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This government sucks. Unless it blows…


 

This government sucks. Unless it blows…

Went to hear Paul Martin speak at the Canadian Club today. He was impassioned, articulate, and compulsively boastful, as all former politicians are — an endless recitation of his many achievements and visionary ways, all the good works he was performing before, you know…

On one point I sort of agreed with him, though: the present government cannot escape blame for the coming deficit, having raised spending at such a reckless pace since it came to office. (I would not be so churlish as to point out that spending rose even faster in the last years of the Martin government.) Still, I am stuck on one point: Martin also said he favoured running a deficit, as a means of “stimulating” the economy in this time of worldwide economic crisis.

I wanted to ask him, but didn’t: So if you were prime minister today, would you run a deficit or not? If not, then what becomes of any putative Keynesian stimulus? If so, then what’s your beef with Harper? If deficits are what’s on order, that’s what he’s fixing to deliver.

It’s one thing for green-eyeshade types like me to grump about the Harper spending record, since I don’t actually think deficits stimulate anything, except a lot of hurried, ill-thought-out “infrastructure” schemes: the bureaucrats have already been given their marching orders by the current Finance minister, namely to “get the money out the door.”

But it makes no earthly sense to be attacking the govenment for running a deficit in one breath, and calling on it to do so with the next.

CONTRARIWISE: Mind you, this sort of incoherence is rampant these days. The problem is that consumers have been spending too much — unless it’s that they’re saving too much. Banks lent far too freely, but under no circumstances should they lend less. The United States has been living beyond its means for far too long. So we’ll pitch the US government headlong into trillion dollar deficits in the name of stimulating more consumer spending, much of which will go to suck in imports. I guess this is that “pragmatism” we’ve been hearing so much about…


 

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