Who would have ever dreamed that a federal budget surplus would generate more problems than it would solve?

At least the ongoing deficits forced lawmakers into making some tough choices on the spending side. But the projected surpluses are having the opposite effect for Democrats.

Instead of seeing this as an opportunity to either return moneys to overtaxed citizens or to reduce the ever-accumulating federal debt, Democratic presidential candidates are treating the unexpected fiscal windfall as a divine mandate for new federal mischief.

Remember Clinton promising “the era of big government is over”? Of course, he didn’t mean it, but he also wasn’t running for his party’s nomination at the time — he made the statement during a state of the union address.

It goes without saying that Democratic primary races bring the liberalism out of their candidates. Well, we’re back into an election cycle, and candidates Gore and Bradley are vying for the Democratic nomination. They are falling all over each other trying to prove their superior worth to their party’s subsidy-hungry, special interest constituencies. The nomination is reserved for the one who outdoes the other in promising the most federal candy, de-emphasizing self-reliance, expanding victimhood and punishing achievement.

Republicans should be quite appreciative of Bill Bradley, without whose entry into the race, Gore could have masqueraded as a moderate — which of course he will do once he secures the nomination.

As it stands now, a more expansive federal role is promised with each unfolding day. To avail themselves of the economies of scale, Gore and Bradley should consider consolidating their campaign operations and start issuing joint press releases under the rubric, “What can we federalize today?” Until then, we are going to have to evaluate their grandiose schemes separately.

On Wednesday, Gore unveiled another leviathan. He announced a $50 billion plan to provide preschool to nearly every four-year-old in the country. He would give states as much as $2,700 per child in federal money if the states agree to match that investment dollar for dollar.

Apparently all that matters to Gore and his ilk is that their goals are laudatory. Good intentions are more important than results, and form trumps substance. It never occurs to them to question the propriety of federal involvement.

After reading about Gore’s compassionate preschool plan I decided to go back and review some of his other proposals. Most of his ideas are set out on his official campaign website, Gore2000.org.

A cursory perusal of his agenda reveals his obsession with federal solutions. It is obvious that he has been planning for this day since he was planting, hoeing, digging, spraying, chopping, shredding, spiking, stripping and selling tobacco in Tennessee. He has meticulously planned the spending of every last tax dollar in a variety of programs that would make Trotsky blush.

In the education category, beyond his pre-school plan, he would establish 21st Century Community Learning Centers, which would support the creation and expansion of after-school and summer school programs throughout the country. He would create a 21st Century National Teacher Corps that would help “75,000 talented people each year become teachers in high-need schools.”

Gore would fight to pass a school construction initiative to help states and local school districts to build and renovate public schools. He would provide grants to high-need school districts so disadvantaged students could have subsidized access to Advanced Placement courses. He would also implement federal teacher standards and national testing standards for students. Doubtlessly, those standards would require that the student hold Western civilization in contempt.

If you are troubled by his education ideas, Gore’s ambitious federal health-care proposal is just as bereft of any free-market solutions. Again, central planning from the Gore-commissariat will deliver the promised utopia.

Beyond education and health care, Gore’s website details specific federal blueprints for almost every other imaginable societal problem. I bet our founding fathers are rolling over in their graves kicking themselves for not thinking of these ingenious ideas.

But as for the living, the Republican National Committee would be well advised to download these “five-year plans” for future ammo before Gore secures the nomination and erases them on his way back to the political center.

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