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Inside Politics

Taxes dominate stage on filing day

Claims, counterclaims from Bush, Kerry

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John F. Kerry
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America Votes 2004

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush and Sen. John Kerry sought to turn taxpayers' filing-day frustrations into campaign gold Thursday, each promising to bring relief and make April 15 just another day on the calendar.

"Today, tax day, when people pay their taxes, I want them to know that they've been Bush-whacked," Kerry told a crowd at Howard University in Washington.

"They're actually paying more in taxes, because $90 billion of deficits have now been pushed on to the states because of the tax cuts at the federal level."

Bush, in a speech minutes later, was touting his tax cuts.

"I think Congress needs to make all aspects of tax relief permanent," he told a symposium on small businesses in Des Moines, Iowa. "Now is not the time to be raising taxes on hard-working people. This economy is growing strong and getting stronger -- we don't need to raise the tax burden."

The Bush campaign also dispatched volunteers to more than 60 sites to hand out fliers and brochures slamming what the campaign describes as Kerry's "long record" of voting to increase taxes. The effort was planned at sites such as post offices where people were filing taxes in key battleground states.

But the Kerry camp launched a fresh attack of its own: an announcement that a "side-by-side comparison shows that Kerry has proposed three times as much tax relief for middle-class families" as Bush has.

An announcement from the Bush campaign, meanwhile, said that as a result of Bush's initiatives "every American who would have paid income taxes before the tax relief was enacted in 2001 will receive a tax cut in 2004."

The political parties got in on the tax action as well with a series of claims and counterclaims.

The Republican National Committee introduced a video game on its Web site called "Tax invaders" that tells players, "Only YOU can save America from John Kerry's tax plans."

In a written statement, the RNC said the game "illustrates the massive tax increases required to pay for John Kerry's promised spending."

And the Democratic National Committee issued what it called a "special report" titled "Happy Tax Day, Mr. President!"

"Despite the president's statements, very few people received his promised 'average' tax cut of more than a thousand dollars. And, small businesses saw little benefit as well from Bush's massive tax giveaway aimed squarely at the wealthiest Americans," the DNC statement said.

Kerry addressed those points during his talk at Howard, part of the tour of college campuses he kicked off this week. On the trail he is touting what his campaign calls the "Middle-Class Misery Index" -- a look at seven economic factors that the campaign says show that Americans are "suffering" due to Bush's policies. The Bush campaign has dismissed the index as "bogus," and pointed to recent signs of economic recovery, including a rise in home ownership figures.

But Kerry, on his campus tour, is focusing largely on factors that he believes hit college students close to home.

"Tuitions have gone up. That's happened all across this country. And Americans are paying more in 32 states," he told students at Howard. "Property taxes have gone up. Fees have gone up. Local taxes up. And some middle-class families are paying as much as $3,500 of additional taxes under George Bush's plan.

"That's wrong. That is what I call being 'Bush-whacked.' That's a Bush-league economic recovery, ladies and gentlemen, and it comes at the expense of average people who are working."

Bush, reaching out to voters in the battleground state of Iowa, said, "People expect wise stewardship of the taxpayers' money. People expect that we keep the federal tax burden as low as possible. ... This year it's a little better because of the tax relief we've delivered."

Iowa is a hotly contested state that Bush lost to then Vice President Al Gore in 2000 by less than one percentage point.

Bush warned that the child credit will go down next year if it is not made permanent, and the marriage penalty will go up.

The "lack of uncertainty" about whether tax cuts will remain permanent hurts individuals and small businesses especially hard, he said. He told a story of one man, an entrepreneur with a wife and kids, whose taxes will jump about $1,300 if tax cuts aren't made permanent.

"The tax relief that we talked about is scheduled to go away," he said. "That's just the way it happens. Tax relief today, not tax relief tomorrow. We need to do something about it."

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