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Inside Politics

Kerry campaign: Bush pushing $6 trillion in overspending

GOP: Kerry's the big spender



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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush has "proposed or passed" more than $6 trillion in new initiatives, but hasn't said how he will pay for them, the Kerry campaign charged in a report released Monday.

"The report shows that while the president and administration officials have publicly touted their commitment to fiscal discipline, they were quietly pushing trillions of dollars in unpaid proposals that have resulted in skyrocketing deficits and contributed to state budget deficits across the country," the report says.

Bush campaign manager Ken Mehlman called the latest moves "the ultimate example of Sen. Kerry trying to project his own weaknesses onto the president."

"He is attacking the president for spending when in fact he [Kerry] either supported the proposal or supported even more expensive alternatives," Mehlman told reporters.

The Kerry report and a related Web ad appear to be an answer in part to the Bush campaign's effort to portray Kerry as a tax-and-spend liberal.

Indeed, the Kerry report took issue with Bush's position that he's the one trying to introduce some fiscal discipline in Washington.

"His tax cuts, expansion of entitlement programs and spending has grown into a $6 trillion bill over the next 10 years," the Kerry report said of Bush. "It is not a bill he plans on paying for. He's leaving it for the taxpayers and their children."

To drive the point home, the campaign also released a new ad on its Web site -- the latest in an exchange of biting messages between the two campaigns excoriating each other's economic policies.

Titled "Close Enough," it focuses on the image of a blackboard, with two voices playing the parts of a teacher and Bush as a youth.

"George it looks like you're having a little trouble with your math," the teacher says, explaining that he "overspent by $6 trillion."

"Oh, is that a lot?" the child responds.

Kerry, however, has not detailed how he would cover some of his major plans, and the Bush administration charges there would be a $900 billion shortfall, which he'd make up through raising taxes and rolling back Bush's tax cuts. Kerry denies the figure and says only Bush's tax cuts for the top 2 percent of wealthiest Americans would be rolled back.

Mehlman said Kerry has had to pull back on some of his promised proposals because he wouldn't be able to fund them, and "in anticipation of being accused of a 'bait and switch,'" Kerry decided to attack the president.

The Kerry campaign has indicated that higher deficit numbers could lead Kerry to adjust some figures in his proposals, but aides insist he remains committed to his platform.

The Kerry campaign's analysis includes a lengthy list of specifics, pulling together factors such as tax cuts, a proposal to privatize Social Security, Medicare and space exploration plans, and interest on the national debt.

In a telephone news conference, Sen. John Corzine, D-New Jersey, who helped put together the report, said all the figures come from government agencies and he called the $6 trillion figure a "conservative" estimate.

Asked why Iraq costs were not included, he said, "We wanted to make sure this wasn't focused on the debate about whether we should or we shouldn't support our troops" and remain involved in Iraq.

Corzine called the Bush campaign "irresponsible" for charging that Kerry is failing to show how he'd fund his own proposals. Kerry will follow bipartisan rules to cover any and all proposals he puts forward, the campaign said.

In the GOP response to the Kerry report, Mehlman and Bush campaign policy director Tim Adams pulled it apart, slamming Kerry for following inaccurate statistics, ignoring taxpayer savings, considering tax cuts a form of spending, and, overall, being misleading.

Kerry plans to make a key economic speech Wednesday, and both Mehlman and Adams called on him to explain precisely what programs he would cut.

Kerry has supported many of the programs he lists in the report, said Adams. "We assume many of these costs will be in his budget once he decides to actually release one."

CNN correspondent Kelly Wallace and political editor John Mercurio contributed to this report.


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