LEHRER: Governor Bush, you have questioned this is a companion question to the question I asked Vice President Gore.
LEHRER: You have questioned whether Vice President Gore has demonstrated the leadership qualities necessary to be president of the United States. What do you mean by that?
BUSH: Well, heres what I've said: Ive said, Jim, Ive said that eight years ago they campaigned on prescription drugs for seniors, and four years ago they campaigned on getting prescription drugs for seniors, and now theyre campaigning on getting prescription drugs for seniors. It seems like they cant get it done.
Now they may blame other folks, but it's time to get somebody in Washington who's going to work with both Republicans and Democrats to get some positive things done when it comes to our seniors.
And so what Ive said is, is theres been some missed opportunities. Theyve had a chance. They've had a chance to form consensus. Ive got a plan on Medicare, for example, that's a two-stage plan that says were going to have immediate help for seniors in what I call "Immediate Helping Hand," a $48 billion program.
But I also want to say to seniors, "If youre happy with Medicare the way it is, fine, you can stay in the program. But were going to give you additional choices just like they give federal employees in the federal employee health plan." Federal employees have got a variety of choices from which to choose, so should seniors.
And my point has been, as opposed to politicizing an issue like Medicare in other words, holding it up as an issue, hoping somebody bites and then try to clobber them over the head with it for political purposes this year, in the year 2000, its time to say, "Lets get it done once and for all." And thats what I have been critical about the administration for.
Same with Social Security. I think there was a good opportunity to bring Republicans and Democrats together to reform the Social Security system so the seniors will never go without. Those on Social Security today will have their promise made.
But also to give younger workers the option, at their choice, of being able to manage some of their own money in the private sectors to make sure theres a Social Security system around tomorrow. Theres a lot of young workers at our rallies we go to, that when they hear that Im going to trust them, at their option, to be able to manage, under certain guidelines, some of their own money to get a better rate of return so that they'll have a retirement plan in the future, they begin to nod their heads. And they want a different attitude in Washington.
LEHRER: One minute rebuttal, Vice President Gore.
GORE: Well, Jim, under my plan, all seniors will get prescription drugs under Medicare. The governor has described Medicare as a government HMO; its not. And let me explain the difference.
Under the Medicare prescription drug proposal Im making, heres how it works: You go to your own doctor and your doctor chooses your prescription, and no HMO or insurance company can take those choices away from you. Then you go to your own pharmacy, you fill the prescription and Medicare pays half the cost. If youre in a very poor family or you have very high costs, Medicare will pay all the costs a $25 premium and much better benefits than you can possibly find in the private sector.
Now heres the contrast. Ninety-five percent of all seniors would get no help whatsoever, under my opponents plan, for the first four or five years.
Now, one thing I dont understand, Jim, is, why is it that the wealthiest 1 percent get their tax cuts the first year, but 95 percent of seniors have to wait four to five years before they get a single penny.
BUSH: I guess my answer to that is, the mans running on Mediscare, trying to frighten people in the voting booth. That's just not the way I think, and I thats just not my intentions. Thats not my plan.
I want all seniors to have prescription drugs and Medicare. We need to reform Medicare. There have been opportunity to do so, but this administration has failed to do it.
And so seniors are going to have not only a Medicare plan where the poor seniors will have their prescriptions paid for, but there will be a variety of options.
The current system today has meant a lot for a lot of seniors, and I really appreciate the intentions of the current system. And as I mentioned, if youre happy with the system, you can stay in it.
But theres a lot of procedures that have not kept up in Medicare with the current times. There's no prescription drug benefits, theres no drug therapies, there's no preventing medicines, theres no vision care.
I mean, we need to have a modern system to help seniors. And the idea of supporting a federally controlled, 132,000-page document bureaucracy as being a compassionate way for seniors is and the only compassionate source of care for seniors, is just not my vision.
I believe we ought to give seniors more options. I believe we ought to make the system work better. But I know this: I know it's going to require a different kind of leader to go to Washington to say to both Republicans and Democrats, "Lets come together."
Youve had your chance, Vice President. Youve been there for eight years and nothing has been done.
And my point is is that my plan not only trusts seniors with options, my plan sets aside $3.4 trillion for Medicare over the next 10 years. My plan also says its going to require a new approach in Washington, D.C.
Its going to require somebody who can work across the partisan divide.
GORE: If I could respond to that, Jim, under my plan, I will put Medicare in an iron-clad lockbox and prevent the money from being used for anything other than Medicare. The governor has declined to endorse that idea, even though the Republican as well as Democratic leaders of Congress have endorsed it.
