Life in the Age of Lowered Expectations
December 7, 2004
By Dan Gougherty
As a freelance reporter, my beat includes covering local government
meetings that, while important to local residents, are usually of
little consequence outside that community. Most times these meetings
can be equal parts boredom and monotony.
Every now and then though, they offer nuggets of insight into
the larger issues of the day. Such was the case the other night
when I covered an otherwise routine meeting of a parks and recreation
district in Sacramento County, Calif.
The issue facing the district was how to fund facilities for a
23-acre park. The district received the land as part of a new development
with over 200 homes priced up to $1.5 million, which even by Northern
California standards is pricey. While the developer was obliged
to deed the land, they only had to provide $200,000 in park development
These fees barely cover the cost of putting in a couple of porta-johnnies
let alone soccer fields, baseball diamonds and water fountains.
And there's about about as much chance of getting help from state
and local governments, given their well-documented budget woes,
than there is of getting George W. Bush to admit a mistake.
While discussing what improvements should be made, one council
member suggested installing water fountains. After a few minutes
of deliberation, another council member with a certain degree of
irony said "I think people can bring their own water."
With that utterance, my mind wandered from the monotony of the
meeting to George W. Bush's newest oxymoronic initiative, the so-called
"ownership" society. Like "Healthy Forests" and "Clear Skies" before
them, the "ownership society" is just another Bush misnomer.
Simply stated, Bush's ownership society will free the government
from providing services that benefit Americans, like Social Security
for example. Instead the burden will be squarely put on the shoulders
of Americans, many of whom have trouble making ends meet. The beneficiaries
will be wealthy individuals who will not have to pay into Social
Security, and yet will still enjoy a worry-free retirement.
Getting back to the district meeting, it occurred to me that when
this individual implored others to bring their own water, he was
really repeating something that many baby boomers of all political
stripes have been indoctrinated with after thirty years of conservative
rhetoric - that government is unlikely, or unwilling depending on
your perspective, to fulfill obligations. I can attest to harboring
this notion for well over 20 years now.
The meeting also demonstrated the ease with which Americans can
be rolled. Here you have a developer who will make millions and
yet is obliged to fund public facilities for pennies on the dollar.
The developer will no doubt say they are only following the law
- but of course it is the well-funded developers who write the local
and state zoning laws. This is not unlike Bush's tax scheme that
benefits a few wealthy people while burdening the rest of society.
Despite the great disparities between the needs of the whole and
the benefits for the few, the community is more than satisfied with
a few crumbs from the masters table. Does any of this sound familiar?
Now that Bush and the self-serving conservatives have a stranglehold
on the government, and given society's indoctrination of lower expectations,
everything appears to be in place to spoon feed the public the lies
of the "ownership society."
Hopefully the example displayed by this parks district is not indicative
of how Americans will react to the implementation of Bush's latest
scheme. If it is, I am afraid there may not be enough people bringing
water to go around.
Visit Dan Gougherty's blog at www.ltobs.blogspot.com