Thomas Sowell

Targeted tax cuts are a stroke of genius politically -- and a disaster otherwise. Targeted tax cuts mean that you get to spend some of the money you earned only if you do what politicians tell you to do with it. These kinds of tax cuts also mean that you have a hard time qualifying under all the terms in the fine print, so that there will be far less tax relief in practice than in theory.

The other great economic fallacy of the Gore campaign is that it is "risky" to allow people to invest part of their Social Security in the stock market. But risk depends on the time period involved. Over a period of a year, the stock market is not as safe as a bank account. But, over a period of ten or twenty years, the stock market is far safer. People who saved their money in a bank in the 1960s saw most of the purchasing power of their savings destroyed by inflation by the 1990s, while those who put their money in stocks saw stock prices rise right along with inflation, as they usually do.

Young people who want to retire in 20 or 30 years are far safer to put their money in a reputable mutual fund than to put it into anything as subject to inflation and politicians as Social Security. When it is hard enough to predict who will be elected in a few days, how safe can it be to bet your retirement on which politicians will be elected over the next 20 or 30 years and what they will choose to do with Social Security?

Al Gore's claim to put Social Security money "in a lock box" may sound reassuring to the gullible, but it is itself just another example of irresponsible political rhetoric. There is no way to prevent future Congresses from doing whatever they want to do with Social Security. And what they have done so far is why there is a problem in the first place.

Although politicians cannot create either economic security or prosperity, they can ruin both. This is why government should have as small a role as possible in the economy. That makes it an easy choice between Bush, who understands this, and Gore who denies it.

Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute and author of The Housing Boom and Bust.

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