Progressive politics, ideas & culture


Budget 2005

This Magazine Staff

All kinds of fun stuff in the papers today, though the Post is more fun than the Globe. The Post even has a budget ditty, set to the tune of The Gambler. Of course, if you want actual analysis, the Globe has an excellent insert that has helpful graphs tracking revenues and spending, debt and deficit and other sorts of things, going back two decades. The focus, in particular, is on the Headwaiter’s now-legendary budget of 1995, which broke the back of the deficit.
Coyne is his usual grouchy self on budget day. Ibbitson wants Dalton to declare a jihad on the Feds. Lawrence Martin continues his dispatches from another planet. Jeffrey Simpson apparently can’t rouse himself from his decade-long snooze to say anything. My favourite morning reading was the Globe’s two editorials, in which they dump all over Martin for being weak. Check out Norman’s Spectator for all the hot links.
But the all-time best comment has to come from Terrence Corcoran in the Post. In his exceedingly ill-tempered report, he rails against what he calls “the false religion of balanced budgets.” He says we need to be de-indoctrinated, and face the fact that the major challenge we face is not to balance the budget, but to cut taxes.
It is actually nice to see a conservative finally lay it out so clearly: Conservative calls for fiscal prudence have always been a stalking horse for small government, and the hard right will take fiscal idiocy any day as long as it will eventually deliver us from the evils of the welfare state.
That is why Mike Harris never balanced Ontario’s budget, and why George Bush is putting the US into a major fiscal hole, whilst being cheered on by the conservative press and the think-tank crew. Debt doesn’t matter as long as you cut taxes; in fact, debt is good, because it cripples future governments and ties the hands of the left.
This isn’t a new observation. What is new is that Corcoran is one of the first to admit it so frankly.
Along the way, Corcoran also manages to rewrite every Economics 101 textbook. Getting all worked up over the propsect of a carbon tax, he writes:
“The proposal is based on the false economic theories of ‘market failure’ and the need to use government-imposed ‘market mechanisms’ to force people to change their behaviour.”
Get that? Market failure is a myth. Thanks to Terrence Corcoran, we now have access to the right’s wetdreamscape: Not small government. No government.

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