Clinton steps up attack on tax bill

Cost of House proposal would soar to $3 trillion after 2010, he warns

July 18, 1999|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

WASHINGTON -- Stepping up his attack on Republican tax-cutting proposals, President Clinton said yesterday that the cost of the tax bill moving through the House would rise to "unimaginable" levels and threaten the nation's ability to deal with its most pressing long-term problems.

A new estimate by the Treasury Department shows the cost of the House tax bill would "explode" from $864 billion over the first decade to $3 trillion in the 10-year period starting in 2010, Clinton said. The country could not afford that much for tax cuts while shoring up Social Security and Medicare, both of which will come under severe financial strain in the next few decades as the baby boom generation retires and life expectancies increase.

The Republican plan would also crimp the government's ability to use projected federal budget surpluses to pay down the national debt, and could eventually send the country back into a spiral of budget deficits and rising debt reminiscent of the 1980s, Clinton said.

"At the very time the nation will be confronting the demographic challenge of the baby boom," Clinton said in his weekly radio address, "the Republican plan will blow a $3 trillion hole in the federal budget, threatening our ability to secure Social Security and Medicare for the next generation and risking return to the era of deficits with high interest rates and economic stagnation."

`Bad economic policy'

Tax cuts of the size contemplated by the Republicans, Clinton said, "quite simply are bad economic policy."

Republicans defended their plan as prudent and said Clinton was straining to come up with a justification for why Washington should not return to taxpayers the growing pile of excess federal revenue.

Democrats predicted dire consequences for the economy each time taxes have been cut in the past few decades, most recently in 1997, Republicans said.

But each time, they said, the economy has been strengthened.

`An elaborate smoke screen'

"This is an elaborate smoke screen to hide the fact that Democrats don't want to cut taxes," said Trent Duffy, the spokesman for Texas Republican Rep. Bill Archer, chairman of the Ways and Means Committee and the author of the House plan. "All their predictions about tax cuts have been wrong."

Pub Date: 7/18/99

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