Published March 26, 2004
DETROIT – John Kerry said Friday that if elected president he would slash corporate taxes by 5 percent and eliminate tax loopholes that push jobs overseas.
Blasting the Bush administration for its oversight of the nation's economy, the presumptive Democratic nominee said he wanted to create a new direction "to restore fiscal responsibility, help our workers stay competitive and bring back jobs."
"Over and over again, I have been reminded of the optimistic, patriotic and entrepreneurial spirit of America," Kerry said in remarks at Wayne State University (search) in Detroit.
But Kerry said he's also heard a "sense of injustice unlike anything else I've heard in all my years in public life. And that sense of injustice needs to be reversed."
Meanwhile, President Bush spoke Friday in New Mexico — a state he lost by just a few hundred votes four years ago — to remind voters there of the strength of the housing market (search), touting it as one of the accomplishments of his administration.
Bush focused on this topic in two appearances Friday — one in Albuquerque, the other in Phoenix, Ariz. — as he tried to offset Democratic criticism about lackluster job creation in the recovering economy.
The president promoted the "ownership society," the idea that Americans own their own homes and own and manage their own health care, retirement plans and small businesses.
"We want more people owning their own home in America," Bush said. His goal is to have 5.5 million minority homeowners in the country by the end of the decade.
Jobs, Jobs, Jobs
Saying people have lost confidence in Bush to fight for jobs and families, Kerry vowed to fight for America's workers and change the economic landscape of the country.
"Instead of giving us an economy that creates jobs and opportunity, our present leadership has given us wedge issues designed to divide Americans," the Massachusetts senator said. "Instead of a real economic plan, they've given us the old politics of negative attacks. The truth is, this president doesn't have a record to run on but a record to run from."
Kerry's words mirror previous speeches in which he's taken slaps at Bush's record on everything from the economy to homeland security to health care. But it's the jobs issue Democrats are honing in on in their effort to oust Bush from the White House in November.
"America cannot afford four more years of a president who is the first president to lose jobs since Herbert Hoover and the Great Depression," Kerry said, adding that Bush has turned to "distorted attacks" to highlight the differences between himself and his Democratic challenger.
Promising to create 10 million jobs and keep them in America, he said he would fight a reluctant Congress and special interests to carry out the most far-reaching changes in international corporate tax law in four decades.
White House spokesman Scott McClellan (search) dismissed Kerry's proposal as a "tax shell game" that he said would not address the issue of jobs going overseas.
"This is nothing but a reshuffling of the tax code and a political shell game and can't erase the fact that John Kerry's record is one of raising taxes some 350 times," McClellan said.
The centerpiece of Bush's economic plan is the across-the-board tax cuts he pushed through Congress, which the president believes will help businesses create jobs. Bush has warned voters that Kerry would raise taxes and recklessly spend their money.
"John Kerry's plan to reshuffle the corporate tax code does nothing to help America's small businesses and entrepreneurs be more competitive," Bush spokesman Steve Schmidt said.
Kerry overrode the objections of some advisers who opposed the corporate tax cut on political grounds
The Bush-Cheney re-election campaign quickly issued a statement from Michigan Republicans, hammering away at the four-term senator for proposals that would affect Michiganders.
"John Kerry has a history of supporting higher taxes throughout his 19 years in the Senate," said Rep. Mike Rogers (search), R-Mich. "His support for a 50-cent per gallon tax increase on gasoline shows how out of touch he is with Michigan’s economy. His support for higher taxes on gasoline would hurt millions of Michiganders at the pump and at work."
An Uphill Battle
Kerry's tax plan would face a series of obstacles should he win the White House in November, starting with politically powerful corporations that benefit from the overseas tax breaks he wants to scrap.
Democrats may also prefer to transfer his plan's savings to more targeted jobs initiatives or programs that benefit middle-class voters. One Kerry adviser said the candidate missed a chance to court middle-class voters.
But Kerry settled on a blend of loophole-cutting populism and business-friendly moderation, casting his package as jobs-producing tax reform. Campaign spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter said Kerry has promised to extend Bush's middle-class tax cuts (search), and has other programs in mind for such voters.
Polls show jobs are the top issue with most voters, and Kerry is viewed in those polls as best suited to improve the economy. Terrorism is the No. 2 issue, and most voters say they trust Bush most to protect the nation.
Though the economy has shown signs of strengthening, the market has been slow to restore the more than 2.2 million jobs that have been lost since Bush took office.
The Bush campaign had calculated that the Democrat's spending plans would cost more than $900 billion, and that he would raises taxes to pay for them, a charge the Kerry campaign disputed.
The Republican National Committee (search) actually put a "spendometer" on its Web site to calculate what Kerry's economic plans would cost taxpayers.
The Tax Plan Cometh
Current tax laws allow American companies to defer paying taxes on income earned by their foreign subsidiaries until they bring it back to the United States. If they keep the money abroad, they avoid paying U.S. taxes entirely.
Kerry would require companies to pay taxes on their international income as they earn it rather than being allowed to defer it. The new system would apply to profits earned in future years only, not retroactively.
He also would allow companies to defer taxes when they locate a business in a foreign country that serves that nation's markets.
But the plan has its critics.
"If the state of manufacturing in New England is Senator Kerry's model for Michigan, I say 'thanks but no thanks,'" Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich., said in a statement. "We need to lower the cost of doing business in Michigan and America, not add another layer of burdensome government regulations that put our workers and our manufacturers at a disadvantage."
Kerry's campaign estimates that the change would save $12 billion a year. The savings would be used to reduce the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 33.25 percent — a 5 percent reduction.
More than 99 percent of companies paying corporate taxes would see their tax bills lowered, the campaign says. But the 1 percent paying higher taxes are some of the nation's biggest and most powerful.
"The senator made a decision that he wanted this to be a pro-growth, pro-jobs tax reform," said Gene Sperling, a top economic adviser in the Clinton White House who helped Kerry fashion his package.
Fox News' Liza Porteus and The Associated Press contributed to this report.