Jewish World Review July 12, 2004 /23 Tamuz, 5764

Robert Robb

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Consumer Reports

Edwards punctuates Kerry fantasies | Republican reaction to John Edwards' selection as the Democratic vice-presidential nominee amply demonstrates, if any additional evidence were needed, that a partisan in the heat of battle can't be taken seriously.

The Republican spin was that Edwards is unqualified, particularly because of his lack of foreign policy experience.

Even President Bush, when asked about the Edwards selection, unashamedly got into the act, pointedly saying that Dick Cheney was qualified to be president, obviously implying that Edwards is not.

Edwards has been a U.S. senator for six years and has served on the Intelligence Committee, as good a tutorial on foreign policy as exists for a politician.

Moreover, he has had two of the better ideas for improving the domestic fight against terrorism: a separate, dedicated investigatory agency; and a sort of special public defender's office with high-level security clearances to act as a check against detentions without charges.

When George W. Bush ran for president, he had also been in public office for only six years, but as a governor, where his exposure to foreign policy issues was substantially less than Edwards' in the Senate.

Simply put, if Edwards is unqualified to be vice president in 2004, Bush was unqualified to be president in 2000.

Yet Republicans blast away, blissfully mindless of the devastating logical implication of their attack.

Edwards, however, wasn't chosen for his foreign policy experience or his ideas about fighting domestic terrorism, although hopefully his selection will keep them alive.

Instead, he was chosen to reinforce John Kerry's apparent going-home domestic policy argument about the economy.

Kerry has landed hard in the past few months on the message of a "middle-class squeeze," that average Americans are strapped and that it's all Bush's fault.

Edwards' famous stump speech was about "two Americas," one in which a privileged few get rich by breaking the rules, while the rest struggle to make ends meet while following them.

A bit of economic reality and perspective would seem in order.

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Since 1980, real median family income in the United States has increased by 16 percent. And even that understates real gains, since this was also a period of substantial low-income immigration. Mean family income increased by a third over the same period.

Unfortunately, Americans have lost the virtue of thrift. Fewer families live below their means to put away money for retirement, education, health care problems or possibly losing a job.

Instead, Americans tend to live at the edge of what their income will support, leaving them unprepared for large expenses or the bumps and grinds of life.

Of course, people who say that sort of thing don't get elected president. So Kerry says, blame Bush and I'm here to make it better.

The country did go through a mild recession during Bush's watch. But objectively, it's hard to blame Bush for a recession that began before his economic policies were even adopted, much less put in place. And while incomes have been stagnant until recently, after-tax income has been up modestly.

Consumer spending has remained robust throughout, so Americans certainly haven't been spending as though they were strapped.

It's even more difficult to blame Bush for the other particulars of Kerry's middle-class squeeze: health care premiums, college tuition, gas prices, child care and state and local tax increases.

Kerry, of course, has a program for all of them: the federal government basically taking over catastrophic health insurance, expanded tax credits for college and child care, massive subsidies for alternative energy sources, subventions for state and local governments.

By the end of the campaign, Kerry will have a multibillion-dollar program for bunions. All supposedly paid for by increasing taxes on the relatively affluent. Yet the money that can be raised doesn't come close to paying the bills Kerry is racking up.

And there will be economic consequences from increasing a still-high 35 percent marginal tax rate and reinstating punitive tax treatment of investment income.

The overwhelming majority of relatively affluent Americans become that way by following the rules and creating opportunities for others.

Republican hypocrisy about the Edwards choice is stupid and irritating.

But more consequential is Kerry's flight of economic fantasy, which Edwards on the ticket reinforces.

JWR contributor Robert Robb is a columnist for The Arizona Republic. Comment by clicking here.


07/06/04: Kerry ups the ante in bid for Latino vote
06/30/04: High Court gave administration limits
06/25/04: Parallel (political) universes
06/21/04: Al-Qaida-Iraq interaction strengthens case for war
06/02/04: Gas whiners don't believe in or trust markets
05/10/04: Border reforms fail on black-market issue
05/07/04: It wasn't Bush's recession nor Bush's recovery
04/28/04: Arizona to become test market on immigration as a political issue
04/23/04: Accusations that the Bush administration has been shredding civil liberties are hyperbolic
04/16/04: Learning the limits
04/14/04: Aug. 6 memo is not even a water pistol, much less a smoking gun
04/11/04: Once 9/11 Commission's political theater ends, we must debate real security issues
04/09/04: Fact checking Kerry's federal budget plans
04/08/04: Should the transfer of sovereignty in Iraq be delayed beyond the current deadline?
04/02/04: Kerry's tax epiphany makes some cents
03/31/04: What could have prevented 9/11
03/26/04: Knock off the high-stakes blame game
03/23/04: McCain a ‘straight talker’? Who is he kidding?
03/17/04: Bin Laden makes distinctions?
03/12/04: In the dangerous neighborhoods, cause for hope, if not yet optimism
03/01/04: Greenspan view scary, but Dems in denial

02/27/04: How not to achieve a mandate

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