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AASP would be pleased
to publish articles with
other views on what the
candidates would do for
single and unmarried voters.


by E.J. McMahon
- - -
Wall Street Journal
October 19, 2000

What Bush Should Have Told Lisa Key,
The Single Woman at the Final Debate


A commentary by E. J. McMahon, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, was published on October 19, 2000 by the Wall Street Journal.  The article is entitled "What Bush Should Have Said About Tax Cuts."  The following is a summary of what Mr. McMahon had to say.

McMahon opens his article by suggesting that the question posed by Lisa Key near the end of Tuesday night's presidential campaign debate amounted to a high, hard one for Al Gore and a slow, hanging curve ball right down the middle of the plate for George W. Bush. Gore twisted and ducked; Bush checked his swing and fouled it into the dirt.

"How will your tax proposals affect me as a middle-class, 34-year-old single person with no dependents?" Ms. Key asked.

The question was directed first at Gore.  McMahon says that Gore proceeded to misrepresent his own Retirement Savings Plus (RSP) plan.

Here is what Gore told Ms. Key:

"If you make less than $60,000 a year and you decide to invest $1,000 in a savings account, you'll get a tax credit which means, in essence, that the federal government will match your $1,000 with another $1,000. If you make less than $30,000 a year and you put $500 in a savings account, the federal government will match it with $1,500. If you make more than $60,000 and up to $100,000, you'll still get a match, but not as generous."

McMahon says that in fact, as a single person, Ms. Key would not be eligible for any tax credit under Gore's plan if she earns above $50,000. If she earns between $30,000 and $50,000, she could receive up to $500—half of what the vice president implied. She'd get a $1,000 credit only if she earns less than $30,000—and she'd be eligible for $1,500 only if she earned less than $15,000, at which point she presumably would not consider herself "middle class."

When Bush's turn came, he assured Ms. Key: "You're going to get tax relief under my plan." But then, as McMahon points out, Bush digressed into a discussion of Medicare and, oddly, foreign policy.

According to McMahon, "Bush missed an opportunity to set the record straight on an aspect of tax cuts that his opponent habitually misrepresents—the implication that "middle class" taxpayers would fare better under the Gore plan. If Mr. Gore is going to insist on counting RSP as a tax cut rather than the income transfer program it actually is, then Mr. Bush is entitled to combine his income tax cut with his proposal to let workers control and privately invest up to 2% of their income, which is now part of the payroll tax for Social Security."

Viewers of the debate were not told what Ms. Key makes.  But McMahon says that only if she earns below $30,000 does she do better under Mr. Gore's plan—and then only if she can save $1,500 toward her retirement. But whatever her current salary, Ms. Key undoubtedly has aspirations to do better in the future. This is where McMahon says the Bush plan really becomes significant—for the more Ms. Key makes, the more she will pay in income and Social Security taxes, and the more she will save under Mr. Bush's plan. Under Gore's plan, McMahon says it's just the reverse. As her income rises, her matching retirement credit will fall. And once she makes $50,000, she gets absolutely no tax relief.

McMahon says that Ms. Key could do better only if she is in one of Al Gore's favored classes—if she cares for a relative with advanced Alzheimer's disease, for example, or if she purchases her own health insurance policy.

McMahon concludes by saying: "In the long run, the Lisa Keys of America would do far better with a Bush tax cut. Sometime between now and election day, Mr. Bush should let them in on this secret.

Competing Tax Cuts

The Manhattan Institute describes itself as a think tank whose mission is to develop and disseminate new ideas that foster greater economic choice and individual responsibility.

For a Single Adult, No Dependents


Bush Gore
$25,000 $800 $1,000
$30,000 $900 $500
$40,000 $1,125 $500
$50,000 $1,752 0
$60,000 $2,296 0
Source: Manhattan Institute

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