A Kerry Economy

This is a partial transcript from "Your World with Neil Cavuto," April 7, 2004, that was edited for clarity.

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NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: Well, does a Democrat from Massachusetts have a more fiscally conservative economic plan than President Bush? The presumptive Democratic nominee for president, John Kerry, laying out his get-tough spending plan today at Georgetown University. Earlier, I spoke to Senator Kerry about why he thinks the economy is in such bad shape.


SEN. JOHN KERRY, D-MA., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Ask any worker in America. Wages are going down. The jobs that are being created are created on average $9,000 less than the jobs that people had before. And in many cases, much more than that.

Tuition’s are going up, healthcare costs are going up, gasoline prices are going up. Everything is going up except the wages of Americans, which are actually going down.

So if you look at the kinds of jobs people are getting, and you also look at the difficulties people are having to make ends meet, and you look at the jobless, the outsourcing that has taken place, the numbers of jobs lost -- I mean, go to Ohio; 230,000 jobs lost, 170,000 manufacturing jobs. Those folks are hurting. And there are people like that all over the country, and George Bush does not have a plan for those people.

No matter what has happened last month...

CAVUTO: I’m sorry, sir. But what about the recent employment report that showed better than 300,000 jobs created, about 800,000 over the last six months?

KERRY: One month’s job creation, particularly numbers that are inflated by 100,000 of those 300,000, were the grocery workers going back to work after a strike. I mean, what are you going to do, run around and say we created those jobs? Forty thousand of the jobs were part-time construction, spring hiring.

I mean, this is not the future of America. So the issue still remains, not just, you know -- and I don’t want to get trapped into the month-to-month job issue. I hope the jobs go up every month. And even if they do, it will not change the fundamental economic situation.

George Bush is the first president in 50 years who has lost jobs and will have lost jobs during his administration. George Bush has driven up the highest deficits in the history of the country. George Bush has not paid for $6 trillion worth of proposals that he has put forward.

CAVUTO: But, Senator, let’s talk about the jobs.

KERRY: And this is the most irresponsible...

CAVUTO: Let’s talk about the jobs component, though, because you raise this issue. We have a 5.7 percent unemployment rate, which is what it was at the time Bill Clinton was seeking reelection in 1996. No Democrat complained about that then. They are complaining about the same level now.

KERRY: No, they are complaining about the lack of response to the loss of jobs that is taking place. I’m complaining, for instance, about the fact that George Bush thinks it is OK for the American worker to actually subsidize the loss of their own job.

We have a tax code where, if you are a company that goes abroad, you get to defer your taxes. If you are a company that stays in America, you pay your taxes -- or at least you are supposed to. We have also seen that 60 percent of the corporations in the country aren’t paying any taxes.

So I think we have a situation where the tax burden has been shifted to the average American. The average American’s wages are going down. That is unacceptable in any decent economy. Moreover, we are not creating the kinds of jobs which pay people the higher salaries, that allow people to work a 40-hour work week, and actually, you know, put money away, pay their bills and live decently.

CAVUTO: But how would your plan change that, Senator? By my math, you want to cut the deficit in half in four years, retain largely the middle class tax cuts. You’ve got a healthcare plan that anyone estimates from $800 billion to maybe upwards of $1 trillion over the same period.

KERRY: No, that is wrong. That’s wrong.

CAVUTO: But you would get this money, largely reinstalling the tax cuts that went to the upper income, $200,000 and over. The math doesn’t jive.

KERRY: Yes, the math does. Actually, the math absolutely does jive. And it is important for you when you ask these questions to use the correct math.

There is nobody suggesting a trillion dollars. In fact, the most recent report from the health community on the assessment of my health plan is that it would be about $600 billion over 10 years, $650 billion over 10 years, and it is fully paid for. Completely and totally paid for by rolling back George Bush’s unaffordable tax cut and, frankly, not very wise tax cut.

CAVUTO: But, Senator, let’s say it’s...


KERRY: No, let me finish. No, let me finish. Let me finish.

CAVUTO: If it is $600 billion, you only get $430 billion taxing the rich, as you call it.

KERRY: Let me finish. You’re really not listening. You like to ask the question, but you’re not listening to me.

CAVUTO: I’m trying to listen for answers, sir.

KERRY: The fact is that the full amount of the healthcare is plugged precisely through the closing of the loopholes I’ve identified, and by rolling back George Bush’s tax cut. And I pledged today to do something that George Bush has not done in four years, which is to pay as you go.

