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Gore Hammers Away at Bush Tax Plan

Democrats: He asks for details on how the governor could finance his cut without affecting Social Security.


NEW ORLEANS — Vice President Al Gore hammered away at his GOP opponent's tax-cut proposal here Friday, relentlessly demanding that Texas Gov. George W. Bush specify how he could finance the $1.3-trillion plan without draining money from Social Security.

Charging that Bush's agenda would empty federal coffers by $1 trillion over 10 years, Gore argued, "You have to make it up from somewhere."

Repeatedly, the vice president asked: "Where does it come from?"

The Democratic presidential nominee spoke to a largely sympathetic audience at Delgado Community College here.

Also on Friday, the Gore campaign released a letter sent to Bush by three leading economists who pose the same questions, insinuating that the governor has deliberately withheld details of his plans to reform Social Security and Medicare for fear of having them picked apart.

"Is Social Security too small a detail to include in your detailed budget?" wrote Henry Aaron of the Brookings Institution; Robert Ball, a onetime Social Security commissioner; and Alicia Munnell, a Boston College management professor.

They said Bush's plan to partially privatize Social Security would divert one-sixth of the revenues that now go into the Social Security trust fund--money that helps pay current benefits.

"Over the next decade, these individual accounts will cost the trust fund, at least, $1 trillion," the three wrote. "The question is, where will that $1 trillion come from? And where does it appear in the budget plan you released this week?"

Bush's campaign responded to Gore's critiques of the governor's Social Security plan by saying Gore's own plan would drain trillions of dollars from the federal general fund "to create the appearance that Social Security is more solvent."

"It's interesting that Al Gore would unleash his own partisan advisors to attack Gov. Bush on Social Security, since all three advocate making the federal government the largest investor in the stock market and increasing taxes to shore up Social Security," Bush spokesman Dan Bartlett said.

In his appearance at Delgado, the vice president structured a major portion of his 25-minute address around Bush's Social Security plan.

"All the pieces have to fit together," he said.

"If you divert one out of six dollars that's supposed to go into the trust fund, then you either have to cut the checks and reduce them by 16% next month or you have to make up the money from somewhere else. And over 10 years, that's big money. That's a trillion dollars.

"You have to make it up somewhere. Where does it come from? I think that's a specific that should be answered."

In contrast, Gore pointed to the details laden, 191-page budget plan that he released Wednesday in Cleveland.

"We don't want you to have to guess what the specifics are. We don't want you to have to read the tea leaves. We want you to be able to read our plan," Gore said.

He then recited a laundry list of his proposals, among them a targeted tax cut for the middle class that, he said, would allow the country to "set the right priorities."

Gore on Friday also stressed his proposals on education and job training, and he predicted that spending for such priorities would be cut as a result of Bush's tax-cut plan.

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