Save--but just not until I get re-elected
Daniel Gross discusses President Bush's "Ownership Society" and his call for Americans to save more through personal retirement accounts and health savings accounts, even as he has pointedly refused to ask them to make war time sacrifices:
Historically, in wartime the government has promoted national thrift and sacrifice for the greater good. In the Civil War and the two World Wars, hugely successful war-bond drives helped finance victory. More importantly, they laid the groundwork for postwar booms. "People scrimped and patriotically accumulated a lot of bond assets to help the war effort," said Richard Sylla, a historian at New York University's Stern School of Business. "So when peace returned, they suddenly had the wherewithal to spend."
But the message since the Sept. 11 attacks has been the opposite, a strange and occasionally dissonant conflation of patriotism and consumption. As New Yorkers flocked to Ground Zero to volunteer, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani exhorted Gothamites to patronize TriBeCa restaurants. President Bush appeared in ads urging Americans to fly and stay in hotels. These days, it seems, they also serve who only spend like there's no tomorrow.
In other words, Bush asks Americans to spend for their country's good, then tells them they have to save in anticipation of the day when Social Security and employee-provided health insurance are relics of the past. And John Kerry is the flip-flopper?