Looking the wrong way

by Aaron Wherry

Alex Himelfarb attempts to put austerity in perspective.

Today’s austerity, however, is not primarily about fiscal prudence. If it were it wouldn’t be proceeding in tandem with large, unaffordable and unnecessary tax cuts for the most affluent among us. These tax cuts make deeper program cuts inevitable. The persistent emphasis on low taxes and cuts to services and public goods  looks more like ideology masquerading as fiscal common sense. In this light, austerity seems rather to be about cutting back the state and rolling out the free market agenda. Less public, more private; less collective, more individual. It is, in other words, the fulfillment of the neoliberal counter-revolution rather than an economic plan for the future…

We need to have the debate – and the starting point cannot be some assumption about the inevitability of austerity. In fact, it ought not to be about big government versus small government. It ought to be focused on what will work to enhance the quality of life for most Canadians and what will make Canada more resilient for future generations. It ought to be a debate about what challenges, what problems, most urgently cry out for our collective attention and action. The preoccupation with austerity should not blind us to what really matters for our collective well-being.




Browse

Looking the wrong way

  1. In related news, water is wet and the pope catholic.

    • Still, it needs to be repeated. People forget.

  2. Himelfarb is so far up his own arse, he’s french kissing himself. It is hard to know if Himelfarb even lives in Canada – he’s typical lefty who’s watching far too much Fox News in his dotage.

    Letting people who actaully produce wealth keep more of what they earn is fiscally prudent for everyone except bureaucrats who are dependent on me to pay for their retirement. Not turning Canada into another Ireland, Greece, Italy, Spain, France, Portugal or Iceland seems fiscally prudent to me.

    Government spending increases every year – it is like a natural law now – but services are being cut. Why is spending increasing while services are being cut? Greedy, sociopathic unions who take money but don’t produce any wealth or value themselves. Plenty of money in Canada right now to take care of downtrodden but our money is spent on witless retirees like Himelfard instead.

    • Except in those years where it didn’t.  Observe Martin. It’s funny you mention Ireland, because it was the region with the lowest taxes in the world shortly before it collapsed.

      • Or Iceland where cheap money was available to all….

    • I find your opening paragraph sad. Do you really feel it necessary to insult someone personally just because you disagree with them?

      Anyway, I might agree with you if I hadn’t actually read the article. Having read the article, I find your arguments trite and ideological.

    • Alex Himelfarb who has served this country long and well, should simply be tossed out without a pension ….like a discarded tissue?

      Boy, now there’s a way to get good people to work for Canada!

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alex_Himelfarb

      Give your head a shake.

    • ‘Himelfarb is so far up his own arse, he’s french kissing himself…’

      And, judging from your facile, condescending critique of his position, anyone who dared look up your ar$e would only see your eyeballs peering out.

      Thanks for your intelligent contribution to the discussion.

  3. In other words, we need to have an adult conversation with people who act and behave like adults.

  4. “We need to have the debate – and the starting point cannot be some assumption about the inevitability of austerity. In fact, it ought not to be about big government versus small government. It ought to be focused on what will work to enhance the quality of life for most Canadians and what will make Canada more resilient for future generations.”

    And that debate is called……our democratic policitcal system.  We have competing visions of this that are publically tested in elections.  I understand that some don’t agree with the vision of a particular government.  Great, argue your points and work for political change.  What I don’t understand is the attempt to carve out certain perspectives as “ideological” as if governance was some sort of independent, “objective” science that could be discovered if only we had more data or evidence.  It’s fundamentally a human endevour, with all of the glory and ignomy that accompanies it. 

    • “And that debate is called……our democratic policitcal system.  We have competing visions of this that are publically tested in elections.  I understand that some don’t agree with the vision of a particular government”

      If only the Harper govt met those criteria.

      You make agood point. But i think it misses the point as far as this govt goes. Flying under the radar and avoiding serious, meaningful debate while at the same time not clearly defining just what this govt does intend for us has become it’s principle mo.
      Point taken though, although i think you may have meant to say non idealogical. I think liberals are particularly prone to this objectifying of their idealogical position. Needless to say i don’t except the tories cartoonish depiction of the libs as tax and spenders either.

  5. Thankfully, the majority of Canadians disagree with him.

    • No, they don’t.

      Austerity is the exact wrong way to go at the moment.

      • This comment was deleted.

        • This comment was deleted.

          • This comment was deleted.

    • They’re wrong, just as the media they consume are wrong when they don’t even question if ideology-driven “austerity” is actually needed.

      • Please explain how austerity is a bad thing, even if it “ideology-driven”. It’s certainly not the governments job to be spending extravagantly, even during the best of times.

    • So we all agree that it matters not that Canada has two, three or ten national governments?

      Though I disagree with most of Himelfarb, I am with him when he says that we need to have these debates on the basis of what will make Canada more resilient for future generations.  The Canadian banking regulations are not the only shields that protect Canada against the problems that Europe has been experiencing.

  6. I like a lot of what Himelfarb has to say here. He’s obviously very practiced at assessing policy, and his comments on separating ideology from policy development ring true.

    Where he loses me a bit is where he decends into ideology himself, focussing on addressing inequality. While I may be inclined to agree with him that inequality is a major issue that policy ought to address, it’s rooted in a certain ideology itself.

  7. In support of Himelfarb’s observation that today’s austerity is about ideology not fiscal prudence, a truly prudent government would not be constructing prisons that demonstrably aren’t needed or plunging ahead stubbornly in the massively expensive acquisition of planes whose final costs are unknown and whose legitimate need has never been established.

    • Agreed.  They always go after health and education and pensions instead….and letting people go so they join the ranks of the unemployed.

      All of it self-defeating behaviour for a govt.

      It just starts us on a downward spiral.

  8. A couple of random thoughts, partly in response to the post & partly to its comments. :-)

    Fiscally, Canada is in pretty good shape, with lowish GDP/debt and GDP/deficit ratios. It gives us flexibility and means we need have no particular panic about “fixing” the deficit.

    A 10% reduction in federal spending will bring spending close to where it was at the start of the Harper Ministry. Do we feel that that was a time of horrible public services? Having said that, I expect it’s unlikely that the Gov’t will cut what they expanded.

    The last point is that, looked at over decades into the future, Canada can expect reasonable baseline growth, both in population and economically. If we used accrual, rather than cash, accounting for public accounts, would Canada be “showing a loss”? I suspect not. Growing companies routinely show negative cash flow (i.e., they’re sucking up cash from stock sales and debt).

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *