I was happy not to have been living in America during the last presidential election, because it was so long and so relentlessly covered in the media. And apparently this is also true here in Britain. I’ve been suffering through the all-election-all-the-time month, leading up to the vote this coming week, and man am I tired of it. And not because it isn’t interesting. No one actually knows what is going to happen. But I’ll be happy when this week is over and we can go back to talking about something–anything–else.
It’s actually been a while since I’ve talked much about US-UK things, with all the China posts and things, so I’ve got a bunch of miscellany saved up. Here we go.
The New York Times featured a story on expats renouncing their citizenship because of the double taxation thing. Slate pointed out some flaws in the numbers, but that doesn’t change the basic idea. The fact that such a story could be plausible is deeply telling. It is dumb that we (Americans living abroad) get taxed in the US as well as in our country of residence. And it’s dumb that we can vote in the US (where we don’t live or pay taxes) and not in our country of residence (where we live and pay taxes). There’s a twitter hashtag now for “ThamesTeaParty” and a group of expats planning to meet up on Monday (Bank Holiday) to protest. I actually have to work and can’t go, but I love the idea. The model of citizenship and residency that we have pre-dates globalization, and this sort of problem is just going to keep on getting worse by affecting more people.
Meanwhile, I saw a hilarious tweet this week about how Americans were only upset about illegal immigration while the Brits were upset about legal immigration. And it’s true, as many commenters have pointed out, immigration was the one issue that came up in all three of the historic British electoral debates that have taken place in the last few weeks, and that’s interesting given that the debates were supposed to have different themes. I find it very strange and uncomfortable living in a place where a large fraction of the population thinks that the island should have impenetrable borders and no migration. Of course, I also find it very strange living in a country where the welfare system is so generous that people can exist who have never had a job in their life. I think that’s why this Gordon Brown rhetoric of British jobs for British workers is so asinine. For an interesting read on what Labour has and has not accomplished in the last 13 years, I recommend this at the Economist, which had this to say:
Another grave failure has been in welfare. When Labour took over, more than 5m working-age adults subsisted on state benefits. That scandalous figure has barely shifted. (The vast majority of the jobs created in Britain since 1997 have gone to foreign-born workers.) For all Mr Brown’s tinkering with the benefits system, a serious push to reform its misaligned incentives began only recently.
Don’t forget the total population of the country is about 60 million, of which about 40 million are working age. So 12.5% (5 million of 40 million) working age people are living on welfare? On the other hand hand, no wonder people are so antsy about immigration if job creation is being funneled directly to newcomers. Of course, we foreigners are here working hard and paying taxes to keep a huge number of British people on British benefits. Economics and politics are such funny things sometimes.
I had forgotten that BP stands for British Petroleum. So that big pile of oil that is continuing to leak into American waters and causing people to worry about fisheries and wildlife and all sorts of things is actually a British problem. I kind of chuckled when I saw this quote:
“They don’t learn their lessons, they are the most arrogant bunch of bastards I’ve ever dealt with,” said lawyer Brent Coon. “It’s like they just don’t care. At some point, we are going to have to put some of these executives in jail and withdraw their right to exploit our natural resources.”
It never ends, this bickering between the US and the UK. You would think the whole war of independence being almost 250 years ago would stop the “take your toys and go home” requests, but apparently not.
I don’t know quite how I stumbled on this ten year old Guardian piece but it made me laugh. The whole thing. The formal letters back and forth. The fact that it was an argument about supermarkets and whether or not they are inherently evil. The part where it talked about how bad life was before supermarkets (especially ironic given that the nice big stores are still only allowed to be open for 6 hours on Sundays and as such the panic at 4:30 pm in my local Sainsbury’s on a Sunday results in queues that look like those of Soviet Russia).