- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 23, 2000

After emphasizing his "conservative" credentials during the Republican presidential primaries in February and early March, Texas Gov. George W. Bush, the presumptive Republican nominee, has been showing off his "compassionate" side lately. In response, Vice President Al Gore, the presumptive Democratic nominee has been throwing a fit.
While Mr. Gore has been perfecting his outside-the-Beltway persona, Mr. Bush has begun to outline his proposals involving health care, education and the environment. Just what are these ideas that Mr. Bush has been propagating and that have so upset Mr. Gore?
Concerning the environment: Rather than bemoan the nation's nearly 500,000 contaminated, abandoned industrial sites so-called brownfields, which are particularly prevalent in urban areas Mr. Bush proposed to accelerate their cleanup by reducing the disincentives that federal regulations have created. Instead of rehabilitating an urban brownfield, developers have simply sought undeveloped sites for their factories. "The old system of mandate, regulate and litigate," Mr. Bush argued in an implicit reference to the Superfund monstrosity created by none other than Mr. Gore, "only sends developers off in search of greener pastures literally. Brownfields get passed over, while green gets paved over."
On the education front, Mr. Gore, notwithstanding massive evidence to the contrary, continues to believe that all elementary and secondary education problems can be solved merely by spending more federal money much more money. In contrast, Mr. Bush has proposed to finally require accountability and standards for state and local governments that have so far failed to achieve the desired results despite the expenditure of more than $120 billion in so-called Title I federal funds allocated to impoverished areas since 1965. And if low-performing public schools failed to improve after three years, then Mr. Bush would transfer the Title I funding to the parents, who could use the money for tutoring or private school tuition. Mr. Bush would also redirect the Head Start program, which has failed to produce long-term results, to focus on literacy, an indisputably long-lasting achievement. He would also expand education savings accounts from $500 per year to $5,000.
In health care, where Mr. Gore has predictably embraced a massive increase in the federal bureaucracy to reduce the nation's uninsured, Mr. Bush has wisely proposed a market-based effort to address the problem. To help low- and moderate-income individuals and families purchase basic health insurance coverage, the Texas governor's plan, which would cost an estimated $35 billion over five years, would provide refundable tax credits of $1,000 for individuals and $2,000 for families.
On the housing front, Mr. Gore would increase the Section 8 rental-voucher program, which would have the intended Democratic effect of increasing the number of families dependent upon the federal government. Mr. Bush, on the other hand, has proposed allowing Section 8 families to use an entire year's worth of vouchers to make a down payment on a home they would eventually own. Mr. Gore's idea would increase dependence; Mr. Bush's would increase independence.
By all means, let the candidates have their battle of ideas. On that score, Mr. Bush, who seems to have no shortage of creative, free-market ideas, has little to fear. Mr. Gore seems to understand this, having already made a desperate call for help in response to Mr. Bush's plethora of ideas. Leaving no doubt about what the vice president expects from his liberal friends in the media, Mr. Gore issued his marching orders at the recent Washington meeting of the American Society of Newspaper Editors: "[Mr. Bush] wants us" note the use of "us" "to believe he's committed to issues like education, health care and the environment," Mr. Gore whined. "We need the nation's reporters and editors to challenge every assumption and question every proposal." The media's parroting Mr. Gore's demagoguery in 2000, however, will be unlikely to have the same effect upon the electorate that it did in 1996. As he proved in the primaries, Mr. Bush is no pushover.

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