Dole prays tax U-turn will impress voters

Desperate to spark his floundering, near-lifeless presidential bid, Bob Dole yesterday embraced the "voodoo economics" he lambasted in the past, by unveiling a $548bn (pounds 370bn) plan to cut income taxes by 15 per cent and thus lead the country into a new era of prosperity.

The economic strategy that will be at the heart of his campaign this autumn was launched at a speech in Chicago, and kicks off a political fortnight which could settle Mr Dole's chances of overcoming his 20-per- cent deficit in the polls and of capturing the White House in November.

On Saturday he is scheduled to make the keenly anticipated announcement of his choice for Vice-President, only two days before the opening of the nominating convention in San Diego. At best this will be a symphony of soft words and sweet reason, orchestrated to appeal to the crucial middle ground of American politics.

At worst (and further wrangling last weekend over abortion in the Republican manifesto offered an ominous portent) it could turn into a brawl between moderates and conservatives, a repeat of the ugly 1992 goings- on in Houston that helped send the then President, George Bush, to defeat.

First, the notoriously visionless Mr Dole must find something to stand for, and yesterday's economic plan aimed to fill that gap. In essence he has reached for the Republican panacea of tax cuts: not the flat tax promoted by publisher Steve Forbes in the primaries, but a 15 per cent reduction in tax rates at every existing bracket, phased in over three years. In addition, he plans a $500-per-child tax credit, costing $75bn, and a halving of capital gains tax.

In doing so, Mr Dole, a longstanding hawk on deficit reduction, may strain his credibility to breaking point. Only a few years ago he was making vicious jokes about "supply-siders" ("the good news is that a bus full of them went over a cliff; the bad news is there were three empty seats"). Now he is making their nostrum - that lower taxes boost economic activity, swell the federal tax take and actually reduce the deficit - his own.

According to the Dole plan, the Republican goal of a balanced budget by 2002 will not be affected, nor will popular entitlement programmes, such as Medicare and social security, beyond the party's existing proposals in Congress. But economists are sceptical and so are ordinary Americans.

Nor does Mr Dole's gloomy diagnosis of the national economy ring entirely true. His measures, he says, will lift sustainable growth from 2.5 per cent to 3.5 per cent a year, creating millions of new jobs. In fact, the economy expanded by more than 4 per cent in the second quarter of 1996, unemployment and inflation are low, and the budget deficit this year is forecast at $116bn, the lowest since the late 1970s. In proportional terms, at 1.6 per cent of GDP, it is the best of any major industrialised country.

Not surprisingly, the White House jumped on the Dole plan. "A gold medal flip-flop" was the caustic post-Olympic judgement of Leon Panetta, the White House chief of staff.

The propaganda wars mask a reversal of roles. Traditionally champions of the working man, the Democrats will fight the election as the party of fiscal rectitude, while the Republicans seek to exploit a widespread feeling that in spite of today's fine figures, jobs are less secure than ever.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Life and Style
love + sex
Arts and Entertainment
Victoria Wood, Kayvan Novak, Alexa Chung, Chris Moyles
tvReview: No soggy bottoms, but plenty of other baking disasters on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off
Ashley Young celebrates the winner for Manchester United against Newcastle
footballNewcastle 0 Man United 1: Last minute strike seals precious victory
Life and Style
Tikka Masala has been overtaken by Jalfrezi as the nation's most popular curry
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Seth Rogan is one of America’s most famous pot smokers
filmAmy Pascal resigned after her personal emails were leaked following a cyber-attack sparked by the actor's film The Interview
Benjamin Netanyahu and his cartoon bomb – the Israeli PM shows his ‘evidence’
Arts and Entertainment
80s trailblazer: comedian Tracey Ullman
Life and Style
A statue of the Flemish geographer Gerard Kremer, Geradus Mercator (1512 - 1594) which was unveiled at the Geographical Congree at Anvers. He was the first person to use the word atlas to describe a book of maps.
techThe 16th century cartographer created the atlas
Arts and Entertainment
Stephen Tompkinson is back as DCI Banks
tvReview: Episode one of the new series played it safe, but at least this drama has a winning formula
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: UI / UX Designer

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This firm are focussed on assis...

Recruitment Genius: General Processor

£7 per hour: Recruitment Genius: A vacancy has arisen for a General Processor ...

Recruitment Genius: Outbound Sales Executive - B2B

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A great opportunity has arisen ...

Recruitment Genius: Online Sales and Customer Services Associate

£14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Full time and Part time positio...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot