Magazine article Insight on the News

In the 1996 Campaign, the Truth Will Oust

Magazine article Insight on the News

In the 1996 Campaign, the Truth Will Oust

Article excerpt

Television attack ads have become the weapons of choice. Now a daunting challenge for the voting public is to determine whether the Republicans or Democrats are lying -- and then vote accordingly.

As they have been since the dawn of negative television advertising, American voters will be caught in the cross fire of a war of words between the Republicans and Democrats during the next few weeks. Television attack ads have gone ballistic, and viewers exposed to their fallout are wondering who is telling the truth. Bob Dole and the Republicans, the Democrats charge, have cut federal spending on Medicare and education. Bill Clinton and the Democrats, the Republicans retort. are the party of big government and regulation and are bad for the economy.

The truth is, most Americans can't possibly learn enough about the myriad issues about which the parties expect them to decide the election. Instead, the electorate must endure torrents of disinformation coming in two- and three-minute bursts of highly charged rhetoric. Sifting through it to separate the sheep from the goats is maddening -- hence the need for an exposition of the big lies the parties are telling about each other.

First, what are the Democrats saying about the Republicans?

Generally speaking, says Liz Tobias of Florida GOP Rep. Dan Miller's office, the Democratic lies about Republicans amount to what they always have been -- scare tactics. First, they began what she calls their "Mediscare" campaign to convince senior citizens that Republicans will cut Medicare programs. Second, they portray Republicans as "heartless budget cutters." Third, they charge the GOP wants to poison the environment. Fourth, they say Republicans want tax cuts only for the rich. In short, Republicans are country-club bullies who only watch out for their pals on Wall Street, as opposed to those on Main Street, where the overwhelming majority of Republican voters just happen to reside.

Naturally, Republicans recoil at such talk and maybe they should -- a little. When the GOP stepped forward with the Medicare proposal, Clinton promptly vetoed their bill that would have increased such spending 7 percent a year until 2002, from $4,800 to $7,700 per capita. Apparently the giveaway the Republicans proposed wasn't enough. Never mind that the American Academy of Actuaries said the president's own more generous give away has major defects. It only can be considered a stopgap measure because it falls short of addressing the significant long-term financial problems of the Medicare program.

On education, the story is much the same. The Department of Education always has been an inviting target for the budgetary knife; indeed, four freshman Republicans elected in 1994 even hatched a plan to lance what many consider Washington's most painful bureaucratic boil. They failed, and lo, Republicans now are boasting about their contributions to federal spending on education. Still, an ad hatched at the Democratic National Committee, or DNC, says the GOP cut education spending "$30 billion."

It isn't true, say Republicans and Stephen Moore, the Cato Institute's take-no-prisoners budget man. "That's the old Washington game of saying you cut spending when you actually reduce the rate of growth."

Student loans, for instance, were increased almost S0 percent, from $25 billion in 1995 to $36 billion in 2002. Total spending for education, job training and student loans combined would have equaled $340.98 billion during the next seven years had Clinton signed the GOP budget. "By comparison," the GOP's publicity machine at the Republican National Committee argues, "under the last seven years of Democrat control [of Congress], spending was just $315.1 billion."

Democrats also have said, with shrillness, that Republicans want to cut the school-lunch program. Yet the program still grew 5 percent. Problem was, it didn't increase money for school lunches by the full 8 percent that Democrats demanded. …

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