LEHRER: Vice President Gore, is the governor right when he says that you’re proposing the largest federal spending in years?
GORE: Absolutely not, absolutely not. I’m so glad that I have a chance to knock that down.
Look, the problem is that under Governor Bush’s plan, $1.6 trillion tax cut mostly to the wealthy. Under his own budget numbers, he proposes spending more money for a tax cut just for the wealthiest 1 percent than all of the new money that he budgets for education, health care and national defense combined.
Now, under my plan, we will balance the budget every year. I’m not just saying this. I’m not just talking. I have helped to balance the budget for the first time in 30 years, pay down the debt.
And under my plan, in four years, as a percentage of our gross domestic product, federal spending will be the smallest that it has been in 50 years. One reason is — you know, the third biggest spending item in our budget is interest on the national debt. We get nothing for it. We keep the good faith and credit of the United States.
I will pay down the debt every single year, until it is eliminated early in the next decade. That gets rid of the third biggest intrusion of the federal government in our economy.
Now, because the governor has all this money for a tax cut, mostly to the wealthy, there is no money left over, so schools get testing and a lawsuit reform, and not much else.
LEHRER: Governor, the vice president says you’re wrong.
BUSH: Well, he’s wrong.
Just add up all the numbers; it’s three times bigger than what President Clinton proposed. The Senate Budget Committee …
LEHRER: Three times — excuse me, three times …
BUSH: Bigger than what President Clinton proposed …
GORE: That’s in an ad Jim that was knocked down by the journalists who analyzed the ad an said it was misleading.
LEHRER: Go ahead.
BUSH: My turn?
LEHRER: Yes, sir.
BUSH: Forget the journalists. You propose more than Walter Mondale and Michael Dukakis combined. In other — this is a big spender, he is. And he ought to be proud of it. It’s part of his record. We just have a different philosophy.
Let me talk about tax relief. If you pay taxes, you ought to get tax relief. The vice president believes that only the right people ought to get tax relief. I don’t think that’s the role of the president to pick: “You’re right, and you’re not right.”
I think if you’re going to have tax relief, everybody ought to get it. And, therefore, wealthy people are going to get it. But the top 1 percent will end up paying one-third of the taxes in America and they get one-fifth of the benefits. And that’s because we’ve structured the plan so that 6 million additional American families pay no taxes. If you’re a family of four making $50,000 in Missouri, you get a 50 percent cut in your federal income taxes.
What I’ve done is set priorities and funded them, and there’s extra money. And I believe the people who pay the bills ought to — ought to get some money back.
It’s a difference of opinion. He wants to grow the government, and I trust you with your own money.
LEHRER: Well, let’s …
BUSH: I wish we could spend an hour talking about trusting money. It is the right position to take.
GORE: Can we extend the time?
LEHRER: Hold on one sec here, though. The governor just reversed the thing.