Tuesday, January 10, 2012


When a government has to reduce spending it causes a lot of grief.  This has been a huge news item these past couple years of course, particularly in countries like Greece and Italy where their ability to get new loans to finance their debt is directly based on the government's ability to slash deficits drastically and painfully.  The thing that really bothers me about these sorts of announcements though is how incredibly lacking in context they usually are.  Case in point:  The Ontario government cutting $66M in grants to universities and hospitals.  This was portrayed in the media as a drastic and shocking cut with an expectation of a major backlash - and yet this represents only .4% of the provincial deficit.  While obviously it is going be a major annoyance for those involved we must not forget how tiny it is compared to how much cutting has to be done to stem the tide of red ink.  Remarkably this actually stems from an announcement back in November but is only now being picked up and portrayed as 'shocking'.

As this article says, the big trouble with these sorts of announcements is how much their impact is not related to the size of the monetary value at stake.  If the number was $660M or $6.6M the average person wouldn't react any differently and yet the difference to the budget is several orders of magnitude different!  The newspapers report these things and we make our voting decisions based on them and yet the articles have no way of accurately conveying how much the cuts matter nor much ability to get around the limited amount of outrage you can get from your readers in any given time.  If there are fifty cutbacks in a single day the headline simply isn't going to get that much more attention than if there is one and it hardly even matters what the total dollar value is.  All of this makes me very sad when I read articles that are outraged over cutbacks because not only are they generally useless to the average person they also fail to offer any sort of solution.  If you are certain that even though the government must cut back spending that a particular program must be saved, surely you can supply a place where the money can be found instead?  If you cannot then you must not really know whether or not the cut is sensible in the first place.

Perhaps the cutback in question is brutal and poorly thought out and perhaps it is precise and necessary but none of the comments or information we receive through normal news sources allow us to come to a reliable conclusion.  Everyone who is on the receiving end of a cutback has a tale of woe to relate.  A republic may be the best system of government anybody has tried on a large scale but it still makes me sad to see it in action.

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