Look Out, America! The UK Has a Lesson for You

Americans are notoriously unaware of world events, and – as we head into the most critical election of my lifetime – they may not know what is happening in the United Kingdom.

So, tell all the Americans you know to pause and ponder the events across the Atlantic. There is still time to avert a catastrophe, and the warning signs are there for all to read.

The conservative government that the unfortunate Britons elected is chastising them with scorpions. And the same scorpions are lurking in the policies offered by America’s Republican Party.

Writing in The Guardian yesterday, Polly Toynbee describes the situation in Britain this way:

The failure of George Osborne’s economic policy has been faster and more embarrassingly transparent than many expected. Osborne’s vision of public spending as a thorny thicket choking off private sector growth has been exposed in textbook fashion, just as Keynes proved back in the 1930s. Public investment was the seedcorn not the briar, and “crowding out” joins the litter of failed economic theories. Labour’s warning of “too far, too fast” has proved right. As bank reform and financial regulation is now kicked into 2019, “rebalancing the economy” is all mouth and no trousers – a phrase, not a deed. The sinking construction industry points out that Osborne’s recent £5bn (five billion British pounds)  “boost” to infrastructure is a fraction of the 30% already cut from it, while 2011 saw even fewer houses built.

The cuts will bleed harder this year: each job loss is a family tragedy, full of bitter personal humiliation as well as hardship. Some 1,829 people a day are losing their jobs, not numbers but people – and the pace is accelerating. Incomes will fall yet again this year: a 7% drop, the sharpest in 35 years, says the Institute for Fiscal Studies. The real value of minimum wage incomes has fallen furthest, says the Resolution Foundation. The silent exodus from homes and schools has begun, as tomorrow’s housing benefit cuts already start to drive families out of privately rented homes: Barking reports 140 new families arriving last month, including 70 uprooted child protection cases, and with thousands more expected.

The NHS (National Health Service) by next winter will make constant headlines: the £3bn (three billion pounds) cost of disruption and privatisation will seem exorbitant as services go bust and waiting times soar. Crime is already rising, especially robbery and burglary, as youth unemployment increases and youth services vanish. With Sure Start and child literacy programmes disappearing, future trouble brews. The OECD’s latest report on rising inequality finds the bottom 30% with just 3% of UK wealth, while the top third commands 75%. With money comes the power to sway governments to protect tax privileges and loopholes. The IFS predicts another 600,000 poor children in the next two years but shamelessly Cameron and Clegg still promise social mobility, knowing the IFS says it is already reversing. As Warren Buffet says of the class war: “My class has won.”

If you think America’s future will be any different under a Republican administration, think again! The Republicans are promising the identical economic “cures” that David Cameron is forcing on the United Kingdom, with the same feeble justification. It is sad that some people find these “cures” so plausible. There seems to be a lazy logic to the reasoning behind them and people who do not think things through often fall prey to it.

But facts are facts. And the Republicans’ economic “facts” are wrong.

As the British say, the proof is in the pudding, and here’s the pudding as Toynbee reports it:

The year ends with the country in a worse state than the government’s severest critics expected. Yet worse is to come, as 2012 slides towards the second recession in three years. Virtually everything David Cameron’s government has done has made matters worse; most policy initiatives are creaking while others are mere words without substance. In my political lifetime there has been no more callous or inept crew in charge – nor a government more skilful at disguising its nature.

Americans should learn from Britain’s mistakes. The 2012 elections will offer a different path from the one that Cameron and his cronies have taken. There is a brighter future to be had if Americans choose it. As Toynbee says of Britain:

This is a rich country: how that wealth should be generated, invested and shared is our choice, not iron fate. It took a war to rescue us from the 1930s depression with state investment in arms and soldiers: it needs a war footing now to use the positive power of the state to get us back on our feet. This is no time for the state to retreat.

Man up, America. Don’t fall for that Tory baloney. We can make it if we try. Yes we can!

Click here to read The Guardian’s article.