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Bradley and Gore spar over the economy

By Bernard Shaw/CNN

August 26, 1999
Web posted at: 11:58 a.m. EDT (1558 GMT)

WASHINGTON -- The Dow Jones industrial average finished Wednesday in record territory, again, a testament to the strength of the national economy. The boom is an important part of Vice President Al Gore's presidential campaign pitch, but it also has become an important part of former Sen. Bill Bradley's challenge.

"There are still 14 million children in America who live in poverty. There are still 45 million people in America without any health insurance," Bradley said earlier this week at a community forum in Harlem hosted by activist Al Sharpton.

Bradley claims there are as many children in poverty now as there were at the end of the Bush Administration, a not-so-subtle criticism of his Democratic rival Al Gore. The Gore campaign says Bradley is way off base.

"It's very troubling, and simply not true. This administration, over the last five years, have worked very hard to improve the lives of working families and children in this country. We've seen a dramatic reduction in poverty, especially among children," Donna Brazile, Gore's national political director, responded.

As for the candidate himself, Gore says the entire nation has prospered.

"Instead of quadrupling the national debt we tripled the stock market ... we now have nearly 19 million new jobs and virtually zero inflation," Gore said.

The two Democrats differ on welfare. Gore supported the 1996 Welfare Reform Act. Earlier this month, he touted some of the act's accomplishments.

Then-Sen. Bradley voted against the act, and explained why at Monday's Harlem event.

"The answer to welfare is not to cut the commitment of the federal government to the individual children who are poor, and sever the bond between the mother and the child ... against all of the best scientific evidence," Bradley argued.

The Bradley campaign cites a recent study showing that welfare reform has been especially hard on single mothers and their children. While saying the overall economy is in great shape, Gore acknowledges the poor need help. He's working on stimulating local economies in depressed areas.

And what would Bradley do about the persistence of poverty in the new economy? His campaign says he's working on specific proposals, and plans to unveil them this fall.

If Bradley's getting any traction from the criticisms of the vice president it has not helped close the gap against Gore in California. A new Field Poll of likely Democratic primary voters shows Gore leading Bradley 51 percent to 18 percent.


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