With British leaders announcing sharp government cuts, French workers protesting their government's decision to raise the retirement age, and Republican Congressional candidates promising to unplug the federal A.T.M. the minute they arrive in Washington, austerity is the fall's dominant political trend.And for Americans still furious over the weak economic recovery, the obvious question is: How much worse will things become if and when the budget guillotine falls here? Could cuts of British magnitude be in the offing?
Theoretically, the enormous United States debt - $13.7 trillion and climbing - might conjure up a bleak scenario: more than a million public employees laid off; virtually everything else in the government including the military would face cuts; social welfare safety nets torn down; research programs canceled; national parks left untended; arts and cultural institutions abandoned.
A million bureaucrats laid off? The horror.
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