Wife-swapping with Dr Phillips
André Wright, Opinion Editor
For couples with moral elasticity and a freaky alter ego, wife-swapping can be a liberating experience. After all, you don't need to clear your cellphone log, wear turtlenecks all week long to hide that vampire hickey, or shack up in some dingy motel room on 'Back Road' in Portmore.
Hell, your own wife makes the appointments and picks out your favourite French letter with a swipe of her credit card. It usually begins in a fantasy of sweat and saliva, but ends, inevitably, with one husband crushed because he never knew that his wife ("Oh, God! Oh, God!") was so religious. It must be particularly painful that someone is getting better marks and better remarks than you on that appraisal sheet.
But then, there is wife-swapping that is far less romantic. I should know. I'm a victim.
Three days after Finance Minister Dr Peter Phillips tabled a $612-billion Budget, I warned my wife to take it easy on the food budget as we were entering a new era. Whether you call it fiscal responsibility or austerity, either way I'm screwed.
New wife, new strife
So when our car pulled up and I thought my wife would emerge with multiple shopping bags dangling from her arms, I was shocked to see someone else barrelling through the door and taking charge of my kitchen.
With the precision of a drill sergeant, she started laying down the new Charter of Rights.
"This month, I'm only buying three boxes of milk. See them there." Boom! Boom! Boom! "I only got six cans of sardines, so you can eat them off!" Then: "And no more than three tins of baked beans." Blam! Blam! Blam!
As the new rations were being announced, I realised that my wife had obviously become a victim of extraordinary rendition and that Peter Phillips had planted a mole in my kitchen.
Immediately, I grabbed the calculator and started to slice the budget on the home front. The fact that I've kick-started my own JEEP project of getting a babysitter meant that I had to take a chainsaw to the family budget. Gone are the spontaneous weekend runs to Domino's, Wing King and Island Grill. All I gave Dad for his birthday last week was good company and good laughs. And instead of a trim and shave at the barber shop, I'll have to skip the shave and save 'a bills'. Two-for-one or not, Carib will be replaced by movie night on cable.
The fact is that a too-tight Budget will make me more likely to hoard cash and overreact on spending cuts. And that affects Carib, food joints, excursions and supermarket purchases. Depleted demand hurts all the business owners eyeing a pay cheque from my patronage. Multiply this across the national economy and you understand that demand will plunge if consumers feel hemmed in. Confidence drives consumerism.
Well-thought-out austerity is good - if it pares away needless luxuries, discourages ostentation, and influences innovation and efficiency among businesses. But when surgical cuts go too deep, they kill the patient. As Scotia's Bruce Bowen said, the question is whether Peter has made the right tough decisions.
The Cameron administration, too, had to step back after riling up the British public with the unpopular 'granny tax' and 'pasty tax', and David had to admit: "[The government] also has the courage to say, 'Look, if we've got something wrong, let's change it; let's not keep ploughing into the brick wall.'"
Can't yield to every cry
But even though Peter Phillips will likely revise aspects of the Budget - for it has been branded as his Budget, not Portia's (We'll see if she will own it today) - he must not capitulate like Audley 'Man A Yard-turned-Water Boy' Shaw to Portia's nightmarish screams to 'repeal or else'. He cannot yield to every cry of anguish and every teary rivulet and every apocalyptic prophecy. The sky won't fall, Chicken Little. Phillips has a Budget - our Budget - to finance, bills to pay, and a deficit to cut.
Among the tough decisions Peter Phillips has noticeably danced from is pushing the public sector on to a treadmill. The taxpayer can no longer be forced to subsidise inefficiency - no matter how many votes it will cost the party. But then, it's all politics.
Phillips also got into ridiculous contortions with the GCT electricity threshold, the fish-but-not-chicken tax, and shafting the PAYE worker who is still up the creek without a paddle while other evaders live high on the hog. Change course!
Meantime, Peter, bring back my wife. I need more milk and baked beans. Wife-swapping is definitely not for me!
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