Those who follow this blog already know how much I dislike debt hysteria, which I define as the illogical act of railing against deficit spending without the intellectual courage to propose a solution and an honest weighing of the negative effects of the cuts/tax hikes against the negative impact of the deficit. Those who do this are as reckless as anyone who proses huge spending programs without an honest appraisal of the borrowing/taxes/countervailing cuts that new spending demands.
When challenged to have a grownup discussion about policy options, some deficit hawks respond with reasoned debate. Some, especially some right-wing journalists, simply double down on hysteria.
Which is why the Globe's Neil Reynolds wins my inaugural award for Stupid Journalist Tricks, Edition 1.0.
Today, Reynolds attacks Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty's decision to pay down debt moreslowly in order to avoid crippling cuts to wealth-building programs like education. Which is fair enough, except for the fact he builds the entire column on a set of facts that he admits do not, and cannot, exist.
If you read the column carefully, Reynolds provides nightmarish scenarios of default and bankruptcy Ontario's borrowing could cause. Except (ho,ho!) he bases all these assumptions upon a scenario where the Government of Ontario is an individual citizen who has a fixed income and has borrowed everything on a credit card with an 18% interest rate.
Except, um, like, they aren't,they don't, and they totally didn't. Which makes the whole thing an odd exercise in criticizing your opponent in a set of facts that are wholly made up, kind of like that game in The Big Bang Theory where Sheldon challenges Leonard to re-imagine World War One if the Germans were actually anthropomorphized beavers. Except Sheldon admitted it was a game, Reynolds passes off his conceit like a reality-based comment.
I expect many readers will simply cove on to debating policy choices on the temporal plane. Those who enjoy Reynolds' fiction may look forward to his new columns, which may involve debating the wisdom of Stephen Harper's Afghanistan policy if our forces were turned into white mice, and designing a green tax policy that would apply if the oil sands spewed forth maple syrup and gummy bears.
On the reality front, Premier McGuinty has actually seen literacy rates rise and universities gain in accessibility and quality rankings, and this positions Ontario well in the economy that our kids will inherit. Since deficits are about what we bequeath our children, we should look at the whole package.