Star Parker
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Jean Monnet, the founder of the European Common Market, once observed that there are two different types of people. Those who want to be somebody and those who want to do something.

So which is Barack Obama? He says he's running for president to "transform the country." But until he delivers on policy specifics that clearly show how, we've got to conclude he's really just another smooth politician who wants to be somebody.

I have good news for Senator Obama. He can capture the high ground he's trying to claim, reinvent his party, help the country and improve the lives of low income folks, all with a single, courageous swath.

Obama should embrace two important reforms that heretofore have been identified with the Republican Party. He should come out in support of transforming Social Security into a regime of privately owned retirement accounts and in support of school choice.

The private retirement account reform initiative has, of course, gone nowhere. School choice, included in the initial version of No Child Left Behind and then stripped out, has made selective inroads through local initiatives around the country.

An important reason why both these key and innovative reforms have made so little progress is that, although they have been proposed by Republicans, their primary beneficiaries are low income voters who traditionally vote Democratic.

Because of this disconnect, the large and energetic political constituency essential to any major reform has never crystallized for either issue.

For higher wage earners, the payroll tax is an annoyance, but not a major obstacle to wealth creation. After paying in their portion of the 12.4 percent tax, and reaching the $97,500 cap, they have plenty of disposable income left to invest in real wealth creating assets.

For low-income earners, however, this is not the case. All or most of the income they might have had to invest is locked into paying the payroll tax that yields payments at retirement that equate to returns hovering around zero percent.

Unfortunately, these low income earners have been subjected to disinformation campaigns by Democratic Party politicians, unions, the AARP, the NAACP and others that contributions into a highly diversified portfolio of stocks and bonds over 45 years is a risky proposition not worth taking over the guaranteed zero return of Social Security.

Thus, these individuals are deprived of the opportunity of prudent accumulation of hundreds of thousands of dollars of wealth over their lifetime.

Blacks, whose median income is about 70 percent of the national average, and whose median household net worth is about 7 percent that of whites, would benefit enormously by such a reform.

Democratic Party opposition to this wealth creating opportunity is particularly laughable at a time when rhetoric swirls around daily about alleged growing income and wealth gaps.

Similarly, bad public schools are not a critical issue for wealthier families. More well to do neighborhoods have the best public schools. And families with the resources to do so can readily pull their kids out of a public school and send them to private schools.

But low-income families' kids are trapped in hopelessly failing inner city public schools. In addition to the obvious benefits that opening the market to competition would bring, important opportunities would open to address the special problems of these kids. A good portion of them come from broken homes and live daily in the deadly culture of nihilism that prevails in our inner cities. Why shouldn't these kids at least have a chance to go to a church school where they can get the traditional values they so need that are totally off limits in public schools?

Perversely, because these two big issues are not critical to many Republican voters, they have never been motivated to rally around important proposals of their own party. Low-income Democratic voters, who would most benefit, have been kept in the dark by their own leaders who have a stake in the statist status quo.

Senator Obama could change the political landscape. It's no secret that the Democratic victory last November was a vote against Republicans and had nothing to do with any positive Democratic agenda. Here's a real chance to help low-income folks, the country, and re-invent a Democratic Party bankrupt of ideas.

Might we have the audacity of hope that Obama might actually have the courage to show this kind of leadership?

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Star Parker

Star Parker is founder and president of CURE, the Center for Urban Renewal and Education, a 501c3 think tank which explores and promotes market based public policy to fight poverty, as well as author of the newly revised Uncle Sam's Plantation: How Big Government Enslaves America's Poor and What We Can do About It.