As generations pass, and times change, the people of the United States change as
well. What may have been a major issue in the 1980 election might not even
concern voters in 2000. Economic issues are continually changing with the times.


Each election develops its own “personality.” Despite agreeing on some
issues, the four major now just two candidates in the upcoming 2000
presidential election hold different opinions on three major economic issues:
tax reform, health care, and free trade/immigration. One of the most important
issues of the 2000 presidential election is tax reform. This topic, possibly
more than any other issue in the election, reflects the greatest disparity among
candidates of the same party. Among the Democrats, Bill Bradley and Al Gore have
contrasting ideas concerning tax reform. Perhaps the most educated candidate on
this issue, Bradley is a former member of the Senate Finance Committee and one
of the major contributors to the 1986 overhaul of the tax code. Bradleys
position, made known in numerous debates, is that he is strongly against large
tax cuts. The former senator believes that while the economy is doing well, the
government should utilize tax revenues to improve schools, protect social
security, and pass a national healthcare program instead of concentrating on tax
reduction. Bradley recently told New York Times writer James Dao that he would
veto the recently approved 792 billion dollar tax cut in “a nanosecond”. The
only specific tax cuts Bradley has proposed are tax breaks for health insurance
payments. Concerning the budget surplus, Bradley seeks to direct most of the
money to reducing child poverty as well as making health care more affordable
for low-income families.1 Vice President Gore has established a position on tax
reform different from that of Senator Bradley. The two candidates do share
similar beliefs regarding the 792 billion dollar tax cut that Gore refers to as
a “risky tax scheme.” Gore has stated that, if elected president, he would
implement a 200 to 300 billion dollar tax cut over the next 10 years. Gore seeks
to allocate this money to reach specific goals such as expanded tax incentives,
and education and retirement savings programs. Gore refers to his cut as”relatively modest,” and claims his figures are more realistic than those of
Republican George W. Bush. Gore however, claims that he would not hesitate to
implement larger cuts in a economic slowdown but rules out tax increases in good
economic times.2 Republican candidate George W. Bush presents a position on tax
reform clearly different than that of either of the two democratic candidates.


Much like that of the “typical Republican,” Bush is calling for large tax
cuts if he is elected to office. As Bush has often stated, “Its the
peoples money, not the governments.” He has called for a 1.3 trillion
dollar tax cut over the next ten years, a figure close to 4 times that of Vice
President Gore. The centerpiece of Bushs tax cut is a gradual reduction in
marginal tax rates, meaning everyone will be affected by his proposals. On this
issue, Bush states, “if youre going to have a tax cut, everyone ought to
have a tax cut.”3 Offering a tax reform perspective somewhat different than
that of Gore, Bradley and Bush, Republican candidate John McCain wants to
implement a “flat tax,” a reform that would replace the current progressive
marginal rates with a single flat tax. McCain claims that, in this way,
the government will not be promising tax cuts from surpluses the economy might
not produce in the future. In sum, McCain believes taxes should be flatter,
lower, and more simple. He believes that a vast majority of Americans pay too
much of their income on taxes. McCain believes his tax “pitch” is modest
enough in size that it leaves funds left over from surplus tax revenues to deal
with other needs of the economy. He claims this “balanced approach” is the
key to tax reform in the 21st century.4 Another pivotal issue in the upcoming
election is health care. Bill Bradleys health care plan calls for the
replacement of Medicaid with 150 dollar vouchers per month. However, Bradley
still sees problems with insufficient funding for AIDS/HIV patients. In addition
to this change, Bradley feels strongly about not punishing the disabled for
working. Under the current system, once disabled people begin working, they lose
their federal health benefits. Bradley wants to make sure that, under his new
plan, disabled people can work and still receive their needed health care.5
Unlike his fellow Democratic candidate, Vice President Gore believes in keeping
Medicaid as our countrys largest health care provider. Gore claims that by
changing the current Medicaid system, we would be removing some of the key
protective features of the system. Firstly, AIDS/HIV patients, as well as senior
citizens, are provided with the health care they otherwise could not receive
from private insurers. Secondly, Gores Medicaid plan has no deductible, and
would eliminate cost-sharing and premiums for those living on low incomes. When
questioned about Bradleys idea of 150 dollar vouchers, Gore responded,
“Thats not a plan, thats a magic wand. It doesnt work that way
because the problem that people with AIDS and other diseases have in the private
health insurance market is that the insurance companies dont want to take
them. They want to get rid of them. You give them $150-a-month voucher, they
cant buy it.”6 Governor Bush, like his opponent Al Gore, wants to keep
Medicare, but make it more flexible. Over the past decade or so, large sums of
money won by the government from the tobacco companies in law suit settlements.


