Thursday, February 07, 2008

Naomi Klein

Disowned by the Ownership Society
by Naomi Klein
January 31, 2008

Remember the “ownership society,” fixture of major George W. Bush addresses for the first four years of his presidency? “We’re creating…an ownership society in this country, where more Americans than ever will be able to open up their door where they live and say, welcome to my house, welcome to my piece of property,” Bush said in October 2004. Washington think-tanker Grover Norquist predicted that the ownership society would be Bush’s greatest legacy, remembered “long after people can no longer pronounce or spell Fallujah.” Yet in Bush’s final State of the Union address, the once-ubiquitous phrase was conspicuously absent. And little wonder: rather than its proud father, Bush has turned out to be the ownership society’s undertaker.

Well before the ownership society had a neat label, its creation was central to the success of the right-wing economic revolution around the world. The idea was simple: if working-class people owned a small piece of the market—a home mortgage, a stock port-folio, a private pension—they would cease to identify as workers and start to see themselves as owners, with the same interests as their bosses. That meant they could vote for politicians promising to improve stock performance rather than job conditions. Class consciousness would be a relic.

It was always tempting to dismiss the ownership society as an empty slogan—“hokum” as former Labor Secretary Robert Reich put it. But the ownership society was quite real. It was the answer to a roadblock long faced by politicians favoring policies to benefit the wealthy. The problem boiled down to this: people tend to vote their economic interests. Even in the wealthy United States, most people earn less than the average income. That means it is in the interest of the majority to vote for politicians promising to redistribute wealth from the top down.

So what to do? It was Margaret Thatcher who pioneered a solution. The effort centered on Britain’s public housing, or council estates, which were filled with die-hard Labour Party supporters. In a bold move, Thatcher offered strong incentives to residents to buy their council estate flats at reduced rates (much as Bush did decades later by promoting subprime mortgages). Those who could afford it became homeowners while those who couldn’t faced rents almost twice as high as before, leading to an explosion of homelessness.

As a political strategy, it worked: the renters continued to oppose Thatcher, but polls showed that more than half of the newly minted owners did indeed switch their party affiliation to the Tories. The key was a psychological shift: they now thought like owners, and owners tend to vote Tory. The ownership society as a political project was born.

Across the Atlantic, Reagan ushered in a range of policies that similarly convinced the public that class divisions no longer existed. In 1988 only 26 percent of Americans told pollsters that they lived in a society bifurcated into “haves” and “have-nots”—71 percent rejected the whole idea of class. The real breakthrough, however, came in the 1990s, with the “democratization” of stock ownership, eventually leading to nearly half of American households owning stock. Stock watching became a national pastime, with tickers on TV screens becoming more common than weather forecasts. Main Street, we were told, had stormed the elite enclaves of Wall Street.

Once again, the shift was psychological. Stock ownership made up a relatively minor part of the average American’s earnings, but in the era of frenetic downsizing and offshoring, this new class of amateur investor had a distinct shift in consciousness. Whenever a new round of layoffs was announced, sending another stock price soaring, many responded not by identifying with those who had lost their jobs, or by protesting the policies that had led to the layoffs, but by calling their brokers with instructions to buy.

Bush came to office determined to take these trends even further, to deliver Social Security accounts to Wall Street and target minority communities—traditionally out of the Republican Party’s reach—for easy homeownership. “Under 50 percent of African Americans and Hispanic Americans own a home,” Bush observed in 2002. “That’s just too few.” He called on Fannie Mae and the private sector “to unlock millions of dollars, to make it available for the purchase of a home”—an important reminder that subprime lenders were taking their cue straight from the top.

Today, the basic promises of the ownership society have been broken. First the dot-com bubble burst; then employees watched their stock-heavy pensions melt away with Enron and WorldCom. Now we have the subprime mortgage crisis, with more than 2 million homeowners facing foreclosure on their homes. Many are raiding their 401(k)s—their piece of the stock market—to pay their mortgage. Wall Street, meanwhile, has fallen out of love with Main Street. To avoid regulatory scrutiny, the new trend is away from publicly traded stocks and toward private equity. In November Nasdaq joined forces with several private banks, including Goldman Sachs, to form Portal Alliance, a private equity stock market open only to investors with assets upward of $100 million. In short order yesterday’s ownership society has morphed into today’s members-only society.

