UK unions may not take to the streets to protest the new austerity budget the way the Greeks or Spanish have. Or, they might. George Osborne, the finance minister, proposed a plan to wring out 113 billion pounds out of government deficits both by cutting costs and raising taxes. Welfare programs, not unlike entitlement programs in the US, will be slashed. The Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition means to have a balanced budget by 2015.
The part of the plan that may cause the most consternation is the increase in the VAT from 17.5% to 20%. For UK residents living at the lower end of the middle class, the levy may be nearly impossible to bear. UK voters probably will not go gentle into the night. They may throw out the new government out of office before many of the new plans are instituted. Citizens of the UK certainly have a year or two before the government budget is put into place. That is long enough for voters to repudiate it at the polls.
It would appear likely that people living in the UK and US do not have the leverage to shut down the economy or government the way that they do in some southern European nations. Those strikes actions run the risk of harming GDP and undermining the potential success of spending cuts as a way to balance the books. Labor stoppages have an immediate effect on both the economy and will of the electorate to oppose austerity.
Will there be demonstrations and strikes in the UK? Perhaps, but they will not be powerful enough to sway the political decision that the government must be smaller and the burden on citizens must be larger. The next round of elections will decide whether austerity has enough support to stay in place.
Douglas A. McIntyre