For today’s libertarian mayor-on-the-go, I’m posting this recipe for reduced government services, low taxes and reduced spending. It’s similar to the recipe that cooked the budget that Rob Ford will be unveiling in Toronto today, and follows a rich right-wing tradition more than 50 years in the making.
Start by creating a budget crisis. If you’re working with a budget that’s already well balanced, you’ll have to do some work. Freezing property taxes will eventually squeeze your budget into crisis over a few years, but for a quick bang you can try to find some source of revenue that is collected disproportionately from those who can easily afford it, and eliminate that. Call this a tax cut, and make sure to make a big deal about it!
In no time, you’ll have a forecast for a deficit budget. Make sure that whatever the forecast is, you at least double the figures whenever you talk about it. This lets the fear and anger rise, and helps the public forget that it was you that took out all the revenue in the first place.
Next, collect some public opinion polls, the fresher the better. Carefully pick out any opinions that favour government spending on services that you don’t use and don’t want to pay for. You’ll have a lot of those, so you might want to use a big accounting firm to pick these out for you.
By now you’ll have lots of choice service cuts on the table, and people won’t be happy about losing them. Pick one service that lots of people are vocal about but that doesn’t cost much overall, like, say, libraries, and promise that you won’t cut that one service. Demand some nice round and easily repeated number from all the other services, something small like 10%. It’s not important how you come up with that number.
Now you can sit back and wait for a bit. The committees that manage those budgets that you’re demanding to shrink by 10% will be getting the brunt of public scorn while you’re off watching football or something. If anyone complains to you about the cuts, insist that we all have to share the burden to balance the budget.
Be careful though! Some people will have noticed that your recipe started with a tax cut, and might say that you can solve those problems by restoring the revenue streams, or coming up with new ones. If you hear this starting, sprinkle conservatively with the opinion polls you collected earlier. Of course by now you’ve sieved out all the opinions calling for restoring services, and all that’s left is a few people who were demanding lower taxes in line at your local doughnut shop.
Before you know it, all your committees will cook up a budget that’s light on services and won’t be too heavy on your new, lighter budget. Now here’s the best part. Show everyone how fair and balanced you really are by proposing a modest tax hike, say 3% or so, but make sure it’s low enough to keep a deficit for next year’s budget. Then you’ll have less work to do when it’s time to cook next year’s books!