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On the Issues

How Gore and Bush stack up on education, foreign policy, health care, taxes, and social security

by Beth Rowen

This article was posted in September 2002.

Bush v. Gore

With only weeks to go before the 2000 presidential election, George W. Bush and Al Gore have put their campaigns in overdrive, pounding the pavement in the make-or-break swing states. When they're not discussing their favorite movie or sandwich on the talk-show circuit, Bush and Gore are releasing reams of position papers on the issues their pollsters say are most important to voters.

Here's a look at where Gore and Bush stand on the issues:


Education

George W. Bush

  • Create a $500 million incentive fund to reward states for improving student achievement. Schools that don't improve would have a portion of their federal funding diverted to charter schools.
  • Invest $5 billion over five years in a "Reading First" program to make sure every disadvantaged child can ready by third grade.
  • Give states control over standards and testing.
  • Create a Charter School Homestead Fund to provide $3 billion in loan guarantees to help build or improve 2,000 charter schools.
  • Favors a voucher program that would use public funds to help parents pay for private schools, and makes available to parents of students enrolled in persistently failing schools federal funds to send children to another school or program.
  • Increase annual contribution limit on tax-advantaged Educational Savings Accounts from $500 to $5,000, and expand their reach to beyond college and down to kindergarten.
  • Implement annual testing to monitor progress of teachers and schools.
  • Make tuition savings plans tax exempt.

Al Gore

  • Use $170 billion of budget surplus for an Education Reform Trust Fund that would finance universal preschool, recruit high-quality teachers, increase salaries of teachers, reduce class size so that there is one teacher for every 20 or fewer students, build new schools or modernize existing ones.
  • Pay bonuses to teachers who work in failing, inner-city schools, as well as to those who make a mid-career switch to teaching.
  • Ensure that there's a qualified teacher in every classroom.
  • Provide 60,000 scholarships annually for students who commit to teaching in high-need schools.
  • Connect every school and library to the Internet.
  • Against school vouchers.
  • Favors public-school choice.
  • Expand after-school programs.
  • Triple the number of charter schools by 2010.
  • Introduce rigorous teacher testing.
  • Use state assessments and accountability systems to identify failing schools and make sure they are improved quickly and to reward schools that are succeeding.
  • Encourage states to create high-school exit tests.
  • Create 401(j) Life-Long Learning Accounts in which employers and families can contribute up to $2,500 annually and earnings can be withdrawn tax free for education expenses.



Foreign Policy

The Issues

George W. Bush

  • An internationalist policy; would work with allies in Europe and Asia to extend peace.
  • Supported permanent normal trading relations with China.
  • Set policies and stick to them to "turn this time of American influence into generations of democratic peace."
  • Pro free trade.
  • Supports reduction of weapons of mass destruction.
  • Supports sanctions against Iraq; favors air strikes against any site developing weapons of mass destruction.
  • Supports using force to defend U.S. vital interests in the world.
  • Supports trade with China and Taiwan.
  • Opposes Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.
  • Favors a missile defense system.
  • Thinks the IMF should withhold aid to Russia as long as it attacks Chechnya's civilians.
  • Supports conditional payment of dues to the UN. Payment would be made only if U.S. share is reduced and bureaucracy is decreased.

Al Gore

  • Supports strong military, but favors the reduction of weapons of mass destruction.
  • Supports free trade, environmental protections, and human rights.
  • Favors strong action against rogue nations, such as Iraq, to defend U.S. vital interests in the world.
  • Would work to prevent Iraq and Iran from acquiring weapons of mass destruction.
  • Supports development of a limited national missile defense system.
  • Supported permanent normal trading relations with China.
  • Favors engaging Russia.
  • Favors expanding NATO.
  • Supports full payment of UN dues.
  • Supports Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.



Health Care

The Issues

George W. Bush

  • Strengthen Medicare by offering more choices and private-sector alternatives for the elderly.
  • Supports giving Medicare recipients freedom to choose between federal and private prescription drug benefit plans.
  • Favors medical savings accounts.
  • Offer tax breaks to small businesses that insure employees.
  • Would give states freedom to expand Children's Health Insurance Program to cover as many children as possible.
  • Supports limited rights to sue HMOs in cases of denial of care.
  • Would give $2,000 health-care credit to families that don't qualify for Medicaid and are not covered by private plans. Individuals would receive $1,000 credit.

