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Jewish World Review July 18, 2002 / 9 Menachem-Av, 5762

Matt Towery

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Consumer Reports


A letter to President Bush from Outside the Beltway


http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | Dear President Bush,

Last week, when I wrote about my concern for your continued success in office -- even going so far as to suggest that you might want to shed the "Bush Blue" tie and the exquisitely tailored suits -- I had no idea how bad the rest of your week would turn out.

Your speech to Wall Street on the economy was a flop. The market dived after the speech and kept sinking through the week. By the following Monday, your second attempt at creating confidence in the economy was just as poorly received. The speech to business leaders in Birmingham, Ala., failed to offer any new ideas, and the result was another negative reaction.

As I wrote last week, this "letter" runs in many cities that help to make up the Heartland of America. And whether they're in Florida, Ohio, Texas or Georgia, most of the people in these cities want you to succeed. They like you.

But they can't understand why your administration doesn't "get it." Why would you go to Alabama to talk about investor confidence, and then spend half the speech talking about education and tort reform? Who's the genius in your operation that failed to tell you that leadership on your part is crucial to righting our economic ship?

The national TV talk shows keep claiming to speak for "the rest of America." Well, here's the message they seem unable to deliver to the White House:

For starters, you need to start acting like a leader instead of a follower. After 9/11, you tackled the war against terrorism with determination and confidence. It showed in your speeches and public appearances.

Now replay the tape of your speech in Birmingham. When it came to issues like education, tort reform and terrorism, you spoke with passion and resolve. But whenever the word "economy" came up, you stumbled, stammered and seemed generally unsure of yourself. Obviously there has to be a crisis before the true and strong George W. Bush comes to the forefront. That's fine, because let me assure you, the economy is a big crisis.

The economy you say is so strong has really been propped up by low interest rates, which in turn have allowed people to refinance and obtain home equity-based lines of credit. But that's turned millions of American homes into virtual "brick and mortar credit cards."

And the small businesses you correctly termed "the backbone of the economy"? Well, sir, they're holding on for dear life. The tax cut was fine for them, but what they really need is working capital. And their local bank just won't loan them any money.

Plus, those same small businesses depend on large corporations to purchase their goods and services. And that's where your concept that "markets go up and they go down" is off base. There is a direct relationship between the strength of the stock market and the strength of Main Street, U.S.A. And that doesn't even count the added panic felt in the average American home over the collapse of family 401(k) plans.

So how do you lead?

The Heartland would probably be thrilled to see you force the banks -- who have made a fortune refinancing homes -- share a little of their good fortune by letting small businesses borrow money without having to pledge their first-born children.

The Heartland would probably also like to see you propose emergency legislation to encourage reinvestment in the stock market. Reduction in capital gains taxes has always been assailed by the Democrats. But how can the Democrats attack an emergency measure designed to attract money back to Wall Street, thus rescuing the retirement funds of most working Americans?

How about a "Wartime Investment Act"? It would allow those who invest in American companies between now and the end of the year to sell their investment at a dramatically lowered tax rate a year later.

And the Heartland would likely be pleased to see the government approach corporate integrity in the same way it does the sale of meat at the local grocer's. That's right, a version of "USDA inspected and approved beef" could be applied to our nation's publicly traded companies. Sure, it would take time to implement. But the simple concept of government-inspected and approved financial reports would likely clean up the corporate world just like it did the world of sirloin and ground beef.

Don't think we're not pulling for you, Mr. President. We even took note of those jeans and that golf shirt you donned last Friday. So quit your stammering and stumbling, and treat this thing like the battle it is.

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© 2001, Creators Syndicate