Bush: Tax Cuts Aren't Just For The Rich

President Bush speaks at Airlite Plastics Co., a family-owned business in Omaha, Neb., to advance his embattled tax-cut plan, Monday, May 12, 2003.
AP
President Bush, wrapping up a three-state tour to stump for larger tax cuts, disputed Democratic claims that his economic initiative mostly benefits the rich and told balky members of Congress to quit playing politics.

"For the sake of economic vitality, Congress has got to act and act boldly on this plan to get more of your own money back to you," Mr. Bush told about 7,500 people gathered Tuesday at the Indiana State Fairgrounds. He urged Congress to pass his tax-cut package before heading to Missouri to view tornado damage.

"In Washington, they'll say 'Well, this is only for a certain class of people,'" Mr. Bush said. "That's the old tired stale class warfare argument."

Tax cuts have been the main focus of speeches Mr. Bush made this week in New Mexico, Nebraska and Indianapolis. But bombings that killed at least seven Americans in Saudi Arabia caused the president's talk about the tax cuts to yield to talk of terrorism.

"These despicable acts were committed by killers whose only faith is hate," Mr. Bush said. "And the United States will find the killers and they will learn the meaning of American justice."

Mr. Bush wants the Senate to pass a larger tax cut than the $350 billion one it's debating this week. Even though his original bill called for $726 billion in tax cuts, Mr. Bush now endorses the $550 billion House version.

"I want there to be one thing on your mind when it comes to debating what's right or wrong. It's not politics. It's helping people find a job in the United States of America," Mr. Bush said he told lawmakers when he offered his tax cut plan.

Before returning to Washington, the president was traveling to southwest Missouri to view destruction left by one of the 300-plus tornadoes that slashed across the nation's midsection this month.

Mr. Bush was to fly over and take a walking tour of downtown Pierce City, Mo., a southwest Missouri town of 1,400 where a tornado destroyed or damaged 100 homes, blew a steeple off a church and bent a cross atop another.

The president's real targets on this trip were a handful of possibly wavering moderate senators who might be persuaded to go beyond the $350 billion in tax cuts that the Senate has previously supported.

One such target, Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., greeted Bush at the airport and later told reporters that he might support a larger tax cut, especially if the administration joins him in backing an item in the budget to provide $20 billion to hard-strapped states.

"The pressure isn't coming from the White House," Nelson said. "It's coming from doing what's right."

Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Ind., is another White House target.

Asked if he was willing to vote for a tax-cut higher than the $350 billion level the Senate has endorsed, Bayh said, "I'm concerned about raiding the Social Security trust fund."

He said everything above $350 billion posed more of a danger of doing that. Asked if he thought the White House might win him over, he cupped his hand over his ear and said he was going to "do a Reagan" — a reference to how President Reagan sometimes pretended not to hear reporters' questions.

To a cheering crowd of more than 2,000 at a plastics plant in Omaha, Neb., on Monday, Mr. Bush lauded provisions in his tax plan that would let small businesses write off more of their new equipment purchases and reduce taxes on dividend income.

Mr. Bush's visit to Airlite Plastics Co., a family-owned business, generated some negative publicity in advance when employees were told they'd need to make up the time they were off while the plant was used for the president to promote his "jobs and growth" plan.

But just hours before Mr. Bush's visit, White House spokeswoman Claire Buchan said Airlite had relented and would pay all its employees whether they worked, attended the president's speech or took the day off.

"We're pleased. We think it's the right thing to do," she said.

On Monday night, Mr. Bush met with about 25 Republicans from the Hoosier state where a member of the Bush economic team is considering a run for governor.

White House budget chief Mitchell Daniels, who was at the president's speech at the fairgrounds, announced his resignation earlier this month, setting up a likely run for Indiana governor. During his speech, Mr. Bush called Daniels "my man, Mitch."

Without mentioning Daniels' possible gubernatorial bid, the president said: "Mitch Daniels has been a good friend, a close adviser, and I'm going to miss him. Washington's loss, however, will be the gain for the people of Indiana."