Looking the wrong way - Macleans.ca

Looking the wrong way


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.