Thomas Frank, author of What’s the Matter with Kansas? and The Wrecking Crew, interviewed on Bill Moyers Journal a little while back, spoke to Bill about President Obama’s calamitous inheritance and the wave of collective amnesia that seems to have engulfed American politics since the financial meltdown, as well as conservative attitudes towards regulation and government in general.
What’s particularly interesting here, especially from a Canadian angle, is speculation about how the conservative “article of faith” with respect to government being inimical to their so-called “free market” ideology, as claimed by Frank, might play out in the coming years as the Harper Conservatives attempt to wrestle with the enormous amount of additional debt they’ve managed to accumulate through their record-high deficits in order to keep the Canadian economy relatively stable — at least by comparison to many other G8 countries.
Funnily enough, an article appeared this morning in the Globe & Mail by that giddy twaddlepate Jane Taber, definitively stating that “Canadians think the best way to balance the federal books is on the backs of public servants, according to a new national opinion poll.” How convenient…
The poll asked which strategy Canadians felt was most effective to help balance the budget. Thirty-six per cent of the respondents felt that freezing government wages was the best approach compared to 3.4 per cent who felt that increasing personal taxes was the way to go. In addition, 20.5 per cent said that government and program spending should be cut, compared to 7.9 per cent who believe the GST should be increased.
The poll of 1,000 Canadians was conducted between March 6 and March 12. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.6 per cent, 19 times out of 20.
“Here we are again,” says John Gordon, the president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada that represents 165,000 workers.
“Every time the government gets into [trouble] they kind of ramp up the rhetoric and the Canadian public starts to believe them …” he said.
In some respects the government is almost too easy of a target and ridiculously corrupt “use it or lose it” departmental accounting practices don’t exactly help matters. Why not reward bureaucrats for saving money and incentivize a culture of conservative spending instead of penalizing them for it?
While no sensible person would object to fiscal discipline in government spending — something the Conservatives have conspicuously failed to exercise since taking office — let’s hope that purported deficit-cutting doesn’t become simply an excuse for reconfiguring the country according to a “conservative” ideology that mistakenly places notions of some imagined “freedom” above principles of socially-responsible government.
p.s. The first part of the Frank interview can be viewed here.