Saturday, August 29, 2015

On balanced options

Dave McGrane offers a historical perspective on how deficits for their own sake shouldn't be seen as an element of left-wing or progressive policy, while Excited Delerium takes a look at the policies on offer in Canada's federal election to see how it's possible to pursue substantive progressive change within a balanced budget. But let's examine more closely why it's wrong to draw any equivalence between the Trudeau Libs' platform, deficits and progressive policies (despite their frantic efforts to pretend there's no difference between the three).

Taking the Libs at their word, their current plan is to engage in deficit spending over the next few years, then balance the budget by 2019. So to the extent one might be inclined to prefer a measure of fiscal health other than balanced budgets (such as keeping debt at a stable proportion of GDP), the Libs aren't offering that choice - only a delayed return to balance, with the additional money spent in the meantime being necessarily limited to short-term projects. 

And once the budget is balanced, the Libs are attacking the very idea of national programs such as the NDP's child care plan - which is designed to fit within balanced budgets while actually building a substantial new social benefit in the longer term.

Fortunately, we don't need to look far to see the Trudeau philosophy in action, as his leading provincial proxy is offering up exactly the mix of unfocused short-term infrastructure spending, privatization in the name of false economies and cuts to actual programs implied by the federal Libs' platform. 

The contrast between the NDP and the Libs then represents a classic case of long-term planning with permanent returns, versus instant but fleeting gratification. And Canadian progressives who have seen the Harper Cons deliberately inflict long-term damage on our federal institutions should be wary of settling for the latter.

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