Thirty-six years ago when he first ran for Congress, Lake Jackson, Texas, obstetrician Ron Paul rented billboards depicting a seriously obese Uncle Sam with the caption, ‘‘Put Big Government on a Diet.’’
Most Americans, with the possible exception of those addicted to government benefits, would probably be happy to return to the 1975 federal debt level of a paltry $84 billion. Today, the national debt is $13 trillion and rising.
While Republican congressional candidates and many GOP incumbents are promising smaller and less costly government, the new British coalition government has decided to begin a serious restructuring of its entitlement state.
Last week, Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne announced plans to cut spending in Britain across the board in the largest decrease in the size and cost of government since World War II. These cuts, if fully implemented by Parliament, will outdo reductions enacted by former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in the late ’70s and early ’80s, which the left characterized as too severe and liable to kill people. Sound familiar?
‘‘Today is the day when Britain steps back from the brink, when we confront the bills from a decade of debt,’’ Osborne told Parliament. ‘‘It is a hard road,’’ he said, ‘‘but it leads to a better future.’’
Among the changes is a rise in the retirement age to 66, ‘‘beginning in 2020, six years earlier than planned,’’ reports BBC News. There have been demonstrations in the streets of Paris over a government proposal to save money by increasing the French retirement age to 62 from 60. The British people will have 10 years to prepare, which ought to be enough time for attitudes to change from what they are ‘‘entitled’’ to from government using other people’s money, to what they should do for themselves with their own money.
Perhaps the biggest cuts in Britain will come from a reduction in government jobs. Under the proposal by the conservative-liberal coalition government of David Cameron and Nick Clegg, ‘‘500,000 public sector jobs could go by 2014-15, as a result of the cuts program,’’ according to the BBC. Again, five years should be enough time for people to make plans to find new jobs in the private sector, or start a business.
Each government department is required to publish next month a business plan in which reforms to be made over the next four years will be spelled out.
The one area targeted for substantial cuts that should be reconsidered is the Ministry of Defense, which faces an 8 percent spending reduction. Some critics think such a drastic decrease in military spending may keep Britain from fulfilling its role in the war against terrorists in Afghanistan. Given that Islamic extremists have attacked Britain, as well as America, this could be a case of Britain cutting its own throat.
Everyone except the politicians who spend to buy votes and the people addicted to other people’s money knows that Britain and America can’t go on like this. When Republicans hold power, Democrats complain about the deficit and debt. Congressional Democrats and the Obama administration have sent our debt off the charts with more to come. The day of financial reckoning is at hand.
Americans and Britons must change their mind-set and start taking care of themselves and each other. Liberty, not government, should be paramount.
I have recently lost 35 pounds on the most successful diet I have ever tried. Previous diets didn’t fail me. I failed them because I lacked the motivation to make them work.
In order to put big government on a diet, the same attitude adjustment is necessary among the American people, as it must be for the British people. In the end, if we do it right, we too can take a road that ‘‘leads to a better future.’’
E-mail nationally syndicated columnist Cal Thomas at firstname.lastname@example.org.