Tags: Bush: | New | Taxes | 'Over | Dead | Body'

Bush: New Taxes 'Over My Dead Body'

Sunday, 06 January 2002 12:00 AM

But he drew a line in the sand when he insisted that his plan for tax relief be passed.

Appearing enthusiastic, tanned and fit, the president told a cheering crowd in Ontario, Calif., that critics who questioned whether the nation could afford to cut taxes amid a recession were, in his view, advocating a tax increase.

And, in what seemed to be an obvious paraphrasing of one of his father's most infamous public statements, Bush vowed not to back off from his pledge of no new taxes and fewer of the old taxes.

"There's going to be people who say, 'We can't have the tax cut go through,'" Bush predicted. "That's a tax raise, and I challenge their economics, when they say raising taxes will help the country recover. Not over my dead body will they raise your taxes."

Like his father who told a roaring 1988 convention crowd, "Read my lips: No new taxes," the president was making it clear, even though there was a slight misstep in syntax, that he was not wavering from one of his campaign cornerstones that called for tax relief as a means of putting spending money into the hands of consumers and capital into the coffers of the business community.

"If you think the economy is going to slow down, the best way to recover is to let people have their own money in their pockets to spend -- not the government," the president said.

With the Christmas holidays over and the Afghan campaign largely in the mop-up stages, questions about the administration's strategy for the economy have come into sharper focus and the possibility of a partisan showdown in the Democrat-controlled Senate has increased.

The Democratic leadership has begun characterizing Bush's economic stimulus package as flawed because its tax cuts are weighted too heavily in favor of large corporations and upper-class taxpayers, and that too much of the relief comes years from now when it is needed immediately.

Democratic California Gov. Gray Davis, who attended the rally along with three of his Republican challengers in this year's gubernatorial campaign, was reluctant to criticize Bush, however he echoed the Democratic line after Bush's speech.

"We need an economic stimulus that is short-term in nature," Davis told reporters. "Tax relief proposals make sense, but only if they are properly targeted and properly timed."

Bush told the crowd that tax breaks would actually be a boon to small businesses, which he said were the major job-creating engine for the economy. He praised the Latino business community, which sponsored the event in the Southern California town of Ontario, as being in the vanguard of job creation through their ownership of small businesses.

"It's one thing to be able to have a good marketing plan, but it's another thing to be able to have the cash flow necessary to implement the strategy," Bush said in response to a young Hispanic woman in the audience who had asked how the federal government could help her get her fledgling clothing business off the ground.

While appearing to be in no mood to compromise in his first major public appearance since his holiday hiatus, Bush was nevertheless touting cooperation over political partisanship Saturday as the debate over the economy picks up steam.

"There are troubling signs that the old way is beginning to creep in to the people's minds in Washington," said Bush, who saw his tax agenda blasted Friday by Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D. "After all, it's an election year, and it is tempting to revert back to the old ways.

"I'm the kind of fellow who says, 'Let's work together and focus on results, not rhetoric,'" Bush said. "We need to work and then share the credit, not pass blame."

The theme of Saturday's quick trip to Ontario and Portland, Ore., was primarily economic, however Bush began his speech in California with a lengthy pep talk about the U.S. response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center. His remarks delighted the crowd of around 5,000, which was generously peppered with uniformed firefighters, law enforcement officers and military personnel.

After capturing the crowd's enthusiasm, Bush then deftly used the war on terrorism to segue into his pitch to head off a potential partisan debate over the economic stimulus plan.

"We have responded to the issues abroad with unanimity and clarity of purpose and resolve," he said. "That's the way we should respond to problems here at home, as well. It's time to take the spirit of unity that has been prevalent when it comes to fighting the war and bring it to Washington, D.C."

Copyright 2002 by United Press International.

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But he drew a line in the sand when he insisted that his plan for tax relief be passed. Appearing enthusiastic, tanned and fit, the president told a cheering crowd in Ontario, Calif., that critics who questioned whether the nation could afford to cut taxes amid a recession...
Sunday, 06 January 2002 12:00 AM
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