Owners(hip) Society

Allow me a rant. What exactly is this “ownership society” the Republicans are selling, and why is anyone buying it? As I like to point out, slavery was an “ownership society” so there is reason good reason to be suspicious.

Like most political tag lines, the proponents of “ownership society” talk hope/expect that the term will be self-evident (which in political context means uninspected). But the idea is evidently not self-evident as demonstrated by the growing number of position papers, op-eds, and other efforts to sort it out. (see the offerings reprinted in the Republican party Social Security playbook referenced in an earlier post).

Here’s one of those op-ed’s the Republicans are trumpeting:


Albert B. Crenshaw, Op-Ed, “Risk-Reward Gamble,” The Washington Post, 1/16/05

“This shift — from the New Deal to the Ownership Society — is a sea change in the way Americans view the relationship between themselves and the government, and between themselves and the rest of society. Whereas government, unions and other collective organizations were widely seen in the 1930s as placing a safety net under workers and their families, today they are regarded by many people, especially in the “red states,” as stifling enterprise and protecting the lazy.

“In contrast to the New Deal, the Ownership Society will have optional elements, with greater rewards but also far greater risk. While the administration’s Social Security plan taps into taxes that workers are already paying, a key element of the Ownership Society is that to take full advantage of it, you must put up a great deal more of your own money — pay to play, if you will. And that principle of pay to play applies in fields ranging from retirement to education to health care.”

Let me repeat Mr. Crenshaw’s key point: “to take full advantage of [the Ownership Society] you must put up a great deal more of your own money.”

How is this different from our current system? Also, lots of people back in the 1930s argued that unions and social security were “stifling enterprise and protecting the lazy.” They were called “capitalists.”

Folks, this isn’t about an Ownership Society. It’s just the same old “Owners’ Society.”

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