Wednesday, December 8, 2010

in the news

It's been a week and a half since my last post here and it is likely that blogging will drop off to once every two or three weeks for the next couple months since I will be on the road again after Christmas. I've been meaning to switch to musings of a more philosophical nature, such as a post on equality as a public policy objective, but a few remarks on recent headlines is much quicker:
  • The Globe and Mail reported that according to a Nik Nanos poll, the federal Tories could potentially get a majority government despite weakness in Quebec. Nanos' belief that the Conservatives have mastered the art of "narrowcast[ing] messages to clusters of ridings on a diversity of issues such as crime, the long-gun registry and social issues" (while having nothing to substantive to say on fiscal matters) reminds me of my last post on "client politics."

  • The New York Times recently published a story that notes that "the finances of some state and local governments are so distressed that some analysts say they are reminded of the run-up to the subprime mortgage meltdown or of the debt crisis hitting nations in Europe." A financier is quoted as saying "[i]t seems to me that crying wolf is probably a good thing to do at this point."
    Today the Wall Street Journal notes that California, which has often served as the poster child for budget dysfunction, is running a $6.1 billion budget gap, which represents 6.6% of its budget. Alberta's $5 billion deficit, in contrast, is more than double this fraction of its budget.

  • Yesterday, Environics revealed a poll that found that support for Alberta's governing party was 34%... for the fourth Environics poll in a roll. The Wildrose Alliance gained, however, with the test sample of 252 Edmonton voters indicating that a full quarter of them would support the upstart party, a stunning 9 point gain over the 16% showing in the spring. Since the PCs held steady, this gain had to come from someone else, and indeed the Alberta Liberals were down 7 points in Edmonton (and Calgary as well). Danielle Smith's party polling ahead of David Swann's in the capital city is certainly remarkable, but of particular interest to me is that just 3% felt that "fiscal/budget issues" represented the most important issue facing the province. Meanwhile 47% said health care was #1. This after a spike in health care spending in the last provincial budget that was well into the double digits in terms of year over year percentage increase. The immediate conclusion is that deficits could be run for many years before concern about them would approach concern about healthcare. One would think that taxes could raised, given that just 1% identified taxes as the most important issue, but one has to wonder about the political feasibility of such a move when even the Liberals are saying that revenue is already sufficient.