Tuesday, January 27, 2004

A Name to Remember

Harold Ford, this is a name to remember -- he may very well be the future face of Democratic politics. Savvy, centrist, pragmatic. And, yes, black.

Need something to attach to his name?

Imagine an America where a 13-year-old girl attending a struggling public school logs on to the Internet or turns on CNBC every day to check her stock portfolio before her parents come home from work. Sound far-fetched? Not if you live in Britain, where Tony Blair's government has established child trust funds for every newborn Briton, beginning with an initial deposit of $400 to $800. The accounts grow with compound interest and with tax-free contributions. When a child reaches 18, the money is hers.

Meanwhile, here in America, President Bush plans to unveil his own series of proposals to create a new "ownership society." But his plan, unlike his British counterpart's, does little to help build the assets of those who have none. At least one-quarter of Americans are considered "asset poor" -- meaning they could survive no more than three months without a source of income.

[. . .]

The president's plan focuses on creating new tax shelters for existing wealth. A wiser policy is to help more people become investors. For $40 billion over the next 10 years -- less money than the president's plan -- we can build upon the British model and establish an "American Stakeholder Account," seeded with $1,000, for every child born in America. Children living below the poverty line could start with $2,000. Additional contributions would reward children for performing community service and completing high school. Upon graduation, the young adult could use accumulated savings tax-free to pay college tuition, purchase a home, start a business or invest for retirement.

[. . .]

Building assets is not about combating inequality. Rewarding hard work, risk-taking and initiative is the American way. The problem is that too many low- to middle-income Americans are accumulating no real wealth despite working harder for longer hours. Without ways to reward work with an asset base that grows over time, it will be nearly impossible for these families to provide a better future for their children.

A true "ownership society" is one where all Americans have a stake. At the same time as we improve education, we should give every family the tools to achieve its financial aspirations. We should give every child an ownership stake in America's future.

You don't even need to agree with the entire editorial to be impressed with the rhetoric -- i.e., a very clever co-opting of Bush's so-called 'Ownership Society' -- and the clarity and specificity of actual, holy hell you mean there' smore than just re-election politics(????), policy. All of which give us something to think about. When is the last time we could say that of Preznit (who pissed off God and got us stuck with this guy?) Bush?