Friday, September 28, 2007

When life imitates Dilbert.


I've mentioned before how one of my favourite Dilbert cartoons involves the annoying friend or co-worker who insists on restating whatever you say in terms of "bizarre absolutes" just for the sake of being able to refute a nonsensical and irrelevant position that you never took, as in:

Dilbert: We should add this feature to our product to make it more useful.

"Bizarre Absolute" Guy: "Are you telling me that not one person on earth will use our product without that feature?!!"

Dilbert: "You just changed what I said into a bizarre absolute."

"BA" Guy
: "Oh, I change everything you say?!"

So when you read about NDP leader Jack Layton doing this:

NDP warns government of election after 'undemocratic' surplus announcement

Alexander Panetta
Published Thursday September 27th, 2007

OTTAWA - Pumping almost all of the $14-billion surplus into debt-reduction rather than investing in Canadians is the kind of rigid conservatism that makes it likely the NDP will vote to topple the government next month, Jack Layton said Thursday.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced the massive surplus and added that it would be funnelled into debt reduction during an event in Toronto that had all the earmarks of a mid-campaign event.

His announcement means the end-of-year fiscal windfall is no longer available for program spending. The money must, by law, go into national debt-reduction and the interest savings - about $725 million - will go to tax cuts.

you wonder how many people will deliberately misunderstand that Layton is not criticizing paying down the national debt, he's only upset that virtually all of that surplus is being used to do so, rather than re-investing some of it back into social programs that the Conservatives cut for the alleged sake of fiscal restraint.

So who -- I ask you, who -- will be dishonest enough (or, for that matter, retarded enough) to re-interpret Layton's position into a meaningless bizarre absolute?

Well, there's this doofus:

Paying Down Debt is What? Irresponsible?

By Dave Hodson | September 27, 2007

Jack Layton has made a lot of stupid comments before, but today he has truly outdone himself.

In response to the Conservative plan to use the current budget surplus for debt repayment (which is required by law), Jack Layton made the following comment.

“This is not a reasonable approach - it’s irresponsible”

That’s right, Jack Layton actually thinks that paying down debt is an irresponsible thing to do!

And, to no one's surprise whatsoever, there's this shrieking airhead:

Who cares about the National Debt?

Not Taliban Jack and the loony left.

The Blogging Tories: Making even the parody of Dilbert seem prescient.

"AS REQUIRED BY LAW"? I'm confused by something here -- is it actually "required by law" that any and all surplus be applied to reducing the debt? Because if it is, then Layton's complaint is, of course, idiotic. If the law requires it, then the law requires it, and that's the end of the discussion. But that's not quite what the article above implies based on its wording:

Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced the massive surplus and added that it would be funnelled into debt reduction during an event in Toronto that had all the earmarks of a mid-campaign event.

His announcement means the end-of-year fiscal windfall is no longer available for program spending. The money must, by law, go into national debt-reduction and the interest savings - about $725 million - will go to tax cuts.

The way I read that is that it was Harper's announcement that suddenly required the surplus to go to reducing the debt, as if he had a choice about it. And even then, who's to say what could be done with the interest savings?

Clearly, Harper is choosing to use the interest savings to fund tax cuts. But couldn't he just as easily have chosen to fund social programs with those savings instead? Can someone clarify this "required by law" notion? Is this actually a legal requirement?

11 comments:

Mike said...

Funny, back in the old days, over at BBG, Andrew and I both agreed that the Liberal plan to force budget surpluses into debt reduction by law was a bad idea. Both of us - a Conservative supporter (Andrew back then) and an NDP supporter (me, back then) agreed that perhaps the government ought to have a free hand in what to do with any possible surpluses, instead of having their hands tied.

When I read stuff like this, I really miss intelligent Conservatives like Andrew. Instead, we get idiots like Hodson and Neo.

No wonder he left.

I really miss that wonderdog guy too...

Doug said...

Reading that initial comment it does sound like he is mad that the entire 14 billion was not spent on Canadians.

I am mostly non-partisan but in honesty I lean NDP, but that statement shook me as well.

If he meant "some of the 14" he should have said "some of the 14". And dept reduction is an important part of managing our huge tax burden. The amount of wasted taxes because of our dept. is crazy (as I know you know).

IMO: If the Conservatives did one thing right this year than it would be complying with a law put in place when they were not in office ;)

Sheena said...

