Below is the text of the town-hall debate between President Bush and John Kerry:
GIBSON: The next question is for President Bush, and it comes from Matthew O'Brien.
O'BRIEN: Mr. President, you have enjoyed a Republican majority in the House and Senate for most of your presidency. In that time, you've not vetoed a single spending bill. Excluding $120 billion spent in Iran and -- I'm sorry, Iraq and Afghanistan, there has been $700 billion spent and not paid for by taxes.
Please explain how the spending you have approved and not paid for is better for the American people than the spending proposed by your opponent.
BUSH: Right, thank you for that.
We have a deficit. We have a deficit because this country went into a recession. You might remember the stock market started to decline dramatically six months before I came to office, and then the bubble of the 1990s popped. And that cost us revenue. That cost us revenue.
Secondly, we're at war. And I'm going to spend what it takes to win the war, more than just $120 billion for Iraq and Afghanistan. We've got to pay our troops more. We have. We've increased money for ammunition and weapons and pay and homeland security.
I just told this lady over here we spent -- went from $10 billion to $30 billion to protect the homeland. I think we have an obligation to spend that kind of money.
And plus, we cut taxes for everybody. Everybody got tax relief, so that they get out of the recession.
I think if you raise taxes during a recession, you head to depression. I come from the school of thought that says when people have more money in their pocket during economic times, it increases demand or investment. Small businesses begin to grow, and jobs are added.
We found out today that over the past 13 months, we've added 1.9 million new jobs in the last 13 months.
I proposed a plan, detailed budget, that shows us cutting the deficit in half by five years.
And you're right, I haven't vetoed any spending bills, because we work together.
Non-homeland, non-defense discretionary spending was raising at 15 percent a year when I got into office. And today it's less than 1 percent, because we're working together to try to bring this deficit under control.
Like you, I'm concerned about the deficit. But I am not going to shortchange our troops in harm's way. And I'm not going to run up taxes, which will cost this economy jobs.
Thank you for your question.
GIBSON: Senator Kerry, a minute and a half.
KERRY: Let me begin by saying that my health-care plan is not what the president described. It is not a government takeover.
You have choice. Choose your doctor, choose your plan. The government has nothing to do with it.
In fact, it doesn't ask you to do anything -- if you don't want to take it, you don't have to. If you like your high premiums, you keep them. That's the way we leave it.
Now with respect to the deficit, the president was handed a $5.6 trillion surplus, ladies and gentlemen. That's where he was when he came into office.
We now have a $2.6 trillion deficit. This is the biggest turnaround in the history of the country. He's the first president in 72 years to lose jobs.
He talked about war. This is the first time the United States of America has ever had a tax cut when we're at war.
Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, others, knew how to lead. They knew how to ask the American people for the right things.
One percent of America, the highest one percent of income earners in America, got $89 billion of tax cut last year. One percent of America got more than the 80 percent of America that earned from $100,000 down.
The president thinks it's more important to fight for that top 1 percent than to fight for fiscal responsibility and to fight for you.
I want to put money in your pocket. I am -- I have a proposal for a tax cut for all people earning less than the $200,000. The only people affected by my plan are the top income earners of America.
GIBSON: I both -- I heard you both say -- I have heard you both say during the campaign, I just heard you say it, that you're going to cut the deficit by a half in four years. But I didn't hear one thing in the last three and a half minutes that would indicate how either one of you do that.
BUSH: Well, look at the budget. One is make sure Congress doesn't overspend.
But let me talk back about where we've been. The stock market was declining six months prior to my arrival.
It was the largest stock market correction -- one of the largest in history, which foretold a recession.
Because we cut taxes on everybody -- remember, we ran up the child credit by $1,000, we reduced the marriage penalty, we created a 10 percent bracket, everybody who pays taxes got relief -- the recession was one of the shortest in our nation's history.
GIBSON: Senator Kerry, 30 seconds.
KERRY: After 9/11, after the recession had ended, the president asked for another tax cut and promised 5.6 million jobs would be created. He lost 1.6 million, ladies and gentlemen. And most of that tax cut went to the wealthiest people in the country.
