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Jewish World Review Jan. 3, 2002/ 19 Teves, 5762

Larry Elder

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Consumer Reports

What about the war against the welfare state? -- Dear President Bush,

"What can we do to help win the war against terrorism?" Americans all across the country eagerly ask. In response, you insist that we "go about our daily lives," but with a heightened sense of awareness. To live in fear, you correctly counsel, surrenders power to the terrorists.

You urge patience in this war against terrorism, an effort that could take years, perhaps even outlasting your presidency. Inspired by your leadership, Americans have read books and articles and listened to experts on Islam, in an attempt to determine why so many dislike America. We learned that murderous religious fanatics like Osama bin Laden, and terrorist organizations like al Qaeda, Islamic Jihad, the Muslim Brotherhood, Hezbollah and Hamas, "hijack" a religion practiced peacefully by most of their co-religionists. We now know that many Arab governments, either supportive or domestically fearful of these groups, appease or buy them off.

While many Arab leaders offered condolences for the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, few condemned the acts as a sacrilege, as a sin denying suicide bombers admission to Paradise. We see the controlled press in the Arab world featuring articles, columns and editorials calling the murderers "martyrs," with governments in "friendly" countries like Egypt and Saudi Arabia telling us one thing, while their state-controlled press says another.

Some called Sept. 11 a wake-up call, and urged us to rethink our "blind" devotion to the State of Israel. Americans took up the challenge with many asking for the very first time, "Why do we support the State of Israel?" After all, images of Palestinian "refugees" throwing rocks at the mighty Israelis make some of us "uncomfortable." Americans took up the challenge, and many, for the very first time, began analyzing the geographical, historical and political roots of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Inspired by the terrorist attacks, Americans learned of a 2,000-year Jewish presence in what is now Israel; that almost immediately following the 1947 United Nations partition creating two countries -- Israel and Palestine -- half-a-dozen Arab countries immediately attacked Israel, placing the nation of 5 million in a defensive position surrounded by over 100 million hostile people; that schools, or madrasas in the Arab world, teach hatred and anti-Semitism, creating anger and murderous hatred towards the "occupying" or "invading" Israeli government; and we learned of the use of Israel by many Arab leaders as a scapegoat to divert attention from their disastrous socialist economic policies, the lack of individual rights and the suppression of religious minorities in their own lands. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarek recently said that, until Sept. 11, Osama bin Laden seldom mentioned the Palestinians, taking up their "cause" only after he realized their value as a tool to manipulate public opinion.

Unfortunately for Osama bin Laden and his ilk, Americans, upon reflection, increased their support for Israel, with only 10 percent buying into the "moral superiority" of the Palestinians. And the terrorist attacks which struck -- irrespective of race, ethnicity and gender -- caused Americans to focus on our similarities rather than our differences. Many now say Sept. 11 calls for an expansion of government. Measures under consideration or having been passed by Congress include "emergency loan bailout" for airlines, insurance, travel, hotel and restaurant industries. Members of both parties sought to expand, at taxpayers' expense, unemployment and health-care benefits for workers affected by the tragedy. States, some 40 of which face deficits because of irresponsible spending, now turn to Washington with outstretched hands.

As your Secretary of the Treasury Paul O'Neill said, "Able-bodied adults should save enough on a regular basis so that they can provide for their own retirement and, for that matter, for their health and medical needs." And your Office of Management and Budget director, Mitch Daniels, described Congress's post-Sept. 11 attitude as, "Don't just stand there, spend something." As with your popular, plain-speaking Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, O'Neill and Daniels possess the same ability to plainly and clearly address the American people about the perils of welfare state. Unleash them.

A war against the welfare state complements our war against terrorism. Every dollar spent on a pork barrel project, on expanding failed programs like Title I, on paying wealthy farmers not to farm, means one less dollar for strengthening our military or for spending on domestic self-defense. Critics will accuse you of using the war against terrorism for "partisan" purposes, that you "use" the war against terrorism to justify your "conservative agenda." That's where your 90 percent popularity rating comes in. Spend some of it.

Americans give you high marks for candor, sincerity and plain speaking. Lay out the case against the welfare state in a clear, understandable way, and many Americans who found false security in our "social safety net" will begin to rethink their assumptions.

This historic opportunity exists, Mr. President. Seize it.

Sincerely yours,
Larry Elder

JWR contributor Larry Elder is the author of the newly released, The Ten Things You Can't Say in America. (Proceeds from sales help fund JWR) Let him know what you think of his column by clicking here.

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© 2002, Creators Syndicate