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Tuesday, January 31, 2006

The Ownership Society is Still for Sale

"For Mr. Bush, the ownership society initiative is temporarily gone -- but hardly forgotten.":

We Are What We Own, by Fred Barnes, Commentary, WSJ: When running for re-election in 2004, and again last year as he campaigned for Social Security reform, President Bush repeatedly advocated an "ownership society." ... But "ownership society" is not a phrase you're likely to hear from him tonight in his State of the Union address. ...

At best, there will be faint echoes. ... But after failing in his drive for Social Security reform last year, Mr. Bush has now gone incremental, hoping small steps will lead to bigger ones later. For 2006, however, he's reconciled himself to the fact that overhauling Social Security is an impossibility. And since Social Security reform is a necessary element of an ownership society, that idea is off the table this year, too.

But that's not the end of the matter. For Mr. Bush, the ownership society initiative is temporarily gone -- but hardly forgotten. ... Where the phrase "ownership society" came from, nobody knows, not even Mr. Bush or political adviser Karl Rove. Nor did the program emerge in full form. Rather, it was patched together, ... from a handful of programs. By 2004, it consisted of five separate proposals: Social Security private accounts, flexible "lifetime" IRAs, HSAs, tax reform and home ownership assistance. ...

Mr. Bush still yearns to modernize Social Security and create private investment accounts funded by payroll taxes. When informed last year that congressional Republicans wouldn't "scout" the political terrain ahead of him, he went ahead with his campaign for reform -- alone. Now, an aide insists, "If the president sees a political opportunity [for Social Security reform], he'll seize it in an instant." He brought it up again in a private White House meeting last week. ... Indeed, he's likely to keep talking about Social Security and private accounts and perhaps even an ownership society. But not tonight, when he addresses the nation.

    Posted by on Tuesday, January 31, 2006 at 01:09 AM in Economics, Politics, Social Security | Permalink  TrackBack (0)  Comments (25)


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