He came and asked for a tax cut -- we wanted a tax cut to kick the economy into gear. Do you know what he presented us with? A $25 billion giveaway to the biggest corporations in America, including a $254 million refund check to Enron.
Wrong priorities. You are my priority.
GIBSON: Senator Kerry, the next question will be for you, and it comes from James Varner, who I believe is in this section.
Mr. Varner? You need a microphone.
VARNER: Thank you.
Senator Kerry, would you be willing to look directly into the camera and, using simple and unequivocal language, give the American people your solemn pledge not to sign any legislation that will increase the tax burden on families earning less than $200,000 a year during your first term?
KERRY: Absolutely. Yes. Right into the camera. Yes. I am not going to raise taxes.
I have a tax cut. And here's my tax cut.
I raise the child-care credit by $1,000 for families to help them be able to take care of their kids.
I have a $4,000 tuition tax credit that goes to parents -- and kids, if they're earning for themselves -- to be able to pay for college.
And I lower the cost of health care in the way that I described to you.
Every part of my program I've shown how I'm going to pay for it.
And I've gotten good people, like former Secretary of the Treasury Bob Rubin, for instance, who showed how to balance budgets and give you a good economy, to help me crunch these numbers and make them work.
I've even scaled back some of my favorite programs already, like the child-care program I wanted to fund and the national service program, because the president's deficit keeps growing and I've said as a pledge, I'm going to cut the deficit in half in four years.
Now, I'm going to restore what we did in the 1990s, ladies and gentlemen: pay as you go. We're going to do it like you do it. The president broke the pay-as-you-go rule.
Somebody here asked the question about, Why haven't you vetoed something? It's a good question. If you care about it, why don't you veto it?
I think John McCain called the energy bill the No Lobbyist Left Behind bill.
I mean, you've got to stand up and fight somewhere, folks.
I'm pledging I will not raise taxes; I'm giving a tax cut to the people earning less than $200,000 a year.
Now, for the people earning more than $200,000 a year, you're going to see a rollback to the level we were at with Bill Clinton, when people made a lot of money.
And looking around here, at this group here, I suspect there are only three people here who are going to be affected: the president, me, and, Charlie, I'm sorry, you too.
GIBSON: Mr. President, 90 seconds.
BUSH: He's just not credible when he talks about being fiscally conservative. He's just not credible. If you look at his record in the Senate, he voted to break the caps -- the spending caps -- over 200 times.
And here he says he's going to be a fiscal conservative, all of a sudden. It's just not credible. You cannot believe it.
And of course he's going to raise your taxes. You see, he's proposed $2.2 trillion of new spending. And you say: Well, how are you going to pay for it? He says, well, he's going to raise the taxes on the rich -- that's what he said -- the top two brackets. That raises, he says $800 billion; we say $600 billion.
We've got battling green eye shades.
Somewhere in between those numbers -- and so there's a difference, what he's promised and what he can raise.
Now, either he's going to break all these wonderful promises he's told you about or he's going to raise taxes. And I suspect, given his record, he's going to raise taxes.
Is my time up yet?
GIBSON: No, you can keep going.
BUSH: Good. You looked at me like my clock was up.
I think that the way to grow this economy is to keep taxes low, is have an energy plan, is to have litigation reform. As I told you, we've just got a report that said over the past 13 months, we've created 1.9 million new jobs.
And so the fundamental question of this campaign is: Who's going to keep the economy growing so people can work? That's the fundamental question.
GIBSON: I'm going to come back one more time to how these numbers add up and how you can cut that deficit in half in four years, given what you've both said. KERRY: Well, first of all, the president's figures of $2.2 trillion just aren't accurate. Those are the fuzzy math figures put together by some group that works for the campaign. That's not the number.
Number two, John McCain and I have a proposal, jointly, for a commission that closes corporate giveaway loopholes. We've got $40 billion going to Bermuda. We've got all kinds of giveaways. We ought to be shutting those down.
