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Published: Wednesday, 10/27/2010

Debtor nations

France, the United Kingdom, the United States, and other countries need to cut budget deficits if they are to address the longer-term problem of growing national debt. The economies of Portugal, Italy, Greece, and Spain are examples of what can happen if countries don't address these issues sooner rather than later.

Britain and France have taken draconian, unpopular steps to tackle the problem, but the United States is avoiding the issue. Republicans talk about cutting the deficit and reducing debt. But when they are asked where they would make specific cuts, they offer nothing.

Democrats indicate they may understand the problem better. But on the eve of the midterm elections, they cite the danger of cutting government spending when the economy is in recession, even though economists claim it isn't.

Britain, through its Conservative-led coalition government, is developing a hard-edged budget that slashes government services. It takes a serious but necessary bite out of military expenditures. Even though the government claims otherwise, its ability to fight a future war alongside the United States will be reduced after the cuts.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has taken a different, even more unpopular, tack. He is raising the age at which French workers can collect full retirement benefits from 60 to 62.

This would make sense even if France weren't battling recession. The government began its generous policy on retirement when people didn't live as long as they do now.

British taxpayers have showed a stiff upper lip about the cuts, professing some understanding that they are necessary. In France, unions initiated strikes that have partially paralyzed the country, although they appear to be ending.

After the U.S. elections next week, the Obama Administration and Congress will have to address the American version of this pressing problem.

Tempting though it may be for Washington's leadership to pretend otherwise, a $1-trillion-plus deficit and a soaring $13 trillion debt cannot be ignored.



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