- - Thursday, May 7, 2015

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, an avowed socialist, is running for president on what he says are the biggest threats to our country’s future: billionaires and corporate America.

Sanders taking aim at ‘billionaire class’” blared a news headline when he announced his candidacy last week.

The 73-year-old lawmaker, who has served eight years in the Senate and 16 years in the House, won his seat as an “independent.” Yet he caucuses with Democrats, the party that has had a passionate love affair with socialism ever since the New Deal.

Mr. Sanders‘ all-encompassing focus on wealth, capitalism and corporations as the root-of-all-evil tells us everything we already knew about the Democrats’ ideological illness.

Hillary Rodham Clinton voiced similar class envy themes when she announced her candidacy last month. And Barack Obama’s presidency has been one long, unending rant against the rich who he says (inaccurately) do not “pay their fair share.”

But there’s a devious method to their madness. They want to distract the voters attention away from the more important issues that plague our country:

Economic growth is painfully slow, virtually coming to a halt in the first three months of this year (0.2 percent), and it has forecasters lowering growth rates for the rest of this year to the pedestrian 2 percent range.

Let’s not forget the sharp rise in poverty levels across the country under President Obama’s tenure, plus a shrunken labor force — the result of 7 million long-term unemployed Americans who have given up looking for jobs and dropped out of the work force.

There has been a disturbing rise in the number of underemployed Americans who are forced to take part-time jobs when they need full-time. This week, Gallup said they account for nearly 15 percent of the people they poll each day.

In the seventh year of the Obama economy, wages and incomes have remained largely flat. Gallup says one-third of the Americans they survey each day say they’re worried most about money.

But Mr. Sanders, conveniently ignoring all of the economic catastrophes that still plague our country, chooses to focus his political appeal on class envy and people with wealth — and the money they can contribute to political campaigns.

“The major issue is: How do we create an economy that works for all of our people, rather than a small number of billionaires?” he said.

Mr. Sanders has no hope of beating Hillary Clinton for the nomination, because she will be exploiting, to one degree or another, many of his class envy, anti-corporate biases, as she has throughout her political career.

You don’t have to hold a doctoral degree in political science to know that the complaints Mr. Sanders is raising are not issues that concern most Americans.

Most voters do not go to bed at night worrying about the “billionaire class,” or whose campaign Warren Buffett is bankrolling with his money.

They do worry, though, about substantive things. Let’s take them one at a time.

No other issue concerns Americans more than the U.S. economy and jobs, according to every poll. They’re far and away the dominant issues that cut across all political lines and every demographic group.

It’s the chief reason why Gallup reported that some 70 percent of all Americans they poll say our country is going in the wrong direction.

Presidential contenders who fail to aggressively address subpar economic growth, shrinking investments in small business start-ups, and costly regulations (like Obamacare and minimum wage hikes) that hurt small businesses and kill jobs do so at their peril.

The Democrats, including Mrs. Clinton, have been as silent as a grave on this issue, giving the Republicans a major opening to reclaim the White House.

The candidate who wins the GOP nomination has to lay down an agenda detailing how he will turn this economy around in his first year:

First, he must pledge that he will sign into law a major, revenue-neutral overhaul of the tax code that gets rid of needless, dysfunctional corporate welfare and other loopholes and exemptions — applying the increased revenue to lowering corporate and individual tax rates across the board.

Second, he should call for a sweeping economic reform program to erase harmful regulations that have paralyzed small-business growth job — from Obamacare to Dodd-Frank.

The second major issue that bothers Americans a great deal is government spending and a monstrous debt that is now larger than our economy.

Americans rightly fear that a government that is deeply in debt endangers our future economic prosperity and our national security.

Washington cannot continue to spend at present levels — now at more than $4 trillion a year. This has to be one of the highest priorities of our next chief executive.

He must promise that in his first week in office he will send a directive to Congress seeking a comprehensive, reform budget focused on cutting $500 billion in spending over five years by eliminating needless programs, rampant duplication, and widespread fraud in hundreds programs, departments and agencies.

And that he must appoint a Cabinet-level administrator to implement and achieve the savings set forth by Congress, with the goal of putting the government on a path toward a permanent budget surplus.

Ronald Reagan made economic growth and wasteful government spending the hallmarks of his presidency. He succeeded in the former and made limited advances in the latter.

I had a small role on the spending side of his agenda when I gave him a copy of my investigative book, “Fat City: How Washington Wastes Your Taxes” in 1980. He took to it like a duck to water, quoted from it in his campaign, and, after personally handing copies of the book to everyone in his Cabinet, made some progress on that score.

To be sure, the next president faces a monumental task and a far bigger budget. But Americans, I think, are ready to give him the mandate needed to successfully tackle the job.

Donald Lambro is a syndicated columnist and contributor to The Washington Times.

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