The next time a politician casually mentions borrowing a billion dollars — or $50 billion for that matter — ask yourself this question: What would my family do?
The Harper government has just announced that its deficit for this year alone will exceed $50 billion. As if this isn’t bad enough, none of the opposition leaders seem to be concerned this deficit figure is too much. When it comes to requests to spend, all of these politicians should heed the same advice they give their children: “Just say no.”
The federal budget was tabled in January with a $34-billion deficit. Yet Finance Minister Jim Flaherty has already announced the deficit will be more than $50 billion. This is a 47 per cent increase in the projected deficit in only two months. This change is a doozy — and one that will not only impact the taxpayers of today, but also those of tomorrow. It is they who will have to pay-off this huge and growing debt burden.
So, how much is $50 billion? Well, it could buy roughly 211 NHL teams, or build 100 state-of-the-art sports stadiums, or buy 26 space shuttles. If divided up and given to each Canadian, it would be $1,492 each.
While it is difficult to wrap your brain around such a large number, one can see how fast Canada’s debt is climbing at www.debtclock.ca, a website launched by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation. The federal government is borrowing money at a rate of $1,585 every second, $95,129 every minute, $5.7 million per hour, or just less than $137 million every day of every week of every month for the whole of this year.
The government says it can afford this amount of debt. It argues Canada is better positioned than any other Western country to borrow this much money. Technically, this may be true, but it misses the point. Just because the bank may give your family a higher mortgage doesn’t mean you should take it. Driving up the federal debt amounts to fiscal child abuse, because every child will be born already owing roughly $14,000 in debt.
The only way to reverse the debt spiral is for politicians to do what every family does when it hits rough times — limit spending. They must learn to say no to things like: Calls for more hikes to employment insurance; requests for corporate welfare like auto bailouts; and lucrative bonuses for government officials, just to name a few.
Saying no may be tough, but it is important.