That is what we did in the 1990s, that is what I’m pledging to do again. And we will pay as we go for these programs.

Now, you asked me what good does that do for the economy. Let me tell you what good it does for the economy. My plan will lower the cost of healthcare for all the businesses in America. My plan will lower the cost of healthcare for all of the workers in America.

And if you have a lower cost of healthcare for businesses in America, American business is more competitive. If American businesses aren’t having to contribute as much money in their co-pays for their healthcare, they have money to invest in job creation and marketing, in research and development. Moreover, the individuals who are now seeing their salaries squeezed will suddenly have cash in their pockets.

That is good for our economy. It is also good for the healthcare system. So I beg to differ with you.

I have showed exactly where my money comes from. I have showed exactly how much it’s cost. And I have promised to pay as you go and to lower the deficit in half in four years.

CAVUTO: All right. Well, let me ask you this...

KERRY: George Bush, in the four years that he’s been president, has driven up the highest deficits in American history, and he has $6 trillion worth of proposals that he hasn’t paid for at all. How do you excuse that?

CAVUTO: All right. But where the president obviously differs with you, Senator, is this idea on reinstating the tax cut on the upper income.

Now, there seems to be debate here as to what is a rich person. You say $200,000 and over. When I spoke with Nancy Pelosi, the House minority leader, she was saying, in her math, maybe $1 million and over. Do you think that 200,000 and over is rich?

KERRY: I didn’t say that. I said the wealthiest Americans that are in the top 1 percent of income earners in America. And I think it is fair to ask for a reasonable approach to our deficit and to the choices we have in this country.

The fact is that is that that top 1 percent has been given the lion’s share of the tax cuts over the last few years. They’ve also been given the capital gains tax cut. And, you know, if someone like Warren Buffett can say, look, don’t give me the tax cut, I prefer to have, you know, each family in America be given $1,000 to the equivalent of my $310 million that I’m being given tax free, and he says, I’ll do better with an economy...

CAVUTO: But what have you done with your tax cut, Senator? I’m just curious. What have you done with yours?

KERRY: Well, let me just finish. Let me just finish. Let me just finish.

He says that he will do better and America will do better with an economy that is moving forward that way. Now, George Bush can defend giving tax cuts yet again to people who earn more than $200,000 a year. My choice is to do otherwise.

I want to give Americans healthcare. And I want to reduce the cost of healthcare for business and American -- incidentally, under my plan, 99 percent of American corporations will get a lower tax of five percentage points.


CAVUTO: Fair enough. But I’m curious, personally, Senator, what have you done with your tax cut? I know you’re against it. What have you and your wife done with yours?

KERRY: With what?

CAVUTO: The tax cut you got from the president?

KERRY: I can’t tell you precisely what I’ve done, but I don’t think I deserve the tax cut. I think we should have been being fiscally responsible in America. I think we should have been trying to deal with a major crisis in our country, which is the delivery of healthcare.

I mean, every worker I have talked to across this nation is complaining about the rise of healthcare premiums. Every employer I have talked to -- I mean, I think Fox News Channel would love to not have to pay as much for its employees and healthcare. I will lower the cost of Fox News Channel’s cost of healthcare. And I will lower your personal cost of what you are paying each month by reducing the premiums in America, by taking the catastrophic cases out of the system.

Now, you have a choice. You can either say it is better to give people earning $200,000 a year another tax cut, or we can lower the cost of doing business in America and make America more competitive.

I’ll tell you, most of the businesspeople I talk to say, "Senator, give me that tomorrow. It will make a difference in our business. And we’ll be able to grow more products; we’ll be able to grow our profits. And we’ll do better in competition with other countries."

CAVUTO: Senator, would you be for raising the Social Security retirement age?


CAVUTO: Would you be for means testing Social Security?


CAVUTO: So Social Security, as it stands now, what would you do to fix it?

KERRY: Strengthen the economy. And not dig into the deficit. Not borrow from Social Security to pay tax cuts to the wealthy Americans.

I mean, that is what President Bush is doing today, taking money out of Social Security in order to give a tax cut to the wealthiest people in the country. I think if we strengthen our economy and we have a sound fiscal approach, Social Security will be strong through this century. I have no question about that. We do not have to cut Social Security benefits in order to pay for George Bush’s ill-advised tax cut.

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