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President Bush and the choice word...

MARKETPLACE - National Public Radio

The following commentary by FTCR President Jamie Court was broadcast on the Marketplace radio program on National Public Radio on Feb. 1, 2005. Click here to listen the commentary.
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HOST - DAVID BROWN: Let's get back to the state of the union. You know, something else we're likely to hear more about -- changes to social security. Fingers are crossed that the president may offer more details about his plan.

Commentator and consumer advocate Jamie Court says we're pretty certain to hear the president echo a theme -- the one about wanting to give Americans more economic choices.

COMMENTATOR - JAMIE COURT: America was founded on the freedom to choose -- to choose our government, our beliefs, our God. Maybe that's why advisors have told the president to use the language of choice in selling Americans on his most controversial plans.

Consider the social security overhaul. Maybe all Americans should have a God-given choice to invest their social security funds in whatever they want, including the next Enron, Tyco, or WorldCom, and walk away rich.

But chances are they won't walk away loaded at the right time. Instead, after the bubble bursts, they'll crawl away, with no choice to work into retirement or live with the kids.

While we're at it, why not also give Americans the choice to withdraw their IRAs early for a turn at the roulette wheel at Caesar's? Somebody's gotta win...

Then there's tax reform. Sure, if we don't pay as much in taxes, we have more choices about how to spend that money. But without collecting enough tax, there's no choice but to hit more potholes, send your kids to private school, and travel an extra twenty minutes by ambulance to get to a trauma center.

Or take Bush's proposed restrictions on injured patients who sue over malpractice. A top GOP pollster says the way to win is to claim that without lawsuit limits, patients just won't have their choice of doctors and hospitals any more. You see, they're all closing up shop.

So you have give up your Seventh amendment right to trial by jury if you want to see a doctor -- that's some choice.

The truth is the new economic freedoms the president will promote come at the expense of political freedoms the nation was founded on -- open courts, representation for taxation, and our collective financial security.

I guess, freedom is, after all, another word for nothing left to lose.
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Consumer activist Jamie Court is the author of Corporateering.