Random thoughts on the budget

The budget is really good overall. With this sorta thing its really easy to ignore the ‘edge cases’ like freelancers, the creative industries, students, etc but this budget addresses these. At the same time, it doesn’t stray from the overarching ideology of the PAP.

If you’re employed, the primary ‘support’ you get actually goes to the employer, with the fundamental assumption that this support ‘trickles down’. There’s a binary state assumption. If you’re employed you’re fine and dandy (maybe you get a one time payout). If you’re not employed we’ll help you. It doesn’t take into account that for many working class people wages were already pitifully low and it might just get worse.

There’s also the usual trotting out of the notion of ‘upskilling’, which seems even more egregious in the current epidemic. ‘Upskilling’ belies a belief in meritocracy, that wealth accrues to those who have skills, which in truth correlates less with determination or resilience but with historic privilege.

Lastly, there is the sacred cow of the reserves. This idea of only dipping in the reserves in emergencies is generally sound for sure, but at the same time seemingly creates the public perception that the government cannot afford to spend more on social security schemes in ordinary times, lest they waste all their money. From an optics standpoint, it’s the local equivalent to the insincere Republican cry of ‘well how are you gonna pay for it!?’.

Asking for more support for the poor in ordinary times is bad because it either means higher taxes, which sounds bad, or dipping in the reserves, which also sounds bad.

As a contra-example, It would be interesting to see a government, any government, adopt Modern Monetary Theory, aka MMT, where government budgets aren’t funded by taxes and bonds, but by increasing issuance of the government-issued fiat currency, with taxes used to control inflation. MMT also advocates for 100% employment with a job guarantee, which would probably be nice in these times.

My greatest hope would be that this support does so much good the PAP realizes that moving left would be a good idea.