- The Washington Times - Friday, December 8, 2000

Ed Feulner, the esteemed president of the Heritage Foundation, is fond of saying "people are policy." He's, of course, right about that, as we learned during both the Reagan and the Bush presidencies. Conservatives had a premonition Dick Darman was going to be a big problem in 1988, and our worst nightmares were confirmed. If Republicans are going to move their agenda for tax cuts, private accounts for Social Security, and smaller government over the next few years, they had better pay attention to getting the right people in the right policy-making slots.

Republicans are going to be judged on one performance measure: the economy, stupid. Did they keep the prosperity going? Already there are worrisome signs of a fault line in the economy. Did the stock market rally of the past 18 years continue? The investor class is getting fidgety as their wealth has begun to fall in the recent bearish times. If Republicans don't reverse the trend, investors will, without recriminations, evict them from power in the next election.

There are three strategically vital economic positions that need to be filled with philosophically committed Reaganite tax cutters. They are Treasury secretary, director of the Office of Management and Budget, and Ways and Means Committee chairman. There's a clearcut supply-sider's choice for each of these vacancies: Bill Archer for Treasury, John Kasich for OMB and Phil Crane for Ways and Means.

Bill Archer is one of the most admirable and admired men in Washington. (I don't mean that to sound like a back-handed compliment as though he's the sanest inmate in the asylum.) Mr. Archer's tax-cutting credentials are also impeccable. As Ways and Means Committee Chairman, he almost single-handedly bullied through Congress the 1997 capital-gains tax cut. He fought valiantly for cap-gains relief even after the GOP leadership was ready to cave in to the left's class warfare rhetoric. He's an unflinching free trader. He helped pass the most important social legislation of the past 40 years: welfare reform. He believes solemnly in sound money and is an inflation hawk.

In 1983, he was one of the most vocal opponents of the Social Security tax increase that the Greenspan Commission recommended and that President Reagan was hoodwinked by his disloyal advisers into endorsing and passing. He was one of the most effective critics of the Bush 1990 tax increase and the Clinton 1993 tax heist. In December 1994, he nearly gave the entire Washington press corps a collective coronary by announcing that as the incoming chairman of the Ways and Means Committee he wanted to scrap the income tax. There's not a more dogged advocate of overhauling the tax system. There's also no one in Washington who understands the tax system the way Mr. Archer does. (Mr. Archer actually fills out his own tax forms.)

And by the way, Gov. George W. Bush says he wants to fill some Cabinet slots with Democrats. Bill Archer was a Democrat when he first came to Congress in the early 1970s. He's perfect.

The Republicans need to rediscover an anti-big government agenda. Right now there is none. Few Republicans believe in small government anymore or at least enough to fight for it. The exception is John Kasich. He almost single-handedly bullied the "Contract with America" budget through the House of Representatives in 1995 when he was Budget chairman. That budget plan called for eliminating 200 government programs and three Cabinet agencies He has taken on corporate welfare, pork, the military industrial complex. He has formed alliances with Democrats like Tim Penny and Green Party leader Ralph Nader to sweat waste out of the federal enterprise. He knows the budget like the pope knows the Bible. He would be the K Street lobbyists' and the congressional appropriators' worst nightmare.

There is no one who can better market leaner federal budgets (assuming that's what Republicans want) in a populist way to voters. Mr. Kasich insists he doesn't want the job. Mr. Bush needs to persuade him that his country needs him. He's perfect, too.

Finally, the GOP needs someone who can write the tax legislation without buckling to the political pressures of the left. The Constitution states that tax bills must originate in the House. The good news is that the next in line for the Ways and Means Committee chairmanship is Phil Crane of Illinois. Mr. Crane's 30-year conservative credentials are stellar. He has a 90 percent lifetime National Taxpayers Union rating. He never saw a tax rate cut he didn't like. He was a leading champion of Mr. Reagan's 1981 tax rate cuts. He was for the flat tax long before it was cool. In the early 1970s he endorsed a flat tax of 10 percent.

The liberal wing of the GOP that opposes Mr. Crane grouses that he lacks the political gravitas to run this committee effectively. Nonsense. For the past six years Mr. Crane has chaired the Trade Subcommittee of the Ways and Means Committee. Mr. Crane was a maestro in winning congressional support for NAFTA, GATT and China free trade. That's an astonishingly bullish trifecta given the controversy surrounding each of these trade deals. If Mr. Crane is bypassed, it will be an insult to fiscal conservatives and a blow to economic common sense.

To make sure that the economy doesn't crater, Mr. Bush and the Republican Congress must ram an emergency tax cut through Congress within 100 days. They must immediately follow up with a legislative victory campaign for the Bush Social Security choice plan. The GOP needs leaders who (a) have deep convictions that these plans are the right ones for America and (b) have a proven track record of success in navigating a pro-growth agenda through the shark-infested waters on Capitol Hill. Mr. Archer, Mr. Crane and Mr. Kasich: It's a supply-side dream team.

The GOP would be foolish to let talent like this go to waste.

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