Tuesday, June 07, 2005

The answer, my friend, is B'l Owens in the wind . . .

I don't mean to harp on the veto thing here, but Ralph makes a good point- you can't read this and NOT think that Owens is at least the worst *Colorado* governor ever.

But doing some poking around on Bill Owens site (I know, it took a couple of hits of a Grey Goose martini before I could stomach it) I found a rather interesting tidbit- his letter on the much-touted "Ownership Society":

Government is notorious as the last institution to recognize changing times. Though this will probably always be true, it is becoming increasingly evident these days that even government is waking up to a new reality: 21st century Americans are savvy, discerning folks who are demanding greater flexibility in making the most important decisions that affect their lives.

Uh huh. Demanding flexibility in decisionmaking is definitely a "new reality." Remember the old days when you had to call ol' Bill up just to see what pants you should wear?

We are beginning to see a shift in public policy from top-down, bureaucratic solutions to self- directed approaches tailored to the individual. This shift will transform American culture and government: We are moving from an entitlement society to an ownership society.

Yes, away from a society where all you have to do to get decent housing and healthcare is to ask for it, and wallow in your complacent glory as the government hands it over. The free ride is over, friends!

This transformation is the result of changing economic conditions and a more sophisticated workforce. It is also the result of innovative thinking by policy experts and forward-looking leadership. Most notably, President George W. Bush has devoted a good deal of time to promoting new ideas.

Oh no you didn't just put "ideas" and "George W. Bush" in the same sentence.

Economic times are indeed changing. Americans are much more mobile: They change jobs, switch careers, and move across the country. The average American changes careers three to five times during his or her lifetime, and switches jobs 19 times. This remarkable transformation has contributed to the dynamism and vitality of the American economy.

So, if you can't find a job here, move to Kansas!

Unfortunately, due to our antiquated and bureaucratic social security, health care and pension systems, this greater mobility sometimes brings greater insecurity for individuals. (A good example of this is the worker who is between jobs and has no health care because health care follows the job rather than the individual.) Americans are becoming increasingly aware of the deficiencies of a bureaucracy established for 1950s America – when the job market was much less fluid.

Um. I don't mean to be picky, but didn't Social Security come around in the 30s?

In Colorado, we have taken several important steps toward an ownership society. Changing economic times have prompted us to elevate how government can give citizens the freedom to make decisions concerning health care, retirement, pension and a college education.

Uh huh. Just how do you "elevate how government can give citizens" freedom to do anything? It sounds like break-up talk to me.

"No, no it's not like that at all! I'm uh, elevating, uh, how I can give you freedom. To make decisions."

"You're breaking up with me?"

"No, I . . . uh, I'm giving you the decisionmaking freedom you demand as a mobile, dynamic American."

This year, we established health-savings accounts (HSAs). HSAs offer both employees and employers flexibility and freedom. Under an HSA, a high-deductible health plan is coupled with a savings account to pay for qualified medical expenses that are not covered by the insurance policy. Employees invest funds in the tax-free account for medical treatment and in CDs, money-market funds, mutual funds and other investment vehicles.

Unlike similar tax-saving vehicles of the past, outstanding balances at the end of the year roll over to the next year. And, HSAs are highly portable: they follow the individual who changes jobs or even moves to another state. Private health accounts will help control soaring health- insurance costs for employers while simultaneously empowering workers to make their own decisions.

*Bill Owens voice*: Uh, are you buying this? Because really it's just a way to make my friends in the pharmaceutical sector rich . . .

In order to improve health care, Colorado has also developed the Consumer Directed Attendant Support Program. This empowers Medicaid recipients with disabilities to direct their own home- care services. They hire and supervise their own attendants. They set their own attendant schedules and determine what services the attendants provide. And at the end of the year, individuals keep half of any unused funds. They can put these funds toward future medical expenses that improve their quality of life (and they return the other half to the state).

They get monkey butlers and lots of frosty beverages with bendy straws!

Consumers thus become more self-sufficient, gain a greater sense of personal responsibility, and lead healthier lives. We are hoping in the coming year to extend this policy to the developmentally disabled.

All through the *magic* of ownership. Riiiight.

Colorado has also applied the ownership philosophy to pension plans. For decades, Colorado state employees were locked into a defined benefit retirement plan designed in 1931. The plan offered little flexibility and penalized short-term workers. In the present economic climate, the "one size fits all" approach is no longer the appropriate retirement formula. This year, I signed legislation expanding defined contribution plan options to all new employees hired on or after Jan. 1, 2006. Employees will have a choice of mutual funds in which to invest their money. They will also be fully vested from Day One. The plan is portable and transferable; it follows employees as they change jobs and careers.

Of course, none of this really matters because it is the end times.

Last, but certainly not least, in May, Colorado became the first state in the country to send students to college with vouchers. Previously, state funds for tuition came in the form of block subsidies to our public institutions of higher education. We changed the funding equation, splitting those grants into thousands of individual vouchers that follow students to the institutions of their choice (including three private colleges). As a result, schools will now compete for student funds. The College Opportunity Fund is an important step toward making public institutions more accountable to students and taxpayers.

Way to end on a high note, Bill. Especially seeing as how our own state school is so successfully competing for student funds that tuition is going up by 28%.

I am proud of our efforts in Colorado to give our citizens greater freedom and the ability to plan for their future. These reforms have been long in coming, but they are absolutely essential in our ever-changing economy. Fortunately, the tide is turning from an administrative state that dispenses entitlements to a streamlined, competitive system that emphasizes choice, free markets, and the active, educated participation of individual citizens.

And by "ever changing" economy, I mean nosediving economy. Boy, that whole free markets, active participation schpiel sounds pretty great, doesn't it. It's like Bill is trying to sell us 76 trombones or something.

And dang, where was I when they were dispensing entitlements?

Americans no longer look to government for economic security; rather, they look to their portfolios. The American people are well aware that they can do a far better job than government at protecting their families' interests.

Yeah, so next on the ownership society table is national security. You'll need a rifle and $300,000 worth of surveillance equipment, but if you manage your portfolio right, you should have more than enough. Remember what the motto of any ownership society is: "You're own your own, Sucka!"

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sorting through that so we don't have to.

    Own your child support payments, Bill.