Al Gore

  • Coverage for every child by 2005 by expanding the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which funds state programs with federal money. The plan would cover children in families earning up to 250 percent of the poverty level (about $41,000 for a family of four). (The plan currently covers those children in families that earn up to 200 percent of the poverty level.) Gore's plan would allow families that earn more than the 250 percent to buy into CHIP or Medicaid. He would also allow uninsured parents buy into CHIP.
  • Allow people age 55-65 to buy into Medicare.
  • Permit people with disabilities to buy into Medicare or Medicaid when they return to work (if they aren't covered by employer).
  • Offer 25 percent tax credit for premiums costs to employees who are self-employed or work in small businesses that join coalitions in which businesses and individuals come together and negotiate affordable health-care plans.
  • Offer 25 percent tax credit for premium costs to individuals who buy their own insurance.
  • Use part of the budget surplus to fund prescription drug benefit for Medicare recipients.
  • Supports Patients' Bill of Rights that would guarantee patients critical health protections and access to specialists, give patients the ability to appeal decisions by HMOs, and expand patients' and doctors' decision-making roles.
  • Would ensure Medicare's solvency through 2030 by creating a "lock box" from debt-reduction savings.



Social Security

The Issues

George W. Bush

  • Supports the semi-privatization of Social Security. Would let taxpayers invest up to 2 percent of payroll taxes in the stock market.
  • Would consider raising retirement age to offset private investment.
  • Would not reduce benefits to retirees or near retirees.
  • Dedicate all Social Security money to the trust fund "lock box" that would only be used to pay benefits to retirees.
  • Opposes any tax increase for Social Security.
  • Opposes government investment of Social Security in private stocks or bonds.
  • Supported elimination of Social Security earnings limit.

Al Gore

  • Devote all Social Security Surpluses to Social Security and debt reduction.
  • Opposes raising retirement age. Would extend solvency of Social Security through 2054 by strengthening Social Security by using long-term interest savings.
  • Dedicate all Social Security money to the trust fund "lock box" that would only be used to pay benefits to retirees.
  • Opposes replacing Social Security with private retirement accounts.
  • Proposes Retirement Savings Plus accounts, similar to 401 (k)s, maintained by private institutions, that would allow individuals to contribute up to $2,000 annually, tax deductible.
  • Supported elimination of Social Security earnings limit.



Taxes

The Issues

George W. Bush

  • Double the child credit to $1,000.
  • Replace existing tax rate structure of 15, 28, 31, and 39.6 percent with 10, 15, 25, and 33 percent, respectively.
  • Increase annual contribution limit on tax-advantaged Educational Savings Accounts from $500 to $5,000, and expand their reach to beyond college and down to kindergarten.
  • Eliminate the death tax.
  • Reduce the marriage penalty, allowing the lower-earning spouse to deduct 10 percent of earnings up to $30,000.
  • Opposes any taxes on Internet access and supports moratorium on Internet sales taxes through 2004.
  • Would gradually phase out inheritance tax and gift taxes.
  • Would eliminate the national debt by 2016.
  • Plan would cost $438 billion over five years.
  • Would set aside the entire projected Social Security surplus of $2.39 trillion to strengthen the program.
  • Would use the $2.17 trillion non-Social Security surplus for a $1.3 trillion tax cut; $475 billion in spending on domestic programs; and $265 billion in a "rainy day fund."
  • Would make the Research and Development tax credit permanent. (It's now set to expire in 2004.)
  • Proposes a 10-year, $1.3 trillion tax cut, with an overhaul of the current rate structure.

Al Gore

  • Pay off national debt by 2012
  • Dedicate the entire Social Security surplus to reducing the national debt and strengthening Social Security. Would then apply the resulting interest savings to strengthen the Social Security Trust Fund.
  • Create a off-budget "Medicare lock box" so that Medicare payroll taxes can be used only to strengthen Medicare and pay down the national debt.
  • Proposes a $500 billion tax cut to help families afford quality child care, higher education and lifelong learning, health insurance and long-term care for an aging or disabled relative.
  • Would eliminate marriage penalty and provide estate tax relief for small business owners and family farmers.
  • Proposes to make the Research and Experimentation Tax Credit permanent and easier for small businesses to use, double the investment in information technology research over the next five years, and increase investment in biomedical research.
  • Work to open foreign markets while maintaining high standards on human rights and the environment.
  • Would increase the Earned Income Credit earnings threshold.
  • Would create a 401(j) Life-Long Learning Account to let families and employers contribute up to $2,500 a year for any education or qualified life-long learning expenses.
  • Would use the $2.17 trillion non-Social Security surplus for $480 billion in targeted tax cuts; $360 billion to strengthen the Medicare program; $870 billion in spending on domestic programs; $300 billion would be left as a "rainy day fund."

Information Please® Database, © 2007 Pearson Education, Inc. All rights reserved.

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