Friday, March 30, 2012

Budget Day Aftermath

Canada is currently a country in which dogma, superstition, fear, religious belief, and agenda rule the day over rational, reasonable, evidence-based decisions.

I have written previously about how Canada's Minister of State for Science and Technology is igorant of basic science like evolution. The man appointed to oversee science-funding decisions in the country doesn't even know how long humans have been around, or where we come from. He does, however, believe that putting on a pair of running shoes or high heels involves evolution.

So one might assume that the latest Conservative government budget was full or equally ridiculous policies. One would not be disappointed if one did so.

Canada's projected budget deficit, following the latest budget, is about $21.1 billion dollars. A lot of money, to be sure. It is no enviable task that the Finance Minister, Jim Flaherty, has over the next few years to bring that deficit back to zero by the time the next election rolls around in 2015, as the Conservatives have pledged to do. (I'm still trying to figure out what they did with the record surpluses they inherited when they came into office and managed to turn them into record deficits). No one likes to see their programmes cut, and there are no popular cuts, just less unpopular ones. Everyone can always find a problem with the budget, no matter how carefully it is put together. I'm sure I could go through Canada's budget carefully and point out all the silly waste of money (e.g. corporate tax cuts, huge prison costs associated with the lastest un-needed crime bill), but one needn't go that far to point out the irrational, fear-based approach to this budget.

The deficit is around $20 billion or so. Yet, the Conservative Party plans to spend anywhere from $35 - $90 billion (depending on cost overruns) on F-35 fighter planes for the military. That means, they plan in the next few years to throw away anywhere from 1.6 to 4.3 times the annual budget deficit. At the highest end, that means that they could do away with that one expense, and balance the budget for the rest of their mandate until 2015. With one expense cut they could avoid cuting funding to any other department in government, they could avoid cutting health-care transfer payments to provinces, they could avoid raising the retirement age from 65 to 67 (as they just did). Will they? Not a chance.

Why? Fear. Irrational fear of the same sort that keeps people scared as hell of hell and buying into religion. Canada has never once been invaded by air. We have not been invaded at all since the 19th Century. And yet we will spend between 1.6 and 4.3 times the annual budget deficit to buy fighter aircraft in case we need to repel an air attack for the first time. If we did ever face an air attack, which country(s) would be potential candidates to invade? Possibly, Russia or China, and conceivably India or the United States in a much changed world in the future where water is scarce. Would any number of F-35 fighter jets help in that case? No. Canada will never own enough fighter jets to repel an air invasion by any of those countries. It is an utter and complete waste of money based on irrational fear.

And what is the long-term cost? Well, every year that we continue with a budget deficit, as the Conservatives have committed to do until at least 2015, increases the national debt which we currently pay $30 billion annually to service with interest payments. The numbers keep going around and around like a washing machine, but somehow the laundry never quite comes out clean.

No comments:

Post a Comment