VICE PRESIDENTIAL DEBATEOctober 9, 1996
JIM LEHRER: Mr. Kemp, is it really possible to balance the budget without reforming drastically the entitlements programs, including Social Security and Medicare?
MR. KEMP: Well, before I answer that, Jim, let me just say, it is disgraceful the campaign being waged to scare the American senior citizens in this state and my home state of - well, New York and California - about Medicare - Medicare.
VICE PRESIDENT GORE: There's one other one in there, isn't there?
MR. KEMP: Yeah, Maryland now.
The amount of money being spent to try to mislead the American people is demagoguery. And only in the Clinton White House and in Al Gore's mind could an increase in spending per capita on a senior citizen from $4,800 in 1996 to $7,200 over the next five years be considered a cut.
Does anybody think that Bob Dole, who almost gave his life for his country, who has served in the Senate, who helped save Social Security, who crawled out of a foxhole on Riva Ridge in Northern Italy in 1945 to save a wounded radioman, does anybody think in this country that he could possibly want to move our country ahead and leave anybody behind?
Of course we can balance the budget. Of course we have to hold down the growth in entitlement spending. But clearly, you cannot balance the budget, Jim, without growing this economy. It's only growing at about 2 1/2 percent. We should double the rate of growth, and we should double the size of the American economy. That means more jobs, more wealth, more income and more capital, particularly for our nation's poor and those left behind.
VICE PRESIDENT GORE: Mr. Lehrer, our balanced budget plan extends the Medicare Trust Fund 10 years into the future. A commission is fine, but a commission would not do any good if we adopted this risky $550 billion tax scheme. The word "scary" has been used.
A couple of days ago I went with Governor Lawton Chiles, who is here, to Sarasota to the Friendship Senior Center. I talked with a woman there named Dorothy Warnell, and she said, "You know, we may not be as sophisticated as some of those people in Washington, but we can add and subtract." Here are the numbers she's adding and subtracting: Bob Dole's plan would have already imposed an extra $268 on the average Medicare-receiving couple, and his plan would have doubled deductibles, it would have cost an extra $1,700 over the lifetime of his plan, and eliminated nursing home standards and guarantees of nursing home care for seniors.
Bill Clinton prevented it from happening. We will never allow that to happen.
MR. KEMP: Jim, Medicare is too important to senior citizens around this country to play the type of politics that is being played on this issue. It is losing $8 billion as we stand here tonight.
By the president's own trustees of Medicare, three members of which serve in his cabinet, it will be losing $23 billion a year by 1998. Something must be done. Bob Dole has suggested a commission, but clearly you cannot save Medicare, Social Security or any program for the socio-welfare net of American people under which they should not be allowed to fall unless we grow this economy at at least twice the rate it's growing today. That is the issue; not scaring people in America.
JIM LEHRER: Mr. Vice President, Mr. Kemp has accused you of demagoguery.
VICE PRESIDENT GORE: Well, as I said before, he used much harsher language when he talked about Bob Dole. He said that Bob Dole's solution for every single problem was to increase taxes. He said just two years ago that the Bob Dole tax increase of 1982 was the largest tax increase in the history of the world.
But let's get to the point. Medicare has been adjusted 23 times since it was created in 1965. Bob Dole, incidentally, just bragged this year that he was one of only 12 people who voted against the creation of Medicare in the first place. I don't think he's - he didn't believe in it then, and the plan that he promoted last year would have certainly been devastating to Medicare.
Again, don't take my word for it. The American Hospital Association said it could have closed 700 hospitals. The Catholic Health Association, the AARP, and many other groups who pay careful attention to Medicare, said that the Dole-Gingrich plan on Medicare would have led to deep cuts, possibly set up a two-tiered system, and would have ended the kind of Medicare system that we have. Our plan extends Medicare 10 years into the future. We will always protect Medicare within the context of a balanced budget plan.
MR. KEMP: Folks, they have no plan. They have absolutely no plan. The president himself suggested that the reduction in the growth of Medicare over the next five or six years ought to be held to 6 percent. Under the Republican plan, irrespective of the numbers, it will grow at 7 or even more percent.
But that is beside the point. What has to be discussed is how we as a nation are going to create the size of an economy, create a national wealth that would at least double this $6 trillion or $7 trillion economy. We would have $6 trillion in 15 years extra wealth for the American people, another trillion dollars of revenue with which to save Medicare and Social Security. And you can't do it with a tax code and a regulatory code and people suing each other with frivolous suits as this administration is allowing to happen. That has to change, and it will under Bob Dole and Jack Kemp.
VICE PRESIDENT GORE: I think Mr. Kemp has unintentionally made a mistake in saying that President Clinton called for a reduction to 6 percent or whatever you said. I believe you're referring to the Money Magazine interview, and the publisher of Money Magazine just sent Mr. Kemp a letter two days ago asking him to please stop inaccurately citing Money Magazine. It is not what the president said; it is not the president's position.
Let me make clear what his position is. We will save Medicare. We will stop efforts to hurt Medicare and will do it within a balanced budget plan.