- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 10, 2000

In his acceptance speech last week, George Bush left no doubt he will campaign on a thoroughly conservative platform.

Mr. Bush endorsed sweeping tax cuts that for most people will actually cut income tax rates more than Mr. Reagan did in 1981. Mr. Reagan campaigned on an across-the-board 30 percent rate cut, and achieved a 25 percent cut after his election.

But Mr. Bush proposes to cut the current 15 percent rate to 10 percent, a cut of 33 percent, and the 28 percent rate to 15 percent, a cut of 46 percent. Today's top rates of 33 percent, 36 percent, and 39.6 percent would be cut to 25 percent and 33 percent under the Bush plan. Indeed, if Mr. Bush would just eliminate his proposed top rate of 33 percent, and go with just three rates of 10 percent, 15 percent and 25 percent, he would have the basic framework for a pretty darn good overall tax reform plan.

The Bush tax cuts don't stop there, however. He endorsed eliminating the death tax outright. He also proposed doubling the child tax credit to $1,000, and eliminating the marriage penalty, which should further energize the pro-family, social conservative base.

Yet, this is all just the beginning. Mr. Bush also proposed the boldest, most sweeping, ultimately most liberating idea in the campaign personal accounts for Social Security. By allowing workers to choose to put a portion of their Social Security payroll taxes into their own personal investment accounts, Mr. Bush bravely addresses the entitlements crisis by expanding the role of the private sector and reducing the role of government and the burden on taxpayers.

The proposed accounts indeed hold the potential of blossoming over time into the largest tax cut, the largest reduction in government spending, and the largest reduction in real government debt, in world history.

At the same time, these personal accounts are the most progressive idea in this campaign. By allowing workers to receive the much higher investment returns offered in the markets, these accounts would do more to increase the prosperity of low and moderate income workers than anything else. Indeed, these accounts would enable the bottom half of income earners, who are missing out on the current historic capital market boom, to join the mainstream economy for the first time as capitalists as well as laborers.

But it doesn't stop there. Mr. Bush endorsed the boldest and most sweeping idea in education as well school choice. In fact, by proposing to expand Education Savings Accounts for use for elementary and secondary school expenses as well as for college, Mr. Bush has effectively proposed a federal tuition tax deduction.

What is usually overlooked is that school choice is highly progressive as well, expanding to low-and moderate-income workers the freedom of education choice and control already enjoyed by upper-income workers.

On national defense, Mr. Bush endorsed the boldest conservative reform idea there as well missile defense. Mr. Bush effectively promised to scrap the legally defunct anti-ABM treaty, pledging to build missile defenses as soon as feasible. He also pledged to reverse Mr. Clinton's overall trashing of the military.

Mr. Bush even mentioned the A word abortion. He promised to sign a bill to ban partial-birth abortions and to work to enhance the respect for life throughout all federal policies.

The completeness of this triumph of conservatism and liberty, however, is not limited to the agenda of the official Republican candidate and now presidential frontrunner. This bold, thoroughly conservative agenda is now thoroughly embraced by the GOP's establishment overall. It is the official, mainstream agenda of the entire party.

But the triumph goes beyond even this. In the post-speech media analysis, where the Republican candidate is usually trashed, the substantively conservative Bush speech was almost uniformly praised, even by openly liberal commentators such as Haynes Johnson and Doris Kearns Goodwin. The next morning, a front page New York Times headline proclaimed Mr. Bush's campaign as "(very much) center."

This was achieved because Mr. Bush and his campaign staff understand true conservatism better even than many active conservatives. It is only through free market conservatism that the professed goals of liberals and even the left can be achieved. It is only through the empowerment, pro-growth, free market reform agenda that average working people and even the poor can attain greater freedom of choice and control over their own lives, and rise to new realms of prosperity.

The Bush campaign simply designed the entire convention, as well as the Bush acceptance speech, to drive home this point. Hence, the theme of inclusiveness, in which African-Americans, Hispanics, women, average working people, and the handicapped rose time and time again to express their support for the economic and personal liberty agenda of the GOP, precisely because it is they who have the most to gain from such truly progressive reform.

Now this message threatens a political earthquake equivalent to the New Deal breakthrough in 1932. For the two ideas that resonate with great appeal and excitement in minority communities, the bedrock of the Democrat Party, are precisely personal Social Security accounts and school choice. Indeed, with another turn of Richard Cheney's wheel, these reforms will become broadly recognized as the new Civil Rights agenda.

Peter Ferrara is associate professor of law at the George Mason University School of Law, and a senior fellow at the Cato Institute.

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