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Jewish World Review March 15, 2001 / 20 Adar, 5761

Dan K. Thomasson

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Bashing business not Bush's style

http://www.jewishworldreview.com -- SOMEONE once said that the business of America is business - and, if that's the case, George W. Bush is clearly the best presidential exponent of that philosophy the White House has seen in years.

It is fashionable among liberal Democrats and a hunk of the national media to regard Bush and his minions as followers of a discipline that is crass and insensitive. An MBA, they seem to believe, has none of the nobility of a law degree, the profession of choice for most presidents and lawmakers.

Considering the chaos of the past administration, which hasn't subsided yet, a non-lawyer who treats the Oval Office as an executive suite rather than a bordello or a place from which to extort money is a breath of fresh air. The result has been a number of pro-business initiatives that were a long time in coming.

Among the most important of these has been the decision to do away with a series of regulations that would have forced business to install safeguards for repetitive-stress injuries. The stringent regulation was repealed after businesses small and large complained of the potential abuse and obvious costs, much of which, of course, would have been passed on to consumers.

Business groups have been so impressed with the early signals from the White House that they have agreed not to try to adorn the president's centerpiece income tax cut bill with expensive baubles that most certainly would scuttle it. They are willing to wait, accepting in good faith administration pledges, some spoken, some not, to move on half a dozen pro business fronts. These would include limiting corporate liability for bad products, opening up public lands for energy exploration, rewriting the expensive and ill-conceived regulations to protect private medical records and so forth.

No one can say for certain when the anti-business fever hit Congress. But most observers attribute it to Lyndon Johnson's Vietnam policies, which needed additional revenue for their sustenance. The "guns and butter" approach of fighting a two-front war, one against communism in Southeast Asia and one against poverty here, had a devastating impact on the budget, forcing Johnson at one point to seek a 10 percent income tax surcharge. He had planned to ask for only 5 percent but found out that wouldn't suffice.

Before Tonkin Gulf, there were a number of pro business tax benefits in place, including the oil depletion allowance, the investment tax credit for plant and equipment and substantial capital gains treatment for the sale of stocks. The payroll taxes to support entitlements like Social Security and Medicare, which didn't come until 1965, were held in check. But Johnson, who needed money for his dramatic projects, decided to lump Social Security funds in with the taxes and Congress decided to protect old-age survivors from inflation and installed automatic raises based on the cost of living.

These moves fostered an anti-business attitude made worse by environmental extremism. Conservationists were able to shut down one project after another because of threats to spotted owls and snail darters and, for all anyone knows, a rare form of dandelions. Energy plants from steam to nuclear faced the attack, as did oil and gas exploration. The result has been an increasing price of energy for the American householder and a much higher dependence on foreign oil.

Add to this the ever-increasing costs of regulations that make it harder and harder for small businesses to survive, including those aimed at making life easier for the disabled, which required enormous outlays for seldom-used facilities, and it has seemed that the business of America, at least from a political standpoint, actually has been to hamper business. Democrats can't take all the blame. The legislation for those with disabilities was promoted and signed by Bush's father while he was president.

By no means should we return to the years when robber barons controlled the White House and Congress. The abuses were huge and they made a relative handful of Americans very wealthy. But the last decades often have been marred by a lack of sympathy and understanding that has cost the country dearly.

This Bush, with his master's in business administration and a Cabinet and White House staff full of those who grew up in a corporate atmosphere, appears to be bringing some common sense back into the picture. It will be a tough fight and he must temper it with his own compassion and understanding of the nation's needs.

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Up

03/13/01:The senior Bush's unseemly job
02/27/01: Is that J. Edgar Hoover turning in his grave?
02/23/01: Goodbye to the SATs --- and good riddance!
02/20/01: How gullible does Clinton think we are?
02/16/01: Milking nonsense for all its worth
02/13/01: The need for a one-armed economist
02/09/01: Move over, Bonnie and Clyde

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