The new British coalition government's rapid move to cut the country's budget, 20 days after the elections in the United Kingdom, points up two contrasts with government in the United States.
The British elections took place May 6 and, with no clear single-party victor, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats formed a coalition within days, despite significant policy differences between the two.
The three major parties in the elections -- the Conservatives, Labor and the Liberal Democrats -- all pledged to tackle what they considered the United Kingdom's No. 1 problem, a budget deficit that is causing the country's national debt to spiral upward. (Sound familiar?) In the campaign no party was too specific about how it would apply the scalpel, given that the cuts would have to come from programs cherished by British public.
Many said the initial cut would have to be about $9 billion. On Monday, the government announced cuts of $8.3 billion -- in civil service costs, consultancies, information technology acquisition and use of official cars. Savings would also come from a 5 percent pay cut for Cabinet ministers. The economies were possible, in part, because, with the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats in government, neither would reap political capital at the other's expense for what were necessary measures for the country.
Now, shift the focus to Washington. The United States is facing a budget deficit of $1.5 trillion this year. The national debt stands at $13 trillion, with about $3 trillion held by the Chinese.
Instead of cutting, the Congress is undertaking new spending, all of which will have to be financed by borrowing. The new spending includes $58.8 billion for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, on top of the Pentagon's regular budget of $680 billion, plus $123 billion in economic relief.
Obviously, the internal political landscape is different for the United States and the United Kingdom. The U.K. has three major parties instead of two. Yet cooperation in a coalition government between center-right Conservatives and center-left Liberal Democrats is managing to achieve budget cuts needed by the U.K. to attack a major national problem.
Just imagine Washington's fractious, lobbyist-ridden Democrats and Republicans trying to attack a common problem -- like the deficit and national debt -- in harmony, free of efforts to score cheap political points. Cry, the beloved country.