26 February 2011

Conservative Politics for Dummies

Rob Ford recently discovered that it was harder to find gravy than to pour it on a thanksgiving turkey, and after promising to cut 2.5% in spending from the budget actually returned with a first budget that has more spending than in any of David Miller's eight years. 

This is no surprise. Stephen Harper inherited a surplus and stayed in surplus for two budgets, both of which increased spending; since 2008 of course he has been in deficit. Mulroney promised fiscal conservativism and contributed more to Canada's debt than any previous PM; ditto for George W. Bush and US Presidents. 

Frankly, it seems strange that people still associate the conservative brand with fiscal responsibility when there is very little evidence of this in recent memory. However, this view of conservative fiscal responsibility in the face of contrary facts is grounded by the idea that they like 'small government' but that, once they take control, they are confounded by the bureaucracy and succeed in making only a few cosmetic cuts. This is totally wrong, and misses the key philosophical point about conservative governments:

They don't care about the waste, only the identity of the waster. 

When they get in they don't realize they can't make the cuts they promised, they knew all along and had no intention of fulfilling most of the promises made.

They don't start with the easy or cosmetic stuff; they usually start with small projects that make no difference to the budget but defund the most disadvantaged groups. Defunding Karios? 0.0002 percent of the budget. Not having to put up with them complaining about the plight of the poor? Priceless! Harper has taken a Republican page and attacked the actual institutions, picking fights with the Auditor-General, the Parliamentary Budget Officer, Statistics Canada, and just about anyone else who refused to take instructions directly from the PMO).

At the end comes the sell-off, which transfers assets, services, and waste to the private sector - the purpose of their joining the dark side (politics) in the first place. We all know what kind of people go into government and politics, and we know that it's only the boardrooms of the private sector that offer sufficient reward to earn the services of the best and brightest on the free market. Why would someone that hates government and believes in the free market - and the power of the free market to pay them many multiples of the PM's salary - want to be part of government? When the sell-off is complete they can return to private sector jobs at privatized companies that have lots of profits to distribute to managers and directors because they are re-selling us our own investments that we paid for by tax dollars and they bought for cheap during a 'crisis'. There's no necessary reduction in waste, but that waste is directed from taxpayers and government workers to wealthy owners and executives, as is their right and due for being savvier than the rest of us.

The only risk in this model is that you are voted out before you have a chance to complete the sell-off, and therefore you may wind up actually living off your government pension. (The Mulroney version is to complete the sell-off, but to Americans, thereby depriving you of the corporate directorships that are rightfully yours, forcing you to slum with arms dealers and other such shady characters for the personal wealth that is your due.)

Well, there's also the risk that you can't look at yourself in the mirror because you are a disgusting human being, but I don't think that's really a relevant risk factor in the immediate cases since I find it unlikely Ford or Harper spend much time looking at themselves in the mirror.


Blogger raymond8505 said...

With July 29th's deputations being overwhelmingly anti cuts and Ford Nation's insistence that supporters of cuts could not make time for the hearings, Balance Toronto's Budget (http://www.splittinghairs.org/toronto-budget/) aims to find out Toronto's true wishes. Balance Toronto's Budget aims to tally up Torontonians' opinions on what should stay and what should go through the use of an easy, interactive web app. Before the arrival of September's meeting Balance Toronto's Budget will compile the opinions of participators to find out what is "nice to have" and what is expendable.

August 05, 2011  

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