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Comparing Government to a Family Budget

Consider the following scenario:

A family of children are turning up to school hungry, and without books or pens. Teachers are concerned. The parents are called in to the school. When they arrive, they are well-dressed and articulate. They understand the purpose of the meeting and have brought their eldest child who is now a well-paid lawyer. The meeting begins.

The father explains that they are currently unable to afford to feed their children adequately, and have explained to the children that they’ll need to get part time jobs or do without. The father explains that neither he nor the mother have paid employment, and that they’re money comes from the share market, which as we all know has been down since the global financial crisis. When it’s suggested that perhaps he could sell some shares, he bristles:

“These shares provide my income! If I sell them every time things go wrong, I’ll end up with nothing!”

Someone has noticed that they have arrived in an expensive car, perhaps they could sell that and drive something less costly. No, the car is leased, it would cost too much to get out of the lease.

Could the lawyer sibling perhaps help out? The mother chimes in and says that by coming here this child has already made a large contribution. The lawyer sibling also points out that she has worked hard for her money.

Perhaps, they could borrow some money, suggests the welfare officer. Outrageous. The father thumps the table. “WE WILL NOT GO INTO DEBT!”

This, of course, is a great relief to the principal of the school. “I’m pleased to hear that at least you aren’t like those irresponsible parents I had in here last week. They’d put their groceries on the credit card, just so the family could eat that week.”

It was concluded that the only solution to this was for the children to continue to survive on scraps until the economy picked up.

Ok, which part of that story is far-fetched?

Yes, that’s right. The bit about selling the shares because they provide future income. What, you think I’m wrong? Well, just consider how governments behave, have another look at the story, and provide me with a concrete example of any government saying, “No this is not negotiable, even if we have to raise taxes, we’ll find a way to make this work, because health/education/the environment is far too important to just give up.”

Yep, you’re right. The rare times it’s happened, like Medicare or the national disability insurance scheme always seems to be a Labor Government. And, of course, we now have the arguments about whether or not we can afford Gonski, but sometimes we need to actually make an argument that there are certain things that we can’t afford to neglect. Education, of course, being one. And yes, I’m sure that we’ll soon be hearing from the LNP that throwing money education isn’t the answer. Or that a leaky roof never stopped anyone from learning. Complaining about a private school’s second boat shed is just the politics of the politics of envy and class warfare.

Education needs a major overhaul. Money won’t solve all the problems, but, if we can stop schools worried about the basic necessities long enough to actually think about how to improve what they do, it’ll at least provide a good start .

Strangely, unlike Government, some families DO go into debt to ensure that their children receive a good education. And they don’t say that they can’t afford it. They see it as a way of ensuring future prosperity.


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