Drill down to candidates' principles

(Denver Post, Sept. 7) Quick, who was Henry Cabbage Cod? Oops, I mean Henry Cabot Lodge. Who were Bill Miller and Sarge Shriver? Ed Muskie and Lloyd Bentsen? All were losing vice-presidential candidates of the past half-century, the first two Republicans, the others Democrats. Go to the head of the class if you knew that. Most people wouldn’t know or care. Outside the Beltway, there’s general agreement that the vice-presidency isn’t worth a bucket of warm, uh, spit, as Jack Garner, VP under FDR, memorably put it. This year we have Sarah Palin the terrific versus Joe Biden the soporific. Their debate will be a doozy. But after November, one will become a historical footnote and the other will become auxiliary equipment, unlikely to either replace the 44th President or impact his administration much. That’s the American way. The 2008 election, like all of them since 1788, is about the men who would be President and the principles by which they would govern, period. While Palin-watching, Ayers-bashing, and other sideshows will continue to enliven the campaign, voters mustn’t be distracted from the big policy issues if we are to decide wisely. Two of the biggest are energy and health care.

Both are vital. To make them more affordable, should government get more involved, or work on getting out of the way? I’d say the latter, as a believer in individual liberty and free markets, based on our country’s unequaled success with voluntary approaches to abundance and innovation. McCain, though imperfect, is closer to this standard than Obama. That’s my reason, more than party or personality, for favoring him.

To illustrate why getting out of the way is better and what it would look like, I call to the witness stand Joseph L. Bast of the Heartland Institute. The nonpartisan Bast – I doubt he’s ever voted Republican OR Democrat – wrote a series of issue guides called “Ten Principles.” As the rhetoric gets thick this fall, these booklets can help cut the fog.

Here are Joe Bast’s ten principles for energy policy: First, he warns, energy independence is an illusion; we’ll always have to import. Gasoline prices are market-driven. Global warming is not a crisis. Air pollution is not a major public health problem. Mercury from coal-fired power plants isn’t either.

That’s five, and by now you’re either liking these or steamed up. But be aware his argument for each (online at Heartland.org) is meticulously documented. The other energy principles are these: Biofuels should not be subsidized. CAFÉ mileage standards for vehicles sacrifice lives for oil. Electric deregulation is still necessary. Liquefied natural gas is part of the solution. Nuclear energy is too.

Emotion and hope favor the windmillers, data and reality favor the drillers. McCain-Palin want to drill, as does Bob Schaffer in his Senate race with Mark Udall. May their tribe increase. Republicans in Colorado and nationally also want to avoid Canada-style socialized medicine, and here too the liberty-minded Bast gives good reasons why.

His ten principles for health policy build on the cornerstone that health care isn’t a right but a service – and as such, best delivered by the market. To minimize government interference, we should repeal many existing regulations, reduce reliance on third-party payers, and help only those who need help. Single payer is not the answer.

Rounding out the Rx list on health care, Dr. Bast urges: Encourage entrepreneurship. Expand health savings accounts. Expand access to prescription drugs. Reduce malpractice litigation expenses. And finally, encourage long-term care insurance.

While you may prefer a different yardstick for health policy or energy, the ones from Heartland Institute work for me. Comparing platforms on these and many other issues, the GOP decisively trumps the Dems. Obama’s big-government future repels me. I’ll take McCain, warts and all.