Sunday, August 30, 2015

NDP and deficits

Writing in the Progressive Economics Forum, Louis-Phillippe Rochon denounces Thomas Mulcair's stated intention to avoid running a deficit. He pronounces himself shocked, shocked that Mr. Mulcair would ever suggest that deficits and debt make it impossible for governments to do good things for those they govern. He writes:
But in embracing balanced budgets, Mulcair has also endorsed all the right-wing rhetoric and lies that come with it. On the campaign trail, Mulcair has said in response to Trudeau’s promise of infrastructure spending, “I am tired of watching governments put that debt on the backs of future generations.” Later, he said “Mr. Trudeau seems to have the same approach as Mr. Harper – they both want to live for today and let tomorrow take care of itself … There’s a reason why we want to be good public administrators with balanced budgets, because if we’re not, then we’re not going to be able to have the types of programs that we all believe in going into the future.”
Historically, running a deficit without a just tax structure simply creates more debt, which rich people and corporations buy because poor people can't afford to; this requires governments to pay interest, which the poor pay for and which rich people and corporations collect. We have also reason to believe that citizens pay more attention to what governments spend  their money on when they have to actually hand it over as taxes, rather than watch the numbers add up on a debt clock on the web. Experience over the last five decades doesn't do much to support borrowing money as a means of building a durably just society. Infrastructure projects, public benefits, and economic stimulus without a strong, just and sustainable base of fair taxes can end up in the sorry mess the Greeks find themselves in, or the wildly irresponsible bank bailouts the Americans and others engaged in at the outset of this decade. Above all, I see no way to build a just society on injustice,whether you borrow money to do it or not.

And that, rather than the nicer points of public finance, explains why I, unlike Dr. Rochon, plan to give Mr. Mulcair and the NDP as much support as I can. Unlike Justin Trudeau's Liberals, the NDP voted against Bill C-51; unlike the Liberals, the NDP has promised to repeal it as soon as they get into power. And that matters, because C-51, effectively declares open season on First nation communities trying to protect their culture, land and rights. If, as they have said they will, the Liberals retain any part of a law that makes it easy to trample the rights of people Canada already has a shameful history of abusing, they will run a moral deficit far worse than any numbers in a financial ledger, and they might as well build their infrastructure projects on sand.

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