be met in 2 years - New Brunswick - CBC News

This is a NB story about which I just sent out a tweet (to which I am new so have mercy on me if you follow my tweets). Here is the story:

Deficit elimination goal won't be met in 2 years - New Brunswick - CBC News:

Here is the point: just about anyone who looked at the numbers at the time of the last NB election could have told you that the PC's budget reduction plans were not going to work. They contained odd things (like municipal property tax cuts that would have impoverished many smaller town governments in NB) that were just not practical. Moreover, their discourse turned balancing the books into an act of will. The previous government (Graham's) somehow ran into deficit problems because it lacked the will to make the decisions it needed to make.

Anyone who has studied how the state operates will tell you that this is a bad argument because it misses the point of why we have budget deficits in the first place. Like everyone else, I'd like to believe that the answer is simple. "Hey, its these people's fault over here. Elect us and we'll make the tough decisions that they will not make. Balancing the books is easy. We'll have it done in a few years."

The problem with this is that the books are unbalanced precisely because of this type of politics. Political leaders who tell people you can have your cake and eat it too. We can cut spending, lower taxes, and no one will be hurt, and programmes won't suffer (except maybe those that the previous government unfortunately put in that reward slack asses but they should not be there in the first place). You'll have more money; the books will be balanced, etc., etc.

The truth is that balancing the books is difficult. The truth is that citizens cannot have tax cuts and maintain the social and educational and health and economic programmes that they want. If you got the cut spending direction ... it will cause real pain. People will lose their jobs; education will suffer as likely will health care, and certainly other things as well (repair and maintenance on infrastructure). What NB needs is a government that confronts us with that reality and makes the really, really hard choice: maintaining taxes or even increasing them.  Governments and political parties don't want to do this because they worry that they will not be elected. But, I wonder. I'd gamble that once we got past the pundit rhetoric and "man on the street" irate interviews that the people of NB are mature enough to seriously and meaningfully consider the shape of public finances and what the government does for the money we put into it. At the very least ... I'd love to see a government or party that made that gamble instead of the empty rhetoric they now use.

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