Bush continues to back tax-cut, denies threat to Social Security and Medicare
Wednesday August 22, 2001 |
INDEPENDENCE, Mo. - President Bush said yesterday he will give his family's $600 tax rebate to charity, as he fiercely defended his tax cut against Democratic charges that it has already imperiled Medicare and Social Security.
In Harry Truman's hometown, at a high school named for the president who first championed federal health benefits for the elderly, Bush swore that under his administration "every dime that comes into Medicare will be spent on Medicare."
He also sought to assure Americans that "we've got enough money" to pay for his tax cuts, pay down more than $100 million in public debt and boost spending on defense and education - all without dipping into Social Security reserves.
"I know this: We're not going to raise the taxes on the people. I know this: that we're going to make sure additional spending doesn't cut into essential programs like Social Security and Medicare," the president said.
He expressed confidence there would be no government shutdown over a spending stalemate with Congress, but he did suggest he would veto any bill that spent more than what Congress agreed to in a budget resolution earlier this year.
Democrats blame the Bush tax cut for depleting Medicare funds.
"I see no more irresponsible act than that of the Bush administration's tax cut," Senate Appropriations Committee chairman Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., said in an interview. "It was the tax cut that was based on faulty projections."
The Democratic National Committee aired TV ads in a half-dozen cities, including Independence, saying Bush's budget raids Medicare and "violates one of Harry Truman's basic principles - protecting our seniors."
Karen Hughes, counselor to the president, argued that the Bush administration had simply used the surplus in the Medicare Part A trust fund, which pays for seniors' hospital stays, to cover the deficit in Medicare Part B, which pays for doctor visits.
"The Democrats' logic is they will fund only the hospital part of Medicare, not the doctors' part, and we think we should pay both," Hughes said.
The DNC spots were prepared by the ad team used by former Vice President Al Gore in last year's contested election. Bush dismissed them as the work of partisans and big spenders.
Outside the Harry S. Truman High School were other reminders of the 2000 recount as demonstrators, carrying signs that read "Get out of Al's house!" and "Undo the coup," lined up among more welcoming local residents.
Bush asserted that the slowing economy ate up what, as late as April, was projected to be a $284 billion surplus for this year. Social Security receipts, which both parties have agreed to separate from general revenues, account for nearly the entire $158 billion surplus that is expected to be realized for the fiscal year that ends Sept. 30.