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Jewish World Review Jan. 25, 2000 /18 Shevat, 5760

Thomas Sowell

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Senator McCain: A man of what principle?

http://www.jewishworldreview.com -- SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN is playing the role of a man of high principle, as distinguished from the mere politicians who are competing with him for the Republican nomination for president. But just what principle is he a man of?

Is watering down the Republican message with some of the Democrats' message-- as with campaign finance reform or restricting tax cuts "for the wealthy"-- a principle? Is splitting the difference and playing to the liberal media a principle?

As Henny Youngman would say, take campaign finance reform-- please. Just what public benefit is supposed to result from laws tying up the electoral process in red tape?

When 89 percent of the people in the media voted for Bill Clinton in the last election, how are the Republicans supposed to get their message out to the public, unless they pay the millions of dollars it takes to advertise on television?

Republicans have no choice but to outspend the Democrats, because Democrats get a lot of their message out through the media, free of charge, simply because the people in the media believe so much of that message themselves.

Restricting spending does not mean a public better informed about both sides of issues. It means a public far less likely to hear both sides of issues.

The media love campaign finance reform-- and they love Senator John McCain, who has become their favorite Republican by pushing this liberal nostrum in Congress and on the campaign trail. But is throwing your party to the wolves, in order to boost your own candidacy, a high principle?

Media advocates of campaign finance reform think it is terrible that someone like Steve Forbes can spend millions of dollars of his own money to acquire name recognition and a forum for his ideas. But they find nothing wrong with the fact that Hillary Clinton or any of the Kennedys can get the same name recognition and a forum free of charge or at the taxpayers' expense.

Is the political process harmed when those who have money can break the monopoly of those who have incumbency? Why is one form of unequal access to the media and the public considered so morally corrupt and the other not?

The incessantly repeated idea that wealthy candidates can "buy the election" has been disproved again and again, most recently by Steve Forbes' failure to reach double digits in national polls.

Then there is the McCain approach to taxes. Here again he buys into the liberal notion that it is somehow wrong to cut taxes across the board, for fear that "the wealthy" will benefit.

Are taxes to be cut because they are too high or are tax cuts to be used to redistribute income? The only people whose taxes you can cut are the people who are paying taxes-- and that means, disproportionately, middle-class people who get reclassified as "rich" whenever politicians want to confuse the issues in order to prevent tax cuts.

Just who are these "rich" that liberal Democrats talk about so much?

Although the term is used endlessly, no one wants to say just how much money it takes to be considered "rich" when it comes to taxes. They don't say because they would be laughed to death if they did.

The political definition of "the rich" is often the top 20 percent of income earners. But a married couple making $40,000 each is making enough to land in that top 20 percent.

Statistics show that an absolute majority of all Americans-- including those who start out in the bottom 20 percent in income-- are in that "rich" top 20 percent at some time or other. Envy is not pretty, even when it is envy of people permanently better off than you are. But when you are envying people in a bracket that you yourself are going to be in, it is idiocy.

Thanks to the liberal media, most people will never be told that these "rich" and "poor" people they hear talked about so much are both transients with no fixed address in the income stream. Often they are the same people at different stages of their lives.

Maybe Senator McCain doesn't think he can explain all this to the voters. Instead, he goes along with the mythology. Maybe he figures that, if you can't lick 'em, join 'em.

If he wants to join 'em, fine. There is already a party he can join that lives by that mythology. They are called Democrats. But running as a Republican on Democrats' rhetoric is hardly an example of high principles.


JWR contributor Thomas Sowell, a fellow at the Hoover Institution, is author, most recently, of The Quest for Cosmic Justice.

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