The Failure of the Ownership Society

On February 20, 2003, President Bush first coined the term Ownership Society while campaigning for more tax cuts. Bush supporters were quick to latch onto this term and expand its meaning.

In the ownership society, patients control their own health care, parents control their own children's education, and workers control their retirement savings.

Five years later we should measure what the "Ownership Society" means in the real world.

"We're ownership society in this country, where more Americans than ever will be able to open up their door where they live and say, welcome to my house, welcome to my piece of property."
- President Bush, October 2004

Near the bottom of a bland financial news story from today there was an interesting slice of information.

Families are no more likely to own their home now than they were in 2002, even with the big effort to push families with poor credit into homeownership through subprime mortgages. The percentage of homes occupied by owners ticked up to 67.9% from 67.7%, after peaking at 69.2% in 2004.

"Given tight lending standards and foreclosures, we expect the homeownership rate will continue to edge lower," wrote Michele Meyer, an economist for Lehman Bros.

Of course even that number is deceptive because average home equity has dropped to a post-Great Depression low, and gone below 50% for the first time since 1945.
How much of an owner are people when their bank owns a majority share of their home?
And what does it mean when 18.6 million homes stand vacant today? That sounds like a lack of ownership to me.

One of the other issues of the ownership society is "patients control their own health care."

Based on the most recent numbers that doesn't look very good either

-- Americans without health insurance in 2000: 38.4 million
-- Americans without health insurance in 2006: 46.9 million
[U.S. Census Bureau, Aug. 2007]

The only way that can be good news is to say that patients are taking control by not having health care, but that would be a lie.

One of the primary elements of the Ownership Society was Health Savings Accounts. That too has fallen short of expectations, despite White House spin.

Another element of the "patients control" of their own health care, was the Medicare Part D reform. In 2006 the New England Journal of Medicine called it Part "D" for "Defective" — The Medicare Drug-Benefit Chaos.

Next on the list is "workers control their retirement savings".

So how have people done to prepare for their retirement this decade? Not good.

The Center for Retirement Research (CRR) estimates 61% of households are "at risk" of being unable to live the way they would like and pay for their health care when they get old.

Increasingly people are being forced to put off retirement, and the ones that do retire are increasingly relying not on their savings, but on social security.

As for the topic of "parents control their own children's education", the heart of this effort has been the "No Child Left Behind" program.
Bush has made the amazing accomplishment of alienating both teachers and free-market libertarians with this program. It is almost universally despised and hated.

Face it: The Republican "Ownership Society" is hokum. Ownership of America is now more concentrated than since the days of the Robber Barons of the 19th century. The richest 1 percent of America owns more than the the bottom 90 percent put together.
- Robert B. Reich

It's this lack of wealth and ownership in the middle class that is turning out to be the true legacy of the Ownership Society.

According to a September Pew Research poll, 48 percent of Americans say they live in a society carved into haves and have-nots--nearly twice the number of 1988. Only 45 percent see themselves as part of the haves. In other words, we are seeing a return of the very class consciousness that the ownership society was supposed to erase.



we're supposed to own the government

but unfortunately that's now taken by special interests and huge multinational corporations.

The health savings account thing never made any sense. No one can save enough for large medical bills.

See, you mis-heard his speeches:

It's actually the "Owe" nership society. Works like a charm, although I haven't figured out what "nership" is yet....


means you are near or given the illusion you're going to actually own something someday to keep you into the game.

Nothing more than a clever rhetorical hustle...

............which is,when you take a step back and actually think about it, is what you, the citizenry, have been getting from every politician for nigh on to 60 years.

Something profound is now happening; at least so I believe. This long primary with lots of candidates being discussed and argued about in the political Blogoshere by millions of citizens has resulted in a quantum leap in people's understanding of the candidates. In their understanding of the process and how it has come to be rigged.

Let's put it real simply; without the Internet Obama walks away with the nomination. Now that is not so certain. Why? Because millions have been on line dissecting every word and gesture of his.

Verdict: Insincere.

Every politician from now on will have to be who they say they are as I do not believe any 'persona' assembled by the handlers of same will be able to stand up to the months of scrutiny.

So dumb ass statements about anything that really affects people will have a very shortened half-life.

Which is a very good thing.