Thatcher Haunts White House Budget
Iciness is the defining feature of Margaret Thatcher, the United Kingdom’s first and only female prime minister, who died last week. She was the cold-as-steel Iron Lady. President Obama, warm, friendly, shaking hands, hugging the bereft, is the opposite.
It’s the same with their philosophies. President Obama, who worked as a community organizer, believes in the power of consensus and collective action. Thatcher, a conservative, scorned compromise and community.
It’s inexplicable, then, that a Thatcher policy would appear in the White House budget released last week. Thatcher once argued for taking milk from the mouths of babes, lobbying to restrict free milk for school children. Similarly, the White House budget proposes taking money out of the pockets of the elderly by cutting Social Security cost-of-living payments. Social Security is community action. It is Americans coming together to care for their parents and grandparents. Thatcher would definitely cut it. Republicans in Congress would. But Democrats should never allow the mean spirit of Margaret Thatcher to materialize in a progressive policy document.
Even in death, which tends to ease loathing, Thatcher is reviled by vast swaths of the United Kingdom. Graffiti gives her a rocky send off. The writing on the wall says: Iron Lady? Rust in Peace. Reaction to a glowing obituary in The Daily Telegraph was so vile that the paper shut down all comment boards on articles about her. Those who still despise her held “death parties” and used social media last week to push the 1930s song, “Ding Dong, The Witch Is Dead,” to the top of the U.K. singles chart.
She evokes this response because she slashed the fabric of British society. She took office in 1979 amid high inflation and unemployment and left office in 1991 amid high inflation, unemployment and a widened gap between rich and poor. In her dozen years in office, she cut social welfare programs, eviscerated trade unions, deregulated, sold state-owned companies and utilities and closed coal mines. All this killed good jobs that supported families and villages across the countryside. Lives were destroyed, communities devastated. This, however, was in keeping with her philosophy of every man for himself, as she said in a 1987 interview:
“There is no such thing as society. There are individual men and women and there are families.”
She refused to allow the United Kingdom to fully join the community of the European Union. The individualist wouldn’t let her country unify with continental society.
“But we reject the belief that America must choose between caring for the generation that built this country and investing in the generation that will build its future.
“For we remember the lessons of our past, when twilight years were spent in poverty and parents of a child with a disability had nowhere to turn. We do not believe that in this country freedom is reserved for the lucky or happiness for the few. We recognize that no matter how responsibly we live our lives, any one of us at any time may face a job loss or a sudden illness or a home swept away in a terrible storm. The commitments we make to each other through Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security, these things do not sap our initiative.
“They strengthen us.
“They do not make us a nation of takers. They free us to take the risks that make this country great.