Consider this scenario. The boss cuts your salary. Are you then pathetically grateful when he gives you a Christmas bonus? Of course not — but that’s how we’re supposed to react at Budget time.

Come Budget season, all the media focus seems to be on the surplus. But what about the other $300 billion or so the Government has to play with.

All of that should be spent wisely. It’s our money, after all. The government are merely the custodians, bankers and investors on our behalf.

Indeed, it’s quite easy to argue that the government shouldn’t have much of it in the first place.

Last year, the Centre for Independent Studies magazine Policy bewailed the growth of “big government conservatism” in Australia under John Howard.

“The Fraser government—often criticised for not advancing a small government agenda—was much more constrained,” Andrew Norton wrote.

“Unlike Fraser, Howard has enjoyed good economic times. In theory at least, reliance on government should have eased as unemployment dropped and real wages grew.”

The opposite has happened. As Norton observes, “By mid-decade, the government’s taxing and spending record had acquired vocal critics, to whom the Prime Minister’s 2004 election campaign launch speech became a symbol of spendthrift government. According to The Australian, he made election promises at the rate of $94 million a minute.”

Each budget seems to bring along a new set of bribes: the private health rebate, the deferred pension bonus, the first home owner grant, the pensioner cash bonus, the baby bonus… This year it looks as if we’ll get subsidies to install solar energy systems and there’s been talk of a one-off payment for participants in the superannuation co-contribution scheme.

Rather than go through the churn of taking the money away from us and handing it back — minus all the administration costs — why not let us keep it?

The Commonwealth’s tax-take has leapt by almost 40% since the GST was introduced.

How long can Cossie’s con continue? Surely sooner or later voters will realise that they are simply being bribed with money that was their’s to start with.