- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 18, 2000

Will George W. Bush and Richard Cheney say anything on behalf of congressional Republicans in countering the Gore-Lieberman battle cry that the Democrats have blessed us with the most glowing prosperity in history? They haven't so far. The Democratic nominees are driving the "we created the good times" theme home in the debates, along the campaign trail, in press releases and in interviews. But there's barely a retort from the GOP ticket, and congressional Republicans are deliberately denied any credit.
The Democrats, however, not only don't deserve a dollop of bragging rights, but they should be scalded for nearly steering the nation toward an economic catastrophe. And House and Senate Republicans, despite all the failings conservatives have chronicled, should get a few kudos for salvaging the economy. How quickly we forget.
The Clinton-Gore team pretended during the 1992 election that they were taking their party in a more moderate direction. But they no more acted like "New Democrats" in their first two years in office than Leonid Brezhnev acted like a "New Communist." Bill Clinton and Al Gore not only crusaded for getting self-professed gays in the military (a policy killed by the Congress, but which Mr. Gore has pledged to reopen), but they pumped for the highest tax increase in history, an additional $72 billion BTU tax, a special "stimulus" spending package and a complete takeover of the health-care system, one-seventh of the U.S. economy. This is moderation?
House and Senate Republicans, although in a minority in both houses, scaled down the tax increase, stopped the BTU tax, shut down the stimulus package and stifled Hillarycare. Thus, the GOP's defensive line deliberately slighted by Bush-Cheney has proved to be a key to the golden times we've been experiencing. If Clinton-Gore had had their way, the stock market most likely would have been swooning rather than soaring during the roaring '90s.
The tax increase of 1993 has not been the key to the percolating economy, as Democrats insist; instead, it was the Republican capacity to put an end to the Democrats' big-spend, high-tax policies, and then enact crucial economic and other reforms with the acquiescence of a reluctant president.
When the GOP swept both houses of Congress in 1994, the Republicans went on the offensive. Then and only then did Clinton-Gore move to the center. The middle-class tax cut (the $500 per child tax credit), a balanced budget, welfare reform, the 30 percent capital gains tax reduction, estate tax relief, the Roth IRA, etc., were enacted after the Clinton-Gore election debacle of 1994, and these were Republican ideas. Most of them originally contained in the high-profile, but much-maligned "Contract With America." (But, oh, my, the GOP ticket undoubtedly the result of some focus group ravings can't mention any of this, even though it would blow the Clinton-Gore claim to prosperity out of the water.)
It was only when Mr. Clinton shaking in his boots after the 1994 earthquake invited Dick Morris to come on board in early 1995 that Clinton-Gore "went Republican." Clinton-Gore then staged the "Great Retreat," both rhetorically and substantively. Mr. Clinton backed off Hillarycare, offered a "balanced budget" proposal in June 1995 (junking his deficit-ridden offering of February, but still not good enough for Republicans), insisted at an October 1995 Houston fund raiser that "I think I raised them [taxes] too much, too," and pronounced in his 1996 State of the Union address that "the era of big government is over." He also embraced, reluctantly, the Republican tax and welfare reforms, culminating in the 1997 balanced budget deal.
Oh, and about that surplus. Republican Presidents Ronald Reagan and George Bush, with major assists from congressional Republicans, won the Cold War so we could enjoy a peace dividend.
How important has this "dividend" been in balancing the budget? Two former Clinton defense officials, Bill Perry, who headed the Defense Department, and John Shalikashvili, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, stressed in a bylined column in The Washington Post on Aug. 10, that the " 'peace dividend,' amounting to about $100 billion a year, has been a major contributor to the balanced budget that our country now enjoys."
For my money, this seems like an impressive record. But, shh, the Bush-Cheney political strategists don't want to let anyone in on this secret of congressional Republican triumphs.

Allan Ryskind is Human Events' editor at large and a senior fellow at the National Journalism Center.

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