- The Washington Times - Friday, August 13, 2004

CARSON, Calif. — Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry yesterday said President Bush is supporting a massive tax increase on the middle class by supporting the idea of a national sales tax.

“Just yesterday the other side talked about a national sales tax. At least that’s what they call it. I call it one of the largest tax increases on the middle class in American history,” Mr. Kerry told an audience at California State University Dominguez Hills.

Mr. Bush, answering a question at a forum in Florida on Tuesday, said a national sales tax is an “interesting idea that we ought to explore seriously.” That comes on the heels of House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, Illinois Republican, and House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, Texas Republican, both endorsing the idea.

But Mr. Kerry said switching from income taxes to a national sales tax will hurt small businesses, job creation and middle class families.

“To switch to a national sales tax without increasing the deficit, which is what they said they’d do, you’d have to have at least a 26 percent add-on on top of the state and local sales taxes that Americans already pay. And we know exactly who that’s going to hurt,” he said.

Mr. Kerry said he, instead, wants to raise taxes on the top 2 percent of earners to the level it was under President Bill Clinton, end the situation that allows American companies to move overseas for tax benefits, and offer targeted tax credits for college tuition and health care.

Raising taxes on upper-income earners, Mr. Kerry says, will pay for most of his proposed spending increases and other tax cuts.

But Bush campaign spokesman Steve Schmidt said the Massachusetts senator’s economic plan for raising money with his tax increase “don’t add up” with his spending plans.

“He has spent his tax hike more times than anyone can keep track of and his own director of economic policy has said that the Kerry tax plan isn’t paid for,” Mr. Schmidt said. “His latest campaign promises simply have no credibility, and he won’t be able to run away from his record of voting for higher taxes on all Americans.”

With both President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney questioning Mr. Kerry’s stance on the war, the senator kept his remarks strictly to his economic message, though he did tell reporters after the speech that the Republican accusations are a way to divert attention from his own positive plans.

Today, Mr. Kerry will be in Portland, Ore., wrapping up his two-week, cross-country tour that began the day after the Democratic convention. The tour has been mostly by train and bus — with the latter causing all sorts of delays and problems.

Mr. Kerry, who receives full Secret Service protection as the nominee, drove in a police-escorted motorcade into Los Angeles from Las Vegas on Wednesday, in essence taking over a rolling two-mile stretch of Interstate 15 for several hours.

The motorcade arrived in the Los Angeles area at the end of rush hour, bringing to a halt possibly one of the nation’s busiest highways, the San Diego Freeway, known locally by its route number — the 405.

California is considered safe Democratic territory, though Mr. Kerry’s appearance in this city met with mixed reaction, judging by the almost equal number of drivers waving, honking and giving a thumbs-up as giving a thumbs-down or other, more descriptive hand gestures.

Mr. Kerry had praise both for ousted Gov. Gray Davis, whom he called “a great education governor,” and current Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

“He and I both married up. He married a woman who was a member of the other party, I married a woman who was a member of the other party. George Butler made a documentary of Arnold, and George Butler has now made a documentary of me. And Arnold has massive biceps, and I have massive hair,” Mr. Kerry quipped.

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