- In addition to providing my latest tagline, Alex Himelfarb takes aim at the austerians who seem happy to attack social well-being and economic development alike in the name of government-slashing:
(A)usterity had never been driven by fiscal policy or economics or evidence. It was driven by ideology. Market fundamentalism. A desire to make government much smaller, eliminate or reduce, as much as politics allowed, so-called entitlements, create a “pro-business” climate of less regulation, less government, and, above all, lower taxes.- Meanwhile, Chrystia Freeland points out that many of the world's wealthiest tycoons gathered in Davos are trying to perpetuate an obsession with deficits rather than well-being. But Paul Krugman has some hope that deficit hawks are rightly being marginalized in Washington.
Think about the irony of this: that the huge recession-induced deficits that were largely the result of tax cuts and deregulation were now the justification to renew the commitment to that same failed ideology. Deficits were a gift – cover to do what many had wanted to do all along. Cut government down to size. Cut services. Cut. It seems that every failure of this neoconservative approach is used by its advocates to justify doing more of the same. That’s kind of nuts.
How about Canada? I left the Privy Council and Canada for a few years in 2006. At that time Canada had a $16 billion surplus. That’s a real problem for those who might share Cameron’s ideology because without big deficits it’s harder to argue for the urgency to cut programs, reduce government. Instead, the decision was made to cut taxes, for example, taking two cents out of GST. Today those two cents cost the federal government about $14 billion annually. That’s on top of continuing the corporate tax cuts the Liberals had already launched and on top of numerous “boutique tax cuts” and on top of Liberal tax cuts in 2000 that were the biggest in Canadian history.
Imagine none of that had happened. Imagine that the federal government had at least a good portion of the revenue that they gave up over the last dozen years. They would have had enough money to be far more resilient in the face of recession, to help provinces that were in trouble, to invest in science, education, in a greener, cleaner economy and to begin to transform our health and social programs so they would be there for future generations.
Instead, we’re now talking about austerity as though it’s inevitable, as though we have no choice. (When our leaders tell us that there is no alternative, it is a safe bet to assume that there is indeed an alternative and one that we would prefer were it on offer.)
- At home, Kevin Page's latest report features two obvious indications that deficit talk is just as empty here as elsewhere: the CP points out that the Cons' attacks on the civil service have resulted in a shift away from providing useful services without actually saving any money.
- And finally, Hugh MacKenzie reminds us that we should be concerned about a $145 billion backlog of infrastructure neglect rather than limiting our focus to cuts and tax baubles.