A few general points from England;
Our education system (at least at the higher/further level) seems much better than the US's. No-one over here that I've ever met (and I have a pretty damn varied social circle) has any of the issues with getting funding or dropping out of Uni that you can see in the B&U forum here. The worst that generally happens is occasionally people have to work a few extra jobs, but those who I know who have been forced to drop out almost always did so because they simply didn't like their Uni or the lifestyle... not due to pure finnancial constraints. Recieving my student loan was a simple task and my friends who needed bursuries got them without real issue. We have our own issues... there was an attempt to put 50% of all students through University which led to a devaluing of a degree. In addition to that student debt skyrocketed... and then throw in the huge number of university graduates looking for graduate jobs, nearly all with £10k+ debt and the economic circumstances leading to a reduction in the jobs offered and we're going to have a real issue in 5 or 10 years time.
I'm no fan of the NHS. In truth I'm a fairly outspoken critic. That said, from both reading personal horror stories and looking at the facts I think I prefer it to the way the US is set up right now. From what I understand, if
you can get the care then the US system is the best in the world. The issue is that few can. Personally I like the Swiss
Now, there's one big issue to be faced. After the next election the UK will have
to have massive spending cuts. For over a decade we've had tax and spend policies that relied upon the good times and kept nothing back for a rainy day. Both major parties are desperately trying to claim that certain areas will be ring fenced, but I think that if the parties actually stick to their promises to cut spending we're going to see large reductions virtually across the board. In 5 years the set up for education and the NHS may be very different as the UK has to adjust to getting spending under control.
Another major factor in the UK economy will be the finnancial sector. As it stands nearly all the parties are playing a game of kick the banker... which is good for grabbing votes but not for long term economic viability. We've already seen many of the top people at RBS leave for Asian banks (and these were the profitable people...) as the government clamps down and in todays world if the government pushes too far then it's not a stretch for most of the big players to leave... enough other countries will welcome them with open arms. The issue is heightned by the controls the EU wishes to place on banks as a whole. London is pretty much the only major finnancial hub left in Europe... so any restrictions to the city really only apply to London. It's a worrying thought that politicians can vote something into being that will have no direct effect on their constituents (although we in the UK have got used to that with the West Lothian question...)