A Federal Budget That Makes Fools Of Us All
You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.
So which one are you. Are you fooled some of the time? Never? All of the time? I confess that I have been fooled some of the time. Certainly, our political leaders seem to think that most of us are so delusional that we can be fooled pretty much all of the time and, it would seem, there are more than a few of us who can.
It takes two to fool you. The manipulator and yourself. If you don’t allow yourself to be fooled – most of the time you won’t be although a few manipulators are so good at it that even the best of us can be fooled some of the time.
We see it all the time with people getting burned after having invested their money with people like Bernie Madoff. They ‘wanted’ to believe that he could earn them more on their investments than the market was generally delivering and that willingness to be fooled was driven by greed for a few more bucks.
If it’s too good to be true, it usually is but even though we all pretty much know that many of us will ignore that warning to grasp the illusion.
What makes it work for people like Madoff is our willingness to want to believe. It’s how magicians make their living. We know that it’s all illusion but we are willing to suspend belief because we want to be amazed.
If the reward is big enough – the more willing many of us are to be fooled.
It’s also true in politics. In fact, politics today has more sleight of hand than any magic show in Vegas.
Wars are fought in the name of peace. We are spied upon, over-regulated, over-taxed and manipulated while being told we are free and we buy it all because it is what we want to believe.
Like magic, politics is the big lie – the manipulation of the truth to reinforce an illusionary narrative that is designed to fool sufficient people to earn enough support to obtain or maintain political power. It has nothing to do with good governance or sound fiscal management although that is the illusion to which many cling. It isn’t about us or our country at all. It is strictly about politicians and the lust for power and they work overtime to fool as many people as often as they can.
The Harper government unveiled its overdue federal budget yesterday amidst much self-congratulation for having balanced the books. Considering that the same government inherited a budget surplus from the former Liberal government and squandered it resulting in an empty treasury when the 2008 recession hit, self-congratulation might be a touch over-the-top.
The Harper government subsequently ran consecutive budget deficits between 2008 and 2014 racking up an additional $170 billion in new debt along the way.
But now the budget is balanced or at least that’s the illusion they have presented and judging from the media coverage and some of the attached commentary, it is apparent that you really can fool some of the people all of the time.
A budget surplus is when your revenue exceeds your expenses. A deficit is the reverse – your expenses exceed your revenue and a balanced budget is when they are roughly equal.
The federal budget is in deficit. Current expenses exceed current revenue but it has been made to look like it is balanced by some sleight of hand that is not merely cynical but is fairly careless if not dangerous.
The government is selling its shares in General Motors – a one-time sale – at a $2 billion loss in order to put the money into the operating fund for this fiscal year. That does not reduce the expenses to bring them in line for balanced budgets next year; it simply delays the inevitable. Unfortunately, the sale of the GM shares wasn’t enough to cover the deficit, so the government has also raided the contingency fund that is set aside for unforeseen emergencies like another recession or a natural disaster. It is also continuing to collect excessive EI payments that exceed requirement which, by any other name, is a tax increase.
Basically, it was taking money from other sources in order to provide the sitting government with the opportunity to hand out the illusion of tax breaks. They aren’t. What this government has done is no different than if they had simply borrowed the money to finance the handouts.
Supporters of the government dismiss this and hail the delivery of a balanced budget. “A promise made – promise kept” is the cheer. Those are people who tend to be fooled all of the time. They are heavily partisan and are desperate to believe.
The deficit remains, poor fiscal management has simply been obscured by accounting tricks.
This budget is less about good governance than it is about getting re-elected and the Harper government is none too subtle about it. Money was doled out like a doting grandfather to his grandchildren on their birthdays.
There was no mention of the environment, rail safety or food-inspection. Healthcare was ignored and supply-side management (a major issue with the Pacific Rim nations) was left unadressed. Despite the fact that we are a nation at war, increased defense spending has been deferred for two years and I don’t know how one even begins to rationalize that decision.
There are millions of taxpayers’ dollars available for the government to advertise tax breaks that haven’t even been passed by Parliament yet. They even have Canada Revenue Agency sending out information pieces about potential tax credits somewhere down the road. What? When did the Civil Service become part of the Conservative PR department?
Conservative supporters of the Harper government like to ignore little niceties like these as they criticize Liberals for tax and spend policies.
I spent the morning reading comments by Canadians below many news articles about the budget. Some were supportive but I was pleasantly surprised by how many people are not fooled by this desperate attempt to preserve an illusion by a government struggling for re-election.
Honestly, are you fooled by it?
I don’t see any difference between this budget and the absurd machinations of the Liberal government in Ontario. It’s all accounting tricks and promises of future spending. How are those promises part of this year’s budget? The money won’t be spent this year and is not, therefore, part of this budget. Does anyone remember the postponed expenditures made three years ago that never materialized? How often are we willing to be fooled and amazed by the same tired card tricks?
It is manipulation of reality rather than a responsible and planned approach to dealing with real issues and I think an increasing number of us are simply tired of it from all levels of government and all political parties. I think we’re tired of being bribed with our own money and watching whatever is left of it disappear down the black hole of government mismanagement and failed political leadership.
No promise was kept yesterday and there was nothing new. The budget was called the Economic Action Plan 2015 but there was no plan, just a raft of handouts and goodies designed to dazzle and delight. It appears, however, that an increasing number of Canadians are no longer interested in glitz and glitter and reality is setting in.
The latest Forum Research poll revealed that the number one issue for 2/3 of Canadians that will influence how they vote is not the budget or even the state of the economy – it’s ethics and that does not bode well for the Harper government.
Former Liberal Finance Minister, and subsequent Prime Minister, Paul Martin delivered seven balanced budgets in a row but was thrown out of office over the Sponsorship Scandal.
I won’t try to predict the outcome of this fall’s election because I have faith that the opposition parties are more than capable of mishandling their election campaigns. I will, however, predict this. Much like the Speech from the Throne in 2013 just before the Senate Scandal descended into madness, the budget will be old news in short order. The appearance at the Mike Duffy trial of people like Nigel Wright, Senator Marjorie Lebretton and other key players in the Senate mess will divert attention from the budget, as will the start of the trial of Senator Patrick Brazeau and the release of the Auditor General’s Report on Senate expense claims later later this summer.
No matter what issue is raised: the EU Trade Deal, terrorism, expansion of the war or this budget, in the end it all comes back to the same issue. Almost 70% of Canadians do not trust this government or respect its attitude. This budget did nothing to dispel or address any of that.
During the election, the Harper government may be trying to talk balanced budgets but it will be ethics that Canadians will be thinking about. Indeed, the arrogance of trying to pass off the illusion of a balanced budget for truth may just reinforce the concern a majority have about the leadership and the ethics of this government.
I would suggest that isn’t going to be all that helpful heading into an election.
© 2015 Maggie’s Bear
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