Thursday, 1 July 2010

The magic asterisk makes an appearance


There will be $1.5 billion dollars spent on new mental health programs paid for by not spending $1.5 billion on health department bureaucrats. In saying this yesterday the Coalition finance spokesman Andrew Robb gave us the first appearance for this election campaign of that wonderful creation years ago by US President Ronald Reagan’s budget director David Stockman.
Confronted back then by the impossible task of reconciling the absolute commitment given by his boss of reining in the deficit while delivering a promised tax cut or two, Stockman came up with the asterisk pointing to the wonderful budget footnote: “future savings to be identified.” All I can say on Robb’s behalf is that he uttered his inanities with a wonderfully straight and serious face.
As these new planned cuts to the health bureaucracy are but a small part of the Coalition’s promised attack on government spending to bring us back quickly to budget surplus, the original Atlantic Monthly article is a useful reminder of the kind of difficulties that Finance Ministers confront in the real world. It will surely disabuse you of any inclination to believe what a politician in election mode tells you.
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