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The Candidates’ Economic Policies

The issue of the economy is traditionally the trump topic for voters in presidential campaigns. Gwen Ifill takes a brief look at the candidates' economic policies.

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  • GWEN IFILL:

    President Bush and Sen. Kerry have built their campaigns around very different visions of the nation's economic health. From jobs to tax cuts to spending, the two men have traveled the country, offering stark policy contrast. On job creation and wages, President Bush sees good news.

  • PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH:

    Last Friday, the jobs report for August showed we added 144,000 new jobs. That's 1.7 million over the last 12 months. The national unemployment rate is 5.4 percent. (Cheers and applause) That's fully a point below the peak last summer. It is lower than the average rate of the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s. (Cheers and applause )

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Sen. Kerry sees the flip side of that equation, calling attention to jobs lost– more than 1.6 million in the private sector during the last four years.

  • SEN. JOHN KERRY:

    In the last three years, West Virginia lost 11,000 manufacturing jobs. But just today, a report came out that shows that the jobs that they're creating to replace the jobs that you've lost overseas are paying an average of $9,000 less than the jobs that went overseas. And a lot of the jobs that are now taking their place are part-time jobs, or they don pay benefits, they don't have health care. Prosperity hasn't returned folks when you've lost 1.6 million jobs. This is the first president of the United States since the Great Depression since Herbert Hoover who's presided over the loss of jobs.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Another big debate: Tax cuts. Sen. Kerry says President Bush's tax cuts should be rolled back because they benefit the wealthy, and that taxes should be cut for the middle class instead. This is how he explained it at the Democratic National Convention.

  • SEN. JOHN KERRY:

    You've heard… you've heard a lot of false charges about this in recent months, so let me say straight out what I will do as president. I will cut middle-class taxes. I will reduce the tax burden on small business. And I will roll back the tax cuts for the wealthiest individuals who make over $200,000 a year, so we can invest in health care, education, and job creation. (Cheers and applause)

  • GWEN IFILL:

    But President Bush says tax cuts he has enacted, including reductions in the marriage penalty tax and on capital gains, should be made permanent. They are set to expire in 2010.

  • PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH:

    One of the reasons we overcame the obstacles – one reason the economy was growing was because well timed tax cuts. When you got more money in your pocket it means you're going to demand an additional good or service and when you demand an additional good or service, somebody will have to produce it, and when somebody produces it, it means somebody is more likely to find work.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    The president has also said the tax code should be simplified. Each candidate's plan comes with big price tag attached. In President Bush's case: More than $900 billion for tax relief. In Sen. Kerry's case: At least $650 billion for health care. Yet both candidates have pledged to cut a ballooning federal deficit that the Congressional Budget Office estimates will reach a record $422 billion this year. At his nominating convention, the senator outlined his idea.

  • SEN. JOHN KERRY:

    Our plan will cut the deficit in half in four years by ending tax giveaways that are nothing more than corporate welfare. And we will make government live by the rule that every family has to live by: Pay as you go. (Cheers and applause)

  • GWEN IFILL:

    President Bush has said he can cut the deficit too.

  • PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH:

    And it's a tough budget. And it's a budget that reduces the deficit in half by five years. It's a budget that prioritizes defense and homeland security, and it's a budget that grows non-discretionary… I mean, discretionary, non-homeland– yeah, non-homeland, non- defense… everything other than defense and homeland… ( laughter ) at less than 1 percent. But it's necessary if you want to shrink the deficit.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Either approach has significant policy implications, especially as aging baby boomers begin to drain expensive government health and retirement programs.