Nurses ¡Sí! Aluminum-lined Moneypits ¡No!

Honestly, Juan, I think you’re malversando your outrage, spending-wise. If you really want to get your fiscal responsibility juices flowing, forget about the pay settlement for nurses and chew on this for a while: Alcasa is going cap-in-hand to hit up the government for Bs.23 million. To meet payroll. This month!

What a fucking surprise! Stop the presses! Clueless state takes over business it has no reason to own, runs out of money, raids everyone else’s pockets to make up the shortfall! Boy, we never saw that coming!

See, if you want to rant and rave over public spending, why not rant and rave about entirely wasteful, unambiguously useless, utterly pointless public spending? Nurses – no matter how unseemly their tactics got – are actually providing a valuable public service that, realistically, only the state will pay for. They’re generating value for society as a whole in ways only they can. Plus the state is going to keep paying nurses salaries from now until the end of time. We wouldn’t want it any other way.

What’s genuinely crazy is that when you go to a hospital the nurse who saves your life is paid a pittance because the state has decided that losing money making aluminum is a strategic priority. That the cop who pulls you over has to shake you down for a bribe if he wants to be able to afford birthday presents for his kids because Chávez thinks running a cement company into the ground is the way to save humanity.

What should really piss us off is that the oil revenue streams that ought to be going to the things only the state can do are instead plugging financial holes in state firms that lose money doing things private firms make money (and pay tax) doing!

It’s easy to forget now – which is probably why it’s so routinely forgotten – that that insight was what the original Washington Consensus was supposed to be all about way back when: the more public money you spend on things the public sector does badly and the private sector does well, the less money you have left to spend on things the public sector does well and the private sector doesn’t do at all!

You really need to grab minimum here, Juan: all public spending was not created equal, and treating it as such is not “fiscally responsible”; it’s tea-bagging silliness.

The day we’ve brought a minimum of sanity, transparency and order to public spending, the day we’ve stopped the outright waste of public resources on things that have zero (hell, less-than-zero) social rates of return, then we can have a “grown-up conversation” about wasting money on fripperies like nurses. Capisci?

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