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Commentary and opinion on current civic, political, and religious events and issues.

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25 September 2000

Northern City Journal
(ISSN 1528-9575)
Vol. 1, No. 37

Minneapolis, Minnesota

An independent, self-syndicated, individual opinion column distributed weekly via the Internet for publication by other print and on-line media.

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The Top Ten Reasons to Vote This November

by Jerome F. Winzig

The news media's coverage of the presidential contest between Vice President Al Gore and Governor George W. Bush creates the impression that the 2000 election revolves around such issues as the format of presidential debates and allegedly subliminal messages in television political ads. That impression is, of course, utter nonsense.

This year's debate "issue" is about formats that call for 90-second answers, 60-second rebuttals, and 30-second follow-up responses. But in the famous Lincoln-Douglas debates of 1958, the first candidate made a 60-minute opening presentation, followed by a 90-minute rebuttal by the second candidate, and then a 30-minute rejoinder by the first candidate. This year's political ad "issue" alleges the use of a single message 1/30 of a second in duration. But the very existence of subliminal advertising is questionable, except in the minds of paranoid conspiracy buffs.

The truth is that this election is about ten substantive issues that will greatly affect the American people in the first part of the 21st century. All of these issues are enormously challenging. Many require long-range remedies that have been postponed far too long. Delaying their resolution for another four years will have tragic consequences. That makes this election a crucial one, so let's examine these ten issues.

Criminal justice: Many people lament the fact that federal and state prison populations are disproportionately made up of persons of color. Much of this is due to the use of illegal drugs, which has greatly increased the number of people imprisoned in the United States. Some who lived through the prohibition era point out the parallels with that period. We need to rethink our approach to drug usage, particularly the notion that government can reduce drug usage.

Social security: In just thirteen years, the United States will have to begin increasing income taxes to pay back its IOUs to the Social Security Trust fund. Yet, if present policies continue, in the intervening 13 years, we will waste a trillion dollars in excess social security tax revenues, spending it for other, unrelated purposes. If that money were to be invested in private pension plans starting now, we might have a chance to avoid the massive failure of social security that is otherwise certain to befall us in 25 years.

The IMF/World Bank: The policies of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank have protected big lenders -- private and government -- at the expense of the poorest of the developing countries of the world. Yet some propose misguided, government-sponsored so-called debt forgiveness programs whose true intent is to bail out big lenders who made improper and even stupid loans. Allowing the IMF and World Bank to face the consequences of their failures by allowing loan defaults alone would do far more for the Third World than any amount of Western foreign aid.

Medicare and health care: Medicare regulations currently exceed 130,000 pages and the bureaucratic nightmare they visit on health care providers takes an enormous toll. Yet some propose extending that same approach to prescription drugs for seniors, or even to the entire population. It's time instead to begin incremental reforms immediately. Make all health plans tax deductible, not just corporate plans for employees. Simplify Medicare regulations. Explore ways in which Medicare could be privatized on a contractual basis. Try out private plans for drug coverage for seniors.

The underclass: While the United States has experienced a decade of unprecedented prosperity, one segment of our society has been left behind. In the past, poor people who were unskilled could still climb their way out of poverty by working hard. Today, the working poor are hit by regressive social security taxes that exceed their income taxes and are penalized by housing costs that are boosted by excessive property taxes, increased governmental regulations, and government-imposed fees.

Education: More than ever before, the United States has an economy that rewards technical expertise, merit, and competency. Yet we have an entertainment media that belittles education and an educational establishment that cannot provide the same quality of education that schools in Harlem provided fifty years ago. More money is not the answer. A recent Rand Corporation study concludes that higher teacher salaries have "little effect" on student performance. Greater accountability for results would help, and vouchers may well give poor parents the ability to force their schools to be accountable.

World trade: The World Trade Organization has become the politically-correct scapegoat for radical middle-class leftists and the AFL-CIO. But if globalization is undone, Americans will lose their access to inexpensive goods and their standard of living will decline markedly. Even more seriously, developing countries will be devastated, and the poorest countries in the world will lose their chance to participate in a global economy.

Civil litigation: The growing tidal wave of civil litigation and class action lawsuits in the United States has been extremely costly to individual investors and pension funds. More importantly, it has put hundreds of millions of dollars in the hands of a new legal class that is using those proceeds to fund a much larger round of lawsuits. Significant tort reform is long overdue.

Racial justice: While the United States has made significant strides in terms of racial justice over the last several decades, racism persists and persons of color are disproportionately poor. However, politically-correct solutions aren't always the best. California found that out when it discovered that the referendum outlawing bilingual education actually improved student performance. Other conservative solutions could have similar results.

Taxation: The tax revolts sweeping across Europe are mistakenly reported as protests against gas prices. But Britain's gas tax amounts to 75 percent of the pump price. The protests are really a harbinger of what is to come if Western democracies do not reduce their taxation levels. The U.S. estate tax pulls a hundred million dollars a year out of capital markets, contributes to the decline of family-owned newspapers, and is the single most important factor in the failure of small businesses after the death of their founders.

These are the substantive issues that should be discussed in the Gore-Bush debates in October. These are the concerns that the news media should be addressing as they try to determine how Gore and Bush measure up to the job of president. These are the measuring sticks for our choice at the polls in November. If we make the wrong choice, we will live with the consequences of lost opportunities.

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