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The economy: This is London

April 18, 2011 |  8:15 pm

Harrods

Just back from a trip across the pond (and glad we went now, judging by Monday's story about rapidly rising airfares!).

The highlights of London? Too many to list. But two great lines from two stories stuck, reminding me that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

First, a Beefeater giving a tour at the Tower of London, to the Americans in the crowd:

"Just think, all this could've been yours if only you'd paid your taxes!"

Holy Founding Fathers, what have we done! Talk about bad "tea party" karma: The crown jewels. Big Henry VIII's impressive armor. The crows. The guards in big hats.  The tourists spending tons of money to gawk.

Kind of makes you want to take another look at that "no new taxes" mantra Republican lawmakers keep spouting.  What else are we going to miss out on?

Second great line, from the Jack the Ripper tour: "You can't pay, you can't stay."

Seems that several of the Ripper's victims were out on the streets, late at night, because they didn't have the two pence needed to rent a bed for the night. Not an apartment, or a room, just a bed. The rules were strict: Cash, in advance, or no bed.

It's the kind of social safety net a guy like Rep. Paul Ryan would envy. Although, to be fair, Ryan might offer the poorest a voucher that they could use to pay for a bed.

Much like the United States, Britain is struggling to cut the budget. Economic troubles, they say. Yet the pubs are crowded every night, Harrods is jammed, and there's no shortage of Ferraris and Porsches prowling the crowded streets, even with gas (uh, sorry, petrol) at $1.65 a liter.

So who's being asked to sacrifice? This too will sound familiar. In line at a supermarket, we strike up a conversation with a spry older woman. Are things harder lately? Oh yes, she says, and getting worse all the time. "I'm 85, and a pensioner, and they're cutting me back. I worked all my life, and this is how they treat me."

We cut the cord in 1776, but apparently our ruling classes still have a lot in common.

But we don't even have a royal wedding to look forward to.

RELATED:

Kate Middleton's London

Royal wedding: Prince William should put a ring on it

-- Paul Whitefield

Photo: Harrods. Credit: Suzanne Plunkett / Bloomberg News

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