A Primer for the Undecided Voter
Oct. 30, 2000

The time to vote is almost upon us. The polls continue to show Bush and Gore running neck and neck, with a surprisingly large number of voters still undecided about their choice. Below is a primer, for the undecided voter, on how the candidates differ on certain issues:

For the rich: Bush is your main man. His across-the-board tax cuts will save you a goodly amount in taxes. Gore's tax cuts phase out at higher incomes.

For low-income folks: Trust in Gore. His tax proposals, and in particular the expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit, will leave you with higher after-tax income. Under Bush's tax cuts, benefits are more modest.

For folks worried about Social Security: Gore promises to keep trust fund in "lockbox", but doesn't take steps to strengthen long-term solvency of Social Security. Bush displays grit by proposing to partially privatize Social Security, although he is vague about the costs involved in the transition from the current system.

For those concerned about the environment: Gore has strong credentials in this area. In his book, Earth in the Balance, Gore suggested using higher energy taxes to reduce emissions, although now he prefers using tax breaks to achieve the same objective. Bush is likely to favor business interests, including oil exploration ventures, that are less environment-friendly.

For the defense-minded: Both Bush and Gore promise to strengthen the military. Defense spending is poised to rise no matter who wins. Stocks of defense contractors have already surged.

For those sick about health care costs: Both Bush and Gore promise to expand Medicare to cover prescription drugs, although costs threaten to overwhelm government finances. Gore is more likely to rein in HMOs and pharmaceutical companies, with uncertain effects on costs and quality of health care.

For those concerned about education: Gore will spend more on public schools and teachers, but is adamant about not using vouchers. Bush will provide vouchers to low-income students seeking to transfer from poorly-performing public schools to private schools.

For investors and home buyers: Gore intends to retire the national debt sooner, a policy that finds favor with Alan Greenspan and is likely to reduce the risk of higher interest rates and a falling stock market. Bush's substantial tax cuts will consume large chunks of the budget surplus and hinder the repayment of the debt. A nervous Wall Street (and a disapproving Fed chairman) may bid up interest rates.

For Bill Gates and Microsoft: Bush is your best hope. He is likely to rein in the antitrust cops at the Department of Justice. Gore will be less favorably disposed towards Microsoft's monopolistic practices.

For accountants: Start licking your chops. Both Bush and Gore promise to make the hefty tax code even more cumbersome. Bush's plan, by reducing the marginal tax rates, moves in the direction of simplifying the tax code, but some of his other tax cuts tend to make the problem worse. Gore makes no attempt at simplification; indeed, his numerous tax breaks will require taxpayers to go over the tax forms with a fine-toothed comb. Or go to the nearest CPA.

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