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1:41 AM Tue, Dec. 11th

Bush's tax cut the crux of coming election

WASHINGTON – If John F. Kennedy could speak to ultra-liberal Sen. Paul Wellstone about tax rates and economic growth, what would he tell him? A new campaign ad poses that question to Minnesota voters.

No Democrat in the Senate is no more left-wing than Wellstone, who is running for a third term against former St. Paul Mayor Norm Coleman, a popular Democrat-turned-Republican who has the senator on the ropes. The Americans for Democratic Action gives Wellstone a 100-percent score for his consistently liberal voting record, but it is his rigidly leftist positions that are on trial in this election.

Wellstone opposed President Bush's across-the-board income tax cuts and is among a number of Democratic lawmakers who want to repeal the remaining rate reductions for those in the top brackets.

The United Seniors Association is running a radio ad statewide that says that JFK would tell Wellstone to support the 10-year rate cuts and vote to make them permanent. Once the tax cuts are in full effect, the top tax rate would be 35 percent, down from the 40-percent rate enacted under Bill Clinton.

The ad features a sound bite from an address President Kennedy gave to the Detroit Economic Club in 1962 when he was lobbying for his income tax cuts "to get the economy moving again."

"So long as our national security needs keep rising, an economy hampered by restrictive tax rates will never produce enough jobs or enough profits," Kennedy says in the radio spot.

Congress approved Kennedy's tax cuts and, just as he predicted, they not only got the economy growing again, the increased growth, profits and incomes sharply boosted the government's tax revenues that by the end of the 1960s produced a budget surplus.

The issues raised by the Kennedy tax cuts ad goes to the heart of the debate that is taking place in the Democratic Party today. Will the party return to the soak-the-rich, class-warfare policies of Mondale, Dukakis and Gore? Or will it turn to pro-growth, economic-expansionary policies Kennedy championed? That debate re-ignited last month when a phalanx of Democratic Leadership Council leaders attacked Gore for his divisive "people vs. the powerful" message in his presidential campaign. Even his running-mate, Joe Lieberman, bitterly criticized Gore's populist, liberal message, saying it came off as anti-business, anti-wealth and anti-success. It turned off the moderate, independent, swing voters and cost Gore the election, Lieberman said.

Copyright 2002, United Feature Syndicate, Inc.