Friday, December 06, 2013

Trickle Down Budget Cuts

Conservative governments love budget cuts.  Look around you, and every time there is a "financial crisis", the first thing that comes out of the conservatives is that they must cut program spending left, right and centre "because the government doesn't have the income to support it".

Superficially, the public would expect that those budget cuts would be implemented so that the impact on the programs themselves is minimized.  Or at least that is what reasonable people would expect.  Right?

The unfortunate reality is that the people who are in the position to absorb a sizeable chunk of the burden of the cuts, those at the top, simply step aside and let the brunt of the cuts work their way down to people lower on the "food chain".

Consider the situation in Alberta.  In this spring's budget, the government announced major cuts to the post-secondary education.  Naturally, this placed the University of Calgary in a budget shortfall position immediately.  So, where do the cuts take place?  At the top?  Not even close.  In fact, the cuts are allowed to flow down to the students and faculty.   Sure, the executives took a "pay freeze" (considering that executive pay at the U of C is much higher than at other universities, this is a minor gesture at most), but at the same time, they have allowed a massive renovation of the executive offices to go ahead.  

Budget cuts are kind of like trickle-down economics in reverse.  Instead of the people at the top taking a larger percentage of the burden, they quietly step aside and allow the bulk of the burden of the cuts to flow down to lower levels - ultimately to students and faculty.

Just as the "consolidation" of regional health authorities to create AHS ended up keeping a ridiculous number of executives in place (necessitating restrictions on the number of beds in hospitals, overloaded nurses and so on), the cuts to Post Secondary Education in Alberta will result in cuts to programs that are not deemed "workplace friendly" programs, while the executives at the top of the heap continue pulling down enormous salaries.  

Ultimately, the burden of these cuts flow down to the people who rely on the programs - be they students or patients.  Just as Trickle-Down Economics ultimately concentrates wealth at the top, budget cuts, as implemented by conservative governments, inevitably follow a similar principle and ultimately starve the people who depend on these programs.

Why does this happen?   Because people are not "selfless agents".  The people in positions of power and authority will go to great lengths to preserve their position.

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