Election season draws near, and in many states the rising politicos are getting out on the hustings and trying out their wind machines. If they would only confine their dubious agitations to the hustings, this would not be so bad. I know America's geography, and I can assure you that there are very few hustings. Confined to the hustings, our pols would present no great threat to public safety and morality.
Alas, owing to such advances as television, radio, and paved roads, our would-be Caesars seem to be everywhere. In the manner of post-Watergate politics they come at you with studied innocence, their faces radiating a guilessness reminiscent of the faces of baby seals. "Trust me," they plead, "I will never lie to you." Actually very few do lie to us. Most are too oblivious of the serious business of government to lie. About government spending, taxation, balanced budgets, crime, and national security they speak from blithe confusion. Consequently, no matter who wins, taxation, spending, and crime grow. Few of this year's newcomers have any idea what to do about these public problems. Thus they put on the greasepaint. They excogitate little skits with which to ingratiate themselves to constituencies: some walking across their state; others working on garbage trucks today, production lines tomorrow; all madly hamming it up.
Only rarely does a man of dignity step out from normal society with solid achievements behind him and speak with freshness and sagacity. Such a candidate is right now campaigning for New York's Republican gubernatorial nomination. Because of his singularity and because he is campaigning in one of the nation's show-case states--the state that has brought us such epoch--makers as Roosevelt I and Roosevelt II --his campaign has national significance. He is Lewis Lehrman.
Lehrman is only 43 year old. Yet he has already taught history at Yale, made a vast fortune in private business, and established a scholarly institute where he and a cross section of the nation's most distinguished academics have thrashed out plausible answers to public problems. His writings on economics and public policy are of a high class. If there is one other American politician or businessman who has achieved so much in so many legitimate areas of endeavor, I have not heard of him.
Like his predecessor in New York politics, Theodore Roosevelt, Lehrman is a man of awesome intelligence, energy and integrity. Like TR he is independent and wealthy enough to maintain that independence. And as with TR, Lehrman has genuine sympathy for ordinary Americans. In TR's day, ordinary Americans needed relief from the schemes of the malevolent few; today we need relief from the schemes of the benevolent. Their balmy policies have impoverished the nation and rendered the ordinary American increasingly defenseless against the barbarism of street thugs.
Balmy liberalism has quite obviously lost touch with ordinary Americans' yearnings for security from crime, inflation and higher taxes. Lehrman is one of the few candidates who understands this, and he is among an even smaller minority of candidates who have something thoughtful to prescribe. Moreover, unlike the conventional Republicans, who minister so obsessively and unimaginatively to big business, Lehrman sees that prosperity and employment depend on the vigor of small business and personal initiative. Hence Lehrman urges tax cuts, but cuts that will liberate the energies of workers and small business (he urges elimination of corporate business tax on businesses earning $50,000 or less). To the displeasure of conventional pols, he has designed a package of tax reforms that will give the ordinary American an incentive to work and to save, thus generating wealth.
During the 1970s, 80 percent of America's new jobs were created in small businesses employing 100 or fewer people. To revitalize the American economy, these small businesses need tax and regulatory relief. Furthermore, by virtue of the inflated values of their salaries and estates, ordinary Americans are paying income taxes and estate taxes designed years ago for the rich. These taxes need to be intelligently lightened to encourage enterprise, increase prosperity and allow the government to function on the up and up without resorting to deficits and surreptitious taxation through tax bracket creep. In recent years, fewer and fewer Americans who have achieved anything substantial in private life have entered politics. In California, in Connecticut, in practically every state of the union, the candidates, particularly the candidates for high office, are people whom we expect to see wearing pinwheel hats. In New York, however, there is a dignified candidate with intelligent answers to the major problems facing his state and the nation. This is only fitting. After all, New York got us into our present condition. Let it point the way out.