TOPICS > Politics

Lamar Alexander in Iowa

February 1, 1996 at 12:00 AM EDT


LAMAR ALEXANDER, Republican Presidential Candidate: (Des Moines) Just a week from Monday night, Iowans begin the process of choosing the first President of the next century. There’s only one issue in that race, and that is what kind of future will we have, what kind of country will this be?

I believe our country is hungry for a vision contest, a discussion about what is important to us in the year 2000 and beyond, and for Republicans, we have a little bit of a different issue, and that is who can beat Bill Clinton, and who can help to reelect a Republican Congress and who can help us build a rising, shining America based upon Republican principles, which are job growth, more freedom from Washington, and personal responsibility.

I offer Iowans a choice, a Republican from the real world. I’ve discovered, as I look at the challenges ahead and at those who seek to be the President, that it makes a difference where you come from not just because of geography but because where you come from often makes a difference in where you stand. Sen. Dole was in town the other day and observed that because Mr. Forbes flies to work in a helicopter from New Jersey that he might come from a world that’s a little different than the rest of us.

He could have mentioned some other things as well but probably the clearest indication that Mr. Forbes comes from a different world is his tax plan. It might make sense in Forbes’ world, but it wouldn’t make sense in the real world of Iowa agriculture. For example, it would devastate farm prices. Iowa state economist Neil Harrel says it would cost Iowan farmers $2400 to $4,000 a year at least. It would do that by reducing the value of farms and homes in Iowa by 10 to 25 percent.

It would knock out charitable deductions just at a time when I believe we need more contributions to charity. It wouldn’t raise enough money to balance the budget; in the real world of Iowa agriculture that means higher interest rates. For those in Iowa whose employers pay for health insurance, which wouldn’t be many farmers, it would jeopardize health insurance. In other words, the Forbes tax plan might make sense in the world of Forbes, but it doesn’t make sense in the real world of Iowa agriculture.

Sen. Dole, whom we all respect, comes from a different world now too. He likes to say he’s one of, one of us. I’m afraid that perhaps he’s been in Washington too long, since 1960, and he may have become one of them. I would think he would be embarrassed to come to Iowa and run for the Presidency without having passed the Farm Bill. In the real world, planning decisions have to be made. Sen. Dole knows enough about agriculture to know that. And he and the other Senators should have made certain that before they began their political business, they should have tended to the farmers’ business.

What I would like to do is to suggest what would happen if we had a Republican nominee from a different world, the real world. I was president of our Land Grant University in Tennessee, the University of Tennessee, and as we worked in our state to try to increase our incomes, we tried hard to keep on the cutting edge of technology because that meant better products and higher products and more money in our pockets. In our state, we realized the importance of ethanol and focused on that with a credit. I think the country should do as well. And in our new tax system, which I think we should have, we continue to encourage employers to give health insurance to employees. We ought to make the same opportunities available to those who are self-employed, including farmers.

In other words, our goal ought to be to try to create an environment in which business enterprises, including agricultural enterprises, can succeed, grow, and make a profit. That does include a new tax system, not one like Mr. Forbes. The problem with his is that it doesn’t really tell the truth about what it does. It suggests that it cuts your taxes–or raises–suggests that it cuts your taxes–but what it actually does in the fine print is raise your taxes and cut Mr. Forbes’.

What I would rather see is a program along the line of the tax system suggested by President Reagan in the early 1980’s, two low rates, cutting the tax rates in income and inheritance, and in capital gains, eliminate most of the deductions, cut the capital gains tax, reduce the impact of the inheritance tax, that would be a much simpler tax, it would be one that would benefit all Americans in some way, and it would be one that the Republican Party could proudly take to the American people in the fall. Agriculture’s not the only area where it is important to have a President of the real world.

If the Senators and others running for President have been where I’d been helping to create a company that today has 1200 employees, they will already have been active at cutting the capital gains tax. If they had worked as I did as governor to try to help create more good new jobs than we were losing in our state, they would have paid more attention to our job training programs which are really out of touch and which should be turned into work scholarships instead.

They would be busier making sure that pensions and health care can follow workers from one job to the next. If the Senators and Mr. Forbes had been where I’d been fighting the teachers union for a year and a half to pay teachers more for teaching well, they would have already abolished the U.S. Department of Education and turned the responsibility for education back where it belongs, in local communities, and with parents, and if the Senators had done what I did, and gone to Washington for a few years and then come home long enough to be vaccinated but not infected, they would join me in passing term limits and calling for an end to million dollar congressional pensions and even cutting their own pay and sending themselves home and creating a part-time citizen Congress.

I’ve noticed that every time I come to Iowa it’s hard to escape a television ad, this candidate against that candidate, that candidate against this candidate, but it’s important in the last few days to focus on what the real issue is for the country, for the country. It is to have a discussion beyond the budget and outside Washington about creating jobs, about strengthening families, neighborhoods, churches, and synagogues and schools.

That is where the problems and the answers in this country are, and that is where the Presidential debate ought to be. And for Republicans, the issue is about which one of us has the best chance to defeat President Clinton and to reelect a Republican Congress and to build a future upon Republican principles of job growth, more freedom from Washington, and personal responsibility. I believe that will take new leadership, leadership from the real world.