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October 15, 2004

Rhetoric matters


“There is but one straight course, and that is to seek truth and pursue it steadily.” –George Washington

As Wednesday night’s final presidential debate so aptly displayed, John F. Kerry’s populist rhetoric has reached nearly hysterical proportions. “In the past four years, in nearly every decision that he’s made, President George W. Bush has chosen the powerful and the well-connected over middle-class Americans,” Kerry said recently. “The only people George Bush’s policies are working for are the people that he’s chosen to help. They’re working for drug companies. They’re working for HMOs. And they’re certainly working for the big oil companies.”

“The powerful and well-connected”? This from the man who has twice married multimillionaire heiresses; a man who has multiple mansions on multiple continents; a man who windsurfs (poorly) off tony Nantucket; a man who rides a bicycle that costs more than some new cars; a man who doesn’t blink at spending, oh, maybe $15,000 to jet his hairdresser cross-country for a trim.

But we digress. Where it comes to John Kerry’s economic vision for America, The Patriot believes it’s time we called a spade a spade. When Kerry spouts this “wealthy-versus-the-middle-class” rhetoric, he’s flying a Marxist flag, and many Americans seem to be none the wiser. Are we serious, you ask? Marxism?

[For more on Kerry’s collusion with Europe’s most dated thinker, read “John Kerry, Useful Idiot…” –]

Stop for a moment to consider the language he uses (for all his faults, Kerry is no intellectual slouch). In Kerry’s view, politics should be interpreted as a conflict between the antithetical interests of the wealthy and the ordinary American. To Kerry, a tax-break for a successful businessman amounts to an attack on a working American. Policies good for big business (as Bush’s are) must, by definition, be bad for labor. Kerry is singing the Democrats’ same old class-warfare song, designed to divide the country (and the electorate) in their favor. But does he really believe that business owners are diametrically opposed to the workers who make their businesses possible, and that workers are equally opposed to those who provide jobs to support their families?

He must, for this is the divisive picture he paints over and over: ‘Bush favors the wealthy, while I’ll fight for average Americans.’ But if Kerry’s premise is correct, then the only solution is to dismantle our economic system in favor of something as time-tested and successful as, say, Soviet socialism. A capitalist system depends fundamentally on the premise that free economic exchange benefits everyone, whether rich or poor. The problem, of course, is that this would mean that Bush’s tax cuts really do make sense.

This perspective culminates in the Kerry-Edwards argument that Bush’s “tax cuts for the wealthy” have produced a medical coverage nightmare for the middle class. Despite the sheer hilarity of this diagnosis, our concern is their proposed solution. They propose raising taxes on the rich and giving the proceeds to the middle class in the form of “better” health coverage. Incredibly, they don’t even try to hide the connection. Kerry shamelessly asks for people’s votes in return for his promise to take money from one group and give it to another. To quote one adroit observer, “That isn’t waffling – that’s pandering!”

Consider countries that have implemented such policies in the past. Economic stalwarts like North Korea and the Soviet Union certainly ring a bell. Is the erstwhile Evil Empire now our role model? This is where domestic policy meets foreign policy. To be sure, Kerry’s fraternizing with the North Vietnamese in 1970-71 is not unrelated to his present collectivist economic views. John Kerry betrayed his country then because he believed socialism offered a better way of life. Given his current rhetoric, it seems not much has changed in 33 years.

President George W. Bush, on the other hand, has consistently pursued a sounder economic policy, even if his articulation is often lacking. Here, he has steadily made his case on two fronts: first, by emphasizing the need for greater productivity as the heart of economic development; and second, by arguing that tax cuts are the best way to encourage productivity. History shows that the best thing the government can do with respect to economic policy is let the people keep their money, and then get out of the way. As the President said Wednesday night, “I believe the role of government is to stand side by side with our citizens to help them realize their dreams, not tell citizens how to live their lives.”

Unfortunately, the President’s rhetoric sometimes has the unfortunate effect of masking much good in his economic policy; indeed, it often disguises – and even undermines – the very strength of this policy. To be fair, the limitations of the various media and debate formats – 60-second debate responses and 15-second sound bites – don’t allow thorough explanations. In addition, at this late date in the campaign, both candidates are appealing to swing voters and moderating their explication in general.

Still, The Patriot believes the President must more thoroughly elucidate the effectiveness of his economic policy.

The bottom line is that when Kerry attacks Bush with his class-warfare rhetoric, Bush must attack the folly of Kerry’s position at its foundation. ‘Of course the rich benefit from my tax breaks, as do all taxpayers! Beyond that, it only makes sense that a fair tax cut returns the most to the people who pay the most. If we want more jobs in America, we should let the people who create jobs keep their own money!’ In the final days of this campaign, The Patriot encourages the Bush campaign to speak the truth boldly to the American people, for we believe that the majority of Americans – even those curiously undecided voters, bless their hearts – still prefer economic freedom. Big corporations are not evil. Wealthy people are not evil, nor are pharmaceutical companies, insurance providers, or – the greatest “menace” of all – multinational “outsourcers.” Big corporations and big investors are in fact America’s job and wealth creators. They’re the ones among us who encourage productivity. It’s Kerry’s vision of BIG GOVERNMENT that presents the greatest threat to our national prosperity and liberty.

To wit, when Kerry lectured, “Every plan that I have laid out – my healthcare plan, my plan for education, my plan for kids to be able to get better college loans – I’ve shown exactly how I’m going to pay for those,” the President replied in fine style: “I want to remind people listening tonight that a plan is not a litany of complaints, and a plan is not to lay out programs that you can’t pay for. … It’s an empty promise. It’s called bait-and-switch.”

President Bush continued, “It’s your money. The way my opponent talks, he said, ‘We’re going to spend the government’s money.’ No, we’re spending your money. And when you have more money in your pocket, you’re able to better afford things you want. … My opponent talks about fiscal sanity. His record in the United States Senate does not match his rhetoric. He voted to increase taxes 98 times and to bust the budget 277 times.” Well said, Mr. President, well said.

The fine moments notwithstanding, in the final days of such a campaign, rhetoric tends to hide many policy differences espoused by the candidates and their parties. We the people must not be lulled into thinking the differences between the parties no longer exist, that they’re all in fact Republicrats. In truth, the policy differences are real and important, and underlying the candidates’ economic policies – as with their foreign policies – is a deep ideological gulf that no bipartisan bridge can span.

In the end, actions can say so much more than words. According to Club for Growth President Stephen Moore, Kerry failed to make public all his tax records from last year, but according to those released, his household income was “$5.5 million last year and [he] paid $704,000 in income taxes. That means their effective tax rate was a whopping 12.8%,” Moore wrote. That’s right – Mr. Roll-back-the-Bush-tax-cuts-for-the-rich (himself) is paying less in taxes than most middle class families. George and Laura Bush, on the other hand, paid roughly 30% on one-tenth the income that the Kerry’s brought in. Presumably, this was all legal on Kerrys’ part, but this is the guy complaining about “Bush’s debt” and “tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans,” too.

If this is any indication of Kerry’s real perspective on the surly IRS and inequitable tax code, perhaps he should be voting four more years for W., too…rhetoric aside.

Quote of the week…

“[H]is rhetoric doesn’t match his record.” –President George W. Bush

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