I and a lovely group of KTBB listeners just got back from a week touring London and the English countryside. Turns out our timing was good. Because absent a breakthrough in the next few hours as I write this, hundreds of thousands of public employees in the U.K, including customs and border control officers at London’s unimaginably busy Heathrow airport, are going out on a one-day strike.
Air travel in England will seize.
The issue: proposed changes to public employee retirement benefits. It seems that asking civil servants in the U.K. to defer retirement to age 65 is simply a bridge too far. Never mind that England, like America, is broke, is facing budget deficits into the indefinite future and is even more mired in recession than we are.
The fact that Britain doesn’t have the money to pay the retirement benefits it has promised is cutting no ice with its public employees. They simply refuse to hear it. The civil unrest earlier this year in Greece, the protracted fight over public employee unions earlier this year in Wisconsin and now a crippling strike in London during the holiday season all serve to illustrate a very important truth.
Once the government starts handing out goodies, it’s hard to stop.
Witness, then, America’s future. Since this time yesterday, the United States borrowed nearly $4.5 billion to pay for the goodies it has promised. No politician has the courage to stand up and say, “We’re going to have to cut back on the goodies.” Instead, debt commissions and super committees and double secret sub-committees will get formed in order to “study the problem” and “make recommendations” and propose “real, enforceable reductions in spending.”
But spending will continue apace and the government will borrow at this rate around the clock day after day until the day comes that no one will lend.
If you think shutting down Heathrow airport for a day is chaotic, wait until Uncle Sam maxes out the credit card.