- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 7, 2000

CLEVELAND Vice President Al Gore yesterday outlined his most detailed economic plan ever, promising to pay off the national debt, slash poverty, cut taxes, boost homeownership and fatten savings accounts and women's paychecks.

In a major speech at Cleveland State University, Mr. Gore also vowed to create 10 million high-technology jobs, boost college attendance and pour massive sums of federal money into worker training, Medicare and Social Security.

Despite this planned spending spree of more than $4 trillion over the next decade, the vice president promised voters that enough surplus tax revenues would be left over to create an unspecified $300 billion "rainy-day fund" that he would safeguard for emergencies

"Read my plan," Mr. Gore said. "No blank checks. No deficit spending."

Mr. Gore was alluding to George Bush's 1988 campaign pledge: "Read my lips no new taxes." Mr. Bush, the father of Mr. Gore's opponent, Texas Gov. George W. Bush, broke that pledge as president, which helped seal his 1992 loss to Mr. Gore and Bill Clinton.

Yesterday, the younger Mr. Bush summed up Mr. Gore's plan in his own words to about 1,500 supporters in Indianapolis.

"It says, 'Keep sending all your money to Washington, and let me spend it for you,' " the Texas governor said, adding: "And he can. Let me tell you, that man knows how to spend money."

Mr. Gore made his own moral pitch for his plan, saying it distributed benefits more equitably.

The vice president promised "tax cuts for the middle class instead of a tax giveaway for those who need it least. It is time to move on to a new prosperity for a new America. This is the place, this is the time, the beginning of this new century."

Bush campaign officials said yesterday that Mr. Gore's economic plan would spend all of the projected federal surplus of more than $4 trillion and run up a deficit of about $900 billion over 10 years.

"There will be no cushion at all. They'll be $900 billion in the hole," said Bush adviser John Cogan, an associate deputy director at the Office of Management and Budget in the Reagan administration.

Mr. Cogan said the Senate Budget Committee's estimate that Mr. Gore's budget is $900 billion in the red differs with Gore campaign cost estimates in three main areas: retirement savings, preschool and educating disabled children.

For example, he said, the Gore campaign says its retirement savings plan will cost $200 billion over 10 years; the Senate Budget Committee estimate is $750 billion.

Mr. Bush said his economic plan, which includes $1.3 trillion in tax cuts over 10 years, would leave a surplus of $265 billion and would invest more than $2.3 trillion in Social Security. The Texas governor Tuesday also proposed Medicare reforms that would cost about $200 billion over 10 years.

Economic analysts were also skeptical, noting that both candidates' plans have about the same value, differing only in how they would use the projected surpluses.

"Gore's saying he's going to spend the surpluses into oblivion and Bush is going to give it all back," economist David Jones of Aubrey G. Lanston and Co. in New York told Reuters news agency.

Mr. Gore's economic plan was contained in a 191-page, self-published book he released yesterday titled "Prosperity for America's Families." The book is a sequel of sorts to "Putting People First," the tome he self-published with Mr. Clinton eight years ago.

Mr. Gore's new book repeats many of the goals of his old book, including several that have gone unfulfilled throughout the vice president's two terms in office.

"We will invest in middle-class tax cuts," the vice president promised in yesterday's speech. "These middle-class tax cuts will bring the typical family's tax burden to its lowest level in 50 years."

The rhetoric was strikingly similar to Mr. Gore's old book.

"We will lower the tax burden on middle class Americans," he wrote with Mr. Clinton in 1992. "Middle-class taxpayers will have a choice between a children's tax credit or a significant reduction in their income tax rate."

But Mr. Gore and Mr. Clinton abandoned that pledge shortly after taking office and instead raised income taxes. Mr. Gore even cast the tie-breaking vote in 1993 to boost federal gasoline taxes by 4.3 cents per gallon, although the book vows to "oppose federal excise gas tax increases."

Yesterday, Mr. Gore pledged to use surplus tax revenues to train workers on a massive scale.

"We will make the greatest commitment to job training and lifelong learning since the GI bill for all of the men and women and families in America," the vice president promised, drawing applause from his audience.

Eight years ago, Mr. Gore vowed in "Putting People First" to force all U.S. companies to spend 1.5 percent of their payroll for worker training. However, the idea was abandoned after he took office.

Mr. Gore's 1992 book also pledged federally subsidized savings accounts for Americans to use for retirement and homeownership. No such program was ever created, although Mr. Gore renewed the promise yesterday.

"If a middle class family saves one dollar, the government will match this with one dollar of savings," Mr. Gore promises in his new book, which he co-authored with his running mate, Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut. "For poorer families those most in need but with the least opportunity to save the government will contribute three dollars to your savings account for every dollar you contribute."

To pre-empt accusations of profligacy, Mr. Gore emphasized that he will "underspend the surplus rather than overpromise our way into an economic hole."

He added: "I propose to take one out of every $6 of the budget surplus and put it aside so that it will not be used for new spending, it will not be used for new tax cuts, it will not be spent on promises or proposals of any kind."

Mr. Gore also used his speech yesterday as an opportunity to attack the Bush tax-cut plan.

"Under the tax plan the other side has proposed, for every $10 that would go to the wealthiest 1 percent, middle-class families get one dime and lower-income families would get one penny," the vice president said. "It gives the most to those who need it the least, and the least to those who need it the most, and that's just wrong."

Republicans were quick to return fire, saying Mr. Gore's "rainy-day fund" is unrealistic.

"I don't see what he proposed today as a safety measure, so much as I see it as one more add-on to what is already an extensive list" of spending proposals, Republican vice-presidential nominee Richard B. Cheney said while campaigning in Pennsylvania. "It goes far beyond the expectations" for the future surplus.

At an event in Milwaukee yesterday, Mr. Bush repeated the claim, telling reporters, "I don't know where he's going to find the money for a rainy-day fund when he spends more money than available for the surplus."

Senate Budget Committee Chairman Pete V. Domenici, New Mexico Republican, called Mr. Gore's plan "a return to a traditional liberal spending agenda."

He said the "new burst of spending" would exceed President Johnson's Great Society proposals, and be "by far, the largest add-on to government in modern history."

According to an analysis by Mr. Domenici's committee, Mr. Gore consistently underestimates the costs of the programs he is proposing. As a result, if the Gore campaign's economic plan and the 2001 Clinton-Gore administration budget proposal were enacted, they would leave the nation with a deficit of at least $27 billion and as much as $906 billion over the next decade.

"The arithmetic convicts," Mr. Domenici said.

• Dave Boyer contributed to this report from Milwaukee, Sean Scully from Wayne, Pa., and John Godfrey from Washington.

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