Herring, Lies and Audio Tapes
July 3, 2014 By Piotr Aleksandrowicz
Two pieces of good news arrived in mid-June. First, June 14 was Tax Freedom Day in Poland, symbolically marking the first day of the year in which Poles had paid off their tax burden for the year. The day came several days sooner than last year.
The same day the Polskie Inwestycje Rozwojowe company-a government special-purpose vehicle “established to provide funding to viable long-term infrastructure projects”-turned out to be a humbug.
Good! While surfing the web, I’ve stumbled across an online public spending meter. It is even more impressive than the national debt meter displayed on an LED screen in central Warsaw, because government spending is growing several times faster than national debt. This online meter suggests that the government spends zl.23,500 a second and over zl.2 billion a day. Which means that during the 30 seconds you’ll be reading this article, public spending will grow by zl.700,000. That is why it’s good news that the Polskie Inwestycje Rozwojowe company has not spent a further zl.10 billion, zl.20 billion or zl.40 billion on a spate of unprofitable projects.
Meanwhile, somebody identifying themselves as Krokodyl53 has made a comment under the transcript of the infamous conversation held by central bank chief Marek Belka and Interior Minister Bartłomiej Sienkiewicz at the Sowa i Przyjaciele restaurant: “This is an unsophisticated but blunt dialogue about how Poland needs to be saved, how the finance minister is incapable of working with the central bank, and how the central bank has the means to remedy the situation if necessary. Consequently, the finance minister needs to be replaced so that the central bank can act effectively. What’s the big deal?"
Enough said. But perhaps the big deal is that the interior minister described “the Polish state" as "practically non-existent," which some are holding against him. Well, if you can hold anything against him, then it’s that he lied through his teeth. It is clear as day that when the government eats up half of the value added produced in Poland, there is too much of it.
An obscure American poet named John Godfrey Saxe was the first to make a connection between legislation, sausage and unawareness when he said in 1869 that "Laws, like sausages, cease to inspire respect in proportion as we know how they are made." The quote is often misattributed to Otto von Bismarck and paraphrased as, for example: "No one should see how politics and sausages are made." The thing is, everybody should. And it is even better for people to remember that the more readily available a product becomes, the more flavorless it gets, no matter if it is sausage or state. If you think politicians talking over a plateful of herring are a bad thing, then what they’re talking about is even worse.