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Gore, Bush tout rival economic plans

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Deadlocked in the polls, presidential hopefuls George W. Bush and Al Gore abandoned their signature campaign issues Thursday with hopes of gaining the advantage on new political turf -- the nation's booming economy.

Vice President Al Gore says he would pay $2 of projected surpluses toward debt reduction for every $1 he would devote to tax cuts or investments  

Vowing not to cede any ground just 40 days before the election, Gore and Bush outlined their economic agendas in a strikingly similar manner: warning that the other candidate's proposals would wreak havoc on the national economy.

"There are big choices at stake in this election," Gore said during an address at the Brookings Institution, a Washington policy research institute. "At the heart of all these choices is a single, fundamental question: Will we use our prosperity and record surpluses to prepare for the future?"

After three days of hammering away on his health care proposals while out on the campaign trail, Gore highlighted the economic prosperity the nation has enjoyed under the Clinton administration and made the case for his stewardship in the future.

Gore outlines the economic fundamentals he promises to practice

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Presidential race 2000

"I don't believe we can take prosperity for granted. Even in good economic times, I don't believe we can settle for what's easy. We have to ask the hard questions about what's right for our economy and our families," Gore said.

Highlighting a list of economic proposals released earlier, the Gore campaign said the vice president's overall plan would devote $2 of projected federal budget surpluses toward debt reduction for every $1 set aside for tax cuts or spending.

Elimination of the debt would free up billions of dollars and reduce government spending to its lowest level in 50 years, Gore argued.

"It's always easier to spend money you don't have, rather than save for a rainy day. That's how we ended up with a multi-trillion dollar national debt in the first place," Gore continued, pointing to budget deficits that exploded under the Reagan and Bush administrations.

Gore: 'prosperity itself on the ballot'

The vice president also resurrected an oft-used critique of his Republican rival's 10-year, $1.3 billion tax cut plan, arguing Bush would give $667 billion in surplus monies to the wealthiest 1 percent of all Americans. That amount, Gore said, was more than Bush planned to spend on important government priorities such as education, health care, and national defense combined.

"Forty days from now, prosperity itself will be on the ballot," Gore said. "You deserve a president who will take responsibility for our economy, not liberties with it," he added.

Gore said that his own tax-cut plan provides relief to low- and middle-income families that need it most, without jeopardizing other important government priorities or busting the federal budget.

"If we keep the right priorities, then we can cut taxes for the middle class -- the people who have the hardest time paying taxes and saving for the future," said Gore, who also touted tax credit proposals to help families pay for child care, education and elder care.

The Democratic nominee's address came as new statistics were released highlighting the accomplishments of the last eight years. President Clinton announced Wednesday that the federal budget surplus for fiscal year 2000 amounted to at least $230 billion, larger than previously expected.

In addition, the poverty rate in America dipped last year to 11.8 percent, the lowest point in 21 years, while median household incomes reached a record high, according to Census Bureau data released this week.

Bush paints Gore as a big-spender

But with his campaign convinced it has regained significant momentum, Bush embarked on a two-day swing through battleground states of Wisconsin and Michigan making the argument that Gore's proposals amount to a massive government buildup, and will wreck the economy.
"If the vice president gets elected, the era of big government being over is over," Bush tells an audience in Green Bay, Wisconsin, Thursday  

During an appearance at a manufacturing plant in Green Bay, Wisconsin, Bush said the differences between the rival economic plans boil down to a stark choice: "...Use the budget surplus money wisely or spend it on larger government."

"Vice President Gore has cast his lot with the old Democrat Party. His promises to throw the budget out of balance. He offers a big federal spending program to nearly every single voting block in America," Bush said.

Outlining his owns designs for projected federal budget surpluses over the next ten years, Bush said he would dedicate some of the money to reform Social Security and Medicare, bolster education and strengthen the military -- but under the mantra that "government works best when it empowers individuals."

He also defended his plan to use about one-fourth of the projected surpluses on his across-the-aboard $1.3 trillion tax relief plan, and likened the proposal to an insurance policy against runaway government spending in the future. Gore's plan to offer targeted breaks to middle-income families were evidence of a "Washington knows best" mindset, Bush argued.

"With him, we can only get a tax cut if we behave as he wants us to. Because we cannot be trusted to spend our own money. The people who make the money, according to Al Gore, aren't as qualified as the people in Washington who take the money in."

Bush: Gore at odds with centrist Dems

Continuing with his blistering attack on Gore as a big-spending liberal, Bush charged that the vice president had abandoned what he said were common-sense spending approaches adopted by the Democratic Leadership Council, a grouping of centrist lawmakers whose members include President Clinton and Gore's running mate, Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut.

"He expands entitlements without reforms to sustain them. And when others, Republican or Democrat, propose needed reforms in Social Security or Medicare or education, he opposes them vigorously."

Bush also contended Gore's campaign proposals would result in the creation or expansion of 200 government programs that could amount to an additional $2 trillion over ten year if enacted.

"The vice president was seated right behind Bill Clinton at the State of the Union when the president declared 'the era of big government over.' Apparently the message never took," Bush said.

On Friday, Bush is scheduled to make an energy policy speech in Michigan before returning to Texas for a weekend of rehearsals for his first debate with Gore on Tuesday in Boston.

Where do Bush and Gore stand on issues of importance to Europe? Launch our Interactive Guide.

View the latest tracking poll or dig into our poll archives.


Watch selected policy speeches and campaign commercials from the major presidential candidates.

See where George W. Bush and Al Gore stand on the major issues.

Who are your elected officials? What is the past presidential vote and number of electoral votes in your state? What are the presidential primary results and exit polls? Find out with these state political and election facts.

Get Election 2000 zip code searchable candidate biographies and other material for races for governor, Senate and House in our Election Guide.

How much money have the candidates raised? Here are their quarterly reports to the Federal Election Commission.

If you need to know who's up in 2000 and what seats are open, launch this quick guide.

WEB WHITE AND BLUE is a partner in the Web White and Blue rolling cyber-debate, a daily online exchange among the major presidential candidates. Look for twice-daily updates Sunday through Friday until election day.


Thursday, September 28, 2000


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