Politics & Policy

Al Gore: The $2.3 Trillion Man

And his party of impoverishment.

Meet the $2.3 Trillion Man.

Vice President Al Gore has gone from reinventing government to reinventing himself as a free-spending, FDR-style populist. This new, anti-business Gore is not just incredibly profligate, but menacing to investors and hypocritical to boot.

From his convention speech to campaign stops and his web page, Gore has promoted at least 66 new or expanded spending programs. There’s a $253 billion prescription-drug benefit. Universal Children’s Health Care: $146 billion. The Technology for Tomorrow Challenge would cost $68 billion. Expanded Social Security coverage for 8 million women and 3 million widows: $294 billion. $30 billion would finance the National Caregiving and Family Support Initiative. Etc.

These and other projects would total $2.334 trillion in fresh expenditures, according to a new study by the National Taxpayers Union’s Tom E. McClusky. Using Congressional Budget Office figures and the official fiscal year 2001 federal budget, McClusky demonstrates that Gore’s plan is — gasp! — risky. Gore’s promises would consume the entire anticipated budget surplus through 2010. Worse yet, Gore would borrow an additional $161 billion to make his statist dreams come true.

How sad that a once-thoughtful Democrat who tried to streamline the federal bureaucracy has hurled his New Democrat philosophy into the Mississippi River. Gore now sounds as if he were running for prime minister of Sweden. How long before he champions free cradles for America’s newborns? And don’t this country’s deceased — the most defenseless Americans of all — at least deserve subsidized gravestones? And why not? Gore’s proposals are limited only by his imagination. Just imagine if Gore got his hands on the Treasury Department’s printing presses.

Gore and his holistically reinvented running mate, Sen. Joseph Lieberman, also have resorted to trashing big business with language that, perhaps shrewdly, echoes Ralph Nader.

“Big tobacco, big oil, the big polluters, the pharmaceutical companies, the HMOs,” Gore cried in Los Angeles. “Sometimes you have to be willing to stand up and say no — so families can have a better life.”

Lieberman, the once-reasonable, business-friendly chairman of the Democratic Leadership Council, has become the Lance Armstrong of backpedaling. He now brags, as he did in his acceptance speech, that as Connecticut’s attorney general he “sued big oil companies who were trying to gouge consumers at the pump.”

This “us-versus-them” rhetoric signals not so much class warfare as a declaration of war on America’s burgeoning investor class. Gore and Lieberman want Americans to believe that only Larchmont Lockjaw IV and his fellow polo players will suffer once Washington has reigned in corporate America. The truth, however, is far less convenient for Democratic ambitions.

Roughly 52 percent of American households now own stocks, either directly or through mutual funds and pension plans. These 80 million people, mainly non-millionaires, will lose big if Al’s and Joe’s collectivist policies batter the share prices of Exxon, Pfizer, Prudential and other companies caught in their cross-hairs.

Of course, it would be easier to accept Gore’s and Lieberman’s anti-business attacks as at least sincere if they and their party did not devour corporate campaign cash like cavemen dividing up meat.

Big oil? According to Common Cause, the petroleum and gas industry gave $990,230 to Democratic-party campaign committees last year, including $223,250 in soft-money donations from Enron and its executives and affiliates. ARCO similarly pumped in $170,000.

Big polluters? The chemical industry coughed up $326,500 in 1999.

Pharmaceutical companies? They prescribed $1,649,835 in soft money last year. The Center for Responsive Politics reports that Lieberman accepted $91,150 from drug-related PACs and drug company staffers between 1995 and 2000.

HMOs? The insurance industry handed Democrats $1,653,050 last year, including $98,750 from Blue Cross, arguably America’s most-hated HMO. Albert Gore himself took $297,125 from those pesky underwriters.

Gore and Lieberman slam these industries while simultaneously pocketing their allegedly ill-gotten gains. They should redeem themselves by returning the loot.

Perhaps buffaloed by the Democrats’ recent surge, George W. Bush has seemed off-stride. The GOP nominee lately has questioned the readiness of the U.S. military and offered higher pay for America’s GIs. These are valid issues, but they can wait a week.

Before the $2.3 Trillion Man and his flip-flopping sidekick climb higher in the polls, Bush and his running mate must explain to voters how Gore and Lieberman would bury their stock portfolios and pension funds beneath a mudslide of new federal outlays and an onslaught of anti-business mandates. George W. Bush and Dick Cheney must unmask the “party of the people” as the party of impoverishment.

Deroy Murdock is a Manhattan-based Fox News contributor and a contributing editor of National Review Online, and a senior fellow with the London Center for Policy Research.


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