Thatcher a Hero or Horror?

Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher
Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When Margaret Thatcher was elected Prime Minister of Great Britain in 1979, she wanted to change the economy of her country. “Pennies don’t fall from heaven,” she said in an NPR interview. “On earth, they have to be earned.” (http://www.npr.org/player/v2/mediaPlayer.html?action=1&t=1&islist=false&id=176640365&m=176640346)

She wanted to change the nature of her country, maybe of the world in an interview with David Frost, she quoted “a world finance leader” who said, according to Thatcher,   “if you can roll back the frontiers of socialism, and roll forward the frontiers of freedom, other nations will follow.”  (http://www.npr.org/player/v2/mediaPlayer.html?action=1&t=1&islist=false&id=176640365&m=176640346) Thatcher loved the quote, and may have used it to guide her economic policies over her historic years as leader of her country.

According to Malcolm Dean, a writer for The Guardian, offered harsh criticisms of Thatcher’s policies. From the moment she was elected, Dean noted, “she made it clear she would be cutting benefits and squeezing public services. Dean said that Thatcher said that “public expenditure is at the heart of Britain’s present economic difficulties.”  (http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2013/apr/09/margaret-thatcher-policies-poor-society). She is also said to have said, “There is no such thing as society”  in a magazine interview she gave to Woman’s Own Magazine in 1987.

It is no surprise, then, that she was a good friend of the late President Ronald Reagan; the two of them were friends, and from where this writer sits, is was his economic policies, in particular his “trickle down” theory of economics, that helped begin this nation’s fall into economic disrepair. He was entranced with Thatcher and was said to have learned much from her.  Under Thatcher, the poor, especially pensioners and children, were worst his by her economics, and housing was the worst hit service.  Dean notes in his article that under Thatcher, child poverty more than doubled. Her policies, noted Tory minister Sir Ian Gilmour, was disastrous for far too many people. “The sacrifice imposed on the poor produced nothing miraculously except for the rich,”  Gilmour is reported to have said.

This writer is unsure of just how much Thatcher influenced Reagan, but influence was definitely there. Thatcher wanted smaller government; one of the things she did was to break the backs of trade unions in Great Britain because she believed their propensity to strike adversely affected economic growth. The government didn’t “owe” the poor anything; they were not to be given “pennies from heaven,” but would have to earn them. It seems Ronald Reagan believed that as well. He adopted the “trickle down” economic theory, a term and concept that actually began in the 1920s, and pushed it to a wildly excited Conservative party. The theory is that if taxes are cut for the wealthy, they will earn more, invest in “productive economic activities,” and will stimulate growth and more tax revenues from the wealthy which will then “trickle down” to the poor.

It has not worked, and according to some in Great Britain, Thatcher’s policies ripped apart any possibility for economic stability for the poor and made or caused the divide between rich and poor to grow ever wider. The same frightful condition exists in our own country, the chasm between rich and poor having become so wide that many call our nation an oligarchy, not a democracy at all.

Thatcher was also said to be an opponent of feminism; a reporter this writer heard on NPR this morning said that she said she hoped feminism failed. She did not have other women in her cabinet, and was unapologetic about it.  She had crashed through the glass ceiling but it seems she didn’t care to help anyone else do it.

Is the apparent fact that Thatcher had so little regard for those who struggle the most – the poor, the elderly, and women – the reason she was so tough? While her toughness is admirable, when it is juxtaposed against her apparent insensitivity for the downcast is not so admirable at all.

In these days, the “s” word, “socialism,” is thrown around like it is a deadly germ. It is as hated a word and/or concept as is “liberalism.” And yet, many who call themselves Christian follow a man named Jesus who apparently had great disgust for the Roman economy which created in like fashion as do countries today, a great gulf between the rich and the poor. It seems from the reading of this writer that Jesus advocated for the poor, for “the least of these,” and yet, Thatcher, Reagan, and perhaps many of today’s politicians, regardless of party, don’t share that sentiment. They derive a different hermeneutic from the same texts that I read …and their interpretation allows for the casting aside of the least of these with little conscience. Or so it seems and feels that way.

As a woman, I admire Thatcher’s strength, but her comments that show a clear and distinct disregard for those who struggle, frankly, are troubling. Ultimate strength is probably the capacity and desire to help and empower “the least of these” while forging ahead a strong economy. It seems that unless “the least” are more included in the capability to make a decent, dignified living, one doesn’t have a healthy country or economy at all. She was dubbed “The Iron Lady,” but her policies leave me feeling that her iron was a tad rusted…

A candid observation …

“American Exceptionalism” Questioned

, U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania.
, U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I listened to Rick Santorum today bow out of the GOP race to capture the nomination for president of the United States, and was uncomfortable.

His speech was eloquent and sensitive to many wonderful Americans who helped make his campaign special for him. He spoke with genuine tenderness and love for “ordinary Americans” who had sacrificed much to work for his success.

But as he lapsed into speaking of America and what it stands for, speaking of “American exceptionalism” and the ideals of liberty and freedom on which this country was built, I began to be uncomfortable…because it is apparent to me that when Conservatives talk about “liberty” and “equality” for all, they don’t really mean “for all.”

Santorum mentioned Abraham Lincoln as the harbinger of the ideal of freedom, and I found myself wondering if Santorum realized, or knew, that Lincoln only issued the Emancipation Proclamation to save the Union, and that he in no way thought “negroes,” as black people were called then, were equal to whites, or should ever be considered to be so.

