The Ownership Society Meets the Entrepreneurial Style

Throughout his presidency George W. Bush has defined the two most important goals for Americans as entrepreneurship and ownership. For George W. Bush, entrepreneurship and ownership are the cornerstones of our democracy. For Bush and his cohorts, a real American is a rich American. A rich American understands what America is for. A rich American uses America correctly, understands the path to wealth and power, and knows how to play the game.

It’s the art of the game. What do I want and how do I get it? Getting is the art. Having is the prize. And the mantra is “more”.

During his first term in office, in speech after speech, Bush pushed for an ownership society. To pump his economic agenda to privatize health care and social security he held televised panels with hand-picked well dressed panelists whom he questioned about their burgeoning new businesses. He asked them one or two biographical questions and thanked them with a pat on the back. He then faced the camera to interpret for the pre-selected live audience and unassuming home audience exactly what the giddy entrepreneur just said. English as a Second Language ala George Bush. He’d begin with “what he means is” or “what she’s saying is”, or “you see it’s like this”, then glance down at his script and deliver a sullied rendering of economics 101, which despite his Harvard Business Degree, he always had to read.

It was like watching pre-paid infomercials for gym equipment or cosmetics. Only Mr. Bush was selling America. The art of the deal.

In George Bush’s America, real Americans are rich and powerful. Real Americans aren’t fire fighters and police officers. Fire fighters and police officers aren’t very entrepreneurial. With stressful full time jobs and minimal surplus capital, there’s little time to be entrepreneurial. Bush’s real Americans aren’t teachers and they’re not soldiers.

And Bush’s real Americans aren’t coal miners. This week, on the heels of the tragic deaths of twelve coal miners in West Virginia, Bush will say coal miners are real American heros. But coal miners aren’t his heros. And they don’t meet the entrepreneurial ownership society standards of real Bush Americans. Over-indulged gold-spoon George W. Bush can’t comprehend miners’ lives. He doesn’t understand the need to take dangerous jobs, risk death deep underground, inhale toxins daily. He has no understanding of ‘need and necessity’. He’s never experienced them.

So who are Bush’s real Americans?

Ken Lay of Enron, Charles Keating of Lincoln Savings and Loan, Bernie Ebbers of Worldcom and Jack Abramoff of “K” Street. These woeful entrepreneurs fit the Bush American profile just fine. They epitomize the Bush entrepreneur and suffer the illness of “more”.

The fact is, real Americans aren’t like Bush’s Americans at all. They don’t fit the profile of wealth above all else. Real Americans are the coal miners, fire fighters, police officers, teachers and soldiers. These are the people who epitomize democracy. They keep the nation safe. They educate the children. They serve the common good. They promote the common welfare. A real democracy isn’t based on taking. It’s based on giving.

In the next several months much will be revealed about the real values of George Bush’s America; the idealized accumulation of wealth through entrepreneurship gone awry. Perversions will emerge far beyond a late night tryst in the oval office. Democracy will be tested. A free and open society versus a greed-ridden government for sale. There will be many lessons to learn from the Abramoff scandal if people can see past their partisan views. This is not a Democrat versus Republican battle. This is a tale of humanity.

The partisanship in America is dangerous. It prevents clear thinking and taints one’s perception of truth. Republican callers to Cspan believe the case against Abramoff is a partisan attack on their party. Rather than seeing the truth of the case, they harken back to sleep overs in the Lincoln Bedroom. Rather than accepting the facts of the case, they liable the Democrats they despise. Perfectly nice people so contaminated by party loyalty they throw their support to Abramoff: a self-confessed criminal.

To those Republicans I say this. Democrats took money from Abramoff, too. Democratic Senator Byron Dorgan of North Dakota took money and had the gaul to serve on the Senate Indian Affairs Committee that held hearings on the Abramoff case. True Dorgan has not been charged with impropriety, but as a progressive I find his failure to remove himself from the committee a despicable act. The Abramoff case is not about party.

To those Democrats rejoicing at the prospect of Republican indictments I say, there is no joy in Bush’s America today. Rejoicing over the sorry state of our union makes no sense. It’s more a time to cure what has befallen us than to rejoice at who has fallen.

The only point of optimism one may hope for out of this vulgar situation is that Americans will ultimately cross party lines and acknowledge that greed and corruption are not confined to one party. They are endemic to our political system. It just may be that Jack Abramoff holds the key to the sewer door. The stench in Washington is overbearing. He may be the anti-hero who drains the filth away.

It is for this reason I look to Mr. Abramoff to take a leaf from the bogus biography of George Bush and do what Bush never did. Be a uniter, not a divider. Will you do that for us, Jack?? Can the evils you uncover put the nation back on track??

LINDA MILAZZO is a Los Angeles based writer, educator and activist. She can be reached at: