Breaking entitlement’s bonds

The “ownership society” offers logical, efficient and promising solutions to domestic problems.

On Election Day, President George W. Bush won a resounding conservative mandate. The Bush victory came in spite of nationwide increases in voter turnout, continuing problems in Iraq and the popular perception of a weak economy.

Put simply, the election results are a decisive rebuke to the liberal vision of secular socialism that Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., espoused. The U.S. electorate again affirmed their commitment to family values and reasserted their steady faith in responsibility, hard work and the positive fruits of free markets.

Bush’s re-election and a strong Republican majority in the House and Senate provide the means needed to initiate new domestic policies that have long sat dormant in columns, think tanks and academia. Innovative, market-based solutions to crises in health care, social security and education should be planted and finally tested in the next four years. All of these reforms will be encapsulated in the conservative vision of an “ownership society.”

The “ownership society” offers logical, efficient and promising solutions to domestic problems that the left has consistently attempted to solve with more money, more programs and more government.

Bush’s “ownership society” is premised on the principle that individuals take the best care of what they own and control, because they are more efficient, knowledgeable and trustworthy guardians of their futures than the distant federal government. It places a premium on responsibility, accountability and property. In an “ownership society,” citizens would not be dependent on government entitlements. Instead, individuals would control their retirement, make choices about their health care and children’s educations, and have a vested interest in the communities where they live.

This vision is not revolutionary. Its effects are evident in several current examples. For instance, I would bet students who pay for all, or a portion, of their education study more, attend class more often and, in the aggregate, perform better than similarly situated students whose parents foot the bill.

Another prime comparison is housing. The gulf between the care for public and private housing is tremendous. While many variables account for the discrepancy, the greatest factor is ownership. For college students, this principle should also be blatantly clear from their varied rental experiences.

Similarly, one of the leading factors accounting for individuals rising out of poverty is home ownership. Again, it makes perfect sense that individuals who own their property care more about the future value of that property. This general principle undergirds the “ownership society.”

Three major initiatives should characterize Bush’s second-term domestic policy: Social Security reform, formation of health-care savings accounts and developming “opportunity zones.”

Social Security reforms would prevent Congress from reducing individuals’ retirement funds and allow individuals to invest in individual retirement arrangements or 401(k)’s. Such a system would also guarantee a greater financial return and more individual autonomy over individuals’ retirement funds. Individual savings accounts utilize the same free market that will keep Kerry sipping merlot into his old age. It’s only fair that average Americans have the same opportunity and choice.

Health-care reform is also an important piece of the “ownership society.” Under Bush’s vision, health care will not be forced into a bureaucratic mold. Instead, individuals will have tax-free Health Care Spending Accounts allowing each person to control his or her own health-care decisions.

In addition to increased autonomy, the savings accounts will simultaneously encourage wise spending and saving for future needs. Better-informed consumers who are able to make responsible, cost-conscious decisions about their care will also drive down health-care costs. Simple economic principles dictate that choice breeds competition, which lowers cost.

A final key piece of the “ownership society” is the concept of “opportunity zones.” Under the plan, government would identify historically underdeveloped and low-income communities, providing tax incentives for businesses and individuals to invest in the community. The abolishment of a capital gains tax and a low flat tax throughout the area would be fundamental tenants of the system and give individuals, often low-income individuals, more money in their pockets to save and invest. Instead of merely sustaining low-income communities, government would enable their revival.

The country currently stands at a domestic crossroad. Down one path lies an even bigger government welfare system that rejects individual choice, responsibility and ingenuity, maintaining government is the answer to all social ills. Down the other lies a limited government system that will empower individuals to take ownership of their retirement, health care, education and communities. On Election Day, the people took a decisive step down the right path. Now it is up to Bush to fulfill his promises and lead the United States into a new, hopeful and exciting age of domestic reform.

Bryan Freeman welcomes comments at [email protected]