I thought about how Santorum, and indeed, many to most Conservatives, make little to no effort to appeal to African-Americans. I do not think I have ever heard a Republican speak out against discrimination in housing and employment; I have not heard any Conservative talk about plans to increase funds for public schools in urban areas, and I know I have never heard any Conservative talk about the problem of police brutality and the injustice that black, brown and poor people consistently endure at the hands of law enforcement.

Santorum’s early campaign statements showed that he believes that African-Americans are “getting other people’s’ money,” and he wanted to help them (us) stop doing that.

Actually, it was by listening to some of Santorum’s statements during his campaign that I really began to understand the Conservative beef about taxes. I picked up a real resentment amongst Conservatives that “their” tax dollars are going to help people who are lazy and who will not help themselves.

As he talked about how America built itself up from its bootstraps today, he failed to mention that it was by the blood, sweat and tears of slaves that America’s economy grew. African-Americans, denied freedom in these United States, went willingly into America’s wars to help garner freedom for other people in other countries, and when said wars were over, they found they were still “unfree” here at home. Returning African-American veterans still couldn’t get loans to buy homes, they still couldn’t depend on funds being sent to their neighborhoods so their children could get a decent education. They were still second-class citizens.

This is a nation that overtly supported racism and segregation – through its laws and policies – and still supports it, though more covertly. This is a nation where far too many people still believe that this is a “white man’s country,” and they do what they can do, legally, to keep it that way.

So, as Mr. Santorum talked about “American exceptionalism,” I cringed. I cringed because I know that the writers of the U.S. Constitution had no desire for there to be “liberty and justice for all;” they did not believe that everyone was or should be equal. They believed in democratic capitalism, which, it seems, demands that there be “haves” and “have nots.”  The fittest survive and thrive; that’s the nature of the beast.

I am not sad to see Mr. Santorum drop out of the race. I feel for him as a father with a sick child, but as an American who might have been president of this nation, I cannot feel bad. Any person who is president has to have the chutzpah to stand up for everybody, to demand the rights of everyone, and to look out for everyone. This is, after all, a pluralistic nation,”many people” living as “American.”

I never felt Mr. Santorum bought into that idea. I felt like his privilege had blinded him and made him just one more arrogant white man, seeking office, who didn’t care about “the least of these” if they happened to be the wrong color or ethnicity.

I could be wrong, but it was my own…candid observation.

 

What Is a Conservative?

Mitt Romney at one of his presidential campaig...
Image via Wikipedia

OK. I am confused.

What is a “real” Conservative? And when did the word “Liberal” become a virtual cuss word for those who are on the Right?

I was perplexed when Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney said last week that he was “severely Conservative.”  I didn’t know what it meant; I am glad that David Frum, in an article posted on the CNN blog, said that what Romney meant to say was that he was, or is, “strongly” Conservative. (http://www.cnn.com/2012/02/13/opinion/frum-romney-moves)

Michelle Bachmann said she was the “perfect” Conservative, and this week, Sarah Palin intimated that Romney still has to prove he is Conservative enough to be a viable candidate to run against President Obama.

But I am still confused. What is a Conservative, really? What do Conservatives stand for? There seems to be a standard in order for one to call oneself “Conservative.” It’s like the elusive “standard” that exists for being “black.” President Obama has been chided by some for not being “black enough,” and by others for being “too black,” so much so that there is literally nothing else to call him but a Socialist.

In order to be a Conservative, what does one have to stand for? It’s can’t be small government and less government spending, because George W. Bush said he was a Conservative but made the government super huge and spent money like it was going to evaporate. He was “conservative” when it came to interfering with Terri Schiavo…meaning, he was on the bandwagon to make sure life-saving measures were not discontinued…but wait. That couldn’t have been Conservative, could it, when he invited the United States Supreme Court in to make a ruling on the case?

As I have always understood it, Conservatives stand for less government …but that’s not a constant standard, is it? I mean, some Conservatives are mad about “Obamacare,” because they say it’s government intrusion in health care, but isn’t the government already highly involved, so much so that we don’t have the freedom in some cases to choose our own doctors like we used to be able to, and we might be out of luck if we do not get certain medical procedures approved by our insurance companies first? Didn’t the government have something to do with where we are in health care today?

I am not being facetious. I am confused. What is the difference between a “real” Conservative and a Liberal? And what is it about liberalism that makes Conservatives so mad?  Is it because Conservatives think that a government ought not help the poor? Is it the Conservative viewpoint that people are down and out because they want to be and that they are where they are because they are just lazy? Is that what I am hearing underneath some of what Romney, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum have said? And is the Conservative view that we should let the elderly of our population kind of wing it when it comes to health care? I know Medicare is expensive, but what I am not sure about is what Conservatives are saying.

I am not trying to be a smart-aleck. I am genuinely confused. The Conservatives, many of them, say they are part of the evangelical population of this country. That is why they are against gay marriage, and want to overturn Roe vs. Wade…but if they are so attached to The Holy Bible, wouldn’t they have seen the literally hundreds of references about the poor and how God’s people are supposed to take care of them?  Liberals have been accused of being without religion, but what kind of religion is it that the Conservatives, a.k.a. the evangelicals, ascribe to?

I am genuinely confused. Is it just me, or is there a problem here? If Romney is “severely” or “strongly” a Conservative, what does that mean? When he ran for governor of Massachusetts, he said he was a Progressive. So…what do we have here? A new strain of politician? Is Romney a Progressive Conservative? Or a Conservative Progressive? It’s all really hard to understand for a non-sophisticated citizen like myself.

A candid observation …