The mass eviction from the ownership society has profound political implications. According to a September Pew Research poll, 48 percent of Americans say they live in a society carved into haves and have-nots—nearly twice the number of 1988. Only 45 percent see themselves as part of the haves. In other words, we are seeing a dramatic return of the very class consciousness that the ownership society attempted to erase. Class is back. And the free market ideologues have lost their most potent psychological tool.lei


DEN said...

Ok time for a little reminder to please refrain from personal sniping.

We are all adults not school children and as such should have the intelligence to do keyboard combat with issues and facts not personal jabs.

Nuff said in that regard.

Meanwhile, coffee in the corner and bagels and cream cheese on the side.

Dig in!

DEN said...

Space Shuttle Atlantis due to blast off at 2:45PM ET.

Saladin said...

Can someone please answer me, how on EARTH is a dem genocidal maniac any advantage over a repug genocidal maniac?? Has anyone been paying attention to what the two dem options have been saying? Any at all? For God's sake. Is America happy with the continued murdering destruction of the entire Middle East at Israel's behest as long as we can have the same bullshit promises of universal health care, abortion on demand and the right for gays to be legally married? Hasn't anyone learned anything from the last election? How the dems were going to stop bush in his tracks, how they were going to bring change? Well here's a newsflash. the only change they've brought is for the worse! Everything is worse, no impeachment efforts, the economy is worse than ever, we're on a fast track to third world country status, and, we're on the brink of yet another war, and both hitlery and obama promise nothing to change anything! Menchen was right, we deserve the leaders we get, the public is made up of total morons who don't even have 20/20 hindsight. Prepare for the NWO, everyone at the lowest common denominator, and whoever wins will be the final nail in the coffin of this republic. America, RIP.

DEN said...

"the public is made up of total morons who don't even have 20/20 hindsight."

Got that right!

There are some willing to use their head for something besides and ear spacer but not many.

BIG OIL is going nowhere,
BIG DEFENSE is going nowhere,
The IRS is going nowhere,
The BS remains the same only the faces change.

You can have a head explosion but it will change nothing, fascism never sleeps, it just keeps moving swallowing everything in it's path and the shit leftover is what we get.

The haves rule, the have nots are screwed. SSDD!

Alan said...

Wellll, I toldja Debbie Downer would soon show up.

She didn't say AIPAC whores this time tho. I guess that means she's mature. haha

Alan said...

Mitt says he's had enough.

Alan said...

Romney: ”If I fight on in my campaign, all the way to the convention, I would forestall the launch of a national campaign and make it more likely that Senator Clinton or Obama would win. And in this time of war, I simply cannot let my campaign, be a part of aiding a surrender to terror.”

See, instead of being selfish, he's protecting America first, by dropping out of the race.
It's got nothing to do with him LOSING.

David B. Benson said...

Alan -- One more nut case drops into well-deserved obscurity.

Gerald said...

Class has always been present but the poor and the middle class have been lulled away from their problems through entertainment like Hollywood, the Super Bowl, etc. "Keep the masses enslaved and you could rule over them until the end of time." -Gerald

Gerald said...

State of the Nation

Gerald said...

Here is what awaits the poor and middle classes

Gerald said...

Father John Dear has the answer

Gerald said...

As the media proclaims the season of electoral politics, Lent invites into something much deeper, into ongoing personal, social, economic and political conversion, into the God of peace and God's reign of peace and justice. My hope and prayer is that we will make the most of this Lenten season, that it will bear good fruit in the Easter gift of peace, and that "perhaps God will leave behind a blessing."

Gerald said...

We have much snow in Michigan that driving is hazardous.

I'm Thinking of Taking my Wife on Sleighride

Gerald said...

Violence and arms can never resolve the problems of men.
– Pope John Paul II

Gerald said...

