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A Plan to Privatize or Privateer?

September 11, 2004

Re "Bush Makes His Pitch for 'Ownership Society,' " Sept. 5: Stripped of its rhetoric, the ultimate goal of the "ownership" society advocated by the Bush administration is the privatization of healthcare and retirement programs and to end Medicare and Social Security as we know them.

Why do Republicans push privatization for everything from healthcare to the National Park Service? Simply put, it's part of their strategy for complete political domination by creating business opportunities for (mostly) Republican entrepreneurs who will then become part of the permanent donor base of the Republican Party and lobby for Republican-backed social policies because their business and livelihood will depend on the Republican Party remaining in power.

What would be the likely outcome for the middle class? A confusing array of for-profit healthcare and retirement programs that would ultimately transfer most healthcare and retirement costs to individuals with no collective bargaining power and transfer the profits to those who already are the most wealthy.

Julian Roberts

Redlands

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President Bush talks about "reforming" Social Security, Medicare, our school systems, the healthcare system, the legal system, et al. Why is it that Bush's "reforms" always hurt most the people who can least afford to be hurt?

Barbara and Phil James

Claremont

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Re "A Guided Tour of the 'Ownership Society,' " Commentary, Sept. 5: Michael Kinsley sort of lets the ball drop here. Ownership is the new buzzword for what use to be called empowerment. A wooden chair is fixed in what it is, but if you put it in a wood chipper, it is free to be whatever it wants. Ownership means that everyone pays his/her own way. The alternatives are things like insurance, where everyone pays and then draws out according to unexpected need. Or tax-funded programs, where everyone pays for something in the public good.

Perhaps "ownership" means that you pay for police and fire services (and perhaps military expenses) proportionally to what you have to protect? Naw!

William Capps

Petaluma

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Kinsley neglects to mention another rarely publicized reason why "privatizing" Social Security is on the Bush League agenda: To the extent that millions of -- mostly younger -- wage earners actually invest a portion of their wages in stocks and bonds, they will be enriching the Wall Streeters who support Bush. Every transaction will be subject to a fee, a vast new source of income for giant banks and brokerage houses.

But it is far more likely that relatively few wage earners will actually invest. For the typical American worker under 50, the concept of retirement seems distant, while the prospect of having an extra $50 or $100 a month to buy gasoline, groceries or school clothes is far more immediate.

Most of the funds under Bush's proposed privatization would be far more likely to flow into the economy rather than retirement accounts. This would enrich stockholders and management of retailing giants, most of whom, not coincidentally, are overwhelmingly Republican.

If it becomes law, privatization of Social Security will become the biggest swindle in American history, dwarfing even Ronald Reagan's savings and loan deregulation fiasco.

Marvin J. Wolf

Mar Vista

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