Bush’s budget has less of a buffer than Gore’s does. Bush’s budget would use all but $265 billion of the surplus, and that is without paying for some of his campaign promises, like missile defense. Gore says he would set aside $660 billion of the surplus for a reserve fund.
Gore said he had helped slim down the federal bureaucracy through his work on the administration’s Reinventing Government initiative. Since 1992, the civilian government work force has fallen by 400,000 people, to 1.82 million, although nearly three-quarters of the reduction has been the Pentagon.
Some analysts measure the size of government by looking at total spending relative to the size of the economy. By that measure, outlays have declined steadily in recent years, to 18.7% of gross domestic product this year. Gore said his plan would push that figure down to 17% by 2008.
Q: Is he right?
GORE: Absolutely not. Under my plan, we will balance the budget every year. I’m not just talking. I have helped to balance the budget for the first time in 30 years, and 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.
Q: 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 Pres. Clinton proposed.
GORE: That’s in an ad [which] the journalists who analyzed it said was misleading.
BUSH: Forget the journalists. You propose more than Walter Mondale & Michael Dukakis combined. 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.
BUSH: We’ve had enough fighting [in Congress]. It’s time to unite. You talk about eight years? In eight years, [the Clinton/Gore Administration] hasn’t gotten anything done on Medicare, on Social Security, a patients’ bill of rights. It’s time to get something done.
I cast the tie-breaking vote to add 26 years to the life of Medicare. It was due to go bankrupt in 1999.
GORE: Both of us use similar language to reach an exactly opposite outcome. In my view, the Constitution ought to be interpreted as a document that grows with our country and our history.
BUSH: I’ll tell you what kind of judges he’ll put on there. He’ll put liberal, activist judges who will use their bench to subvert the legislature. That’s what he’ll do.
GORE: That’s not right.
GORE: We’ve got the biggest surplus in history. Will we use that prosperity wisely in a way that benefits all of our people and doesn’t go just to the few? I think we have to invest in education, protecting the environment, health care, a prescription drug benefit that goes to all seniors, not just to the poor; under Medicare, not relying on HMOs and insurance companies. I think that we have to help parents and strengthen families. I think we have got to have welfare reform taken to the next stage. I think that we have got to balance the budget every single year.
BUSH: He’s going to grow the federal government in the largest increase since Johnson in 1965. We’re talking about a massive government, folks. We’re talking about adding to or increasing 200 new programs, 20,000 new bureaucrats. Imagine how many IRS agents it’s going to take to be able to figure out his targeted tax cut for the middle class that excludes 50 million Americans.
McCAIN: There was an ad run against me, we ran a counter-ad. But what really went over the line [is that] Bush had a event and he paid for it and stood next to a spokesman for a fringe veterans group. That fringe veteran said that McCain had abandoned the veterans. You should be ashamed.
BUSH: John, I believe that you served our country nobly. And I’ve said it over and over again, that man wasn’t speaking for me. If you hold me responsible [for that, then your supporter, former Senator] Warren Rudman, said about the Christian Coalition that they’re bigots. I know you don’t believe that, do you?
McCAIN: He’s entitled to his opinion.
BUSH Well, so is this man.
McCAIN: When you were asked if you would repudiate him, you said no.
KEYES: Is this kind of pointless squabbling what we really want [viewers] to see
If only some provisions are struck down, the remainder could produce a skewed and unintended effect. The bill would restrict independent “issue ads”-campaign ads in scant disguise. The anti-issue-ad provision likely would be one of the first to be attacked in court, [possibly resulting in] issue ads surviving, while the party soft money, which now provides some protection against such ads, disappears. That’s part of what the balance argument is code for.
But the answer to that is not to put a lethal asterisk after the rest of the bill in advance; it’s to fix the problem if it arises. The people who want to add this “non-severability” amendment, including the president, are no friends of reform, seeking evenhandedness. Their goal is to make the bill more vulnerable
BUSH: Restoring trust in our electoral process. is the heart of the matter. New campaign finance laws are needed. What is even more important is the duty of public officials to obey the existing laws, and I’m afraid your own record does not inspire confidence. In your note, you did not mention the matter of compulsory union dues being used to support political candidates -- a violation of worker rights. Your silence was not encouraging, because any campaign finance reform must be broad and fair.
FORBES. The answer is if being negative is telling the truth I will continue to tell the truth. People deserve it, we deserve an honest and open and vigorous debate. And if a man breaks a pledge [re 1997 tax cuts], the voters ought to know it.
BUSH: I’ll run positive ads. Listen, I cut taxes as the governor. That’s a fact. That is the bottom line. The people of my state know my record and they endorsed it with an election. And yet if you look at [Forbes’] ads it doesn’t say that. I don’t mind debates. I do mind Republicans tearing each other down.
FORBES. You’re not going to win the White House by making pledges that are then broken. We’ve been through that before, particularly on taxes. A pledge made should be a pledge kept. And in Texas it was your own party that saved you from breaking that pledge. You tried to break it, they blocked you.
McCAIN: The unions carry millions of dollars in checks and soft money down to the Democratic National Committee. Trial lawyers do the same thing. We’ll hurt the unions bad if we take away their soft money. But what you’re saying is that we should continue what happened in 1996. That’s disgraceful. Chinese & Indonesian money came in to the campaign. We’ll never know about the breaches of security.
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George W. Bush
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