Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Asinine Folly of Balanced Budget Laws

VICTORIA — The B.C. Liberals returned to the legislature Monday to rewrite their championed balanced-budget law to clear the path for a deficit budget next week.

Premier Gordon Campbell has been forced to admit the province is bleeding red ink with the rest of the world.

The Liberals will use the next week to amend the legislation outlawing forecasts of budget deficits in British Columbia, which they passed in 2001 after taking the provincial reins from the New Democrats.


Can someone explain to me the purpose of having a balanced budget law if, when you want to go into deficit, you just repeal the law? I assume it's sort of the same principle as a fixed election date law you can break whenever you want an election, or a diet that lets you eat junk food whenever you're hungry - neither of which are overly useful.

But, while BC is prepared to overhaul their law, there is one beacon of light in all of this:

Many provinces have some form of balanced-budget law, and they all come with some form of escape clause. Only Alberta's Balanced Budget and Debt Reduction Law, appears iron clad against deficits, said Bader.


Or not.

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14 Comments:

  • The Reason is optics! Any future government can create a new law which can overide the old one. It is silly... and strictly political. I sure would not want to be the premier that reversed that law!

    By Anonymous Calgary Rants, at 6:42 PM  

  • True leadership in today's times. Make no hard decisions and offend no one while in turn actually offending everyone.

    It is no wonder there is no interest in politics by most people. No leadership to make decisions.

    By Blogger Generation Jones, at 6:50 PM  

  • "Can someone explain to me the purpose of having a balanced budget law if, when you want to go into deficit, you just repeal the law? I assume it's sort of the same principle as a fixed election date law you can break whenever you want an election"

    And the same principle which applies when, not liking existing referendum legislation which accepts the vote of 50% plus 1, you legislate a new, higher threshold. As in 60 percent overall and 60 percent in all ridings.

    Such was the move by the BC Liberals to change the referendum conditions for STV (a new proportional representation voting system). This, after they'd just won a hugely disproportionate 77 of 79 seats - thanks to FPTP.

    By Blogger Chrystal Ocean, at 7:52 PM  

  • I note the reference to Alberta's law.

    Back in the 1990s, the last time Alberta needed to go into a deficit, the government just amended the law. Like BC is doing now.

    By Blogger Stephen, at 9:00 PM  

  • I agree with Stephen, Alberta's dipping into it's tiny savings now to avoid going big Red, but just technically red (perhaps it's a maroon type deficit). Once the savings runs out, they'll likely repeal or amend the law.

    By Blogger Ian, at 10:22 PM  

  • Yeah its pretty dumb. As far as I know they dont actually even formally repeal the statute and just proceed on the basis of implied repeal.

    By Blogger KC, at 11:30 PM  

  • I propose a law that restricts federal spending to a percentage of GDP.

    How they raise the taxes is up to them (ie: sales tax vs income tax, progressive vs flat, etc), but they're limited in how much they can spend.

    That way when they offer us something new, they either have to cut something or somehow raise our ability to pay for it.

    That is, after all, what we all have to do as individuals.

    By Blogger Robert Vollman, at 12:00 AM  

  • Typical right-wing government.

    By Blogger JimTan, at 12:22 AM  

  • The purpose of a balanced budget law is political. The impression left is one of fiscal prudence. Of course, the media are too stupid to see beyond the politics of it, or because they support the ideology behind it, they become cheerleaders for the legislation - as what happened in Alberta under Ralph Klein when he passed the balanced budget law. The people are the losers of course because they are misled. They are manipulated into supporting the government because of a meaningless law - like a law relating to a specific election date. Sad but true.

    By Blogger Darryl Raymaker, at 1:01 AM  

  • I think it was P.J. O'Rourke who said that a balanced budget law was like quitting smoking by hiding cigarettes from yourselves.

    By Blogger Jacob, at 10:38 AM  

  • Ohh I love a diet involving eating junk food -- thanks for the idea!

    I agree with Darryl Raymaker.

    As usual, I must disagree with Jim's idea that "the right-wing" are all somehow 'bad'. There's smarties and numbskulls on both sides of the aisle, and I believe it's ineffective to assess party's ideas by their team colours.

    By Anonymous jason bo green, at 10:06 AM  

  • Bailout 2008, a poem by David Jeffrey:

    Like a bloodied warrior,
    laying broken and torn.

    Like a dying soldier, hopeless and forlorn.

    But the blood, it be green,
    the color of money.

    And the soldier is an economy,
    and it is anything but funny.

    Broken are it’s people and shattered are their dreams.

    Thanks to the ultra rich and their full proof schemes.

    It is a tragedy with more pain to come.

    Finance will be Hell, and their wills will be done.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:08 PM  

  • Bailout 2008, a poem by David Jeffrey:

    Like a bloodied warrior,
    laying broken and torn.

    Like a dying soldier, hopeless and forlorn.

    But the blood, it be green,
    the color of money.

    And the soldier is an economy,
    and it is anything but funny.

    Broken are it’s people and shattered are their dreams.

    Thanks to the ultra rich and their full proof schemes.

    It is a tragedy with more pain to come.

    Finance will be Hell, and their wills will be done.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:09 PM  

  • This poem is Awesome---I don't really understand the relevance to Calgary. But I love this poem.--How do I learn more about David Jeffrey.--He is truly Awesome

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:44 PM  

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