The domestic challenge facing the United States today more closely resembles that of Thatcher’s Britain than Reagan’s America.
We have a sluggish economy that has become unmoored from sound fundamentals. We have no fiscal headroom with federal debt already exceeding 100 percent of GDP. (When Reagan left office it was just 52 percent.) Some conservative economists believe that a discipline-first fiscal policy will produce immediate economic gains. But that’s no sure thing.
Despite loose talk on the right about President Barack Obama being a socialist, the sinews of our economy remain in the private sector. However, we do have a government too big for the economy to support and a welfare state whose finances are unsustainable. Fundamental government reform is inevitable.
Reagan was the amiable uncle cajoling the country into giving his approach a shot. Thatcher was the disciplinarian, saying to her electorate: you have no choice; take your medicine and stop your sniveling.
Reagan was liked; Thatcher was accepted as necessary.