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Going to the polls

Are there any good choices?

Another election in the offing, and as usual there are no good choices. I despair of there ever being good choices. Every politician promises what he or she hopes will win votes. Once in office, promises are forgotten. Often that’s a good thing. It’s no wonder voters can’t be bothered. There’s a feeling nothing ever changes, so what does it matter.

If a man (or woman) ran a family the way politicians run the country, his children would be taken away by CAS on the basis of failing to provide the necessities of life. I believe the same principles apply to running a country as running a family, on a larger scale. The “children” of the country are its citizens, of whatever age.

What does a prudent head of household do? He or she ensures the best possible life for everyone in the family, given the available budget. He (for simplicity I will use “he” rather than “he or she”, while recognizing many households are run by women.) provides for their education, medical care, shelter, nutrition, physical care and supervision as needed. He knows all these things are necessary for his family to live well.

Let’s compare two families.

The first family is headed by Jake. Jake is imprudent, to say the least. He earns a decent wage, but his money disappears without bringing much benefit to his family. He has no idea how to budget, and blows a lot of money on junk. Some of his money goes to buy alcohol and other drugs. He borrowed money to buy a huge home in a pricey neighbourhood. He borrowed more for a fancy car and a few expensive vacations. It will take the rest of his life to pay off the loan. However, the mortgage was foreclosed and now he rents a house in a run-down neighbourhood. His kids don’t see a dentist because it’s too expensive. His teen-aged son dropped out of high school because he had no chance to go to university anyway. Jake’s wife, Sally, buys a lot of starchy, sugary foods because they are cheaper than fruit and vegetables, which she can’t afford. They entire family has health problems because of poor nutrition and other issues. They can’t afford day care for the younger kids or help for Sally when she’s ill. When Jake and Sally get old, they will have to rely on social assistance to survive.

The second family is headed by Bill. Bill budgets carefully, to make sure all necessities are covered. He and his wife, Marie, purchased a modest home with low mortgage payments. Bill involves the whole family in the budgeting process, so they all know they have to choose. They can’t have everything they want but they have everything they need. Bill and Marie are putting money aside for their kids’ university education and their own retirement. Their meals are simple but nutritious. Everyone gets regular medical and dental care.

Which family would you want to be part of?

Governments run the country like Jake would. Borrow without regard for ability to pay the loan. Cut the necessities like education and medical care, so they can waste money on non-necessities. The current trend is for the federal government to download costs onto provincial governments, who download onto county and municipal governments, who download onto (you guessed it) me and you. And take more taxes from us so it becomes ever harder for us to cope.

We need to make governments accountable. Budgets should start with necessities that improve life for all citizens, not just a select few. Only when all those have provided should funds be directed toward other things.

Back when I was studying economics, one of the key principles was this: for every $1 in tax cuts, $3 went back into the economy by people spending, in a ripple effect. The reverse is also true: for every $1 of tax imposed, $3 does not get injected into the economy. Yet the answer to budget woes is always higher taxes.

I propose a drastic change. What if the federal government collected only enough taxes to pay for those things that are benefit the entire country? The only thing that comes to mind is military, unless the federal government takes over responsibility for education and medical care, thus removing those from lower levels of government. Of course there is the area of international relations, but little needs to be spent there. Taxes should only be a means of paying the government’s bills, not a vehicle for social platforms.

Provincial governments’ budgets would cover roads and other infrastructure, medical and education for the entire province (unless the federal government took them over). Municipal governments would cover municipal issues such as policing and fire protection.

Probably all the above would need revamping to determine the optimum level of involvement. For instance, should government-funded education include pre-school, day-care, and universal college/university/trade school? Should medical care include prescriptions, dental, eyeglasses, nursing homes? Should scientific research be subsidized only to the extent it takes place in universities and hospitals? We certainly shouldn’t be subsidizing the pharmaceutical companies that are making billions every year.

Note that in my example, no level of government subsidized charities, churches, unions, etc. That isn’t the business of government. It’s for individuals to decide whether these things should be supported and to what extent, just as we have to decide what political parties to support. And my example also excludes “big brother” kinds of law-making. As an intelligent, responsible adult, I don’t need someone legislating every tiny decision for me.

We have red, blue, green and orange parties here in Canada. I wish we had a white one. (As in sum-of-all-colours, not race.) One that worked for the good of everyone in the country, not for a few.

We need statesmen, not politicians. But I fear the breed has died out.

 

What do you think?

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