If you’re not Santa, don’t sell it like you’re stuffing stockings

Eugenie Joseph

11 May 2018 | Ideas@TheCentre

While the government insists it’s not Santa when it comes to the Budget, the usual marketing and messaging of this year’s suggests otherwise.

No surprise then that the Budget encourages tribal thinking among demographic groups, particularly the elderly and young people — pitting one age group against the other, competing for goodies and handouts from their benevolent government. Inevitably, this mentality has led to moaning in the media that young people have once again ‘missed out’ in this year’s Budget.

And indeed, many of the spending measures in the Budget are firmly geared at older Australians: $30 billion for public hospitals, $1.6 billion for an extra 14,000 at-home aged care places, a home equity scheme to boost retirement incomes, and a $10,000 wage subsidy for older workers.

Some might condemn this strategy as blatant vote-buying, given the importance of retirees and pensioners as Coalition voters. And there is likely a great deal of truth to it.

But for young people — Millennials and Gen Z — their priorities should be very different.  In fact, most important to them are education, training and employment opportunities … not a new $23 million exercise program for the elderly.

This is why major policy reforms with long-term dividends — such as business tax cuts — are always of greater benefit to young people, as they reap the rewards of these reforms over time, through more jobs and higher wages.

Similarly, it is young people who benefit the most from large-scale government funding for infrastructure like roads and rail links. There is certainly plenty of that in the Budget — a total of $24.5 billion funding for transport projects, to be precise. Curiously however, governments are never very good at selling tax reform or infrastructure spending to young people.

But regardless, it is never a sensible idea to sell the Budget like stuffing goodies into Christmas stockings.  Inevitably, there will be a sad child who misses out — even if the stocking contains nothing the child actually needs or wants.

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