THE GUARDIAN: So there’s been no polling bounce for Cameron, even as he claimed that Thatcher “saved our country”. And while people recognise her strength, polls show clear opposition to many of her flagship policies, including privatisation (only a quarter think it’s delivered a better service). Most don’t believe she “put the ‘Great’ back into Great Britain” at all, her economic policies are seen to have done “more harm than good”, and her legacy is regarded as one of division and inequality.
Which is what the facts show. Far from saving Britain, Thatcher’s government delivered rampant inequality, social breakdown, disastrous financial deregulation, pulverising deindustrialisation and mass unemployment. A North Sea oil bonanza was frittered away on tax cuts for the wealthy and a swollen benefits bill as public services were run down, child poverty escalated and social mobility ground to a halt.
But for all that, her apologists insist, Thatcher did what was necessary to turn Britain’s economy round. But she didn’t. Growth during the 1980s, at 2.4%, was exactly the same as during the turbulent 1970s and lower again in the post-Thatcher 1990s, at 2.2% — while in the corporatist 1960s it averaged over 3%.
And despite claims of a Thatcher “productivity miracle”, productivity growth was also higher in the 60s (and it’s gone into reverse under Cameron). What her government did do was redistribute growth from the poor to the rich, driving up profits and slashing employees’ share of national income through her assault on trade unions. That’s why it felt like a boom in better-off Britain, as the top rate of tax was more than halved, while real incomes fell by 40% for the poorest in her first decade in power. MORE
CHRISTOPHER HEDGES: The deterioration of the nation’s public transportation, like the deterioration of health care, education, social services, public utilities, bridges and roads, is part of the relentless seizing and harvesting of public resources and programs by corporations. These corporations are steadily stripping the American infrastructure. Public-sector unions are being broken. Wages and benefits are being slashed. Workers are forced to put in longer hours in unsafe workplaces, often jeopardizing public safety. The communities that need public services most are losing them, and where public service is continued it is reduced or substandard and costlier. Only the security and surveillance network and the military are permitted to function with efficiency in their role as the guardians of corporate power.
We now resemble the developing world: We have small pockets of obscene wealth, ailing infrastructure and public service, huge swaths of grinding poverty, and militarized police and internal security. The assault on public transportation, which has devastating consequences for the poor who cannot get to work or the doctor’s office without it, is not new. General Motors, Standard Oil, Firestone Tire and Rubber, B.F. Phillips Petroleum and Mack Manufacturing set up companies in the 1930s—first United Cities Motor Transit and later National City Lines—in order to rip up city trolley tracks and replace them with bus and car routes. MORE