CLARKSBURG -- The central theme of Republican vice presidential candidate Dick Cheney's campaign rally at the Precision Coil plant Thursday was that more government does not necessarily mean better government.
"The basic philosophy of Al Gore, Joe Lieberman and Bill Clinton is that they really believe the engine that drives the economy is in the beltway in D.C. We know it is here," Cheney said.
On the surface, that might seem like a difficult philosophy to advance in West Virginia, where state government is the largest employer and heavy taxation is the norm. Municipal officials constantly look to Charleston for grants. In turn, state officials turn to West Virginia's congressional delegation in expectation of federal money. Moreover, a substantial portion of the state's aging population is dependent upon Social Security and Medicare.
However, Cheney said Democrats are using scare tactics to lead voters to believe a Republican administration would harm Social Security, when its platform calls for steps to preserve the program. Also, he said Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore's agenda, especially Gore's support for a global warming treaty, would harm industry and mining in West Virginia.
"Under the Clinton-Gore administration, there has been no improvement in reading scores in the last eight years. There has been no progress in Social Security and Medicare," Cheney said. "If you believe in activist government, you have to believe in effective government."
"By 2020, there will be 70 million senior citizens in America. Unless adjustments are made to Social Security, it will become insolvent," Cheney said. He added that George W. Bush's proposal to allow younger people to invest part of their Social Security taxes in personal retirement accounts would keep the program solid without raising taxes or cutting benefits.
"Under the Gore plan to leave it alone, Social Security money draws a 2 percent return," he said. "You can get 6 percent from low-risk mutual funds and 4 percent from risk-free bonds."
Cheney also said Medicare needs to be modified to include a prescription drug benefit. He criticized Clinton and Gore for "doing nothing" on the issue for eight years.
"They would rather have the issue than solve the problem," Cheney said. "If they didn't do it in the last eight years, why would we expect them to do it in the next four?"
Cheney also said he can understand West Virginia's problems because of its similarities to his home state of Wyoming.
"Wyoming has never been as much in the mainstream of economic development and we're also a big energy producing state," Cheney said.
He added that many Americans have missed out on high-tech job opportunities. A Bush-Cheney administration would benefit average citizens by providing tax relief so people would have more to pay bills, save for retirement and put money back into the economy, he said. Cheney added he would like to address failures in public education through local control and giving parents more choices.
Cheney also criticized the Clinton administration as being neglectful of the armed forces.
"I don't think any future Secretary of Defense is going to call Al Gore and Bill Clinton to thank them for what they've done for the U.S. military," he said.
Gov. Cecil Underwood spoke at the rally, and Del. Shelley Moore Capito, R-Kanawha, a candidate for the 2nd District seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, greeted attendees beforehand. Both openly tied their campaigns and political views with Bush and Cheney.
Underwood echoed Cheney's message of job growth through lessening government intrusion into the private sector, as well as Cheney's criticism of Gore's support for a global warming treaty.
"Working West Virginians know they will suffer if Al Gore gets to push his agenda," Underwood said.
Capito said she believes it is appropriate West Virginia candidates are tying themselves to the presidential race.
"I think the Democrat philosophy of big government will take care of every need versus giving control back to people is something you'll have from Washington on down," Capito said. "You're always trying to draw a contrast in campaigns."
Staff writer Shawn Gainer can be reached at 626-1442 or by e-mail at email@example.com.