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Conservative Disillusionment

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Bush hasn’t exactly been very responsible with Lady Liberty’s pocketbook, and now far right Republicans are starting to really weigh in with their grievances.

From The Weekly Standard:

THE PRESIDENCY OF GEORGE W. Bush has three years yet to run, but this season of scandal and disillusionment is an opportune moment for conservatives to start thinking seriously about the post-Bush era–and particularly how to fashion a domestic policy from the wreckage of Bush-style, big-government conservatism. Thanks to the abiding weakness of the Democratic party, Republicans haven’t yet paid a political price for insider-friendly appropriation bills, Medicare boondoggles, or the smog of semi-corruption rising from the party’s cozy relationship with KStreet. But even if the GOP’s majority survives the next election cycle, conservatives shouldn’t kid themselves: President Bush’s domestic policy looks less and less like a visionary twist on traditional conservatism, and more and more like an evolutionary dead end.

I know this President has really outraged fiscal conservatives, and that was enough for some to vote for Kerry last election. And as the War on Terrorism inevitably stretches out with no end in sight (and rightfully so), conservatives across the board are going to care much less about what the US is doing in the Middle East and much more about what they’re doing at home.

I think the author’s nail it with this paragraph:

But a larger problem is that even the more idealistic aspects of the GOP program–Bush’s vision of an “ownership society,” the pursuit of a politically risky Social Security privatization plan–have been ill-suited to the present political climate, and to the mood of the American people. It’s not just that the American people have shown little appetite of late for dramatically shrinking the scope of the federal government, or taking more economic responsibility into their own hands–it’s that there’s shrinking support for such goals among reliable Republican voters.

To this I say, “Of course.”

If Bush’s idea of an ownership society has been largely defined by more tax cuts and Social Security reform, expect that idea to fail miserably. The majority of Americans put tax cuts towards their children’s education, paying medical bills, buying a new car, etc. They don’t think about planning for their future because they need to focus on the here and now. I’m not saying that’s right. I’m just saying that’s the reality on the ground. And if they’re lucky they sock some money away in their 401(k) account every month.

So if Bush truly wants an ownership society then he should invest heavily in education. That’s right: education.

Think about it. The more people know about investing, the more likely they are to want to take control of their retirement. But right now, with the limited knowledge most people have, and the spectre of the “drunk at the punchbowl” days of the 90s looming over us all, most people look at Social Security as a blanket instead of a launchpad. It’s simply not worth the risk to them or their family to gamble with that money.

And you know what? I don’t blame them in the least. It’s scary to start shuffling that money around. But the only thing that’s going to alleviate that fear is learning how to control it.

Will this happen anytime soon, and if so, how?