“The government you elect is government you deserve.”

So said Thomas Jefferson. Where does that put the French, Greeks, Italians and, closer to home, Ontarians?

Recent election attempts abroad suggest the electorates are chaffing to get back to the kind of “government” that got them into their economic pickle in the first place – profligate mortgaging of the future. In my home province, not many seem to be much concerned about government debt that rivals Ireland, Spain and Italy. Try as I might, I just don’t understand why.

When politicians go about the business of getting (re-)elected, they habitually preach the mantra of sound fiscal management, but the ‘sizzle’ of any election is always new spending initiatives. The logic of connection between the two is normally in the murky realm of “finding waste, duplication and inefficiencies”. (Virtually) never is there any discussion of program elimination.

For the most part, spending profligacy has usually mostly been made up by steady growth of the economy, effectively giving politicos way better grades on the management side of fiscal policy than they have earned. But what happens when the growth engine pauses or, even worse, retreats? Well, that would be now in Ontario; prospects for a sustained boom period appear slim.

The first thing that happens is a downgrade in the credit rating; then higher borrowing cost; eventually an annual interest bill that rivals the most cherished programs, like education and health. Eventually, a “wall of debt” forces harsh medicine on all concerned.

Who’s to blame? Well, let’s get back to the original premise; when you elect governments with endless promises of baubles for the electorate, and you get used to the steady stream of baubles, you’ll fall for any hair-brained promise some vote-hungry candidate will put forward. Remember this, though; when the bill for the spending comes in, (s)he’ll be living off a comfortable (guaranteed) lifetime pension and no amount of street protest will fix the broken down spending machine. Looking for who’s to blame? Start by looking in the mirror.

 

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