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.
What do you say specifically to what the vice president said tonight? He’s said it many, many times, that your tax cut benefits the top 1 percent of the wealthiest Americans. And you’ve heard what he said …
BUSH: Of course, it does. If you pay taxes, you’re going to get a benefit. People who pay taxes …
LEHRER: All right …
BUSH: … will get tax relief.
LEHRER: Why shouldn’t they?
GORE: All right …
BUSH: Wait. Let me finish, please.
Under my plan, if you make — the top — the wealthy people pay 62 percent of the taxes today; afterwards, they pay 64 percent. This is a fair plan. You know why? Because the tax code is unfair for people at the bottom end of the economic ladder. If you’re a single mother making $22,000 a year today and you’re trying to raise two children, for every additional dollar you earn you pay a higher marginal rate on that dollar than someone making $200,000, and that’s not right.
LEHRER: Vice President Gore?
GORE: Yes …
BUSH: So I want to do something about that.
LEHRER: All right. Vice President Gore?
GORE: Look, this isn’t about Governor Bush, it’s not about me. It is about you. And I want to come back to something I said before.
If you want somebody who believes that we were better off eight years ago than we are now and that we ought to go back to the kind of policies that we had back then, emphasizing tax cuts mainly for the wealthy, here is your man.
If you want somebody who will fight for you and who will fight to have middle class tax cuts, then I am your man. I want to be.
Now, I doubt anybody here makes more than $330,000 a year. I won’t ask you. But if you’re do, you’re in the top 1 percent. If you don’t …
LEHRER: It would be a violation of the rules. They couldn’t …
GORE: I’m not going to …
I’m not going to ask — I’m not going to ask. But if everyone here in this audience was dead on in the middle of the middle class, then the tax cuts for every single one of you, all added up, would be less than the tax cut his plan would give to just one member of that top, wealthiest 1 percent. Now, you judge for yourselves whether or not that’s fair.
LEHRER: A quick, and then we’re moving on.
BUSH: Good. Fifty million Americans get no tax relief under his plan.
GORE: That’s not right.
BUSH: And you may not be one of them; you’re just not one of the right people.
And secondly, we’ve had enough fighting. It’s time to unite.
You talk about eight years? In eight years, they haven’t gotten anything done on Medicare, on Social Security, a patients’ bill of rights. It’s time to get something done.
LEHRER: Hey, we’re going move on now …
GORE: I’ve got to answer that, Jim.
Medicare, we — I cast the tie-breaking vote to add 26 years to the life of Medicare. It was due to go bankrupt in 1999.
And that $50 million figure, again, the newspapers — I said — you said forget the journalists, but they are the keepers of the scorecard and whether or not you’re using facts that aren’t right. And that fact is just not right.
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