Saturday, October 29, 2005

Welcome to the Ownership Society: Enter at Your Own Risk

While Bush plays at Camp David this weekend, his presidency has never looked bleaker. Yesterday, the President gave a short speech outside the White House, asserting he was “saddened” by Libby’s indictment. I watched the speech in its short entirety, and saw a stressed President. Rhetorical strategy is usually this administration’s best quality. However, Bush’s rhetoric seemed more faded and worn than ever. Amidst the failures of social security privatization, Katrina, Iraq, Libby, and Miers, we are beginning to see that while Bush has been pushing his ownership society ala used car salesman, his audience of potential buyers is dwindling.

Each of the five blows to Bush’s presidency—Social Security reform, Katrina, Iraq, Libby, and Miers—show the pitfalls of Bush’s ownership society.

The futile attempts to privatize Social Security illustrated to the American people the importance of having a stable means of providing for retirement. Social Security is one of the cornerstones of FDR’s legacy. The American people saw that privatization would divert substantial resources that we do not have to Wall Street for setting up these accounts. If that money were invested in education or healthcare, we could better build an economy and a workforce that can contribute substantially to the Social Security fund. Bush was trying to place the future of retirement in Wall Street's hands. We don't elect Wall Street to represent us.

The federal response to Hurricane Katrina displayed the dangers of tearing down government. The most basic reason we pay taxes is so that our government can protect us. When the administration drops the ball in such an inexcusable way, Americans are reminded we need an accountable, prepared government. Indeed, we need a government that can take ownership for our safety.

The 2000th death in Iraq and growing American concerns about the lack of planning for the future of American involvement have each illustrated the pitfalls of heedless hyper-aggression. In our pursuit of a world with less terror, the United States should be committed to engaging with world actors to gain intelligence, and thus gain the upper hand against terrorists. Instead, our misguided efforts in Iraq have sent a shudder through the Middle East and the world, and have posed us as a superpower without concern.

The indictment of Lewis Libby, the Vice President’s chief of staff, and his subsequent resignation displays the downside of an administration that acts without transparency. Transparency in government is one of the defining attributes of a democracy. The accusation and indictment of covert White House action to vengefully put in the danger CIA agent Valerie Plame sheds light on the shady practices of this administration.

Harriet Miers’ forced resignation displays just how far “conservatives” will go to push their agenda of slashing civil rights and privacies in the courts. In so many ways, it was the right who defeated Miers in fear that her penchant for right-wing delicacies didn’t quite meet the standard at hand. Fears of a moderate, independent justice, whose thought wanders outside of the groupthink of the far right are the source of Miers’ downfall, and should be the source of our discontent.

The second term of the Bush Administration has been a disaster. Indeed, it is a disaster that enlightens the pitfalls of Bush's "ownership" society. We have seen attempts to strip away from the cornerstones of government and security, the effects of unprepared government, the effects of an expensive foray lacking planning, the dangers of a government without transparency, and the dedication of the right-wing to nominate a Justice who will see privacy as but an illusion whose presence is not found in the Constitution. Like in the days when Nixon fell, I think the American people are hungry for an honest, accountable, prepared government--the kind of government that is composed of a community of individuals gathered to effect change so as to make this country better.