Question: What will be George W. Bush’s legacy?
Grover Norquist: Well I think 50 years from now, he will be seen as the guy who actually did strengthen the shareholder society, the investor class, the ownership society with health savings accounts.
And millions of Americans now have control of their healthcare accounts, and that will go to tens of millions over time if the Democrats don’t poke a hole in it. The pension changes – again 14 million just in the next couple of years will get into defined contribution pensions. As a result of changes made during the Bush administration, more and more Americans are going to own their own retirement, own their own healthcare and it will be portable.
So you don’t go to the government and beg for your pension or your healthcare. But you own it and control it.
And what Bush did in starting to make that happen is what Reagan did with the Cold War. What was Reagan’s legacy? He won the Cold War. He destroyed the Soviet Union and broke it into 15 pieces. It’s not coming back. When did he do that? Oh in 1991, three years after he left office. So we credit Reagan with the destruction of the Soviet empire because he said, “We’re going to do X, Y, and Z, and here’s what it’s going to accomplish.” And we did it and it happened. It didn’t happen during his eight years in the presidency. It took another three years. Had Reagan said in 1988 – January – “______ president for one more year. I must cut the final deal with the Soviet Union,” we would have cut a lousy deal. The Soviet Union would still be there. He didn’t do that. He looked past his expiration date as president and realized the country and the world keeps going even if you’re not in the White House, and one of the things I need to be doing to make what I want to have unfold actually happen. Bush needs to do the same thing.
But the temptation is always there to feel that as soon as you leave the White House, you’re not in control anymore. Because of the changes in law on pensions, and health savings accounts, and IRAs, and 401ks for the next 20 years after Bush leaves office, more and more Americans will have trillions of dollars in personal savings accounts that they control because of decisions that Bush did and the Republicans in the House and Senate made in order to move that forward.
As a result, ultimately at the end of the day we will privatize Social Security. Because when you get from 60 percent of Americans owning stock to 70 and 80, eventually they’re going to say, “And why am I pissing away 12 percent of my income into this defined benefit plan that’s going bankrupt? Why don’t I take that and put it into my personal account because I’ve got one. I’m comfortable with it. It’s not scary. It’s not weird.” And as more and more Americans have an experience with a 401k and an individual retirement account, defined contribution pension, people are going to look at Social Security as just lost money; that the ________ rather than the ability to save it. And that will happen. Maybe three years, maybe five years, maybe longer; but it will happen.
Recorded on: September 12, 2007