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‘There’s No Money Left’

Posted by Larry Doyle on May 17, 2010 8:46 AM |

Spending money you do not have is a clearly defined road to fiscal ruin.

Politicians the world over, but especially in Washington, have little appreciation for this concept. A departing chief secretary in the U.K. Treasury, Liam Byrnes, addresses this topic with crystal clarity in a message left for his successor, David Laws.

Bloomberg highlights Byrnes’ message in reporting, ‘There’s No Money Left’ U.K. Minister Learns from Predecessor:

Arriving for work at the U.K. Treasury last week, the incoming chief secretary, David Laws, found a note from his predecessor, Liam Byrne, offering advice on the job.

According to Laws, it read: “Dear Chief Secretary, I’m afraid to tell you there’s no money left.”

“Which was honest,” Laws, whose position is the No. 2 in the Treasury after the chancellor of the exchequer, told a press conference in London today. “But slightly less than I was expecting.”

The note underscores the task facing Britain’s coalition government as it seeks to reconcile demand for improved health and education services with promises to reduce the largest budget deficit since World War II.

It was also in the tradition of Reginald Maudling, Conservative chancellor of the exchequer from 1962 to 1964. Leaving his residence after election defeat, he was reported by James Callaghan, his successor, to have remarked, “Sorry, old cock, to leave it in this shape.”

I have to admit, my initial reaction to reading this commentary was to chuckle. Why? I pictured the deadpan look on the incoming chief secretary’s face upon reading this note. The fact that Laws’ shared the message is also very interesting. Talk about managing expectations.

After wiping the smirk off my face, though, the enormity of this message hit me. Do you really want to own the British pound? Do you really think the British economy is poised to rebound? Do you think the U.K. economy and that of the EU as well may serve as a drag on the global economy? Do you have any doubt that the Fall of the British Empire is complete?

If the crowd in Washington were honest (a true oxymoron), might they see themselves in the mirror?


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