The vice presidential debate between Dick Cheney and Joe Lieberman was a fabulous discussion between two statesmen, two good friends of mine and two distinct points of view about our future. Both went toe to toe for 90 minutes and while most thought the contest a draw, in my opinion, Cheney clearly won and helped George W. Bush far more than Sen. Lieberman, as good as he was, helped Vice President Al Gore. Let me explain.
Lieberman, I must admit, had the more difficult task. He had to defend a running mate whose platform is based on faulty ideas, class warfare and a debating style propelled by high-octane prevarication, exaggeration and condescension.
In one obvious example, Sen. Lieberman had to repeat the Gore canard that drilling for more oil in Alaska would endanger the environment and produce no more than a six-month supply of crude oil. The facts are, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWAR) of Alaska contains 16 billion barrels of oil, enough to replace all the oil from Saudi Arabia for the next 30 years. It would be possible to develop ANWAR without disturbing more than about three square miles with no harmful environmental effects.
Gore apparently fears free markets so much that he opposes tax rate cuts, personalized Social Security retirement accounts, market-based Medicare reform, education reform based on personal choice and an energy policy based on increasing supply rather than stifling demand. He apparently doesn't trust free people or free markets enough to make wise decisions, and he hides this distrust behind a facade of "concern" and "environmentalism," when in fact what controls the Gore agenda is a drive for government solutions to every real or imagined problem.
The vice president proposes 24 new tax credits with which Washington will control our behavior - all of which are so intricate and so complicated that Cheney was right when he said you'll need a CPA to figure out how they all affect you. And, Gore even has tax credits for oil companies - the same "big oil" he wants to "protect" us from.
Since the vice president views tax cuts as just another form of federal "spending," he totally misses the point of across-the-board, broad-based tax rate reductions. He won't cut tax rates for everyone because he doesn't think so-called "successful people" need a tax cut. Let me tell you, Gov. Bush doesn't want to cut the top marginal tax rate to put more money in the pockets of the "wealthy." He wants to bring down the top tax rate to increase capital formation (an estimated 6.8 percent by 2010), to start more businesses and create more jobs (on the order of 2 million by 2010) so workers can be more productive and wages can rise.
If you really want to "soak the rich," cut the top income tax rate down to 20 percent or 25 percent. The "rich" will pay an even larger share of federal taxes. When we cut the top rate to 28 percent between 1982 and 1986, their share of income taxes paid went from 17.5 percent to 27.5 percent. Cutting the capital gains tax to 10 percent would send revenues up at least a half-trillion dollars in the next decade.
Gore professes to like growth, but has an aversion to the entrepreneurial risk-taking and dynamism that is required to produce that growth. He says he's on the side of workers, but he always wants to punish their employers. He claims to be "Mr. High Tech," but forgets the entrepreneurs who, while part of that top 1 percent he disparages, are also the ones who have generated more than one-third of all economic growth during the past five years.
The vice president's philosophy is antithetical to that of Abraham Lincoln's, who said, "I don't believe in a law to prevent a man from getting rich; it would do more harm than good. So while we do not propose any war on capital, we do wish to allow the humblest man an equal chance to get rich with everybody else."
You see, Lincoln understood what Gore and his fellow class warriors just don't get. There's no war between capital and labor. Capital and labor are the same people at different stages of their lives. Workers work to save, then to invest and ultimately to become owners of capital. At any given time, the relationship between workers and capitalists is more like a marriage than a class war. Sure, they disagree and fight occasionally, but their common interests and interdependency far outweigh any short-term divergence of interests that might arise.
The time to fix the leaky roof is while the sun is shining at home and abroad. In the debate, Cheney's task was easier because the issues are clearly on the side of progressive reforms. Without these reforms, Social Security and Medicare will be insolvent in the near future. The tax system needs to be completely overhauled, not turned into an instrument of social engineering and income redistribution.
When Bush meets Gore in their second debate, he needs to roll out the big artillery: lower taxes, economic growth and more revenue from the rich, not less.