And third, credible: Ladies and gentlemen, in 1985, I was one of the first Democrats to move to balance the budget. I voted for the balanced budget in '93 and '97. We did it. We did it. And I was there.
GIBSON: Thirty seconds. I'm sorry, thirty seconds, Mr. President.
BUSH: Yes, I mean, he's got a record. It's been there for 20 years. You can run, but you can't hide. He voted 98 times to raise taxes. I mean, these aren't make-up figures.
And so people are going to have to look at the record. Look at the record of the man running for the president.
They don't name him the most liberal in the United States Senate because he hasn't shown up to many meetings. They named him because of his votes. And it's reality.
It's just not credible to say he's going to keep taxes down and balance budgets.
GIBSON: Mr. President, the next question is for you, and it comes from James Hubb over here.
HUBB: Mr. President, how would you rate yourself as an environmentalist? What specifically has your administration done to improve the condition of our nation's air and water supply?
BUSH: Off-road diesel engines -- we have reached an agreement to reduce pollution from off-road diesel engines by 90 percent.
I've got a plan to increase the wetlands by 3 million. We've got an aggressive brown field program to refurbish inner-city sore spots to useful pieces of property.
I proposed to the United States Congress a Clear Skies Initiative to reduce sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and mercury by 70 percent.
I have -- was fought for a very strong title in the farm bill for the conservation reserve program to set aside millions of acres of land to help improve wildlife and the habitat.
We proposed and passed a healthy forest bill which was essential to working with -- particularly in Western states -- to make sure that our forests were protected. What happens in those forests, because of lousy federal policy, is they grow to be -- they are not -- they're not harvested. They're not taken care of. And as a result, they're like tinderboxes.
And over the last summers I've flown over there. And so, this is a reasonable policy to protect old stands of trees and at the same time make sure our forests aren't vulnerable to the forest fires that have destroyed acres after acres in the West.
We've got a good, common-sense policy.
Now, I'm going to tell you what I really think is going to happen over time is technology is going to change the way we live for the good for the environment.
That's why I proposed a hydrogen automobile -- hydrogen-generated automobile. We're spending $1 billion to come up with the technologies to do that.
That's why I'm a big proponent of clean coal technology, to make sure we can use coal but in a clean way.
I guess you'd say I'm a good steward of the land.
BUSH: The quality of the air's cleaner since I've been the president. Fewer water complaints since I've been the president. More land being restored since I've been the president.
Thank you for your question.
GIBSON: Senator Kerry, minute and a half.
KERRY: Boy, to listen to that -- the president, I don't think, is living in a world of reality with respect to the environment.
Now, if you're a Red Sox fan, that's OK. But if you're a president, it's not.
Let me just say to you, number one, don't throw the labels around. Labels don't mean anything.
I supported welfare reform. I led the fight to put 100,000 cops on the streets of America. I've been for faith-based initiatives helping to intervene in the lives of young children for years. I was -- broke with my party in 1985, one of the first three Democrats to fight for a balanced budget when it was heresy.
Labels don't fit, ladies and gentlemen.
Now, when it comes to the issue of the environment, this is one of the worst administrations in modern history.
The Clear Skies bill that he just talked about, it's one of those Orwellian names you pull out of the sky, slap it onto something, like No Child Left Behind but you leave millions of children behind. Here they're leaving the skies and the environment behind.
If they just left the Clean Air Act all alone the way it is today, no change, the air would be cleaner that it is if you pass the Clear Skies act. We're going backwards.
In fact, his environmental enforcement chief air-quality person at the EPA resigned in protest over what they're doing to what are calling the new source performance standards for air quality.
They're going backwards on the definition for wetlands. They're going backwards on the water quality.
They pulled out of the global warming, declared it dead, didn't even accept the science. I'm going to be a president who believes in science.
GIBSON: Mr. President?
BUSH: Well, had we joined the Kyoto treaty, which I guess he's referring to, it would have cost America a lot of jobs.
