With just days left before the U.S. presidential election, Republican President Bush and his Democratic Party challenger, Senator John Kerry, are trading charges over who can best deal with domestic issues important to American voters. While the economy is the leading concern of many people, other issues such as health care are being debated on almost a daily basis. The two candidates sparred over many of these issues in recent public debates.
In the final, frenzied days of this close race for the White House, President Bush and Senator Kerry have consistently fought over which candidate can create jobs and boost America's economy.
President Bush says his successful efforts to cut taxes have reinvigorated an economy that was hit by a declining stock market, a recession, corporate scandals and the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States. "People listening out there know the benefits of the tax cuts we passed. If you have a child, you got tax relief. If you are married, you got tax relief. If you pay any tax at all, you got tax relief. All of which was opposed by my opponent, and the tax relief was important to
spur consumption and investment to get us out of his recession," he said.
President Bush says his tax cuts helped create about 1.5 million jobs this year, but that would still leave a net loss of about 600,000 jobs since he took office in January 2001.
Senator Kerry tries to use the job figures to his advantage, saying it has been many years since America has had a net loss of jobs during a president's four year term in office. "The jobs the president is creating pay nine-thousand-dollars less than the jobs that we are losing. And this is the first president in 72-years to preside over an economy in America that has lost jobs - 1.6 million jobs. Eleven other presidents, six Democrats and five Republicans, had wars, had recessions, had great difficulties. None of them lost jobs the way this president has," he said.
Senator Kerry is proposing to roll back Mr. Bush's tax cuts for families making more than 200-thousand dollars a year, while keeping parts of the tax cut for people with middle and low incomes.
The Democratic Party's presidential candidate also criticizes President Bush on the rising cost of health care, which public opinion surveys show is a major concern for many Americans.
Mr. Kerry says health insurance premiums have risen $3,500 in the last several years, and the cost of prescription drugs has risen four times faster than inflation. "Children across our country don't have health care. We are the richest country on the face of the planet, the only industrialized nation in the world not to do it. I have a plan to cover all Americans. We are going to make it affordable and accessible. We are going to let everybody buy into the same health care plan the senators and congressmen give
themselves," he said.
Mr. Bush counters that he supports tax-free savings accounts to help pay for health care, and that Congress recently passed a new prescription drug benefit he proposed for older Americans.
The president says Mr. Kerry's proposals are too expensive. "I want to remind people listening tonight that a plan is not a litany of complaints. And a plan is not to lay out programs that you cannot pay for. He just said he wants everybody to buy into the same plan that senators and congressmen get. That costs the government
$7,700 per family," he said. If every family in America signed up like the senator suggested, it would cost us $5 trillion over 10 years. It is an empty promise."
Other domestic issues, such as funding the U.S. pension system, known as Social Security, reforming education, gun control, gay marriage, abortion and the environment are being debated, but surveys say Americans continue to be most concerned about the economy, the war on terrorism and the continuing conflict in Iraq.
Larry Sabato, a political analyst and director of the University of Virginia's Center for Politics, says these major issues will determine the outcome of the election. "It is really a struggle as to which is going to dominate. If the economy dominates, the likelihood is John Kerry will beat President Bush. If the war on terror dominates, the odds are that President Bush will be re-elected. If Iraq dominates, however, it could go either way. It depends on what is happening in Iraq. If it is all bad news, that is bad for President Bush. If he can show progress then probably the American people will vote to keep him," he said.
All of which underscores the volatility in what is shaping up to be another very close race for president of the United States.