Robbing Peter to pay Paul is a clear example of poor economics and even worse planning – while you solve one problem by paying Paul, you line up another problem for the future, because Peter will demand his payment in due course.
Like using your Visa Card to pay your MasterCard bill.
The most likely origin for this phrase dates back to the reign of Henry VIII, who granted Westminster Abbey (dedicated to St Peter) in Westminster the status of ‘Cathedral’ this spared the Abbey from being destroyed in his ‘Dissolution of the Monasteries between between 1536 and 1541. It could be argued that Westminster Abbey merited being spared as it had hosted the coronation of every English king since 1066 – and continues to to this day.
After the dissolution was completed, Westminster returned to Abbey status in 1550.
However, during the period that Westminster was a Cathedral, funds meant for the upkeep of the Abbey (in the City of Westminster) were diverted to the treasury of St Paul’s Cathedral in the City of London.
Hence robbing Peter to pay Paul.