The Ownership Society

I recently came across this article by Duane D. Freese, written before the presidential election.

The premise is that a major reason why the Democrats are so afraid of Social Security reform that makes everyone an investor in the economy is that it will hurt their future electoral chances.

A poll released Tuesday…found that Bush has an 8 percentage point advantage over Kerry among the 71 percent of likely voters who invest in the markets (margin of error of 3.46). Meanwhile, among those who don’t have investments, Kerry holds a 14 percentage point lead.

While polls can be skewed by ignoring demographic groups, this poll looked across the demographic spectrum and found the gap between investors and non-investors held true among all segments. It has what stats geeks call “internal validity.”

It will be much harder for Democrats to engage in class warfare when everybody is an owner. Attacking the interests of corporations has always really meant attacking the interests of people, but if everyone owns stock many will realize that they are the people being attacked. It won’t be quite as appealing anymore.

With the growth of IRAs and mutual funds, ownership has already begun spreading; which might explain why the traditional anti-trade, anti-business populist rhetoric isn’t as popular as it once was.

I’m sure that there are many other political considerations, but this idea strikes me as interesting, and I suspect it is at least a part of the story.

Another thought I have is that even if Social Security reform is defeated (by a filibuster in the Senate, say), it might hurt the Democrats. If the Republicans can successfully frame the issue as their attempt to fix a broken system, and the Democrats being obstructionist for purely partisan reasons against the interests of the people, then the Democrats might suffer for it during the 2006 elections. That’s what happened to the Republicans because of their budget battles with Clinton.

Whatever happens, it is likely to get interesting. The Democrats have consistently underestimated Bush in the past, and I suspect they’re doing it again.

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