Pocketbook Politics

Austerity initiatives are starting to find their way into many government spending programs. It’s up for debate whether they’re the right measures and in the right degree, or fairly applied, but one thing uniform in the response of those whose ox is being (or about to be) gored, is that no one wants to talk about money.

All of the special interest advocacy organizations are gearing up their propaganda machines to mobilize against austerity measures oblivious, for the most, to the reality that austerity is a condition, not a policy decision. But there’s a remarkable degree of similarity in the misdirection this propaganda generates. It always about the ‘soon-to-be-victimized’ services recipient.

Teachers bleat endlessly about “the children” ; doctors about “the patient”; public sector unions about “citizens”, all about to be short-changed by a heartless, unfeeling government imposing a wage freeze, or, horror of horrors, a minor rollback in compensation. (It’s noteworthy that those bleating the loudest are invariably the best paid of all.)

Ask yourself this: How is the rate cut in a fee schedule for a doctor or your child’s teacher being unable to “bank” their sick time going to hurt anything other than the service provider’s pocketbook? Are these eminently “caring” people are going somehow to take their anger out against the ‘children’, ‘patient’ or ‘citizen’, as the case may be? Will they be forced to suspend their normal caring mien to appease their pocketbook malaise? Is that the underlying message?

Nope. But putting things into crass “I’m entitled to my entitlements” terms generates little sympathy and possibly more than a little resentment (ask David Dingwall). So, the “dark side” of spending cuts has to be implied to have the effect of “costing” in service quality terms.

The fact that most of these whiners have made out like highwaymen in contract negotiations, keeping well ahead of inflation, for a very long time, should mean a little “give back” is in order in bad times. Meanwhile, don’t let their bleating obscure the fact they’re crying about their bank accounts, not your service quality.

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