Socialists dislike programs for the poor. They prefer that everyone receive welfare because they calculate, so far correctly, that it's much harder for governments to cut subsidies to everyone than to the poor. That's why, in the U.S., liberals go rigid at the idea of cutting Social Security benefits to the affluent. In Britain, Labour is incensed at the proposal by the coalition government to reduce the annual child subsidy that all Britons, regardless of income, receive. "No more open-ended chequebook," Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne explained. "No family should get more from living on benefits than the average family gets from going out to work."
This is the "same old Tories," a Labour leader complained, "hitting hardest at those who can least afford it." What? The government is proposing to cut benefits principally for the better off. Cuts to programs for the poor will be slight.
The British government, deeply in debt, is scrambling to avoid the fate of Greece, whose unsustainable obligations brought it to the brink of default until it was rescued by the European Union. Though full details of the budget will not be published until Oct. 20, leaks in the British press have suggested that the VAT tax will increase from 17.5 to 20 percent, that banks will be assessed added taxes, and that military spending will be reduced by 10 to 20 percent. Though Prime Minister David Cameron sought to quiet fears that drastic cuts in the military budget would compromise Britain's commitment to Afghanistan, he was less than convincing.
Though the coalition government has shied from suggesting cuts to the Great White Elephant, the National Health Service, it has proposed to restructure the program. Britain spends more on the NHS than on any other line item -- more than on pensions, social security, education, defense, transport, public safety, or interest on the debt. Under the previous Labour government, spending on the NHS tripled in just 12 years. It's the great black hole in the center of Britain's debt vortex. And yet the quality of care and efficiency of delivery are dismal compared with other European countries, and far inferior to the United States.
Or at least to the pre-Obamacare United States. The pain Britain is enduring should be instructive. They are trying to climb out of a ditch. If we grab that emergency brake now, we may avoid falling in.