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Archive for Sunday, January 19, 2003

Campaigning Democrats challenge Bush tax cuts

January 19, 2003

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— Attacking President Bush's tax-cutting efforts, two Democratic contenders for the White House in 2004 called for repealing the $1.65 trillion plan Congress passed two years ago.

A third advocated a freeze in the phased-in reductions.

Courting party activists a year before the opening of the presidential nominating season, Richard Gephardt, Howard Dean and John Kerry said Democrats must present a clear alternative to Bush if they hope to retake the White House from the GOP.

Gephardt, a congressman from Missouri, released a plan to repeal Bush's tax cut, using the money for a national health insurance system.

Dean, a former Vermont governor, said the government should take back the 2001 tax cuts. "The president's tax cuts were a mistake," he said. "They've done nothing for the economy and they went to the wrong people."

Gephardt and Dean met with key Democratic advocates, while Massachusetts Sen. Kerry hosted hundreds of party faithful at a breakfast. All three were attending a county fund-raiser in eastern Iowa on Saturday night.

"I say no new tax cuts and that includes the new Bush tax cuts that are set up in what we passed a year ago," Kerry said. "The country can't afford it. In effect it is a transfer from Medicare and Social Security to the wealthiest of Americans and under any standard of decency and common sense and fairness it doesn't pass muster."

They all said Democrats should not fear challenging a president with relatively high poll standings.

"You can't beat George Bush by saying I'm going to do a lot of the same things George Bush is doing," said Gephardt. "If you lay out a clear, distinct, bold, realistic alternative, then I think people will listen."

Added Dean: "I want to get out there and make the unambiguous Democratic case. I think the American people want a Democratic message."

Kerry said the party was faced with the challenge of defining itself as it heads into the primary season.

"We can't afford to transfer money to the wealthiest of Americans," he said. "That is precisely what is at stake in this campaign and the Democratic Party either stands up for that or it should stop being an individual party because there's nothing to define it."

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