Tax cuts but no `big ideas' in Bush's presidential pitch

GEORGE W BUSH launched his long-awaited economic platform yesterday, promising lower taxes all round, especially for the working poor and married couples, but no radical overhaul of the system.

Mr Bush, the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination, was addressing the Des Moines Chamber of Commerce in Iowa, just 36 hours before he joins the five other Republican hopefuls for a televised debate - the first time the Governor of Texas has pitted himself directly against his rivals at such a forum.

The components of Mr Bush's economic programme, which had been keenly argued inside the campaign team, were heavily "spun" in advance as key building blocks in Mr Bush's philosophical edifice of "compassionate conservat- ism", and addressed several popular grievances.

As well as aiming to narrow the "poverty gap" by lowering marginal tax rates, Mr Bush offered a reduction in what is called the "marriage penalty", under which double-income couples (in higher brackets) find themselves paying more tax than if they were single; and the phasing out of death duties.

The "marriage penalty" has been a particular cause of the political right, which says that it sends the wrong message about marriage; separate taxation - as permitted in Britain - has not been an option.

Death duties are an increasing issue as the US population ages, and arouse strong feelings among well-to-do pensioners, who constitute a growing proportion of voters. All Mr Bush offered, however, was phased reductions, not the abolition many have sought, and he was immediately criticised by some of his rivals for timidity and eschewing "big ideas".

In particular, Mr Bush declined to embrace any of the more sweeping proposals that are circulating on the political right - including the "flat tax" advanced by the millionaire publisher Steve Forbes, which would shift the burden of taxation from income to purchasing and close the many loopholes that exist.

Economic policy, especially taxation, is an area fraught with risk for the Bush campaign. Mr Bush's team includes several advisers who worked with his father when he was President. George Bush Snr's retreat from his campaign promise - "Read my lips; no new taxes" - is widely blamed for his defeat in 1992 and, although some economists contend that Mr Bush's policies actually paved the way for the current economic boom, this is a hard argument to sell to voters whose experience of prosperity is associated with the Clinton administration, not with the recession-hit years of Mr Bush's presidency.

Until this week, Vice- President Al Gore fought shy of capitalising on his association with Bill Clinton, apparently believing that the Lewinsky affair could overshadow the country's economic success in voters' minds. However, Mr Gore, who could face George W Bush in the presidential election if he wins the Democratic nomination, used his two latest speeches to pre-empt Mr Bush's pronouncements on the economy and attack what he presented as the Texas Governor's profligacy. "Let's face it," Mr Gore told an audience in Washington on Monday, "those who don't remember recessions of the past are doomed to repeat them." He called Mr Bush's tax-cutting proposals a "scorched earth policy" that would bring a return to budget deficits.

Tax cuts no longer appear to work the political spell that they once did. Mr Clinton lost no support this autumn when he vetoed the Republicans' tax-cutting budget; opinion polls showed that voters favoured using the budget surplus to support the state pension system and reduce the national debt. Mr Gore picked up this theme, pledging that if elected: "I will reduce the national debt in every year of my presidency."

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
people
News
John Rees-Evans is standing for Ukip in Cardiff South and Penarth
news
Arts and Entertainment
Bianca Miller and Katie Bulmer-Cooke are scrutinised by Lord Sugar's aide Nick Hewer on The Apprentice final
tvBut Bianca Miller has taken on board his comments over pricing
Life and Style
Approaching sale shopping in a smart way means that you’ll get the most out of your money
life + styleSales shopping tips and tricks from the experts
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
Elton John and David Furnish exchange marriage vows
peopleSinger posts pictures of nuptials throughout the day
News
in picturesWounded and mangy husky puppy rescued from dump
Sport
David Silva, Andy Carroll, Arsene Wenger and Radamel Falcao
football
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Photo Booth Host

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This company offers London's best photo booth ...

Recruitment Genius: Domestic Gas Service Engineers



£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Domestic Gas Service Engineers ...

Recruitment Genius: Project Director / Operations Director

£50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an incredible opportunity for a ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator

£16000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Administrator is requir...

Day In a Page

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'