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Jewish World Review Oct. 30, 2000 / 1 Mar-Cheshvan 5761

Don Feder

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Consumer Reports

Bush vs. Gore: It's us against Dem -- ON ISSUES ranging from defense and foreign affairs to judicial appointments and social policy, there are palpable differences between Gov. George W. Bush and Vice President Al Gore.

But perhaps the most important distinction is this: One is a man who's had a life outside politics, the other is a creature of the system.

As a congressman, senator and vice president, Gore has spent almost a quarter century in national office.

In a way, Washington is the vice president's hometown. He grew up in a hotel suite on Embassy Row when his father was a senator. Gore is Tennessee the way Hillary Clinton is Times Square.

His instincts are those of the ruling class -- anti-privatization, pro-government "investment" (in public education, the environment, you-name-it), positively phobic about broad-based tax cuts.

The Texas governorship is Bush's first and only office, which he's held for the last six years. Like Ronald Reagan, Bush was middle-aged before he left the private sector for the political arena. This gives him a connection to the real world his opponent lacks.

His outlook is reflected in his agenda.

The governor wants to send one-quarter of the surplus back to those who earned it, by eliminating the marriage tax penalty, ending the death tax and instituting across-the-board rate reductions -- dropping the bottom rate from 15 percent to 10 percent and the top rate from 39.6 percent to 33 percent.

Gore is deeply distrustful of allowing citizens more control of their earnings. His reflex reaction ("risky") is telling. It's dangerous to let average people make these decisions. Better leave the loot in Washington, where it can be used to buy votes, create entitlements and expand the federal workforce.

His "targeted tax cuts" are illusory. If you're an enviro (have solar panels on the roof of your house, own a car with a hybrid electric-gas engine), you don't make too much and the wind is blowing in the right direction during a solar eclipse, you might get some tax relief in a Gore administration.

But we'll all have a chance to pay for his plans to super-size government. According to the non-partisan National Taxpayers Union, Gore wants to raise spending by $2.8 trillion over the next decade, the biggest binge since the Great Society.

You'd think that Washington grabbing 20.4 percent of Gross Domestic Product (compared to 17.6 percent in 1993) would be enough. But Gore is bullish on government. In the only business he's ever known, there's always room for growth.

Bush proposes a modest beginning for vouchers -- allowing students at dismal public schools to use up to $1,500 in federal education funds for private or parochial education. If schools are failing students, give children the chance to escape, the governor reasons. Schools exist for kids, not the other way around.

Gore is actually offended at the thought of "public money" (funds Washington takes from our paychecks) going to private education. His message to families caught up in the education recession is sit tight, suffer and wait for things to get better. Despite the massive expenditures of the past 15 years, if we just spend a few hundred billion more and hire another 100,000 teachers, education will improve. Trust Washington, educrats and teachers unions -- they know what's best for your children.

Bush is equally innovative on Social Security. He wants to let young workers trapped in the system have the option of putting a portion of their taxes in private investment accounts.

Gore is aghast. Even though a typical investment in stocks listed on Dow Jones yielded a 325 percent return over the past decade (compared to 22 percent for the Social Security trust fund), the veep would prefer to keep that money -- in the form of government IOUs -- sitting in his mythical lockbox.

Bush trusts individuals, families and businesses. Gore put his faith in the bureaucracy. Bush favors the private; Gore worships the public. Bush believes in the market; Gore relies on the powers of planners.

Everything about Al Gore (down to his sneering and condescension during the first presidential debate) screams elitist. Despite his family pedigree, Bush has thrown his lot with us. On Nov. 7, it'll be us against Dem.

JWR contributing columnist Don Feder's latest books are Who is afraid of the Religious Right? ($15.95) and A Jewish conservative looks at pagan America ($9.95). To receive an autographed copy, send a check or money order to: Don Feder, The Boston Herald, 1 Herald Sq., Boston, Mass. 02106. Doing so will help fund JWR, if so noted. He is also available as a guest speaker. To comment on this column please click here.


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© 2000, Creators Syndicate