Ownership Society?

“An ownership society values responsibility, liberty, and property. Individuals are empowered by freeing them from dependence on government handouts and making them owners instead, in control of their own lives and destinies. In the ownership society, patients control their own health care, parents control their own children’s education, and workers control their retirement savings.”

Defining an Ownership Society by David Boaz

Responsibility, Liberty, and Prosperity. I wonder how many hours of focus-grouping it took Frank Luntz to come up with those buzz words? They sound good don’t they? Makes me feel all Mom and apple-pie warm and fuzzy. David Boaz asks the following in the piece quoted above, “President Bush says he wants America to be an ‘ownership society’. What does that mean?” Good question, what does that mean?

In Boaz’s opinion and that of the CATO Institute he represents it means Americans with “a stronger stake, not just in their own property, but in their community and their society.” This is achieved by moving people away from the Liberal institutions such as Social Security, welfare, Medicare and public schools into the private sector. Where presumably they would be served better by the likes of Wall Street, Faith Based Initiatives, HMO’s and private schools.

Does anyone else find this idea long on rhetoric and short on reality? While it sounds great to use buzz words like responsibility, liberty and prosperity to sell this idea, I don’t see how the “Ownership Society” will deliver any of these things to the American public. For one, all this does is move people from a dependency on the Federal government to a dependency on Wall Street and big-business – who have proven time and again that their interests lie in lining the pockets of their boards of directors, not the shareholders.

Had Bush’s Ownership Society been a reality during the dot-com crash of early 2000 just imagine the consequences. Both The Federal Reserve’s Flow of Funds report (PDF) and The Institute for America’s Future (PDF) concluded that between 2000 and 2001, 401(k)-type plans lost a total of $175.75 billion. The numbers would have been alarmingly higher had the Ownership Society been a reality. Remember those 21,000 Enron employees who lost everything? That would have been ALL Americans, and only those young enough would have had time to recover while the social safety nets which exist in our government today would have been removed leaving those near retirement wondering if Wal-Mart was looking for greeters.

What we have here folks is Grover Norquist’s wet dream, the real possibility of a Republican majority sweeping away any and all Liberal institutions in favor of complete privatization. In reality this dream is America’s worst nightmare, and it will come true unless the remaining Democrats in Congress AND the American people stand up and stop it.

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