Emphasis on military prowess is an indication of philosophical poverty.
– Henk Middelraad

Gerald said...

Hitler Powell and His Fateful Lies

Gerald said...

Hitler Powell's lies will live in infamy. - Gerald

Gerald said...

Ownership society for who? The poor, the middle class! Don't make me laugh!!! Hitler Bush is a liar!!!!!

Gerald said...

Finally, some writer is getting it right!!!

Senator Obama

Gerald said...

Here's to your ownership society

David B. Benson said...

When I finally finished shoveling a pth to my mailbox yesterday evening, there was, amongst bills, etc., my ballot for the primary. I'm a bit confused, 'cause there are also caucuses on Saturday. Actually the Demorats are going to have two, due to the large expected turnouts. Again young people attempting to turn out the Obama vote (and probably succeeding).

Won't be a problem mailing the ballot: despite last night's 7--8 cm of snow, bringing the accumulation to the largest (by a very little) since 1968, today we have a Chinook, a warm (38 F) wind gusting to a mere 45 mph. That's eating off the snow at a steady rate.

Now to ponder, who to vote for?

Edwards, despite withdrawal?


Gerald said...

Hillary WILL NOT BE THE NOMINEE FOR THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY. Yet, she has supported our veterans best of all. I will have to look carefully at McCain and his support for the troops. Obama will not receive my vote and so it looks like Cynthia McKinney leads for me at this time.

What Veterams Should Know

David B. Benson said...

Here Paul Rogat Leob offers some congent reasons for supporting Obama:

How Obama could create a long-term Democratic majority

which would be fine if it was actually progressive rather than the centerist-leaning-right of the (Bill) CLinton years...

Gerald said...

A Penny for Your Prayers?

Kathy Grooms’ son was dating a girl whom Grooms felt “was all wrong for him.” She had tried reasoning and pleading, but he stood firm.

Then Grooms remembered a woman who, impatient for an answer to her prayer, put every penny she found into a coffee cup. The pennies, she said, were reminders that God was listening to her and would answer her prayer in His time.

Grooms began doing the same thing. As she filled up her coin cup, she would pray, “Please, God, change Caleb’s mind.”

In time, Grooms began to get to know her son’s girlfriend. She discovered that the girl treated her son well and brought out his good qualities. As the cup filled with pennies, Grooms realized that God had, indeed, changed someone’s mind – hers!

Tough situations help us see that God’s plan for our lives is infinitely more interesting, fulfilling and joyful than anything we can think of ourselves.

A thousand years in Your sight are like yesterday when it is past, or like a watch in the night. (Psalm 90:4)

Give me the patience and perseverance to live into Your will for me, Father God.

Gerald said...

Voting in Nazi America is a gut wrenching experience. We have so many issues to ponder. I have come to believe that my choice of the Green Party and Cynthia McKinney is the best choice for me. Will this choice change? I do not know. We will have to see what whether or not McKinney is the Green Party's selection. I will not vote for Obama and McCain has eternal wars on his mind. His poor voting record for veterans leads me to believe that he sees our soldiers as cannon fodder.

DEN said...

Gerald, might help you to list pros and cons of each candidate on a sheet of paper.

David B. Benson said...

It's ok to feed birds

and if you do, be sure to read the tips on responsible feeding at the end of the piece.

David B. Benson said...

No surprise here:

The Nation editors: Obama's promise

best chance of forging a new progresive majority

Hmmm, lukewarm endorsement, I'd say...

Gerald said...

We keep hearing how Obama can move a crowd with his rhetoric. I am more interested in his policies as opposed to rhetoric. There was another person who was able to move a crowd with his rhetoric. His name was Adolph Hitler.