I'd be interested to see if he would this evening say that he would put Medicare in a lockbox. I don't think he will, because under his plan, if you work out the numbers, $100 billion comes out of Medicare just for the wealthiest 1 percent in the tax cut.
Now here is the difference: Some people who say the word "reform" actually mean cuts. Under the governor's plan, if you kept the same fee-for-service that you have now under Medicare, your premiums would go up by between 18 and 47 percent. And that's the study of the congressional plan that he's modeled his proposal on by the Medicare actuaries.
Let me just give you one quick example: There's a man here tonight named George McKinney from Milwaukee. He's 70 years old, he has high blood pressure, his wife has heart trouble. They have income of $25,000 a year. They cannot pay for their prescription drugs. And so they're some of the ones that go to Canada regularly in order to get their prescription drugs.
Under my plan, half of their costs would be paid right away. Under Governor Bushs plan, they would get not one penny for four to five years, and then they would be forced to go into an HMO or to an insurance company and ask them for coverage, but there would be no limit on the premiums or the deductibles or any other terms and conditions.
BUSH: I cannot let this go by, the old-style Washington politics, of "Were going to scare you in the voting booth."
Under my plan, the man gets immediate help with prescription drugs. Its called "Immediate Helping Hand." Instead of squabbling and finger-pointing, he gets immediate help.
Let me say something. Now, I understand excuse me
LEHRER: All right, excuse me, gentlemen
GORE: Jim, can I
LEHRER: minutes is up, but well finish that.
GORE: Can I make one other point? They get $25,000 a year income. That makes them ineligible.
BUSH: Look, this is the man whos got great numbers. He talks about numbers. I'm beginning to think, not only did he invent the Internet, but he invented the calculator.
It's fuzzy math. It's to scare them, trying to scare people in the voting booth.
Under my tax plan, that he continues to criticize, I set a third. You know, the federal government should take more of that no more than a third of anybody's check. But I also dropped the bottom rate from 15 percent to 10 percent, because, by far, the vast majority of the help goes to the people at the bottom end of the economic ladder.
If you're a family of four in Massachusetts making $50,000, you get a 50 percent cut in the federal income taxes you pay. It's from $4,000 to about $2,000.
Now, the difference in our plans is, I want that $2,000 to go to you.
LEHRER: All right. Let me hold on.
BUSH: And the vice president would like to be spending the $2,000 on your behalf.
LEHRER: One quick thing, gentlemen. These are your rules. I'm doing my best. We're way over the three and a half minutes. I have no problems with it, but we wanted do you want to have a quick response, and we'll move on. We're already almost five minutes on this, all right?
GORE: Yes. It's just clear you can go to the web site and look. If you make more than $25,000 a year, you don't get a penny of help under the Bush prescription drug proposal for at least four to five years. And then you're pushed into a Medicare into an HMO or an insurance company plan, and there's no limit on the premiums or the deductibles or any of the conditions. And the insurance companies say that it won't work and they won't offer these plans.
LEHRER: Let me ask you both this, and we'll move on, on this subject. As a practical matter, both of you want to bring prescription drugs to seniors, correct?
GORE: Correct, but the difference is the difference is I want to bring it to 100 percent, and he brings it only to 5 percent.
LEHRER: All right. All right. All right.
BUSH: That's just that's just that's just totally false.
LEHRER: All right. What difference does it make how
BUSH: Wait a minute. It's just totally false for him to stand up here and say that.
Let me make sure the seniors hear me loud and clear. They've had their chance to get something done. I'm going to work with both Republicans and Democrats to reform the system. All seniors will be covered. All poor seniors will have their prescription drugs paid for. In the meantime in the meantime, we're going to have a plan to help poor seniors. And "in the meantime" could be one year or two years.
GORE: Let me let me call your attention to the key word there. He said all "poor" seniors.
BUSH: No. Wait a minute, all seniors are covered under prescription drugs in my plan.
GORE: In the first year? In the first year?
BUSH: If we can get it done in the first year, you bet. Yours is phased in in eight years.
GORE: No. No. No. No. It's a two-phase plan, Jim. And for the first four years it takes a year to pass it. And for the first four years, only the poor are covered. Middle class seniors, like George McKinney and his wife, are not covered for four to five years.
LEHRER: I've got an idea.
LEHRER: You have any more to say about this, you can say it in your closing statement, so we'll move on, OK?
New question, Vice President Gore, how would you contrast your approach to preventing future future oil price and supply problems like we have now to the approach of Governor Bush?