It's one of these deals where, in order to be popular in the halls of Europe, you sign a treaty. But I thought it would cost a lot -- I think there's a better way to do it.
And I just told you the facts, sir. The quality of the air is cleaner since I've been the president of the United States. And we'll continue to spend money on research and development, because I truly believe that's the way to get from how we live today to being able to live a standard of living that we're accustomed to and being able to protect our environment better, the use of technologies.
GIBSON: Senator Kerry, 30 seconds.
KERRY: The fact is that the Kyoto treaty was flawed. I was in Kyoto, and I was part of that. I know what happened. But this president didn't try to fix it. He just declared it dead, ladies and gentlemen, and we walked away from the work of 160 nations over 10 years.
You wonder, Nikki, why it is that people don't like us in some parts of the world. You just say: Hey, we don't agree with you. Goodbye.
The president's done nothing to try to fix it. I will.
GIBSON: Senator Kerry, the next question is for you. It involves jobs, which is a topic of the news today.
And for the question, we're going to turn to Jane Barrow.
BARROW: Senator Kerry, how can the U.S. be competitive in manufacturing given -- in manufacturing, excuse me -- given the wage necessary and comfortably accepted for American workers to maintain the standard of living that they expect?
KERRY: Jane, there are a lot of ways to be competitive. And unfortunately again I regret this administration has not seized them and embraced them. Let me give you an example.
There is a tax loophole right now. If you're a company in St. Louis working, trying to make jobs here, there is actually an incentive for you to go away. You get more money, you keep more of your taxes by going abroad.
I'm going to shut that loophole, and I'm going to give the tax benefit to the companies that stay here in America to help make them more competitive.
Secondly, we're going to create a manufacturing jobs credit and a new jobs credit for people to be able to help hire and be more competitive here in America.
Third, what's really hurting American business more than anything else is the cost of health care.
Now, you didn't hear any plan from the president, because he doesn't have a plan to lower the cost of health care.
Five million Americans have lost their health care; 620,000 Missourians have no health care at all; 96,000 Missourians have lost their health care under President Bush.
I have a plan to cover those folks. And it's a plan that lowers cost for everybody, covers all children. And the way I pay for it -- I'm not fiscally irresponsible -- is I roll back the tax cut this president so fiercely wants to defend, the one for him and me and Charlie.
I think you ought to get the break. I want to lower your cost to health care. I want to fully fund education, No Child Left Behind, special-needs education. And that's how we're going to be more competitive, by making sure our kids are graduating from school and college.
China and India are graduating more graduates in technology and science than we are.
We've got to create the products of the future. That's why I have a plan for energy independence within 10 years.
And we're going to put our laboratories and our colleges and our universities to work. And we're going to get the great entrepreneurial spirit of this country, and we're going to free ourselves from this dependency on Mideast oil.
That's how you create jobs and become competitive.
GIBSON: Mr. President, minute and a half.
BUSH: Let me start with how to control the cost of health care: medical liability reform, for starters, which he's opposed.
Secondly, allow small businesses to pool together so they can share risk and buy insurance at the same discounts big businesses get to do.
Thirdly, spread what's called health savings accounts. It's good for small businesses, good for owners. You own your own account. You can save tax-free. You get a catastrophic plan to help you on it.
This is different from saying, OK, let me incent you to go on the government.
He's talking about his plan to keep jobs here. You know he calls it an outsourcing to keep -- stop outsourcing. Robert Rubin looked at his plan and said it won't work. The best way to keep jobs here in America is, one, have an energy plan. I proposed one to the Congress two years ago, encourages conservation, encourages technology to explore for environmentally friendly ways for coal -- to use coal and gas. It encourages the use of renewables like ethanol and biodiesel.
It's stuck in the Senate. He and his running-mate didn't show up to vote when they could have got it going in the Senate.
Less regulations if we want jobs here; legal reform if we want jobs here; and we've got to keep taxes low.
Now, he says he's only going to tax the rich. Do you realize, 900,000 small businesses will be taxed under his plan because most small businesses are Subchapter S corps or limited partnerships, and they pay tax at the individual income tax level.
