George Bush talks a good game about having an ownership society (which theoretically would make everyone work harder because they have a stake in the future of America). Best line from Bush on the matter: “By making every citizen an agent of his or her own destiny, we will give our fellow Americans greater freedom from want and fear and make our society more prosperous and just and equal.”
But the reality is that we’ve always had a form of ownership society, it was simply called upward mobility. According to a recent article in The Economist — Meritocracy in America — poor people have always worked hard because the American Dream promises of reward for their labor, but this seems to be dissipating:
A growing body of evidence suggests that the meritocratic ideal is in trouble in America. Income inequality is growing to levels not seen since the Gilded Age, around the 1880s. But social mobility is not increasing at anything like the same pace: would-be Horatio Algers are finding it no easier to climb from rags to riches, while the children of the privileged have a greater chance of staying at the top of the social heap. The United States risks calcifying into a European-style class-based society.
Is it any wonder that powerball and scratcher tickets are so popular in a time when a stroke of luck is more likely to shower people in wealth than years of hard work and determination?
Republicans are possibly making the problem worse by removing the hurdles put in place by Theodore Roosevelt (ironically a Republican) to stem an aristocracy — such as the inheritance tax (admittedly, I’m torn on this since I blanketly oppose any kind of double taxation). Whereas Democrats are on the wrong track as well, cherry-picking minorities for preferential treatment (affirmative action being the most visible item) rather than addressing the systemic problem that all races face.
As I see it, an ownership society is nothing more than a gilded caste system if the possibility of upward class mobility is slowly being stripped away from us.