As dawn broke over Australia's new federal budget on Wednesday, it found some interest groups reeling at the new and straitened circumstances under which they will henceforth be obliged to live.
Among the hardest hit are firebrand conservative columnists, whose crucial supply of rant fuel has been cut off abruptly by the newly released national fiscal blueprint.
The suffering of such opinion leaders is twofold. Not only will most be obliged personally to pay the deficit levy on Australians earning more than $180,000 a year, but they have also effectively been stripped of two subjects – class war taxes on the rich and the reprehensibility of broken campaign promises – on which many had formerly relied heavily for rhetorical ballast.
Former prime minister Julia Gillard's broken promise on the carbon tax provided a rich source on which such commentators were able to subsist comfortably for years – even after the defeat of her government, it was not unusual to see entire columns reminding readers of how pusillanimous an act it is for a politician to say one thing before an election and do another afterwards.
But the budget has largely stilled the production line of outrage on these points, proving once again that budgets – particularly harsh ones – do indeed change behaviour.
In the days before the budget, when the Coalitions's plans to raid fuel excise and stiff millionaires was but a rumour, News Ltd columnist Andrew Bolt urged Prime Minister Tony Abbott to issue a general public apology for even entertaining the idea of breaking his "no new taxes" campaign promise.
But when the dreadful truth was confirmed, Bolt dashed off a column at 6.30am moodily commending the overall direction of the budget, then spent the rest of the day attacking the ABC, Manus Island refugees, Gillard, Adam Goodes, Kevin Rudd's insulation scheme and demanding to know exactly where Barack Obama was when the diplomatic compound at Benghazi was attacked.
Once upon a time, a budget that sprung not only petrol price increases but also a new tax on rich voters would have been an opportunity for Bolt to spend day after day in ceaseless, pleasurable thunderation. The scarifying effects of the budget here are obvious.
Piers Akerman, likewise, for whom election pledge chicanery and petrol tank thumping has provided an invaluable income stream in recent years, warned Abbott passionately before the budget to abandon any thought of excise increases or new taxes.
But, on budget night, Akerman, too, climbed resignedly aboard the tumbril, issuing a blog post so riven with inner conflicts that it struggled, at times, with both syntax and spelling: "Forget the predictable cries of anguish from the ABC's trained troupe of rent-seekers," he gasped bravely. "There is not that as much suffering (sic) as they might have you believe."
The petrol tax increase, meanwhile, became an "additional cent or to (sic)" and was swiftly abandoned for some uncharacteristically wandering historical points about Ben Chifley and Winston Churchill.
Increased petrol taxes? And no tub-thumpers angry? Surely Alan Jones would stay strong. If Gillard had increased fuel excise, Jones would instantly have recommended firing her into space – and hang the expense.
But, on budget morning, when the Prime Minister reported for his Jonesian rub-down, he received nothing but approval for pricier fuel.
"There are legitimate reasons around the world for this," avowed Jones sternly. "One is to stop the guzzling of a scarce resource."
Such is the price of this budget. Hard-working Australians, stripped of their dignity and self-respect, obliged to get by scraps.
Elsewhere, new explanations were discovered for why breaking promises can sometimes be OK.
"A tally of promises kept and those supposedly broken is a hopeless measure of a government's worth," decided The Australian's Nick Cater, on balance.
Janet Albrechtsen gently mourned the "debate about broken promises" which "infects politics worldwide". She also told readers the Danish word meaning "debate about broken promises". It's "loftebrudsdebatten", just in case you get asked at pub trivia.
Trust deficits, in this joined-up world we all inhabit, aren't just restricted to politics. They also accrue to the hyper-opinionated, especially those who adjust those opinions according to the political breeze.
Incidentally, it's worth pointing out that Joe Hockey – the author of all this inconvenience – is probably the player concerned who can least be accused of double-dealing. He made his views on "entitlement" known before the election and, in government, he has ploughed on and written a budget to match, in the process collecting brickbats for everything from his taste in smokeables and music to the price tag on a dress worn by his wife, a self-made woman who has earned a lot over her life, not least the right to wear whatever she wants.
People used to write of Hockey that he lacked political and economic courage. But they don't any more. That's political climate change for you.