post by Bill Gardner
The Harper government is moving forward on what will be a 5-10% cut in the Canadian federal budget. This may or may not be a good idea, but as an expatriate American, it is amazing to watch it happen.
The graph to the right is the year-to-year % changes in the US budget since 1978. These are the percentage change in absolute dollars relative to the baseline of the previous year. Notice that the budget has decreased in absolute terms in just one year, 2010. On average it grows about 6%, in part because the underlying economy grows. Americans have never experienced anything like the fiscal austerity of the current British government, or that planned by the Canadian Tories. Recall the political struggles in the US in the past summer over the budget. Can you imagine the US doing anything like this?
I'd always understood that parliamentary systems allow countries to make collective decisions that are harder to accomplish in the US, with its separation of powers. I hadn't appreciated how much the difference matters.