Get out of debt … sell your house

Brian Jones
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The “For Sale” signs sprouting on lawns all over the former boomtown are undeniable evidence the real estate boom has gone bust along with its oil counterpart.

Brian Jones

People are apparently packing and making tracks toward Ontario or British Columbia — bypassing Alberta for the time being.

But another explanation could be that the homeowners have opted for the Cathy Bennett/Dwight Ball method of financial management.

In the Bennett/Ball school of economics, debt must be dealt with by cuts.

Never mind that you promised your children that they would have a roof over their heads until they graduated from university — freeing yourself of debt takes priority, so plant that sign out front, sell the house and balance the household books. With any luck, the place will bring in enough to almost cover your credit card and car payments.

Professors of the Bennett/Ball school of economics will declare this analogy to be invalid, because government must be run like a business, not like a household.

This mistaken notion of governance has been around for three decades, ever since Brian Mulroney was elected prime minister in 1984 and established Canada Corp.

(It’s ideological roots go back further, to the ascendance of Margaret Thatcher in the U.K. in 1979 and Ronald Reagan in the U.S. in 1980.)

The prime goal of business is, of course, to make a profit, or, in the very least, not lose money.

Mulroney, Thatcher and Reagan — as well as all their successors — utterly failed to avoid debt for the simple reason that a country is a lot more like a household than it is like a business.

Bennett/Ball Inc. has successfully stoked fear in half the Newfoundlanders (and a quarter of Labradorians) by announcing that Newfoundland and Labrador Corp. faces big, huge, gigantic deficits for the next five years if drastic action isn’t taken.

Anyone who recently took out a mortgage will be able to put this dilemma in proper perspective. Committing to biweekly or monthly payments for the next 25 years helps you make a proper comparison regarding five years of bank loans. And besides, it’s not as if those payments don’t get Newfoundland Corp. anything. You know, roads, schools, hospitals and stuff.

In household financial management, debt is long-term. Most people these days spend most of their lives in debt. You get paid … you make payments. It’s not as if you don’t get anything, though. House. Car. Education for the kids. And stuff.

If you ran your household the way Bennett/Ball want to run Newfoundland Corp., you would sell your house, get rid of your car and clear your credit card debt by cashing in the RESPs and telling the kids they’ll have to work their way through college.

Professors and students at the Bennett/Ball school of economics will claim this household/government comparison is inaccurate. I invite them to look at some numbers.

According to the Parliamentary Budget Office, personal debt in Canada averages $53,000 for every man, woman and child in the country, whether they are working age or not, whether they have a job or not.

In contrast, Newfoundland Corp.’s debt amounts to about $20,000 for each man, woman and child in the province.

The public’s rising hysteria about debt and impending disaster would appear to be misplaced. Some people inexplicably have tremendous sympathy for Bennett/Ball, but none for themselves or their fellow citizens.

A question yet to be answered is why Government Corp. debt has become a primary societal issue, yet personal debt is virtually ignored and unacknowledged.

One possible explanation is that people these days, in the 21st century no less than in the 16th, accept a life of economic servitude.

Brian Jones is an indebted copy editor at The Telegram. He can be reached at

Organizations: Ball school, Newfoundland and Labrador, Ball Inc. Parliamentary Budget Office Government The Telegram

Geographic location: Ontario, British Columbia, Alberta Canada U.K. U.S.

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Recent comments

  • Jimi
    March 14, 2016 - 10:25

    Your slanderous remarks, cruel sarcasm, and verbal abuse would never be tolerated in any work environment, you would be held accountable or charged. You have issues, and you take your spite or anger or hostility, or whatever the hell it is, out in this forum by purposely trying to hurt other people. You cross the line when it comes to basic wise cracks. Frankly, I find you frightening.

    • Donna J.
      March 14, 2016 - 11:32

      They would be if I was the boss. (It's not like you would complain to the union.) Oh, you still haven't given me a synonym for "Keynesianism." Stuck?

    • Devon Rowe
      March 15, 2016 - 07:46

      Apparently, he also doesn't know what 'slander' means.

  • Jimi
    March 13, 2016 - 17:10

    I asked no such thing, not me. I'm merely pointing out what a shameful, ignorant, insulting, hurtful commenter you are.

