By Dan Kennedy
Wednesday, October 27, 2010 2:22 PM EDT

I have just returned from a week in London. The food was gray, weather grayer, and their economy bleak, dark and foreboding.

Their coalition government’s hastily cobbled together “austerity program” became a big U.S. news item while I was there, but our news doesn’t do justice to the severity of their problems.

A few highlight of what were described by one news commentator as “the most painful cuts to Britain’s bloated welfare budget since World War II”: in recent years, during the winter, people who can’t pay their heating bills have been given 25 pounds a day; that is to be cut to 8 pounds. A child-benefit now paid until age 18 will be reduced to 16, and taken away entirely from high income earners – in total, taking money from 2-million families. Factories employing disabled workers have been given subsidies. That is to end. Government jobs are to be slashed. Pension benefits will be “adjusted.” The government is desperately seeking a private sector buyer for its postal system.

Symbolically, the Queen has even cancelled this year’s Christmas party. Even the dogs I saw out for walks in Kensington Park seemed worried.

Britain’s VAT tax is going up, from 17 percent to 20 percent – but remember that’s not a simple 3 percent bump, because goods are taxed multiple times as they move from first source to manufacturer to distribution points to retail. It’s a tax scheme that we are being prepped for here, to be layered atop an already evil income tax system. And make no mistake, it’s a tax on poor and rich alike, that once installed, will increase again and again over time.

Britain’s news is full of dire predictions of mass retail shop closings after the first of the year, an evolving commercial real estate collapse, the absence of a housing recovery, and even a double-dip recession. At Jaguar and Land Rover 15,000 manufacturing jobs were saved at last minute with government bail-out of some sort, but other legendary factories are closing or moving to better tax environments – notably including the Twinings tea company moving to Poland, its departure apparently the cultural equal of the New York Yankees re-locating to Mexico. 

Work slow-downs and mini strikes are just beginning. The morning I arrived at Heathrow, the immigration officers were all on a 2 day strike, and we disembarked the plane to face temporary officers, making the line crawl at half its normally slow speed.

Welcome to Britain.

The news is also full of horror-stories from their health care system. Featured one day, a woman diagnosed with breast cancer then made to wait six months for treatment, by then too late; cancer metastasized. Her doctor-prescribed treatment, to cost 23,000 pounds, was eventually denied by the government health agency as “too expensive.” Delay, of course, is rationing. Doctor shortages. Rising costs and no money to pay them.

It was Margaret Thatcher’s 85th birthday while I was there. To paraphrase her, sooner or later, a socialist government runs out of everybody else’s money. The sun is setting on the British Empire. Ours too.

If you want to see our future, visit England. Or France, now in its 7th week of rioting and blockades. Or Greece. Their collapse will be ours, their strikes and street riots coming here soon. If we do not totally reverse course, this is our unavoidable destination.  People here, for the most part, don’t yet see our situation for what it is, and the mainstream media is not presenting it anywhere near as dire as it is.
The government big enough to promise everybody everything they want must confiscate everything everybody has – and in our case, also borrow bazillions from China. Right now, Obama’s dog’s dinners are paid for by money borrowed from the Chinese. We should be panicked, angry and ashamed at such collective stupidity.

We should not “be calm and carry on.”

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