With the presidential election a little over a month away, it is time for U.S. voters to begin to put into perspective how their views line up with those of the candidates in the running. This is often easier said than done.

Trying to read between the lines of candidates’ proposals can be confusing and disheartening. Comprehending political jargon can be next to impossible. And, while the ideas may look impressive, the statements often say nothing except that the candidate wants to change or continue the current policy.

Thus, with the concerns of hvacr business owners in mind, we are running a two-part series of articles on the views of the major presidential candidates. This first article will focus on the proposals of Democratic candidate Al Gore and Republican candidate George W. Bush regarding taxes and the economy. The second installment will focus on the environment.

Gore, Taxes, and Technology

According to Gore, recent economic growth estimates indicate that the federal budget surplus will be substantially bigger than had been expected. This, he says, presents both opportunities and challenges for the American people and their leaders.

Gore has stated that families will be the primary focus with regard to budget and tax issues under his administration. Gore “supports a pro-growth, pro-savings, $500 billion package of targeted tax cuts and credits that fits within a responsible budget framework and helps working families.”

Work and family: Gore, like many of his Democratic compatriots, states that there must be limits on the estate tax and similar laws. Under Gore, estate tax relief for working families would increase from $2.6 million to $5 million for each family, eliminating estate taxes for more than 90% of family farms, and more than 70% of small businesses.

He says that he would expand the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), delivering a tax credit to 6.8 million families. According to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the EITC is a special credit for certain persons who work. The credit reduces the amount of tax owed (if any) and is intended to offset some of the increases in living expenses and Social Security taxes.

Gore’s tax credits to families in business could help many in the hvacr industry who would suffer if the proprietor of the business were to unexpectedly pass away. Gore’s policies also would recognize the fact that people in business for themselves fall under certain tax exemptions, and that those exemptions should be increased and expanded so that more people can take part in the nation’s economic growth.

Fiscal discipline: According to Gore, in order to keep our economy in its current eight-year upswing, the surplus needs to be used wisely on health care, Social Security, retirement, national debt, and education.

“We should use a large portion of the expected budget surplus to pay down our national debt,” he says. “This fiscally disciplined approach assures that our children will not be saddled with debt — and the enormous annual interest burden on that debt — and the costs of paying for the Baby Boomers’ retirement.”

He says that paying off the national debt will ensure that the United States will be debt free by 2012, a goal that has not been achieved since 1835. Paying down the publicly held debt will keep long-term interest rates low, according to Gore, and will allow for greater investment in the private sector, bolstering economic growth.

Investing in technology: Gore says that a key ingredient in “America’s prosperity is investing in skills and technologies that are critical to America’s future.” His proposals include:

  • Making the Research and Experimentation Tax Credit permanent, to encourage the development of new technologies (Gore says he would make the credit partially refundable for small businesses);
  • Doubling the investment in information technology research over the next five years, fully implementing the recommendations of President Clinton’s Information Technology Advisory Committee; and
  • Funding “the primary research of the ideas of university researchers which are later turned into benefits that we all enjoy, such as high-speed wireless networks that can provide distance learning, electronic commerce to remote rural communities, and supercomputers that can dramatically increase our ‘understanding’ of the human language.”
  • Gore says that research in all areas of commerce is important; this extends to the hvacr community because it would stimulate the invention of new, energy-efficient products by providing tax breaks to those who design them.

    Bush: Tax relief and Economic Principles

    Bush states that roughly one-fourth of the surplus should be returned to the people who earned it through broad tax cuts. He says his plan will promote economic growth and bolster the middle class by cutting high marginal rates, doubling the child credit, and eliminating the death tax.

    He says that all taxpayers should be allowed to keep more of their own money, and that currently, “federal taxes are the highest they have ever been during peacetime.”

    He says that Americans work more than four months a year on average to fund government at all levels, and that the typical family now pays nearly 40% of its income in taxes after accounting for all federal, state, and local taxes.

    Tax cut proposals: “Cut marginal tax rates to encourage economic growth,” Bush says. According to Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, “Tax reductions can offer favorable incentives for economic performance, especially if designed to lower marginal rates.” That is why Bush’s tax reform proposal replaces the current five-rate structure with four lower rates.

    Bush says that his $460 billion tax cut over five years will contribute to raising the standard of living for all Americans. His budget uses about one-fourth of the surplus for tax cuts, reserves all Social Security funds for Social Security only, and leaves money for debt reduction, defense, and education.

    He would cut the current 15% tax bracket to 10% for the first $6,000 of taxable income for singles, the first $10,000 for single parents, and the first $12,000 for married couples. He would double the child tax credit to $1,000 and cut the maximum tax rate for the middle class to 25% (current maximum rates are 28% and 31%). Other Bush proposals include:

  • Encouraging entrepreneurship by capping the top tax rate at 33% (down from the current 39.5%);
  • Completely eliminating the estate tax; and
  • Extending the deduction for charitable contributions to the 80 million taxpayers that do not itemize, and raising the cap on corporate donations.
  • According to Bush, the implementation of his tax cut proposals would result in 6 million low- and moderate-income families being removed from the income tax rolls entirely, and the marginal income tax rate on millions of low-income families would fall more than 40%.

    Economic growth: Like Gore, Bush says he wants the current economic growth to continue. Bush says he “understands that the litigation explosion imposes significant costs on high-technology companies and small businesses,” and has thus “offered a comprehensive plan to reduce the threat of junk and frivolous lawsuits.”

    Encouraging increased investment in research and develop-ment (R&D), Bush said he “will enact a permanent extension of the R&D tax credit, increase the military R&D budget by $20 billion, and double the research budget of the National Institutes of Health.”

    Technology centers would get an influx of money, with a total of $400 million going to create and maintain more than 2,000 community technology centers across the United States every year. He says these centers provide such services as free Internet access, computer literacy training, and professional skills development.

    By strengthening Federal investment in assistive technology, Bush says he would:

  • Triple funding for Rehab-ilitative Engineering Research Centers, create a new Technology Transfer Fund to help bring assistive technology to market.
  • Increase the funding for low-interest loan programs tenfold, to help people with disabilities purchase assistive technology.
  • Offer $75 million annually in tax incentives and a new, $20 million, low-interest loan program to help people with disabilities “telework.”
  • And create a $100 million fund to support interagency e-government initiatives.

  • In the End

    Information on candidates abounds in the media, but it is hard to find material that is unbiased.

    Simply putting one candidate before another on a page can be looked at as favoritism. Hopefully, this analysis provides a base of information about the candidates’ proposed policies with a minimum of personal bias.

    More information on the candidates is available on their official websites, www.bush2000.com and www.algore2000.com. Look for more on the candidates from the hvac perspective in upcoming issues and on The News’ website, www.achrnews.com.

    Publication date: 10/02/2000