September 6, 2012
You may recall that Ms Fluke, disconcertingly in the circumstances pronounced “Fluck” by Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly, was a 30-year-old law student when in February of this year she fronted Democrat members of a congressional committee. She argued that Catholic colleges should ignore their pesky religious convictions and consciences and provide subsidised contraceptive insurance to their students. She rose to fame when US shock jock Rush Limbaugh made some unfortunate and uncalled for remarks about the extent and type of her sexual activities given her inflated assessment of the costs of contraception.
This episode fitted into the Democrats’ narrative that Republicans are waging a war on women. We have mini-version of the same narrative here, except Tony Abbott is singled out as the bogeyman rather than his party at large. Anyway, the war on women theme is a distraction from my theme just as it serves as a distraction from the gross ineptitude of both the Obama administration in the US and the Gillard government here. My theme is who pays.
Bill O’Reilly recently asked Juan Williams (a Democrat) whether he personally would be prepared to pay for Sandra Fluke’s contraceptive requirements. He answered no; but, at the same time, reminded O’Reilly that we live in a community.
William’s response was typical progressive obscurantism. The community will pay via the government. That way, the question of affordability can be glossed over as can the identity of those whose income and property is to be confiscated. O’Reilly, often on the wishy-washy side, implicitly nailed the question that conservatives need to ask over and over again as governments extend entitlements. Who exactly will pay for it? It is a particularly pertinent question to be asked currently in Australia.
Just as all of those resource taxation dollars are disappearing, the Gillard government is intent on making lavish spending promises to climb the opinion polls. National disability and dental schemes and Gonski money for schools, all put on the never-never for future governments to fund. And this might not be the end of it. There is still time for more unfunded promises; depending on those opinion polls.
Those who will be required to pay the bills remain unidentified. In truth they are becoming a smaller and smaller section of society as the number of people wholly dependent on handouts grows and as a broadening of benefits narrows the number of taxpayers falling outside beneficiary groups. In the United States 10 per cent of taxpayers (just 6 per cent of voters) pay 70 per cent of federal income taxes. How skewed does it have to get before those on the left think it is “fair”?
We are seeing the effect of this in Europe and in the United States. Gillard appears to have no compunction about driving us to the same untenable state, if it works to stymie both Rudd and Abbott (in that order) and to keep her in power.
We have seen recklessness in this period of Labor government extending from Rudd through to Gillard. The wasted stimulus money on handouts, over-priced school halls and pink batts; the untested NBN extravaganza; the tearing down of border controls; the abrupt closure of a major rural export industry; the undermining of Australia’s competitiveness and sovereign risk rating by the imposition of a discriminatory mining tax and a ludicrous go-it-alone carbon tax.
It is hard to excuse any of this. A Labor tragic might be able to scrape together some mitigation. But what can be said in mitigation of a government in deficit, in a parlous world, in a country whose major industries are suffering steeply declining prices, which insists on making lavish spending promises in a desperate bid to remain in power? Country go hang - we want to retain important positions - sums it up. It is a treacherous dereliction of stewardship.
It is telling that even the Leigh Sales 7.30 (3 September) quizzed the PM on where the money was coming from. Unfortunately, we have yet to see the Coalition resolutely standing up for taxpayers and fiscal responsibility. From exorbitant paid maternity leave to me-tooism over disability entitlements and inflated education spending. And, can dental largesse be far behind? Do special interests and the media cow conservative politicians into matching lavish spend with lavish spend? I don’t know. But we cannot afford to have the agenda set by placard carriers and by moronic left-wing commentators, as we are marched on the road to ruin.
Entitlements are not inalienable rights. Someone making, earning and paying taxes (that declining species) has to pay for them. They have to be affordable not only now but into the uncertain future. That surely is not too hard a story for conservative politicians to tell; and to sell before it is too late.
Peter Smith, a frequent Quadrant Online contributor, is the author of Bad Economics
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