April 7, 2004 Wednesday
HEADLINE: Nightly Business Report
GUESTS: John Kerry
BYLINE: Paul Kangas, Susie Gharib
GHARIB: And I'm Susie Gharib. This is NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT for Wednesday, April 7.
Good evening, everyone.
Another major economic policy address today from Senator John Kerry. The Democratic presidential candidate pledged to cut the federal budget deficit in half in four years and at the same time still pay for his ambitious health care program and cut taxes for most Americans. Speaking at Georgetown University, Kerry vowed to put the government on a "pay as you go" system that would hold down spending. And he would impose spending caps across the board, except in the areas of security, health care, Social Security and education.
As part of our coverage, "On the Road to the White House," I talked to Senator Kerry after his Georgetown speech this afternoon. I began by asking him to explain how he can cut the deficit, pay for his new initiatives and still make all the numbers add up.
SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: They add up very precisely. And I've shown that and I will continue to show it. I am going to roll back George Bush's unaffordable tax cut for the wealthiest Americans, people earning more than $200,000 or more. We're going to give America a choice: We can either have another tax cut for the people at the top end, or we can have health care and fund the education programs that we need to fund and grow our economy. I think America will choose to have the health care and grow our economy and be fiscally responsible.
GHARIB: But Senator, looking at some of your spending proposals, they come close to $900 billion. And a big part of that is your health care plan. And we all know that one thing about health care is that the prices always come in higher than you think. How are you going to provide for affordable health care to all Americans and still cut the deficit?
KERRY: The fact is my health care system does not cost $900 billion. It's about 600 over 10 years, and that is affordable through the tax rollback and the closing of the loopholes that I've talked about. Now that's the choice. We can't do it if we don't do those things, I understand that. But an election is about choices. And I am providing America with a real choice. George Bush, on the other hand, is providing the largest deficits in American history, 43 million Americans have no health care, everybody else's health care costs are going up, and he has no plan whatsoever to deal with either of them.
GHARIB: Well, it's interesting you bring that up, because I was just reading a report from Goldman Sachs, and they were saying that there really isn't much of a difference between your goal of cutting the deficit and the president. Both of you want to cut the deficit in half over the next four years. Is there really a difference between your goal and the president when it comes to the deficit?
KERRY: Absolutely. I show how you do it. And the president is spending $6 trillion. I hope you get the figure, $6 trillion in unfunded programs and initiatives and proposals. Now I've shown how we're going to pay for them as we go forward. The president has not. That is the principal difference.
GHARIB: Let me ask you about rolling back those tax cuts, because some economists that I've been talking to, as well as the president himself, are saying that those tax cuts are finally working. And they point to the jobs reports that came out on Friday that's showing strong jobs growth. So why stop a program that's helping the economy?
KERRY: Excuse me. I really do differ with whoever has suggested that. That's just plain not substantiated by what's happening in the American economy, and I'll tell you exactly why. The 308,000 jobs that were created last month, 100,000 of them were grocery workers who went back to work after a strike. That had nothing to do with George Bush's tax cut. It has to do with settling a strike. Another 40,000 of those workers are construction workers who were hired in the month of March because that seasonal hiring, springtime hiring, because you go back to work on construction sites. So, I mean, the fact is that the American worker is losing wages today in America. And the jobs that they're getting are $9000 less in pay than the jobs that they're losing. So I don't think the president has addressed the real question in America which is how do you address rising tuition costs, rising health care costs, rising gas prices, and wages that are going down. In my plan, I show how we're going to do that. So I don't think the president's tax - it's adding to the deficit and every economist will tell you, unless we get serious about this deficit, we're going to come a cropper (ph) around the corner. And whoever is president after the election is going to wind up paying the piper. I'm trying to show ahead of time how we're going to be responsible.
GHARIB: When you talk about the economy, many of the economists that we're talking to on our program every night, looking and analyzing the new economic reports, are saying that the economy is getting stronger, things are looking up.
KERRY: Certain companies are doing better today because American productivity has gone up. And you can look at Wall Street and you can look at corporate profits and say, we're doing better. I understand that measurement. But for most American workers that is not the measurement. A jobless recovery is not a recovery at all. And today we have a net loss of about 1.8 million jobs. George Bush is the first president since Herbert Hoover to preside over a net loss of jobs in the United States. And not only do we have a net loss of jobs, but the jobs we're getting in America are not paying people sufficiently that they can get ahead. So you may talk about productivity increases that show the economy, quote, "stronger," but the fact is those productivity increases, that much of them come at the expense of American labor. And unless we in America find a way for workers to share in some of the upside of the economy that they're creating, we're going to have some serious difficulties in this nation. You know, 20 years ago.
GHARIB: Senator, I just - we're running out of time and I want to ask you one last question, and it's about Iraq.
GHARIB: From Wall Street to Main Street, Americans are very concerned about the situation in Iraq. If you were president right now what would you be doing differently?
KERRY: If I were president right now we wouldn't be in the predicament we're in because I would never have ignored the international community the way this president has. And he has ignored every entreaty to get to that international community and share responsibility for the transformation of the government and for the reconstruction of Iraq. Because the United States has insisted on doing this almost alone, because the provisional authority is the creature of an American occupation, we have complicated our choices significantly. And the cost to the American people and the risk to our soldiers have been driven up because of the unilateralness of this administration. If I were president tomorrow morning, I would immediately move in a bolder, more authoritative way to help the world to share in what the world really has a responsibility in. And the fact that the Arab countries and European countries have not yet been brought to the table represents an extraordinary failure of diplomacy by this administration.
GHARIB: Reaction to the senator's speech today. President Bush's campaign spokesman said Kerry's remarks won't bridge his "credibility gap" on the economy. And he added that Kerry's interest in fiscal discipline "defies his 20-year record in the Senate."
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