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In the Crossfire

Bush tax cut: Corporate handout or economy booster?

(CNN) -- President Bush and Congress return to work after their summer recess, and two of the issues on Capitol Hill's agenda are corporate abuses and additional tax cuts. Will the Democrats capitalize on corporate wrongdoing or can Republicans distance themselves from the issue? Are more tax cuts the answer to a sagging economy or just a handout to wealthy investors? Former Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader and Stephen Moore from the Club for Growth step into the "Crossfire" with hosts Paul Begala and Tucker Carlson.

BEGALA: Bush is not what he pretended to be today, a friend of the working man. I mentioned earlier that he went and had the gall to speak to a group of union carpenters today. He opposes the minimum wage, he repealed Clinton's workplace safety laws, he's holding up the anti-terrorism bill for it to have union-busting language put into it.

Can you think of any other president more pro-corporate and anti-union than the one we've got right now?

MOORE: Well, George W. Bush is not as pro-big government as you are, Paul. But you know what? In the next couple of weeks, George W. Bush is going to come out with a tax cut that is going to be aimed right at those investor workers. We've got something like a 100 million American workers who are investors, who want to a cut, as a matter of fact, they want a tax cut, they want deduction of dividends. They want something that will get the market back up, and Bush is going to propose it and your Democrat friends are going to be on the side of big government and not on the side of the investor.

BEGALA: So the answer is no. You can't be any more pro-corporate, anti -- You really think, like, those union guys swinging those hammers in the carpenters' union, that they want -- it's for the wealthiest 1 percent to be able to deduct the money that they invest in a yacht?

MOORE: What they want is good jobs at good wages, and they know -- they know the way to do that is to cut taxes, get the taxes down on investments so have more capital here in the United States. That's how you create jobs. That's how it happened in the 80s.

Actually, even when Bill Clinton was president, he signed a capital gains cut. And what happened? We got more revenues, more jobs and the market went up. Let's do it again. Let's do it again, Paul.

BEGALA: We just -- We just did it with Bush, and let's look at the results: $4.4 trillion in investments gone: 1.8 million people who had jobs when Clinton was president, their jobs are gone. Unemployment at 3.9 under Clinton, 5.9 under Bush.

MOORE: You know what? They say that...

BEGALA: At what point do you say, "We have failed"?

MOORE: You know why the Bush tax cut hasn't worked? Because it hasn't taken effect yet. And the fact of the matter is, that 90 percent of the tax cut doesn't take place until 2005, 2006 and 2007. That was at the insistence of the Democrats. Now they are saying -- Tom Daschle and Dick Gephardt are saying, repeal the tax cut before it even takes place. So how can it work if it hasn't taken effect yet?

CARLSON: And that's an excellent point. Mr. Nader, I doubt -- I know you agree.

NADER: I don't agree. I don't agree that the U.S. government should subsidize losses in the stock market. That's supposed to be against the libertarian viewpoint.

MOORE: Yes, but Ralph, if you have to pay tax on your gains, why shouldn't you be able to deduct your losses? I mean, tax fairness is tax fairness, after all.

NADER: Because one is capital losses and capital gains and the other is ordinary income. You can already deduct up to $3,000, but you want to deduct the losses of billionaires. That's the difference.

CARLSON: A lot of people -- a lot of Americans have...

NADER: Listen, this is not a slow -- this is not a slow talk program. For people who want more details, just log in MultinationalMonitor.org for the facts. And for the action, CitizenWorks.org. In other words, the case is clear. We're in a corporate crime wave.

CARLSON: Wait a second.

NADER: We don't need to keep belaboring it. It's time for the Democrats to draw a bright line, Paul, with the Republicans, for the election. Otherwise, they'll blur the issue on corporate crime. You've been arguing this.

BEGALA: I know.

CARLSON: Ralph, wait a second.

NADER: OK. Go ahead.

CARLSON: When you say we're in the middle of a corporate crime, and doubtless you have more Web sites to back it up. You can give us their directions in a minute.

NADER: Yes.

CARLSON: But I want to show you a poll that was just undertaken by Stan Greenberg and James Carville, an agency called the Democracy Core, and it asked Americans, how do you feel about various institutions, organizations in American life. I want to throw it up.

It's fascinating statistics. George W. Bush got 61. This is a thermometer poll. The higher the better. Sixty-one. The Republicans, 54. Democrats, 53.

Big corporations, 43. Green party -- Ralph Nader, that would be you, 39.

So the news here is: big corporations are more popular than you are.

NADER: Really? You want to...

CARLSON: They didn't ask about Satan, though.

NADER: Well, wait a minute. Tucker, you want to test that? Get Madison Square Garden full of people, randomly chosen, and have me debate George Bush or Al Gore or any corporate executive, and if I don't beat them 3 to 1, I'll come on this program even more.

CARLSON: Wait a second, wait a second. This is not -- this is not -- well, you are always welcome here. This is not a test of rhetorical skills, who's able better to demagogue an issue. But if you ask the average person, how do you feel about big business, you don't get a uniformly negative response. Whereas, you're not doing that well, to be honest.

NADER: Wait a minute. How about the "Businessweek" poll, which said 72 percent of the American people think big business has too much control over their lives? How about...

CARLSON: Even more feel you have more control over their lives.

NADER: How about all the people that have lost their pensions, who have lost their investments, millions of Americans, playing by the rules, losing trillions to corporations who escape to Bermuda, or buy-and-sell politicians in Washington? Come on, Tucker. Don't you see a corporate criminal when you -- don't you want him in jail?

CARLSON: Absolutely. They're going to jail.