by Kate Dinnison.
As a student in the UK it’s easy to complain about the 21 year drinking age back home, or the guns, or the Westboro-type bigots, but since living in Europe, I’ve seen many larger problems my country faces that are often ignored in middle-class suburbia.
I’ll note just four problems that have plagued the US for longer than our congress would care to note, and none of these policy changes can or will happen over night. Even if I live as an expat for the years to come I hope to see some change or progress for America in my lifetime.
1. The most obvious, the NHS
The NHS model is by no means the most efficient or cheapest in the world, but the brits have a model that works with their capitalist structure and is insurance-driven much like the existing health care “system” in the US. It spends $3,405 per person per annum, less than half America’s expenditure of $8,508, which is mostly spent on emergency services. Despite the respectable preventative health measures (a diamond in the rough) most of the budget is spent on other inefficient and unequal coverage policies and procedures. The controversial “Obamacare” is in the process of being carried out, but is only a small step toward cost-effective and widespread health insurance. Adaptation of the tax structure as well as a integration of private into public coverage will be necessary to make these steps. Hell, maybe someday basic human services could be free for all in the land of the free.
2. Low University tuition fees
The United States already has problems with primary and secondary education – our students are falling behind in almost all subjects science and humanities-based compared to much of Europe and Asia, and the constant battle in congress over education funding only expedites the overall system’s decline. President Obama in last week’s State of the Union Address proposed the idea of elimination tuition fees for Community Colleges, but what about the rest of the nation’s 2,800 plus four-year universities? The US citizen will pay an average $28,500 per year for a four year degree with two thirds of students leaving with some sort of debt, $30,000 on average. Top tier universities on par with King’s would cost you upwards of $60,000 per annum. All of this has caused a $1.2 trillion debt crisis among youth, which could change if we look more toward the UK model, which is even looking at eliminating tuition like Germany has before it. The UK has a 9,000 pound cap on tuition for domestic students (US $14,550) per year for undergraduate degrees over 3 years with lower interest rates for student loans and many of the universities are just as highly ranked and run just as efficiently, with the bonus of the buildings looking like Hogwarts.
3. Preparing for the death of the dollar
Fiscal analysts predict the consequences of the new $600 billion program of quantitative easing by the U.S. Federal Reserve to be massive. They predict that the “death of the dollar” may set off a chain reaction of international “competitive devaluations” that could precipitate a global currency crisis. The UK held over 44.6 billion dollars in their foreign reserves in gold, foreign currency assets and International Monetary Fund assets in case of a crisis to uphold the sterling or their monetary policy objectives. These protectionist policies could protect the US from the coming crisis, but the outstanding national debt prevents the federal reserve from saving enough to be effective relative to the US GPD. Though the United states is the “richest” country in the world, where will we be when our currency pulls an Icarus?
4. Cap on election campaign donations
In America, we look at elections almost like sports broadcasting – whose dirty past will be revealed, which global-warming deniers will run, what tie will he wear next? Also similar to big-league sports in America is the amount of money that goes in and out of those joining a “team” or party during campaign season. In the UK there are laughably low, but absolutely logical limits or “election expenditures” with an average of £4,000 of candidate self-funding as well as the prohibition of paid political advertising in the broadcast media where political parties receive a certain amount of broadcasting time on national television and radio free of charge to level the playing field. The field is anything but level in the US, look below.
Campaign contributors in the US don’t have to worry about loopholes, there are simply no limits to get around besides that it’s not tax-deductible. Switching to the UK model could also rid of the strictly two-party system we have today by giving emerging parties a chance to be heard, even if budget is low.
Her Majesty’s Treasury
Federal Election Commission
US Department of Health & Human Services
US Department of Education