With all of these surpluses perhaps it is high time that we removed the blood-sucking gender discriminatory squeeze tax of GST on feminine hygiene products. Let the money flow to our sisters who need it.

CC said...

doug writes:

"Reading that initial comment it does sound like he is mad that the entire 14 billion was not spent on Canadians."

Just from the first sentence of Panetta's article:

"Pumping almost all of the $14-billion surplus into debt-reduction rather than investing in Canadians is the kind of rigid conservatism that makes it likely the NDP will vote to topple the government next month, Jack Layton said Thursday."

I think it's relatively clear that Layton is only upset that "almost all" of the surplus is going to paying down the debt, and that some of it is not being used instead for social programs.

I can't imagine that he is seriously proposing using the entire $14 billion for nothing but social programs -- that just doesn't make sense. I can't even envision how you could spend that much money on social programs alone.

thwap said...

This (PDF) article:

http://www.policyalternatives.ca/documents/National_Office_Pubs/2005/afb2006_techpaper2_Debt_Repayment.pdf

shows how it is the debt-to-GDP ratio that is important. And that a growing economy and no debt is sufficient to shrink the debt/GDP ratio.

This Linda McQuaig editorial tells the same story:
http://www.rabble.ca/columnists_full.shtml?x=29023

and includes mention of another CCPA study:

"In a study for the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, economist Jim Stanford notes that economic growth accounted almost entirely for the drop in our debt-to-GDP from 70 to 44 per cent in recent years. Yet Ottawa, with Martin as finance minister, insisted on putting at least $3 billion a year toward debt reduction.

Stanford notes that if we put that $3 billion each year instead toward social programs, we'd still reach the 25 per cent debt-to-GDP level. We'd just have to wait a year longer — to 2013. That's right. We'd have to put off our national dream of 25 per cent debt-to-GDP ratio a whole extra year.
"

I once read a Department of Finance web page that admitted that economic growth was responsible for the lion's share of Paul Martin's debt reduction. Can't find it at the moment.

Look at the 2nd bargraph on this page tough for the impact of 3billion a year towards debt reduction:

http://www.fin.gc.ca/budget05/bp/bpc7e.htm

Sheena said...

It could also be all those selfish feminist bitches who aren't having children and thus are buying more tampons and contributing with the added GST.

The Right is Where its At said...

Mr. Layton is a Idiot a complete incompetent a fool or he is just lying.

Even if Mr.Harper wanted to do something else other then pay down the debt with the $14 billion . He wouldn't be able to do it by law.

Talking about Harper here:
"His announcement means the end-of-year fiscal windfall is no longer available for program spending. The money must, by law, go into national debt-reduction and the interest savings - about $725 million - will go to tax cuts."

You could this here !!! How can anyone take serious what this person (J.Layton) has to say is beyond me!!

thwap said...

I don't think there is any such law.

I also think you're a drooling moron.

pretty shaved ape said...

if "almost" all of the surplus is being funnelled toward the debt and if it is by some hitherto unknown law, then why is the entirety of the surplus not required to service the debt? clearly it is not an absolute requirement. also, the interest savings that amount to some $725 million are being used for one purpose, tax cuts. how about funding some of those daycare spots he fucking well lied about to get his plump arse elected.

oh. and mr. right, one exclamation point per sentence you chittering rube. and please, do try and assemble a rudimentary grasp of the english language before calling anyone "a Idiot a complete incompetent a fool or he is just lying." reading your ignorant and ill informed codswallop is painful enough without having to parse your crippled english.

The Right is Where its At said...

Mr.ape look at my post 3:11 pm go to the link and read. The $725 million is thee interest that we
save in which by law has to go directly to lower tax's get it ape? We save save $725 million in interest,because we paid down the debt by $14 billion understand
now ? Please go to that
link and read on the post 3:11 PM. I'M sure you can read right ?

pretty shaved ape said...

fine, i've read the article. from what i can see there, it would appear that mr harper has chosen to neglect social programs and divert moneys into a surplus that far exceeded projection. rather than addressing issues that effect the lives of canadians, he sat on the growing sums and stayed mum. he then allowed the spending clock to run out thus legally consigning that vast chunk of cash to the debt. the reason dion has said nothing is that this is exactly what previous liberal governments had done.

despite the ambiguous writing in the article cited, it does not appear that the interest savings is similarly locked into tax reductions. that would appear to be harper's choice. in all it is a callous attempt to buy our votes with money snitched out of our own wallets.