Democratic Underground

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 fees.

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

 Print this article (printer-friendly version)
Tell a friend about this article  Tell a friend about this article
 Jump to Editorials and Other Articles forum