Bush, McCain Quarrel Over TaxesGLEN JOHNSON , Associated Press
Jan. 19, 2000 1:48 PM ET
PITTSFIELD, N.H. (AP) _ George W. Bush's presidential camp planned today to send economic advisers to John McCain's headquarters to go over McCain's tax proposals after being repeatedly accused of misrepresenting the senator's plan.
McCain's campaign dismissed it as a stunt.
Bush economic adviser Lawrence Lindsey and Rep. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, planned to visit McCain headquarters in Alexandria, Va., to examine the senator's plan in detail.
That word came after McCain campaign manager Rick Davis said on television that the senator's forces would be ``happy to go through'' the plan with Bush's aides to settle their escalating dispute.
McCain spokesman Howard Opinsky, however, said the visit by Lindsey and Portman wasn't cleared ahead of time. ``This is nothing more than a publicity stunt,'' he said.
Bush stopped by the Early Bird Restaurant in Plaistow today on his way to an appearance at the local high school and discussed McCain's tax plan while there.
``All I'm doing is talking about what he put down on paper,'' Bush said. ``If what he's saying is 'I'm changing it,' then I look forward to hearing what the changes are. He had a chance in the debate in Iowa to set the record straight. I asked him.''
Meanwhile, as McCain and Bush bicker over tax policy, some voters preparing to cast ballots in the upcoming New Hampshire primaries say they have other priorities.
``Tax cuts really aren't a big deal for me,'' Dave Hauver, a 52-year-old cuff cutter at Globe Manufacturing, said Tuesday after the Texas governor stopped by for a tour. The company makes firefighter coats and pants.
``I'd rather see him put the money into Social Security; I have other issues that are important to me,'' Hauver said.
Cheryl Kendall, 42, a production worker at the same plant, said: ``Honestly, taxes aren't that important to me. I'm middle class, I do OK. Health reform, that's a big thing.''
Despite the sentiments, the two rivals for the Republican presidential nomination are battling over the tax issue in the run-up to Monday's Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primaries on Feb. 1.
On Tuesday, McCain signed a pledge saying he would not tax Internet sales. ``We should not harm this baby in the cradle,'' he said. The Arizona senator then challenged Bush to take the same stand. Bush refused and instead urged New Hampshire voters to take a critical look at McCain's own tax plan.
``It's important for the people of this state to analyze everybody's plan,'' Bush said.
While taxes continue to be a big issue in this sales-tax free state, nationally voters appeared more aligned with McCain's position.
A new Time/CNN poll found that 63 percent of Republicans nationwide favored a small tax cut with more money going to shore up Social Security and reduce the federal debt. The same survey found that only 29 percent of Republicans favored a larger tax cut.
Bush said Tuesday: ``If people don't like the tax cut plan, they can find another candidate, and I'm sure they will. ... If you expect ... me to go back in the bus and call up and say, 'What's the latest poll or what's the latest focus group talking about,' you got the wrong candidate.''
The McCain camp put out a statement today in which former New Hampshire Sen. Warren Rudman, national chairman of the McCain campaign, accused Bush anew of trying to distort McCain's tax plan to change the subject from his own that ``voters do not want.''
Overall, McCain has proposed cutting taxes by $237 billion over five years. He has said it is irresponsible to cut taxes further until the financial future of Social Security and Medicare is assured.
Bush's plan would deliver a five-year, $483 billion tax cut. He says the only way to be certain that projected budget surpluses are not spent by the federal government is to refund most of the money to taxpayers.
``I don't think right now that the top 1 percent (of taxpayers) need 38 percent of the tax cuts,'' McCain said today on NBC's ``Today.'' ``That's what his plan calls for.
``There's a growing gap in America between rich and poor,'' he said. ``That's not good for America. We ought to help those people that are not being lifted.''
The two candidates also took their tax arguments to the airwaves in new ads.
Bush said McCain trusts ``the people of Washington'' rather than the people of New Hampshire to spend money. McCain said that unlike Bush, ``I won't take every last dime of the surplus and spend it on tax cuts that mostly benefit the wealthy.''
With Internet commerce generating an estimated $170 billion in revenue last year, McCain promised to support a permanent ban on taxing access, sales or use.
Bush said he favored continuing a moratorium on taxing e-commerce but wanted to know ``what the world looks like'' after three to five years of further changes before making a long-term decision.
With his tax-cut plan under fire, McCain put off delivering an education speech this week, but planned to talk about the issue before the primaries here, his spokesman said.