Sunday, February 06, 2005

You're on Your Ownership 

Our rumbustious colleague Paperwight has been telling us that he is extremely impressed with the blogger called Jack* (Paperwight : Jack* = King of Zembla : What Alice Found) -- and so are we, not least because Jack* appears to have read Atlas Shrugged in its entirety. Jack*, in fact, argues persuasively that Miss Ayn Rand's hefty gray cinderblock is the cornerstone of the modern conservative movement, and we are only too happy to take his word for it, because we could not even make it through the 128 pp. of Anthem (which we flung through the window of the high school library so we could get back to the Poul Anderson novel we'd been reading, in which it turns out that Earth has been passing through a sort of retardation field that makes humans artificially stupid. Now that would go a long way toward explaining the success of the modern conserva -- but we digress). If you have not had the pleasure of attempting Miss Rand, you should know that her heroes embrace greed, despise altruism, crush the weak and ordinary underfoot, and would no doubt feel right at home in Mr. Bush's "ownership society":
But [conservatives] realize that they cannot win this battle in public debate. Social programs are on the whole very successful, and despite years of right-wing propaganda on talk radio they remain quite popular with voters. So instead they use a stealthier approach -- they withdraw. Unlike Rand's heroes, however, they withdraw their support of government programs out in the open and without leaving the country. They simply opt-out of those things they don't like. School voucher programs, for example, are a way to opt-out of the public school system. People have always been free keep their children out of public schools but their taxes still went to support the public school system. Now, under the rubric of "choice" or "competition," those who weren't going to use public school anyway can get their money out as well. Likewise Bush's Social Security proposal. He wants to give wage-earners the choice of diverting some of their payroll tax into private accounts that they would own. No matter what the final form of the legislation, what this does is allow people who don't need Social Security not to have to pay for it either.

The end goal is the same as as it was for Rand -- to destroy. It works like this. First point to minor problems in social programs and call it a crisis, insisting that opt-out policies will fix them. Not only do they not fix the problem, but starving social programs of funds drives them deeper into the crisis that opt-out was supposed to address. The solution? More expansive opt-out policies. Underfunded social programs go into collapse, unable to adequately service the needs they are designed for. Declare them irredeemable, point out that socialism always fails, and privatize the system entirely. Now you not only get to keep the tax money that would have been spent on a service that didn't benefit you, but you also get to make a profit selling that service to people who need it.
You should also read Paperwight's latest post on Mr. Bush's cagey plans to dismantle Social Security. Although we can't remember the exact title, we think it's Brilliant!

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