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DECISION '92: SPECIAL VOTER'S GUIDE TO THE PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION : THE ISSUES: What do the candidates stand for? Here's a look at their positions, from A to Z : PEROT : His campaign centerpiece: A 5-year plan to destroy the deficit

October 18, 1992|JONATHAN PETERSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Unlike President Bush and Bill Clinton, independent candidate Ross Perot has not developed detailed positions on a full range of issues. He has centered his campaign on a plan to eliminate the $290-billion federal budget deficit in five years through a combination of tax hikes and spending cuts that would reach far into the middle class.

Those steps will make America "pay its own way" in the world and reintroduce what Perot views as common sense to a gridlocked government. In a few select areas, such as research, Perot actually would boost domestic spending to enhance the nation's competitiveness. Overall, he says his master plan would save $754 billion in five years, yielding a $10-billion budget surplus in 1998.

His views on social policy are shaped more by a businesslike, can-do attitude than a clear ideology or detailed agenda. Race relations and abortion, he says, are the greatest divisions in U.S. society, and it is the "moral responsibility" of leaders to help the nation heal.

FIVE-YEAR PLAN TO ELIMINATE THE DEFICIT

(Perot assumes it would be implemented 1994-1998; savings are five-year totals)

Defense spending cuts: Defense would be curtailed $40 billion beyond Bush Administration proposals, an additional 1.6% annual decline. To accommodate the changing world and budget realities, Perot anticipates a restructuring of U.S. armed forces.

Domestic discretionary spending cuts: Agency budgets would be cut 10% across the board. "Outdated" programs, such as the Rural Electrification Agency, would be wiped out. Savings: $108 billion.

Social Security cuts: Perot would save the government $30 billion by raising taxes for beneficiaries whose income exceeds $25,000 ($32,000 for couples) in a move that would affect 18% of recipients. Currently, 50% of such benefits are subject to taxation; he proposes that 85% be taxed.

Outside of Social Security, he would limit cost-of-living hikes for federal retirees over the next five years, a move that captures another $13 billion.

Health care cuts: Perot says he can save $142 billion through a not-yet-outlined strategy of cost containment in Medicare and Medicaid.

Elderly Medicare beneficiaries would be charged higher premiums for doctors' services. Currently, premiums for Medicare Part B cover about 25% of program costs; this would be hiked to 35%. Savings: $38 billion.

Highly paid workers would contribute more toward Medicare, as Perot would repeal the cap that limits Medicare payroll taxes only for wages up to $130,000, a measure that would save $29 billion.

Agriculture cuts: Federal help for farmers would be scaled back substantially, with beneficiaries only eligible for up to $40,000 in commodity support payments. The current ceiling is $100,000 in such payments. Overall, restrictions on government support for farmers, designed to reduce federal help for wealthy agriculture businesses, would raise $17 billion.

Domestic spending increases: Research and development spending would be boosted more than $45 billion, an extra $40 billion would go to repairing the nation's infrastructure, $12.4 billion would be devoted to early childhood development efforts, including full funding of Head Start, and aid to the cities would be increased by $11.4 billion.

Tax hikes and restrictions: Perot would hike the top income tax rate to 33% from 31% for individuals earning more than $55,000 a year and $89,250 for joint filers. Savings: $33 billion.

Gasoline taxes would be raised 10 cents a gallon for five straight years, for a total increase of 50 cents, to take in $158 billion.

The excise tax on cigarettes would be doubled to 48 cents a pack, netting $19 billion in savings.

Some employer-paid health insurance plans would be taxed as income, to raise $57 billion. The proposal starts with individuals' premiums valued above $135 per month and family premiums above $335 per month.

Mortgage interest deductions would be restricted, with the amount of principal eligible for the tax break shrinking to $250,000 from $1 million. Savings: $16 billion.

Business entertainment deductions would be tightened. Currently, 80% of the expenses of business meals and entertainment can be deducted. Perot would reduce the deduction to 50%, for an estimated savings of $16 billion.

Other tax changes: In some cases, Perot would provide tax incentives to boost economic competitiveness for the long haul. He supports a 10% investment tax credit for certain capital investments that enhance productivity, such as machine tools.

He would reduce the capital gains tax, offer a tax credit for firms that provide training for rank-and-file workers and seek to make permanent the tax credit for research and experimentation.

User fees: Perot would impose or raise user fees for a variety of government services, particularly those of commercial benefit to private firms, including air traffic control services, inland waterway system services, recreation fees for federal facilities and fees for nuclear waste disposal.

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