Bushs primary idea for health care in the 21st century is to use the money
obtained from these settlements to give to those families who do not qualify for
Medicare and those families whose income is 200% under than the poverty level.


Bushs other ideas for reforming health care include bringing down health care
costs, reforming tax laws, limiting frivolous malpractice lawsuits, and allowing
medical savings accounts.7 Like some of the other candidates, Senator McCain
wants to use some of the budget surplus to fund medical insurance for the 11
million uninsured children in America. With the 10% surplus the US is
experiencing at present, many of the candidates wish to put it into education.


However, McCain feels strongly about directing the surplus toward the uninsured
children of America. When asked about the large population of uninsured
children, McCain responded, “Weve got to expand the childrens health
insurance program. And Ill tell you what: I have the guts to take the money
where it shouldnt be spent in Washington, and put it where it should be
spent, including 10% of the surplus.”8 Another crucial issue in the upcoming
election is free trade and immigration, a topic that seems to reveal only
minimal differences among the four candidates. Bill Bradley, the most liberal
candidate on this topic, strongly supports allowing immigrants to remain in the
United States regardless of where they are from and is a strong supporter of
organizations such as the WTO and NAFTA. In 1986, a law was passed that granted
amnesty to those who were here before 1982. Unfortunately, many people here
before 1982 did not apply for this program. Bradley believes that there should
be “late” amnesty for those individuals who did not apply because they are,
in many respects, the backbone of the American workforce. Senator Bradley also
believes that the United States has and must continue to rely on the WTO for
much of our trade agreements with foreign companies. When questioned about
trade, Bradley simply states, “I think the answer to a lot of our economic
problems is more trade, more fairly shared worldwide.”9 Al Gore has views
similar to that of fellow Democrat Bill Bradley. Like Bradley, Gore is a strong
supporter of immigration and trade organizations such as the WTO and NAFTA.


However, unlike Bradley, Gore believes the United States to address the
immigration situation in communist Cuba differently from non-communist
countries. Gore also looks at immigration as an opportunity to solve our
countrys labor shortage. A strong supporter of free and fair trade, Gore has
been a national leader in opening markets around the world while at the same
time protecting environmental and labor rights.10 Texas Governor George W. Bush
has also shown his support for the WTO, NAFTA and free trade. Bushs plans for
trade in the new millennium, however, are somewhat different. The Governor wants
to eliminate trade barriers and tariffs everywhere so the whole world can trade
in complete freedom. Bush also supports of revising export controls to tighten
control over military technology and ease restrictions on technology available
commercially. Bush has views more conservative than his two democratic opponents
on immigration. Governor Bush supports border enforcement programs such as
Operation Hold the Line, programs that concentrate on border patrol officers and
resources at known boarder-crossing points. Bush also favors”compassionately” turning away Mexicans at the border instead of arresting
aliens once in the country.11 Similar to that of his three opponents, John
McCain has established views that support NAFTA, the WTO and free trade. McCain
has always been a strong supporter of maintaining “open” borders with Mexico
and recognizes Mexico as one of our leading trade partners. However, McCain
emphasizes that we as country cannot become lackadaisical in our efforts to
control our trade with Mexico. He believes it is a “balancing act,” allowing
as much free trade as possible, while at the same time preventing illegal drugs
from entering the United States. In addition to supporting free trade, McCain
also intends to provide immigrants with more help once here in the states. Among
the principles McCain supports are: increasing eligibility of legal immigrants
for certain social programs, increasing the immigration quota for computer
scientists and other information technology workers, and prohibiting states from
passing laws that deny human services illegal immigrants or their children.


McCain believes that these are the steps that need to be taken to work for more
rights for immigrants.12 While these four experienced politicians, each of whom
holds or has previously held high public office, struggle to articulate
differences between them on the major issues of the day, there is, in reality,
little difference between them. This is particularly true given the booming
economy and a certain level of complacency among the American population. These
similarities have spawned the candidacies of politicians such as Pat Buchanan
who himself has struggled to define his own positions and appeal to the American
electorate. In reality, many have come to view our political system as a one
party system, perhaps one with “two heads,” each of which espouses similar
if not identical positions on virtually all major issues and has great
difficulty in defining itself to the voting public therefore generating little
excitement in the greatest democracy in the world.


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