    • Donna J.
      March 14, 2016 - 09:26

      Thank you for your concern. Now, Jimi, tell me something: how would I be able to identify the school of economics if I didn't know what Keynesianism means? Tell me something else, Jimi, what synonym (that's a word that means the same as another word) could I use that doesn't make me "look intellectual" and that would not upset your tender sensibilities?

  • Christopher Chafe
    March 11, 2016 - 16:58

    What a pathetic load of drivel. I've often wondering which political party he subscribed to but after reading this excuse of an article it is pretty clear that he is a NDP'er true and true. What else would you expect people to do, stay in this God Foresaken excuse of a province and go on welfare, or sell their house and up root their families and move to where the jobs are. For the record Einstein people are still moving to Alberta, due to the fact that there are other industries in Alberta than Oil. Take out the Fishery/Tourism and O&G and Newfoundland has absolutely nothing going for it.

  • Jimi
    March 11, 2016 - 16:20

    Keynesianism, indeed. Ha! Use big words that make you look so intellectual, when you have no idea what it even means. Then you follow up with what you really are, and it's you and your constant sarcasm and insults that are pathetic and tiresome, which is the only thing you must have to justify your existence.

    • Donna J.
      March 12, 2016 - 06:59

      You asked which school of economics and the answer is Keynesianism. Sorry if you don't understand the answer. What were you expecting?

  • gord
    March 11, 2016 - 16:01

    Brian Jones has no clue about financial management.

  • Eliott
    March 11, 2016 - 14:14

    @JB If Brian has it right then you must have it all wrong. You do understand you're saying the opposite of what he's saying? Brian wants government to keep spending, to avoid any layoffs, and to keep jacking up the debt. You say you're sick of paying taxes but you do know that out of control government spending is what adds to your taxes.

  • Barry
    March 11, 2016 - 12:27

    So John Smith is saying the Liberals should do what his guys did - lie.

    • John Smith
      March 11, 2016 - 13:30

      no...not at all....oh, and I don't endorse any party....but I will say I don't support Dwight Ball's Liberals....What I am saying is the Premier should point out some of the industries that are doing well...that's all...and that constantly telling anyone who will listen how dire, black, and terrible the fiscal situation is....will only serve to make matters worse....Dwight is simply not a leader...and many Liberal MHAs are worse than lackluster....and the Province will suffer under this government....that's what I am saying...

    • roy206
      March 11, 2016 - 14:07

      I hear John Smith, however I am sure the opposition is no better equipped to handle their own soggy diaper than the newly minted red team. Government by consensus like they have in the north makes more sense...Someone just recently commented that we are running the province like we were 150 years ago...Maybe now might be a good time to be bold, don't hold your breath

  • Duffy
    March 11, 2016 - 11:35

    Dear delusional Sir, Do you not realize that for a family to exists and a country to exists there needs to be enough money to pay the required bills for basics. Look at the countries that have failed by spending-spending-spending: Iceland, Russia, numerous S. American Countries as well as Africa. Bordering on failing because of debt is China and the USA. I surely hope you do not run your household like you say - if so I will drop some change in your cup while you play a banjo on Water Street. Please get some financial help.

  • Paying the Piper
    March 11, 2016 - 11:02

    You've had the odd column that makes sense. But you need to stay away from public finance. It's clearly not something you understand or even want to understand. Sadly it's the kind of logic, or illogic, that has relegated the NDP to the opposition benches all these years. Unfortunately it is also the kind of thinking that got us into this mess over the past decade with an anomalous spendthrift progressive conservative government. Voters wisely realized that replacing Davis with McCurdy would be going from the frying pan to the fire.

    • Jim A.
      March 11, 2016 - 11:27

      So if the NDP has been relegated to the opposition bench all these years, how is it that we got into this mess with Liberal and PC governments? For all the opposition to this article, no one has come up with an alternative. Austerity measures are a punishment on the working class while the wealthy are further entrenched. Reagan's policies decimated the industrial sector and tripled the Gross Federal Debt, from $900 billion to $2.7 trillion. Mulroney also drove good manufacturing jobs out of Canada and drove up the debt. Both countries have been hobbled since these two sold out their respective countries to business interests -- the same business interests that benefited from massive tax cuts. The only place the trickle down theory works is in the men's room.

