Kerry, Bush square off over taxes

In a heated debate rematch, Senator John Kerry accused United States President George Bush on Friday night of transforming huge budget surpluses into massive deficits with tax cuts for the rich during wartime.

Bush said Kerry would have to raise taxes on middle-class Americans to pay for $2,2-trillion in new spending programmes.

“That’s just reality,” Bush insisted.

The two candidates quarrelled aggressively over the war in Iraq, jobs, education, health care, the environment, cheaper drugs and tort reform at a town-hall session 25 days before the election.

Kerry was asked to pledge not to raise taxes on people making $200 000 or less.

“Absolutely yes, right into the camera. Yes—I am not going to raise taxes,” the Democratic challenger said.

Bush scoffed at the answer: “Of course he’s going to raise your taxes.”

Estimating that Kerry’s proposals would cost $2,2-trillion, Bush declared: “He’s going to tax everybody here to fund these programmes.”

He said Kerry’s plan to raise taxes on the wealthy would force 900 000 small business owners to pay more—a contention disputed by the Kerry campaign.

Bush drew criticism in his first debate with Kerry last week for scowling at his opponent’s criticism. The president’s frustration showed again on Friday night when he jumped from his seat for forceful answers.

At one point, he interrupted moderator Charles Gibson after Kerry had said he was “not going to go alone like this president did” in Iraq.

“I’ve got to answer this,” Bush said, cutting off Gibson, then indignantly responded to Kerry.

“You tell Tony Blair we’re going alone,” Bush said.—Sapa-AP

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