BOSTON – Trying to reverse partisan stereotypes, Democrat John Kerry (search) is launching a campaign to portray himself as a fiscal conservative, comparing his economic strategy with the $6 trillion in unpaid spending that he says President Bush has proposed over the next 10 years.
For weeks, Bush's campaign has been saying Kerry would raise taxes $900 billion over 10 years. Kerry is striking back with a report to be released Monday that says the president would increase the deficit with his unfunded spending proposals and tax cuts (search).
"We intend to run to President Bush's right on this," said Roger Altman, who was deputy treasury secretary under President Clinton and is advising Kerry's campaign.
Bush campaign spokesman Steve Schmidt said the Kerry campaign estimate is "specious." He said the president's budget proposal would cut the deficit in half over the next five years.
Altman said Bush has not had to abide by the "pay as you go" budget rules that cap discretionary government spending and require increases in entitlement benefits or cuts in taxes to be offset by other program cuts or other tax increases. Those budget rules expired in late 2002, and Congress is debating whether to reinstate them.
Altman said Kerry will propose a return to the budget rules of the 1990s during a speech on fiscal discipline Wednesday at Georgetown University (search) in Washington. Kerry aides said he also plans to explain how he'll pay for his initiatives.
Kerry has said much of the money to pay for his proposals will come from repealing Bush's tax cuts for people making more than $200,000 annually. In recent days, he said he will have to scale back some of his campaign promises because of the growing deficit.
Kerry has never proposed a $900 billion tax increase, but the Republicans say he'll have to make the tax hike to fulfill his promise of expanding health care while reducing the deficit.
Kerry's advisers said the $6 trillion estimate is conservative and does not include the cost of tax cuts that were given in Bush's first term or spending on defense and homeland security. The total includes $4.8 trillion worth of entitlements and tax cuts either passed or proposed by the president and an additional $1.6 trillion in debt service.
Kerry's emphasis on fiscal policy comes as he returns to the campaign trail after minor surgery to repair torn tendons in his right shoulder and bicep. Kerry made his first public appearance since Wednesday's surgery when he observed Palm Sunday at Charles Street AME Church in Boston.
Sunday marked the 36th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s death, and Kerry spoke to the civil rights leader's widow, Coretta Scott King, by telephone.
Although Kerry's doctor had warned that he may have trouble moving his right arm for several days after the surgery, Kerry did not wear a sling Sunday and used his right arm to shake hands, take communion and hold the Bible. He also used his left arm for some handshakes and to wave palm fronds during the service.