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Brooks Jackson: Checking the facts on the final debate

October 18, 2000
Web posted at: 8:07 p.m. EDT (0007 GMT)

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Let's clear up a point from Tuesday's presidential debate, the third and final encounter between Vice President Al Gore and Texas Gov. George W. Bush before the November election.

Bush
Gov. George W. Bush answers a question as Vice President Al Gore looks on  

Who was right when they dueled over so-called patients' bill of rights legislation? Gore said his Republican rival opposed such a measure as governor of Texas.

"Actually, Mr. Vice President, it's not true. I do support a national patients' bill of rights," Bush replied. "As a matter of fact, I brought Republicans and Democrats together to do just that in the state of Texas, to get a patients' bill of rights through."

It is true that Bush supported many patient protections in Texas --- including provisions allowing access to specialists and a ban on physician "gag rules."

 VIDEO
Vice President Al Gore and Gov. George W. Bush debate in Missouri: Part 1

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  AUDIO

Q: Would you be open to the idea of a national health care plan?

Bush

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Gore

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  AUDIO

Q: Will you keep your promises if elected?

Bush

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Gore

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MESSAGE BOARD
Express Your Opinion: Debates 2000
 

But the Republican nominee may have overstated his case when he said: "We did something else that was interesting. We're one of the first states that said you can sue an HMO for denying you proper coverage."

Actually, Bush only reluctantly allowed the right to sue HMOs to become law in Texas, without his signature.

"I am convinced that this legislation has the potential to drive up health care costs and increase the number of lawsuits," Bush said in May 1997. "I hope my concerns are proven wrong."

Each candidate has repeatedly asserted his rival's economic plan -- whether it is based on large tax cuts or big increases in federal spending -- would jeopardize the nation's booming economy.

"Vice President Gore, is the governor right when he says that you're proposing the largest federal spending in years?" debate moderator Jim Lehrer asked.

Not surprisingly, Gore replied, "Absolutely not, absolutely not. I'm so glad that I have a chance to knock that down."

But in fact, Gore is proposing hundreds of billions in added spending -- far more than Bush. According to the bipartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, the vice president's proposals "would produce the largest spending increases since LBJ and the Great Society."

And Gore overstated his role in shrinking the federal government: "For the last eight years, I have had the challenge of running the streamlining program called 'Reinventing Government.' And if there are any federal employees in this group, you know what that means. The federal government has been reduced in size by more than 300,000 people."

It's true the federal civilian workforce has been reduced by nearly 400,000 since Gore took office, according to the federal Office of Personnel Management. But 71 percent of the reduction -- nearly 284,000 positions -- came from downsizing the Pentagon after the Cold War, not from "Reinventing Government."

Gore also argues that with the economy growing, government spending would have less impact on the economy.

"Under my plan, in four years, as a percentage of our gross domestic product, federal spending will be the smallest that it has been in 50 years," Gore said.

And that may be so.

The two candidates also disagreed about who would benefit from Gore's targeted tax cuts, with Bush asserting that 50 million Americans would receive no tax relief under his Democratic rival's targeted proposals.

Gore
Vice President Al Gore  

In fact, Gore does put strict income limits on who could benefit from most of his cuts. The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget says "it's reasonable to conclude that 50 million people could fail to qualify."

But Bush himself tripped up when he argued that "the number of uninsured have now gone up for the past seven years." Actually, the number has not gone up every year.

It's true that the percentage of the population with no health insurance has gone up slightly since Gore became vice president, from 15.3 percent in 1993 to 15.5 percent last year, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. But the number of uninsured persons actually went down last year, from 44.3 million to 42.6 million. So Bush was just wrong about that.

 
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WHAT'S AT STAKE

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WHERE THEY STAND
See where George W. Bush and Al Gore stand on the major issues.

THE STATES
Who are your elected officials? What is the past presidential vote and number of electoral votes in your state? What are the presidential primary results and exit polls? Find out with these state political and election facts.

ELECTION GUIDE
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FOLLOW THE MONEY
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Wednesday, October 18, 2000


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