Monday, 19 September 2011

$800 Million in Budget Cuts: Bleeding Doesn't Make Anything or Anyone Healthier

If you want to try to lose an unpopular announcement, you make it at the end of the week. That's what the Quebec government did last Friday when $800 million in additional budget cuts were ordered by Michelle Courchesne, president of the provincial Treasury Board. Education and health sectors will hit the hardest, with the former to be cut by $180 million and the latter by $350 million. The cuts come in the name of reaching zero deficit in 2013-14.

The weekend papers had the story, but it was a lovely weekend, and not many people were paying attention. The exception were union leaders who, thank goodness, weren't asleep at the switch. Several of them are on the front pages today, saying in effect that anyone who contends cuts like this won't affect services is crazy.

This is the same kind of budget rhetoric that we hear south of the border, and which we're bound to hear more of in Ottawa, now that Parliament is opening with a majority Conservative government. But those guys don't seem to realize that Canada's relatively good showing economically is due to judicious public expenditures which have maintained our social saftey net and provided modest stimulus.

As Paul Krugman says this morning, focusing on deficit reduction is like the outdated, discredited medical practice of bleeding patients. What's needed "is to convince a substantial number of people with political power or influence that they’ve spent the last year and a half going in exactly the wrong direction, and that they need to make a U-turn.

"It’s not going to be easy. But until that U-turn happens, the bleeding — which is making our economy weaker now, and undermining its future at the same time — will continue."

Cuts for health, you say? Now, "bleeding " would be a place to start.

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