The surplus is political, but not quite in the way Josh Gordon thinks

The Age‘s state political reporter almost, but not quite gets it in his column on the Victorian government’s upcoming budget:

For months (State Treasurer Kim) Wells has been arguing that keeping the budget in surplus should remain at the centre of the government’s political and economic strategy. The surplus-at-all-costs mantra goes like this: place the budget on a sustainable footing by paring back spending and reducing waste, deliver a string of future surpluses to pay for infrastructure without taking on debt. Jobs and higher productivity will flow as a dividend.

Not quite. The point of achieving the surplus is that it justifies (relative) cuts to expenditure, which then allows lower taxes on and favoured infrastructure for the Coalition’s business buddies in the future.

That’s what conservatives do. That’s what they always do, when they get a chance. That’s why Cameron went on his crazy austerity kick in the UK when the sensible thing to do would have been stimulus spending – the crisis was a justification for implementing the policies that they always wanted to put in place, and when revenues eventually kick back in they’ll use them for tax cuts.

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