- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 16, 2002

Democratic leaders yesterday escalated their attacks on President Bush's economic policies, proposing massive new government spending that Republicans scorned as election-year "snake oil" that would do nothing to spur faster growth and job creation.
In back-to-back speeches, House Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt, Missouri Democrat, and Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, once again charged that Mr. Bush's across-the-board tax cuts had led to a weakened economy, increased unemployment and a declining stock market. Both offered five-point, "pump-priming" economic plans that called for hundreds of billions of dollars in new spending for school construction and health care, a higher $6.65 minimum wage, extended unemployment benefits, and short-term, targeted tax cuts for low- and middle-income workers whether they pay income taxes or not.
"This administration's economic record is as bad as any president in the last 70 years," said Mr. Gephardt, adding that Mr. Bush's "work on the economy so far has been an abdication of leadership."
Reading off a litany of dismal economic statistics on the Senate floor, Mr. Daschle said that "by virtually every measure, the president's economic plan has put America on the wrong track."
Ironically, the day they chose to unleash their party's campaign attacks against Mr. Bush's economic policies, the Dow Jones Industrial Average shot up 378 points, capping a four-day gain in the stock market that was spurred in part by higher corporate earnings.
Republican congressional leaders ridiculed the Democrats' spending plans as nothing more than "tax-and-spend" policies right out of the party's liberal past, comparing them to the increases that Walter Mondale proposed in his 1984 campaign against President Reagan only to lose the election in a 49-state landslide.
"Gephardt's just dressing up the decades-old Democratic tax-and-spend strategy that's been proven to dampen growth and strangle economic recovery. In its simplicity and wrong-headedness, it's nothing short of Mondale-esque," said House Majority Whip Tom DeLay, Texas Republican.
"The minority leader thinks raising taxes and spending hundreds of billions of dollars will help grow the economy. That's a three-week political plan, not a solution for the economy," said Rep. J.C. Watts Jr. of Oklahoma, chairman of the House Republican Conference.
Mr. Gephardt's $200 billion spending plan was similar to Mr. Daschle's in many respects but went on to call for increased spending for a variety of domestic initiatives, including school construction and aid to localities for police, firefighters and public health workers. The plan also called for $75 billion to help pay for health insurance for unemployed workers and another $75 billion in "short-term" tax cuts for working families and to encourage businesses to invest in new equipment.
Mr. Gephardt delivered his speech before the Economic Policy Institute in the District.
Despite their stepped-up criticism, neither of the Democratic leaders called for repealing any part of Mr. Bush's 10-year, $1.35 trillion tax-cuts. Both Mr. Gephardt and Mr. Daschle voted against the plan, which was enacted last year.
To offset the spending increases, Mr. Gephardt proposed unspecified cuts in "corporate welfare and waste in the federal budget" that would be targeted by a commission similar to the military base-closing commission system.
With three weeks to go before the midterm elections, Democrats have focused on the economy, which polls show is the top concern of most voters.
Republican Party strategists acknowledge that the economy is the primary issue, but say that their polls show that voters do not blame Mr. Bush or Republicans for the economic slump over the past two years.


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