Bush Launches Domestic Offensive

With the war winding down in Iraq, President Bush last week launched a major offensive to secure his primary domestic policy aim, a new pro-growth tax cut he says he wants to be "at least" as big as the $550 billion already approved by the House of Representatives.

Bush launched his campaign in Ohio just one day after Rep. Dick Gephardt (Mo.), a leading Democratic presidential candidate, speaking to a labor union in New York, declared he wanted to repeal the entire 2001 tax cut to pay for a Hillary-Clintonesque national health care plan.

The back-to-back speeches by Gephardt and Bush set the stage for a presidential election cycle in which the distinctions between the parties are likely to be sharper than they have been at any time since 1984. That is the year Reagan trounced the hapless Walter Mondale-who promised at the Democratic convention that he would raise taxes.

But Gephardt isn’t waiting until the convention, or even to see if he gets the nomination. He’s already promising to raise taxes.

Gephardt’s Pledge

What’s his economic plan? "The short answer," said Gephardt, "is that we pass a law requiring every employer to provide access to quality coverage, with employer tax credits covering most of the cost. We pay for it by repealing the Bush tax cuts. It’s why legislation repealing the Bush tax cuts and using the money to pay for universal access to health care will be the first bill I send to Congress as President of the United States."

In Ohio, Bush proved his own best spokesman for tax cuts just as he had proved his own best spokesman in the Iraq crisis.

Visiting the Timken Company in Canton, he drew attention to the real people who will benefit from his plan.

  • Pat Williams, a single mother of two, works for Timken. A typical family of four making $40,000 per year, Bush pointed out, will get an annual tax cut of $1,178 under his plan. Pat Williams, he said, will see her taxes "fall by $1,000 every year."
  • Mike Kovach owns City Machine Technologies, which he started with two employees. Now he employs 70. "He pays taxes on his business at the individual-rate level," said Bush. "The proposal I’ve just outlined . . . will save this man’s good company $15,000 a per year. And he says . . . that extra money helps put an entry level man on my shop floor."
  • Then there was Timken itself. "There are 44,000 Timken shareholders," said Bush, "employees, retirees, teacher retirement funds, college endowments, a lot of ordinary investors." He would abolish double taxation of their dividends and create more wealth for all.
  • Real people. Real money. Real jobs. That’s how Bush is arming himself for the domestic battle. If the most potent weapons in the liberal arsenal today are creaky antiques like tax hikes and socialized medicine, the Gephardt Democrats might roll over faster than the Republican Guard.