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Bush, Gore Jostle Over Economy

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October 21, 2000 


NEW YORK (AP) -- Al Gore and George W. Bush sparred over their rival economic plans Thursday, casting the election as a referendum on national prosperity. "The choice couldn't be clearer,'' said Gore, and Bush agreed -- but with a different version of whom to choose.

The Democratic vice president urged Americans to stay the course after eight years of economic expansion under the Clinton-Gore administration. Republican Bush said Gore was taking undeserved credit for good economic times and ridiculed him for "analog thinking in a digital world.''

Gore focused on the economy before an audience of business leaders in New York. Bush did the same at a campaign stop in Michigan.

Bush later traveled to New York where they both made TV appearances.

In his speech, Gore called the election, less than three weeks off, "a choice as fundamental as prosperity itself.''

"This is about more than numbers on a spreadsheet,'' Gore said. "The economic policies my opponent has put forward in this election are not just unfair, they're unsound and they would hurt our economy.''

Bush argued that his plan -- with its centerpiece $1.3 trillion tax cut, new incentives for businesses and an option for privately investing some Social Security money -- was better suited to extend the nation's expansion.

"This election must bring a victory of freedom and innovation -- and a defeat for central planners and bureaucrats,'' the Texas governor told workers at Visioneering, Inc. in Fraser, Mich.

The company is a family owned business that makes tools and components for the auto and aerospace industries.

"Some politicians want to take credit for the new economy,'' Bush said. "But I don't see government starting new companies, writing new software, inventing new technology, opening new factories.''

Gore's New York address was billed in advance by aides as a major economic speech. The Bush campaign moved to pre-empt him, changing the format of his previously scheduled Michigan stop to get his economic message out.

Gore later joined Senate candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton and running mate Joseph Lieberman at a noisy union rally where he sharpened his economic focus.

"It's about the economy, it's about jobs,'' said Gore.

Polling following Tuesday's final debate was still unsettled. An NBC News poll done Wednesday showed the race closing to within the error margin, while a CNN-USA Today-Gallup poll out Thursday showed Bush turning a pre-debate 6-point lead into a 10-point lead, 49-39. Two-thirds of the sample was from before the debate.

Gore generally leads Bush in surveys of confidence in the candidates' ability to handle the economy, but Bush shrugged off such findings on Thursday.

He said on CNBC that polls also show people believe he has "better leadership qualities and that's what the race is all about.''

On another subject, he was asked about President Clinton's criticism of Bush's assertion that he supported a "patients' bill of rights'' in Texas when in fact he had vetoed one.

Bush said the measure he vetoed was "a lousy piece of legislation,'' but he said he also got the state insurance commissioner to write a series of rules and regulations that then became the law.

As for Clinton, Bush said, "I'm pleased the president is getting back into the race. He was serving as my opponent's campaign manager for a while, and for a man with so much on his plate to be worried about me indicates I must be doing pretty darn well in the polls.''

Promoting his own plan to allow workers to invest some of their Social Security money in stocks and bonds, Bush said Gore "doesn't think people are up to the task of managing their own money.''

"This is analog thinking in a digital age, 28K thinking in a broadband era, and eight-track ideology in an MP3 world,'' Bush asserted, drawing hearty applause and laughter. "And our nation must move beyond it.''

Bush has defended his plan to augment Social Security with "personal retirement accounts'' against Gore claims that it would drain the system by $1 trillion over 10 years.

"My opponent seems to be deliberately missing a trillion dollars. Maybe if you've been in Washington too long you lose your ability to count real money,'' Bush said.

Sen. Pete Domenici, Republican chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, defended Bush, charging that Gore's Social Security plan only created an "illusion of solvency'' by putting $40 trillion in paper IOU's into the program's trust fund as a way of extending the life of the fund.

Domenici said the $40 trillion figure came from an analysis by the Congressional Budget Office. However, CBO Director Dan Crippen said Domenici was wrong to characterize CBO's estimate as an analysis of Gore's plan because the office, as a nonpartisan arm of Congress, does not get involved in political campaigns.

Jason Furman, a Gore economic adviser, said it was a "mistake in judgment'' for CBO to have responded to Domenici's request.

Gore spoke to about 500 people in the library at Columbia University. He was introduced by former Clinton Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin.

Bush criticized a new Democratic National Committee ad attacking his Social Security plan. In it, party chairman Joe Andrew suggests Bush has grabbed the electrified "third rail'' of American politics -- without realizing the power was on.

"It is irresponsible for the chairman of the Democratic Party and for Vice President Gore to stoke the fears of seniors while ignoring the hopes of younger workers,'' Bush said.

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