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British budget cuts: two big lessons for America

Only time will show whether severe budget cuts in Britain are too deep for that fragile economy to sustain. Even so, the political will to cut spending and the readiness to sacrifice sacred cows stand out as examples for America.

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British budget cuts unveiled today are the most severe in decades, promising to eliminate the country’s deficit in five years. What lessons do they hold for the fiscally challenged United States?

The race to a zero deficit in London is faster than in almost any other Western capital. Indeed, President Obama has warned that cutting too quickly could crash today’s struggling economies in another recession ditch.

But British Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron and his Liberal Democrat coalition partner, Nick Clegg, are willing to take the risk. They’re cutting almost 500,000 public-sector jobs and slashing spending at government agencies by an average of 19 percent. Mr. Cameron, in the driver’s seat, and Mr. Clegg, right next to him, are up on two wheels as they round a hairpin turn that leads to fiscal probity.

The next five years will show whether they can pull this off safely. But even while that question remains hanging, two big conclusions can already be reached about this British experiment and how it might apply across the Atlantic.

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