Editorial 

Vote Gore

Vote Gore

Our endorsement of a presidential candidate breaks with an old newspaper tradition. Instead of an editorial just before the election, we’re announcing our choice now. And we’ll devote several editorials to the subject instead of just one. This format allows us to discuss with more depth the issues underlying our endorsement—so that you, we hope, can make a more informed choice.

We endorse Al Gore for president by first noting a few reasons why we’d prefer not to. Al is a shameless panderer. He’s a habitual hedger. As a leader, he’s so uninspiring he’d even have trouble getting Americans pumped to dislike Saddam. He’s such a chronic exaggerator (we’re waiting for some sly Republican to hawk T-shirts bearing Al’s mug above the phrase “Home of the Whopper”) that he transforms laudable aspects of his record, such as his strong early support for the Internet, into Bunyanesque tall tales. He’s so programmed that he sounds like he’s lying even when he means to be genuine.

Still, we think he is preferable to Bush, who is Al’s opposite. Dubya seems genuine; it’s his policies and record that are fake. As Texans might say, he’s all hat and no cattle. Behind his laid-back charm are proposals that could prove far more harmful than Gore’s disingenuous personality and annoying condescension. Take economics. (We wish Dubya had.) Presidents, as Bush correctly pointed out last week in an attempt to bash Clinton and Gore, don’t make economic prosperity. But they sure as hell can un-make it—as we’ll discover if Bush’s trillion-dollar tax cut ever sees the light of day. We’re left with a lovely irony: Fiscal conservatives—count us among them—must oppose a Republican ticket on principle. Clinton, whoever else he may have molested, has had the eminent sense to leave Alan Greenspan alone. Bush, on the other hand, promises a Treasury spree that will drive the Fed chairman into conniptions and the economy into a ditch.

Bush calculates that we have a surplus of $4 trillion to play with. That should provide more than enough, he figures, to return a trillion to taxpayers while applying a similar amount to what he calls “big projects” (by which he means military spending, Star Wars—you know, big stuff). But Dubya’s $4 trillion figure—a rosy projection to begin with—includes a Social Security surplus he can’t touch, making the true money pool much smaller. Talk about your fuzzy math. Meanwhile, the recent budget surpluses mask the reality that our government remains awash in debt. Instead of paying down that debt steadily, Bush prefers instant voter gratification. Talk about your pandering.

Big Al, of course, offers his own tax cut and spending schemes, lest he allow Dubya to open a “giveaway gap.” But Gore’s plan, whose cardinal virtue is that it’s only half as harebrained as Bush’s, is far less ambitious (read: dangerous).

Bush’s tax cut leaves less money for debt service—meaning the government would have to borrow more, meaning higher interest rates, meaning high costs to business for capital investment and expansion, meaning the economy would slow and sputter. In other words, Bush risks tossing a fat wrench into the engine that has propelled an unprecedented expansion. The real problem is not, as Gore insists, that half of Bush’s tax cut would go to the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans. It’s that the prosperity of tens of millions of middle-class people, and the gains of millions more in the lower economic strata, would be jeopardized.

In 1980, George Bush père coined a term for what Bush fils proposes: voodoo economics. Maybe we should call this incarnation “rhymes-with-doodoo economics.” Meanwhile, we’ll take a bush-league schmoozer over Bush-league fiscal policy every time.

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