Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Bush, Gore Slow on Budget Details Both Fear Tredding on Social Security

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Bush, Gore Slow on Budget Details Both Fear Tredding on Social Security

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON -- George W. Bush and Al Gore are both straining to keep their promised tax cuts and spending boosts from the political sin of eroding Social Security surpluses, a close look at each candidate's budget plan shows.

In the first presidential campaign in decades waged amid federal surpluses, the two men have similar strategies.

Both promise billions for what their core supporters want most. Both also omit details about painful steps needed to stay within their budgets, and accuse the other guy of breaking the bank.

A major economic downturn could transform projected federal surpluses into deficits. But, if anything, Bush and Gore should benefit when official forecasts are updated this summer because most analysts expect the economic boom to push projected surpluses higher still, leaving more money for their proposals.

"Their economic advisers are counting on significantly increased projections to make honest men out of all of them," said Henry Aaron, a senior fellow at the liberal-leaning Brookings Institution.

For now, though presidential candidates' budgets are more political platforms than fiscal blueprints, both men's proposals raise questions.

By the Bush campaign's own numbers, the Republican's five-year plan -- headlined by his $483 billion tax cut -- would clip Social Security surpluses slightly and drain the entire surplus he projects from the rest of the federal budget.

More important, Bush's proposals could cost billions more because his plan excludes the costs of lost interest savings, a new Medicare prescription drug benefit, or other proposals. And to arrive at his surplus forecast, Bush assumes the government will spend tens of billions of dollars less annually than many lawmakers of both parties believe is possible. He provides no details.

Gore says that Bush's plan is "casino economics," that its hefty tax cut will crowd out needed spending. But Bush aides say he will soon detail federal waste that could provide additional savings to help pay. …

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