Fiscal Cliff Illustrates Left Versus Right
(from: Politics Blog
) - by: admin - 02-JAN-2013 1:17 AM
The U.S. Fiscal Cliff Reminds the world of the core arguments and differences between the politics of the left and right.
Brown Tells Obama how to burn more money.
Whether your politics is left-leaning (Democrat/Labour), or right-leaning (Republican/Conservative), or somewhere in between (Independent/LiberalDemocrat), you cannot ignore the fact that the Fiscal Cliff situation in the United States is a perfect illustration and example of the arguments of both sides, and also illustrates the mind-blowing arrogance and stupidity of political leaders and members of parliaments who make decisions on our behalf.
For those who don't know about the United States "Fiscal Cliff", here is a basic summary of what it is/was:
The United States government often finds it hard to agree on governmental budget changes, with the left and right constantly wrangling over both specific measures as well as general principles. It's good to have those arguments and debates, because budgets need to be properly debated. But, at the end of the day, budgets need to pass legislation no matter what happens, otherwise the country simply can't function as the money won't be physically available for government departments to spend. Because of the government's inability/unwillingness to sign-off a budget, there's usually a fail-safe situation agreed in advance, which is that if the new budget can't be agreed-upon then the budget will default to a given pre-agreed value/status.
The pre-agreed fail-safe budget situation in the case of the "Fiscal Cliff" would have been much worse than pretty much anything that the current government would agree to, so it was in everybody's interest for the government to agree upon an alternative budget to override the fiscal-cliff (fail-safe) budget which would kick-in by default if no agreement was made and which would have pushed the U.S. economy straight back into recession and caused a downward spiral economically.
Or, to put it more simply, the government had a choice:
1) Agree on a new budget, which neither side is particularly fond of, but which would at least not destroy the entire economy.
2) Don't come to an agreement, let the fail-safe budget take effect, and destroy the entire economy.
Thankfully for everyone, it seems that they finally came to the conclusion that option 1 is better.
But, the situation does illustrate perfectly the core differences between left and right, and their arguments, and also illustrates the conundrum of:
"At what point do we withdraw the money from people who are actively burning the money we give them? When do we say enough-is-enough and put our foot down? "
And it's that conundrum which is shared the world over, with all governments.
In the UK, the labour party (left-leaning) and unions and virtually all our local councils are ignoring that dillemma, and blaming the central (right/centre-leaning) government when they run out of money.
The arguments of the left-leaning parties, and the councils in the UK is the same as that of the Democrats in the fiscal cliff situation:
The argument of the left:
Government/councils can only achieve a certain amount in efficiency savings. You get to the stage where having to spend less money leads to having to make drastic reductions in front-line services and adversely effecting all our citizens. We're at that point now, and we need to increase our budgets in line with inflation no matter what, because all our government/council departments are now running at peak efficiency, because public servants in charge of the money/management are all perfect and have done the best that it is possible to do.
If we reduce a health budget by £30,000 then that means we are forced to fire a nurse.
If we reduce a health budget by £30million then that means we are forced to fire a thousand nurses.
The argument of the right:
We're not at that point now; we are most definitely NOT running at peak efficiency.
Before you decide to fire a nurse due to a health budget reduction, you need to try and save that money from somewhere else first. If you're telling me that you can't save that money from anywhere else, then let me have a look at your detailed accounts and then I'll show you an example, then I'll fire you for being in charge and not finding those examples yourself.
You are actively burning tax payers' money purely on the grounds that you're too arrogant to admit that your management thus far has been incompetent and that you've been spending money that you never needed to spend.
I went to the local NHS hospital today, and found out that they were spending £1000 per year to "lease" a single printer from an I.T. hardware/consultancy firm.
If you go down the street, you can buy exactly the same printer outright off the shelf for £200. It's guaranteed by the manufacturer for a year. The installation procedure consists of plugging your computer's printer lead into the printer, plugging the power lead in, and pressing the "on" button.
This is one printer, in one office, in one department, in one hospital.
You're doing the same kind of thing with every single service/product that you manage across the entire national and local government at all levels.
You can reduce the entire national budget by about 50% overnight and end up with IMPROVED services if only you hired competent managers and fired the people who were actively/willingly/happily burning all the tax payers' money.
DON'T talk to me about firing nurses.
DO talk to me about firing incompetent managers and leaders.
So, with those arguments in mind, there comes a point where the right-leaning politicians have to make a decision, as their conundrum is this:
I know that these people are burning our money. Do I:
1) Tell them to stop burning the money and reduce their budget by however much money I think they're burning. and if they still continue to burn money then I'll fire the lot of them and hire someone who actually knows what they're doing.
2) Tell them to carry on burning the money and just increase their budget every year by however much they decide to burn.
In the UK, our central government has pretty much gone for option 1. But it's not easy, and it takes a lot of courage because the media and unions (and, most especially the BBC) are constantly telling the public that central government is responsible for firing thousands of nurses, police, teachers etc. and generally causing the country to collapse.
However, having had a left-leaning (Labour) government in power from 1997 to 2010, which created a national debt of over £1trillion BEFORE the banking crisis even started, and at the end of the longest benign/boom economic situation that we've ever had, luckily most reasonable people don't accept the scaremongering and are instead telling the councils and government departments to stop burning money. Most people here don't accept the fact that a £30,000 health budget reduction leads directly to being forced to fire a nurse, because most people here have seen the mind-blowing waste that goes on in the councils and government departments.
But it only works if you stop them from burning the money!
Although the UK government has put its foot down and said "stop burning the money", they have not yet even started to implement the thing which will allow that scenario to work, ie they're NOT firing the incompetents when they need to.
So, here in the UK, we've got the budget "reductions" in place (well, technically there are no reductions, we're spending more money than ever, it's just a slow-down in the rate of increase), but we're still burning money. Which means that when you don't follow-through by forcibly stopping the money from being burnt, then you WILL damage front line services with budget cuts.
In the UK we need to learn these lessons; our Prime Minister MUST force councils and government departments to stop burning our money.
As voters we have the duty to vote-out people who burn our money.
But in practical terms, as a voter, it's a case of choosing between the lesser of two evils (someone who only burns £3million/year and who doesn't care if front-line services are effected, or someone who burns £5million/year and keeps front-line services as-is; it's not a very nice choice to have to make).
At the end of the day it's down to our government/council leaders to deal with budgets properly, to stop burning money, and to protect front-line services, these things are NOT mutually exclusive; you can reduce budgets and actually improve front-line services at the same time, you just need to hire competent people and oversee things properly.
So, the next time you see your local council spending £5million of YOUR money on a pointless road "enhancement" scheme that actually makes things worse than before, and you see them then blaming the government when the council fires all the school crossing patrols to "save money", don't stay silent - write to the councils, cc it to government ministers, email them, phone them, turn up at their office and tell them face to face to stop.