Mona Charen

Some of these costs will be borne immediately. Couples who earn more than $250,000 will pay an additional Medicare tax and a 3.8 tax on investment income; patrons of tanning salons will pay a 10 percent sales tax; makers of medical devices like defibrillators and insulin pumps will pay a 2.3 percent new tax; and large employers like Caterpillar and John Deere will have to pay taxes on federal subsidies they receive to provide retiree benefits.

As the Wall Street Journal reported, medical device manufacturer Medtronic has announced that it may have to fire 1,000 employees, Caterpillar estimates that the new law will cost it up to $100 million, and Verizon has warned employees to expect unwelcome changes in health coverage.

The health bill was passed (barely) despite popular opposition but cannot succeed without eventual public approval. The initial returns are not encouraging for the dependency crowd.

And then there is this cautionary note: Even in a country that embraced socialism with open arms, disillusion eventually set in. Post-war Great Britain chose by majority vote to socialize medicine, and Labour governments followed up by swallowing the "commanding heights" of the economy -- transportation, mining, communications, and more. Yet by 1979, the nation was sufficiently beaten down that it turned to a full-throated capitalist for salvation.

When Margaret Thatcher took office in 1979, Britain was sclerotic and ailing. Sir William Armstrong, head of the civil service, saw his duty as the "orderly management of decline." Repeatedly victim to debilitating strikes by dockworkers, miners, and others, the British economy sank to such depths that the nation had to turn to the International Monetary Fund for relief.

With verve, conviction, and indomitability, Mrs. Thatcher set about privatizing government-owned industries, selling public housing to its tenants, cutting taxes (the highest marginal rate had been 98 percent), and reviving Britain's international role. It's not too much to say that she transformed Britain, dramatically improving living standards, productivity, and social mobility. She did for Great Britain what Rudy Giuliani did for New York City.

As the Iron Lady said, "Decline is not inevitable." Not with the right leadership.

Mona Charen

Mona Charen is a syndicated columnist, political analyst and author of Do-Gooders: How Liberals Hurt Those They Claim to Help .
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