DEN, writing the pros and cons of the candidates would be the equivalent of me doing a dissertation for a Ph.D. I do not have the time to to complete such a project. Plus, there are people who have made up their minds on the person they will vote for. Here is an example. 99% of the blacks will vote for Obama. Knowing Detroit politics even the least qualified blacks in the city will receive the black vote. Here is an example of the mentality. There are people who will say that an item that was stolen is their item because his or her group were slaves for 400 hundred years and if they want an item, it's owed to them. Listing pros and cons will not change many minds and in most cases it is a waste of time. As I come across information, I will share it. Here are the candidates for the Dems and repugs - Obama and McCain. A responsible and objective voter should study each candidate and decide. AS OF NOW I will not vote for Obama and McCain turns me off. He is a service veteran and his voting record for veteran benefits is deplorable so voting for him would be difficult.

Gerald said...


Gerald said...

Read and Puke

Gerald said...

Here is one person's vote for Hillary

David B. Benson said...

Gerald --- Thanks for the link to the Rodham supporter. I need to decide soon for whom I will be voting on the mail-in primary ballot.

Still undecided...

DEN said...

Doc, great bird site, my cats were going crazy listening to the various bird songs.

Keep a stiff upper beak.

Hajji said...


You might find it strange that I very much agree with Saladin's passionate stance on the abhorrent malfeasance our nation continues to rain down upon the people of the Middle East.

It is, however, my resignation to do what I can for who I feel is the best viable choice of a presidential candidate.

I know, I know…the least of multiple evils is still…EVIL. Yet, with evil we seem to be stuck for at least a while.

I have begun to craft an letter of protest to Obama’s continued apparent acceptance of AIPAC’s unbelievable influence on American foreign policy and its seemingly unfettered access and control of our government, especially toward the so-labeled “Enemies of Israel”.

More than a few of the people who support Obama, mostly volunteers, but a couple paid staff, have agreed to join in such a protest. The campaign’s reaction (or non-reaction) will certainly be telling in just how big this tent really is.

While I have a vague hope that a stance against such lobbying will join with the stated, but not yet realized stance against the influence of K-street, I know that such has little chance of standing on the democratic platform, especially when the support of independents and moderate Repugnicons (I just can’t seem to stop calling them that, it that bad politicickin’?) is expected to be so very important in this election cycle.

I will gladly stand with anyone who wishes a public demonstration against the continued war crimes perpetrated by the supposed representatives of this nation, TODAY…in November…and during the next presidential inauguration as well as thereafter regardless of who takes that sacred oath.

Call me “milquetoast”, if you like (mmm milk-toast!mmm) but I’m still very much convinced I’m doing the right thing joining “Race-Card Players” (52”face” cards, 52 colors, 52 suits and 1 joker…that’d be ME!) I’ve begun to call us volunteers for Obama.

I began my support long before anybody thought he was a viable candidate and I will continue for as long as it takes. I will then aggressively work to have not only my own voice heard, but that of Saladin, of Gerald, of Alan, Kirk and Pande; of Den, Don and Benson; of Micki, Carey, Pat, Carol, Jeanne and even Ivory Bill and all who’ve found their way here from the Cornblog and elsewhere.

Then when I’ve learned to listen to people I LIKE, (or at least tolerate, these days) I hope to learn to listen past the vitriol and bluster and BS of those others to see what I might learn from the Tims, the LBH’s and the rest who I just can’t stand to read.

While those who reflect my own positions will of course always have the greater weight, I really want to understand the obviously convoluted and diseased reasoning of those with whom I passionately disagree. (all the while reserving the right to mock and denigrate them, of course)


Hajji said...

From: Good Morning Lowcountry

40 years ago

It's still early 2008, but this week's commemoration of the 40th anniversary of the Orangeburg Massacre will remind us that 40 years ago, 1968, was a very bad year.

That year saw the Tet Offensive in Vietnam; the My Lai massacre; the assassinations of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Sen. Robert Kennedy; and protests, riots, military invasions and mayhem worldwide. Tom Brokaw has already done a documentary that is an ode to how bad 1968 was.

But we cannot despair. It's a new age that the turmoil of 1968 in some ways helped create.

So we looked back into history to try to dig up a few good things that happened in 1968. For one thing, all you pluffmudders who were born in 1968 ... were born. What else?

--Johnny Cash recorded "At Folsom Prison."

--The South Pacific island of Nauru gained independence from a U.N. trust.

