Charging his competition with "crimped, cramped and sour-puss" politics. Republican Presidential candidate Malcolm "Steve" Forbes Jr. focused on the virtues of national optimism and dramatic tax cuts in a speech last night at the Institute of Politics.
Forbes, President and CEO of Forbes Inc. and Editor-in-Chief of Forbes magazine, depicted an America on the brink of unprecedented economic strength and social reform to the audience of approximately 250.
"We have the chance to witness the greatest economic boom and spiritual renewal in America's history," Forbes said. "We need to remove the cinder-blocks around the legs of America to move ahead. We need to give individuals the opportunity and responsibility to shape their own lives."
According to Forbes, who also serves as chair of the board of Empower America, a flat tax rate of 17 percent is the first step toward strengthening individualism. Forbes characterized the current tax code as overly complex, exceedingly corrupt, and dramatically anti-growth.
"The power to tax is the power to destroy," said Forbes. "The current tax system is legalized corruption. If you have the power in Washington D.C. you can get the tax break you want. Take this system and scrap it, kill it, and put a stake through its heart. Bury it and hope it never rises again."
In addition to tax reform, Forbes highlighted term limits as a necessity in changing the political culture of the nation's capital.
"Term limits will give citizens the chance to achieve effectiveness in politics without having to make a life of politics," Forbes said. "If you don't do this, good people who get involved in politics end up becoming the people they came to replace."
In his address, Forbes also advocated a return to the gold standard, as well as the elimination of the Department of Commerce and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). In the arena of foreign policy, Forbes stated his support for arming the Bosnian Muslims and enforcing resolutions with NATO air power.
Forbes also voiced support for various strategies to give individuals more control over their finances and communities, such as medical savings accounts and enterprise zones.
Forbes said he decided to enter the presidential race in order to fill the void left when former HUD Secretary Jack Kemp decided not to run for president.
Forbes is currently running second in New Hampshire behind Sen. Bob Dole (R-Kan.) according to a WMURTV poll released October 30. In the more recent Florida straw poll, however, Forbes totaled less than one percent of the vote.
In the question and answer segment which followed his speeds, Forbes reiterated the potential of a unified effort to both downsize government and unleash the American "can-do" spirit.
"We can turn problems into opportunities in a very American way...Seemingly ordinary people can do extraordinary things if encouraged to take responsibility and given the chance," Forbes said. "The top down approach hasn't worked. If we remove the barriers, people will rise to the occasion."
According to IOP Director Philip R. Sharp, Forbes address seemed to garner a positive response from the audience.
"His presentation was impressive and the audience was affected," said Sharp. "He was direct in answering questions and you didn't get a sense that he was trying to dance around the issue that you get with some politicians."
Harvard-Radcliffe Republican Alliance president William D. Zerhouni '97-'98 said Forbes's style was more reminiscent of the corporate boardroom than the political podium.
"I liked the fact that he is a can-do candidate, something the Republican Party desperately needs. Unfortunately, his lack of political experience is evident," Zerhouni said. "Having never previously attempted to run for elected office has not helped him get in touch with the public. For all of his intelligent ideas, he just won't end up exciting voters."
Forbes' speech is the second in the Campaign 1996 Presidential Candidates Series sponsored by the IOP