  • Nope Try Again
    March 11, 2016 - 10:44

    "Professors and students at the Bennett/Ball school of economics will claim this household/government comparison is inaccurate. I invite them to look at some numbers." That's the crux of your argument and you don't prove it. How pathetic is it that you write a letter that will be shown to the public and it wouldn't pass muster as an assignment in junior high.

  • JB
    March 11, 2016 - 09:50

    Brian has it right, the Dwight/Cathy economic school is outdated and under achieving. No other household or business in the world would have a policy of spending any savings or remaining money at year end. Government has no idea how to manage money, they just keep screaming they need more money. I am sick of paying taxes and then asked to pay more for incompetent public service governments. Time to privatize and get out of the business of selling liquor and fixing roads. Romans privatize everything and governed accordingly. Their demise was corruption and not listening to its people, not privatization.

  • troll?
    March 11, 2016 - 09:48

    You are trolling humanity Brian. How about some journalism? Please explain some NDP/socialist ideas that can work in reality. We can do our own negative thinking about Premier Ball and our government. Thank you. Forgive me. I realize that this is a tabloid but I miss The Evening Telegram. Tell us about the carbon pricing?

  • John Smith
    March 11, 2016 - 09:08

    ....the real problem with the constant doom and gloom scenario presented by the Liberals every time they get in the media, is that it becomes a self fulfilling prophecy....people don't spend...businesses don't hire, bond rating agencies perk up their ears. What we need to do is focus on the positives in the economy, while presenting a well thought out , solid plan to address our current fiscal situation. I will add that the association of realtors stated this week that inventory is actually down in the St. John's area...not up...and as well the auto association said that sales of luxury vehicles are setting records in the someone has money...this will soon change when Dwight and Cathy bring down their budget...then we will see what real austerity looks like...

  • Beetle Bailey
    March 11, 2016 - 08:53

    'people are moving to British Columbia' ...with it's million dollar houses, no less? Give me a break. Cite this information or at least label it as speculation.

    • Brad
      March 11, 2016 - 15:01

      I'm no fan of BC but there's more to it than Vancouver. And also, ever heard of Google? Look it up yourself, he's not a guide dog.

    • Errol
      March 11, 2016 - 17:33

      Rich, Chinese people are buying up Vanvouver prporties. Even they can recognize the house of cards that holds up a communist 'free enterprise' system.

  • WU
    March 11, 2016 - 08:16

    Interesting column, Brian, but really, being in debt is no joke, and neither is having to file for bankruptcy for those whose debt has become too overwhelming to control, as can be seen by the recent news releases regarding companies who have to close and those who have gone into receivership because of debt. And Brian, a lot of individuals were forced to sell their house and car, etc, to clear their debts. Belittling the aggravation and torment and the lowered quality of life regarding debt is not funny, and we should be supporting the government in any way we can to deal with our provincial debt. Do you have any constructive ideas with regard to that, Brian?

  • A tax payer
    March 11, 2016 - 08:12

    Finally a clever, well thought out editorial from the Telegram (Sorry for the backhanded compliment but this is refreshing to see!)

  • John Jr. Smith
    March 11, 2016 - 07:21

    Brian Jones has written a lot of crap over the years, this article may just take the cake!

  • Randy
    March 11, 2016 - 06:09

    The "solution" proposed by Brian Jones and his fellow NDP flag-wavers is keep trying to spend our way out of debt. Which school of economics does that great idea come from?

    • Donna J.
      March 11, 2016 - 08:59

      Keynesianism, you genius. What’s your solution – besides whining on about the NDP, the Telegram, and everyone who writes for it, ad nauseum? Is moaning on about stuff the only thing you are capable of, you tiresome, pathetic, little troll?

    • mirror troll
      March 13, 2016 - 08:47

      calling someone else a troll because their reasoning is different than yours speaks volumes of who trolls are on the Telegram . You tend to insult people with out bringing much to the topic Donna so if the shoe fits........... Signed Mirror troll.

  • Sadly Watching The Telegram Thin and Fade
    March 11, 2016 - 04:18

    Time to put Brian Jones back on the turnip truck he's fallen from and hope he makes it to the cellar for long term storage. He must be a volunteer contributor. There is no other explanation for the money losing print media having the ability to pay someone for his nonsense.