(Johnston, IA) The republican presidential candidates agree the Ten Commandments should be posted in schools, but they quibbled sharply over their competing tax plans during Saturday’s six-way debate, their last joint appearance before Iowa’s Caucuses.

Frontrunner George W. Bush began by attacking rival John McCain’s moremodest tax cut, questioning why McCain proposes eliminating businessdeductions for meals, travel and training.

“If you get rid of the employer-related benefits, the workers are going to have to pay taxes. It’s a $40 Billion tax increase,” Bush said.

“Well, the first thing I’d say to the single mom is that I’ve got a tax cut for you and Governor Bush doesn’t,” McCain replied.

“That’s not true,” Bush said.

“Yes, it is,” McCain retorted.

McCain accused Bush of trying to do the “Texas two-step” by diverting attention from his own plan, which would reduce rates and raise deductions so more low-income Americans pay no tax at all. McCain said one-third of Bush’s tax cut goes to the wealthiest one percent of Americans.

Gary Bauer said Bush’s plan merely “rearranged the chairs on the Titanic.”

Steve Forbes focused on Bush’s tax cutting record in Texas was more apparent than real and didn’t “trickle down.”

“Most Texans have never seen those tax cuts, and the same thing’s going to happen with your proposal on the federal level,” Forbes said.

“You know something Steve, nearly 69 percent of the Texans said overwhelmingly in 1998 ‘You’re the man. We appreciate your tax cuts,” Bush replied.

Forbes pointed to data showing property taxes in six-out-of-ten Texas school districts have not declined.

“That’s a Clinton tax cut. That’s the kind he would like. Raise the tax and call it a tax cut,” Forbes chided.

“Steve, look,” Bush replied. “Ask the elderly person who’s homestead exemption was raised by $10,000. Ask her whether or not that permanent tax cut isn’t real. It may not be real in million dollar houses, but it’s real if you’ve got a $40,000 house and you get a $10,000 dollar homestead
increase. That’s a 25 percent cut.”

Alan Keyes talked about his own plan to toss out the income tax, and finance government with a national consumption, or sales tax. Keyes, the only African-American candidate on the stage, called the income tax a “slave tax.”

“These gentlemen argue about whether the chains should be lighter, whether they should be heavier. I think it’s time that as a tax-enslaved people, we rise up and make it clear. We want the chains off,” Keyes said.

Orrin Hatch offered no specific tax cut plan of his own, but said none of the plans touted by the other candidates would pass Congress. Hatch, who’s been in the U.S. Senate for 23 years, said he was the only candidate who had the experience to pass a tax cut through the House and Senate.