In order that our presidential candidates can better tailor their policy initiatives to the needs, priorities and blatant self-interest of you, the average hard-working American family, the bipartisan Commission for Responsive Electioneering has assembled the following questionnaire.
Candidates from the two major parties were asked to submit one question in each of five different policy areas. Please answer all questions in full and return the questionnaire to: C.R.E., Dept. of Public Pandering, 5001 K Street NW, Washington.
The Tax Cut
GORE: If we Americans are to stay the course in this greatest economic expansion in our history, we must be especially vigilant about the effects of any federal tax cut on inflation and consumer spending. To help us protect our robust economy from the dangers of overheating, please list below all probable areas of increased spending for you and your household under the following scenarios: (A) a 1.5% tax cut;
(B) a 2.73% tax cut partially offset by a $257 decrease in the Dependent Exemption Allowance;
(C) a 1.357% increase in the Earned Income Tax Credit, combined with a 2.541% increase in the Child Care Credit and abolition of the Alternative Minimum Tax as calculated on Form 6251, line 11, of your 1999 Federal Income Tax Return.
BUSH: How much of your own money do you want back?
(C) As much as you can give me.
Technology and the Internet
GORE: Like any proud father, I take a great interest in the health and welfare of my baby, the Internet. (Just kidding. See? I can poke fun at myself like any other regular guy!) But seriously, the Internet is poised to change the way we live in fundamental ways. In order to ensure that it realizes its massive potential to better the lives of each and every American, we need to know just how and for what purposes you use the Internet. Please print out and attach the contents of the history folder of your preferred Web browser. Also append information about ISP, modem connection (56K, DSL, ISDN or cable), computer chip megahertz rating, and hard disk size. If necessary, seek out the minor children in your household for assistance.
BUSH: Internet, Schminternet. Has anyone ever gotten onto that America Online thing between 4 and 6 in the afternoon? Or do you — like the Rodriguez family of Beloit, Michigan, or the Chen family of Seattle, or the Baileys of Manchester, Vermont — spend hours listening to busy signals, just waiting to hear the little man say "You've got mail"? We can fix that.
GORE: Priority One — Don't you think we owe it to our children to give them the best possible education money can provide?
BUSH: Priority One — Don't you think we owe it to our children to give them the best possible education teachers can provide?
GORE: Health care, as we all know, is an extremely complex issue — one that could fill hours and hours and hours of adult, intelligent debate, preferably in front of a national audience on all major networks, ahem, ahem. However, in the interest of brevity, just attach complete medical records, drug prescription information and insurance policies for you and every member of your household. We'll take it from there.
BUSH: You wanted details, we gave you details. Like 300 pages worth of details on Medicare alone! Lots of numbers, statistics, cost analyses-type things in there — hey, we can play that game as well as they can. But the real question is this: Is anyone out there actually gonna read the darn thing?
GORE: As the Baby Boom Generation moves toward retirement, it becomes increasingly important that we ensure the long-term fiscal health of the Social Security system. You can help us plan for your future by estimating your automatic payroll deductions and/or self-employment tax contributions to the system over the next 10-, 20- and 30-year time periods, assuming normal income growth of 3.5 percent per year. (Dot-com entrepreneurs: attach separate schedule for vesting stock options and obscene capital gains.)
Please include information about your probable retirement age and any health problems, self-destructive behaviors or other factors that may impact your life expectancy and therefore affect the amount of time you will likely be claiming benefits.
BUSH: Let me speak plainly here to finish up. So here goes: Who would you rather trust with your hard- earned retirement nest egg — Wall Street or Uncle Sam? Answer yes or no.
Gary Krist is the author, most recently, of "Chaos Theory," a novel.