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Jewish World Review July 31, 2002 / 22 Menachem-Av, 5762

Matt Towery

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Consumer Reports


GOP quietly shoring-up domestic policies


http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | From "Outside the Beltway," here is the inside story on Republicans' quiet efforts to get the White House moving in a strong, secure position on its domestic agenda, particularly, the economy.

A significant group of influential and "pro-economic growth" Republicans have reportedly been providing their ideas for the Bush administration's long-term economic strategy. Insiders report that as recently as July 26, longtime pros from the world of GOP politics -- including business leaders and former members of Congress -- were sharing their ideas with top-level members of the Bush team. Sources suggest these discussions are "at the highest level" in the White House.

The strategy is designed to bring stability to our current topsy-turvy economy. And whether one believes our current economy is rosy and the market is on the rebound or not, it appears that some old hands in the GOP want to help protect the current President Bush from the economic and electoral fate of his father.

The consensus of those providing input is that the president and Vice President Dick Cheney must stop telling the public what they've already done -- such as cutting taxes -- and definitely quit making every public speech a lecture on terrorism.

The fact that the stock market rebounded (slightly last week) has been of little comfort to these experts. They argue that there remains "an appearance" that the Bush administration has not set economic goals or developed a plan for economic growth.

And perhaps they are right. The two incidents that seemed to spur a reversal of this summer's eight-week-long market slide were the bold move by Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson to make arrests against alleged corporate wrongdoers and Congress' passage of a corporate accountability bill. While the "inside" Republicans quietly advising the White House all applaud the fact that a man with the integrity of Thompson is in charge of policing corporations, they are less thrilled with the legislation passed by Congress.

Why? Because the congressional bill designed to protect investors may well make it impossible for executives to run their companies. Corporate leaders argue that while there needs to be clear definition, members of Congress often are in way over their heads in setting rules for corporate conduct and accounting. After all, it was just a little over 10 years ago when congressmen were bouncing checks all over Washington, D.C., resulting in an ensuing "mini-scandal" that proved to be more a reflection on how poorly the House bank was run than about the honesty of the members.

The essence of the advice of these GOP insiders is starting to make its way into mainstream media. Through op-ed pieces and various columns, the message seems clear:

-- Set a specific goal for economic growth of 2 percent above baseline projection. This means that if projected growth were, say, 2.5 percent, the goal would become 4.5 percent.

-- Revamp the Department of Treasury. These experts are shocked that at a time when the "real life economy" is weak, the Bush administration is pushing for a significant increase in the number of IRS audits of individuals and small businesses. And they aren't necessarily giving Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill (he's the fellow who sounds a bit like Kermit the Frog) high marks. Poor O'Neill hasn't gotten many breaks lately.

-- End the flight of capital. That includes shortening the capital gains holding period to six months.

-- Watch the spending! These pros are strong supporters of the war against terrorism. In fact, several who are giving advice have held critical positions in defense and diplomacy. But they are concerned that spending is quickly spinning out of control. They want the president to show true fiscal restraint by vetoing the very first excessive appropriations bill he receives.

Free advice, as they say, is only worth what one pays for it. Some of the ideas being proposed by these longtime Republican leaders are more workable than others. The White House must weigh the balance between reducing taxes and maintaining the necessary revenue to effectively deal with the unique threats we face around the world. But the good news is that some of the GOP's best minds are at work, putting the same effort into securing our economic future as those who have worked since 9/11 to improve our military and domestic security.

Stay tuned. The Bush administration appears to have heard the voice of concerned Americans. A new economic growth plan is in the works.

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© 2001, Creators Syndicate