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Jewish World Review August 17, 2000 / 16 Menachem-Av, 5760

Cal Thomas

Cal Thomas
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Consumer Reports

Please observe me if you will, I'm Prof. Harold Hill --
LOS ANGELES | How strange that on opening night the Democratic National Convention chose an actor portraying Harold Hill to follow Bill Clinton's valedictory speech. "Hill'' sang "76 Trombones,'' the song he used in "The Music Man'' to sucker the good folks of River City, Iowa, into buying musical instruments for their children in order to save them from the pool hall. Hill was the "Slick Willie'' of his time, though Al Gore might call the trombone ploy a "risky scheme.''

The Democrats appropriately selected this symbolic character to follow a man whose entire life has been built on fooling a lot of the people most of the time.

President Clinton would have us believe that his "economic policies'' are responsible for the prosperity of the last eight years. What economic policies? Though he acknowledged the contribution of the people, he seemed to take all of the credit himself. Other than keeping Alan Greenspan at the Federal Reserve, Clinton's biggest economic decision was his 1993 retroactive tax increase, eagerly approved by a Democratic-controlled Congress. Does he mean to suggest that a huge tax increase was responsible for the prosperity? If he does, Gore should be promising a tax increase to make everyone even more prosperous.

Clinton ignores the fact that the expansion began when Ronald Reagan cut marginal tax rates from Jimmy Carter's near garnishment level to a top bracket of one-third of a taxpayer's income. And he continues the canard that Reagan was responsible for the deficits, when it was a Democratic-controlled Congress that couldn't stop spending the new resources. When government allowed people to keep more of their money, many invested it, producing profits for themselves and new tax revenue for the government.

Clinton claimed credit for welfare reform, though he kept vetoing reform measures Congress sent him until his then-advisor, Dick Morris, told him the poll numbers had shifted. The president then signed the GOP measure, promising his fellow Democrats he would change it within a year. When more people started working, he claimed he was for welfare reform all along.

Clinton said he has promoted peace around the world and specifically mentioned the Middle East, the Balkans and Northern Ireland, not one of which is seeing lights at the end of the tunnel. He took credit for more adoptions, while supporting abortion policies that will limit the number of babies available to be adopted. But as Professor Hill said, "I can deal with the trouble here with a wave of my hand, this very hand.'' And wave his hands, Bill Clinton did.

Empowerment zones? A Republican idea first championed by Jack Kemp. New jobs? Government doesn't create jobs; people do. No, the progress of the last eight years was no accident. It was made possible not because of government, but in spite of government.

When Clinton finally got around to talking about Gore, he spoke of him only in terms of his own success. Gore isn't independent of Clinton. He owes everything to Clinton. And Gore had better not forget it, just in case Clinton should need a pardon.

If Clinton gets any credit, it's for not messing things up, which he surely would have if his Democratic Congress had nationalized Hillary's health care plan in 1993 (now there was a really risky scheme) and Republicans had not captured numerical control of Congress in 1994. His appetite was far bigger, but Congress partially reined him in.

Clinton was right about one thing. The coming election is important and represents two distinctly different visions of the future. One spells trouble-trouble-trouble (as Harold Hill chanted in another song) with greater regulations, more taxes, bigger government, higher spending and less freedom. Anyone who believes more government will further prosperity may want to buy a trombone from Harold Hill, or Clinton's version of his seriously flawed administration.

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