And so when you're running up the taxes like that, you're taxing job creators, and that's not how you keep jobs here.
GIBSON: Senator, I want to extend for a minute, you talk about tax cuts to stop outsourcing. But when you have IBM documents that I saw recently where you can hire a programmer for $12 in China, $56 an hour here, tax credits won't cut it.
KERRY: You can't stop all outsourcing, Charlie. I've never promised that. I'm not going to, because that would be pandering. You can't.
But what you can do is create a fair playing field, and that's what I'm talking about.
But let me just address what the president just said.
Ladies and gentlemen, that's just not true what he said. The Wall Street Journal said 96 percent of small businesses are not affected at all by my plan.
And you know why he gets that count? The president got $84 from a timber company that owns, and he's counted as a small business. Dick Cheney's counted as a small business. That's how they do things. That's just not right.
BUSH: I own a timber company?
That's news to me.
Need some wood?
Most small businesses are Subchapter S corps. They just are. I met Grant Milliron, Mansfield, Ohio. He's creating jobs. Most small businesses -- 70 percent of the new jobs in America are created by small businesses.
Taxes are going up when you run up the top two brackets. It's a fact.
GIBSON: President Bush, the next question is for you, and it comes from Rob Fowler, who I believe is over in this area.
FOWLER: President Bush, 45 days after 9/11, Congress passed the Patriot Act, which takes away checks on law enforcement and weakens American citizens' rights and freedoms, especially Fourth Amendment rights.
With expansions to the Patriot Act and Patriot Act II, my question to you is, why are my rights being watered down and my citizens' around me? And what are the specific justifications for these reforms?
BUSH: I appreciate that.
I really don't think your rights are being watered down. As a matter of fact, I wouldn't support it if I thought that.
Every action being taken against terrorists requires court order, requires scrutiny.
As a matter of fact, the tools now given to the terrorist fighters are the same tools that we've been using against drug dealers and white-collar criminals.
So I really don't think so. I hope you don't think that. I mean, I -- because I think whoever is the president must guard your liberties, must not erode your rights in America.
The Patriot Act is necessary, for example, because parts of the FBI couldn't talk to each other. The intelligence-gathering and the law-enforcement arms of the FBI just couldn't share intelligence under the old law. And that didn't make any sense.
Our law enforcement must have every tool necessary to find and disrupt terrorists at home and abroad before they hurt us again. That's the task of the 21st century.
And so, I don't think the Patriot Act abridges your rights at all.
And I know it's necessary. I can remember being in upstate New York talking to FBI agents that helped bust a Lackawanna cell up there. And they told me they could not have performed their duty, the duty we all expect of them, if they did not have the ability to communicate with each other under the Patriot Act.
GIBSON: Senator Kerry, a minute and a half. KERRY: Former Governor Racicot, as chairman of the Republican Party, said he thought that the Patriot Act has to be changed and fixed.
Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, he is the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said over his dead body before it gets renewed without being thoroughly rechecked.
A whole bunch of folks in America are concerned about the way the Patriot Act has been applied. In fact, the inspector general of the Justice Department found that John Ashcroft had twice applied it in ways that were inappropriate.
People's rights have been abused.
I met a man who spent eight months in prison, wasn't even allowed to call his lawyer, wasn't allowed to get -- finally, Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois intervened and was able to get him out.
This is in our country, folks, the United States of America.
They've got sneak-and-peek searches that are allowed. They've got people allowed to go into churches now and political meetings without any showing of potential criminal activity or otherwise.
Now, I voted for the Patriot Act. Ninety-nine United States senators voted for it. And the president's been very busy running around the country using what I just described to you as a reason to say I'm wishy-washy, that I'm a flip-flopper.
Now that's not a flip-flop. I believe in the Patriot Act. We need the things in it that coordinate the FBI and the CIA. We need to be stronger on terrorism.
But you know what we also need to do as Americans is never let the terrorists change the Constitution of the United States in a way that disadvantages our rights.