--Mauritius gained independence from British rule.

--Carl Brashear, the first black Navy master diver, became the first amputee certified to make diving missions.

--President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1968.

--The Medal of Honor was posthumously awarded to James Anderson Jr., the first black Marine recipient of the nation's highest award for valor.

--The Standard & Poor's 500 index closed above 100 for the first time.

--Swaziland gained independence from the British.

--Apollo 8 orbited the moon, and Frank Borman, Jim Lovell and William Anders became the first humans to see the dark side of that rock.

--The Beatles released their self-titled album, which came to be known as the White Album.

--Jimi Hendrix released "Electric Ladyland."

--Duke Ellington won a Grammy Trustees Award — a special merit award — composed his "Second Sacred Concert" and toured South America.

--NBC cut off the final seconds of an Oakland Raiders-New York Jets football game to broadcast the film "Heidi." Oakland, which had been losing, rallied to win. Fans who had to watch "Heidi" had a fit.

OK, maybe that wasn't a good thing, but it was memorable.

Hajji said...

The Orangeburg Massacre

At 10:33 p.m. on the night of Feb. 8, 1968, eight to ten seconds of police gunfire left three young black men dying and 27 wounded on the campus of South Carolina State College in Orangeburg.

The shootings occurred two nights after an effort by students at the then almost all-black college to bowl at the city’s only bowling alley. The owner refused. Tensions rose and violence erupted. When it ended, nine students and one city policeman received hospital treatment for injuries. Other students were treated at the college infirmary. College faculty and administrators at the scene witnessed at least two instances in which a female student was held by one officer and clubbed by another.

After two days of escalating tension, a fire truck was called to douse a bonfire lit by students on a street in front of the campus. State troopers—all of them white, with little training in crowd control—moved to protect the firemen. As more than 100 students retreated to the campus interior, a tossed banister rail struck one trooper in the face. He fell to the ground bleeding. Five minutes later, almost 70 law enforcement officers lined the edge of the campus. They were armed with carbines, pistols and riot guns—short-barreled shotguns that by dictionary definition are used “to disperse rioters rather than to inflict serious injury or death.” But theirs were loaded with lethal buckshot, which hunters use to kill deer. Each shell contained 9 to 12 pellets the size of a .32 caliber pistol slug.

As students began returning to the front to watch their bonfire go out, a patrolman suddenly squeezed several rounds from his carbine into the air—apparently intended as warning shots. As other officers began firing, students fled in panic or dived for cover, many getting shot in their backs and sides and even the soles of their feet.

In federal court more than a year later, a jury took less than two hours to acquit nine troopers charged with imposing summary punishment without due process of law.

In the fall of 1970, two-and-a-half years after the shooting, a jury in Orangeburg convicted Cleveland L. Sellers, Jr. of “riot” because of limited activity at the bowling alley two nights before the shooting. Sellers, who had grown up 20 miles from Orangeburg, had returned from the Deep South combat zone of the civil rights struggle as national program director for the militant Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). The presiding judge threw out charges of conspiracy to riot and incitement to riot, but the charge of riot stood. “Nobody here has ever put the defendant into the area of rioting on Wednesday or Thursday [the night of the shooting] with the exception that he was wounded and that to my mind means very little,” the judge commented. Sellers, who is profiled in the book as “the scapegoat,” served seven months of a one-year sentence in state prison, with early release because of good behavior.


Forty Years, just shy of the span of my life. Forty years of ups and downs. Forty years of struggle. Forty years to clean the filth of racism, feudalism and misogyny from our nation's system.

Forty years ago, who'd have thought it?

Forty years ago, who DARED to think it?

Forty years ago, what visionaries though it would take FORTY LONG YEARS before a woman and a man of color would be vying for the chance to lead the USA?

Forty years from now, will someone look back on our FORTY YEARS as a wasted opportunity to save THEIR next forty?


DEN said...

Hajji, to alienate AIPAC now would be election suicide. Better to hold off until after being sworn in to get the necessary corrections to US policy implemented.

Will it happen?

*fingers crossed*