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Clark plan calls for ending some tax cuts

MANCHESTER, N.H. -- In an effort to broaden his policy portfolio beyond foreign affairs, retired US Army General Wesley K. Clark outlined an economic plan yesterday that he said would save $2.35 trillion over the next decade, in large part by repealing President Bush's tax cut for families that earn more than $200,000.

Clark's plan would also hinge on $125 billion in savings he and aides say he would achieve through a "more effective and multilateral" policy in Iraq, which would include instituting a competitive bidding process for rebuilding projects there.

And Clark said he would achieve savings through streamlining some duplicate government programs, ending corporate tax shelters and corporate welfare programs, and reducing the federal deficit.

His stand on the Bush tax cuts puts him in line with most of his Democratic rivals. Senators Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut, John Edwards of North Carolina and John F. Kerry of Massachusetts; Representative Dennis J. Kucinich of Ohio; and former Illinois senator Carol Moseley-Braun all support a repeal of the tax cut for the wealthiest Americans.

Representative Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri, former Vermont governor Howard B. Dean, and Al Sharpton have called for an outright repeal of the Bush tax cuts.

Clark's speech was part of a series of public appearances Clark is making this week in New Hampshire, after his campaign announced that it would concentrate resources here and in other early-primary states.

He deviated from his prepared script repeatedly to criticize the Bush administration. Bush's deficit spending, he said, "went for politics, not what was good for America, and he was wrong, wrong, wrong to do it."

Later Governor Craig Benson of New Hampshire, a Republican, released a statement defending Bush's tax cuts, saying they have helped small business owners.

Clark did not mention any of the other eight Democratic candidates and referred to them only vaguely and reluctantly in an interview afterward.

"I think Democrats ought to work together," he said. "I know there are some Democrats who think it's about them personally. I don't."

His rivals wasted little time in criticizing his economic plan.

Lieberman issued a statement saying that Clark had released "an economic plan with little help for the economy." Lieberman said his own plan offered more specific help for the middle class through a tax reform plan, including low capital gains rates.

One of Clark's supporters, state Representative Christine Hamm of New Hampshire, said Clark may have helped himself by offering only limited details. "I thought it was specific enough, but I didn't think it was terribly specific," she said.

Other candidates who have outlined more detailed policy proposals have opened themselves to criticism, Hamm said. "It seems to me that they've exposed themselves a little more than he has."

Meanwhile, Chris Lehane, former communications director for Kerry's campaign, is expected to sign a contract by early next week, committing him to serve as a consultant to Clark's campaign, said a Clark adviser who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Lehane resigned from Kerry's campaign last month, citing philosophical differences. His wife, Andrea Evans, and business partner, Mark Fabiani, have taken jobs with Clark's campaign.

Glen Johnson of the Globe staff contributed to this report.

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