Having told poor people in the inner city, rich people in suburbia and workers in a factory that tax cuts would greatly improve their lives, Jack Kemp made the same pledge Sunday night to wheat and barley farmers here on the windswept plains.
Kemp, the Republican vice presidential candidate, promised them that a vote for Bob Dole for president would mean more money in their pockets and less government on their backs. He focused in particular on Dole’s proposed cut in estate, or inheritance, taxes.
Dole has not been specific about the degree of those cuts but has said he wants small-business owners and farmers to be able to pass their ventures along to children without fear that the taxes incurred by doing so will outstrip the profits and cash reserves of the operations.
“He wants you to be able to leave your farm to your children without having the government confiscate it in Washington, D.C.,” Kemp said at a rally here Sunday.
Then he seemingly raced a step or two ahead of his running mate. “We ought to eliminate the estate tax,” Kemp said. “It doesn’t even raise any revenue.”
Aides to the Dole-Kemp campaign said that although Dole has not spent much time discussing this, it is part of the second phase of his tax plan, which would rewrite the U.S. tax code. The first phase would cut personal income and other taxes.
The rally here was held on a private farm, beside a red barn, in a part of central Montana that could not be more evocative of American themes. There were amber waves of grain in the foreground, majestic mountains in the background and a spacious sky that seemed to stretch into infinity. Most of the roughly 250 people on hand sat on bales of hay.
But Kemp spoke in digressive, serpentine sentences that frequently were at odds with the populist tone he was trying to strike. His comments frequently referred to complicated arithmetic and erudite economic policy, and he seemed even less controlled than usual.
At one point, talking about the raising of taxes under the Clinton administration, he even took issue with the way Dole frequently has characterized that increase.
“They raised taxes - the biggest increase, I guess, of this century,” Kemp said. “Bob calls it the biggest in the history of the world. I don’t know that I have such a historical perspective as Bob Dole. But it was an awfully big tax increase.”
Back on Kemp’s campaign plane, an “orange bowl” was under way between reporters and Kemp. It is a campaign-trail tradition, popularized by Nancy Reagan’s participation.
When a candidate’s plane takes off, a member of the news media in the back rolls an orange up the incline of the aisle to the front of the cabin, where the candidate and his or her entourage is sitting. If the orange reaches its destination without disintegrating, someone rolls it back.
On the plane carrying Kemp, that tradition has become a smart-aleck form of communication, with Kemp and reporters scrawling quips on the rind.
On Saturday, as the plane flew to Phoenix, reporters chided Kemp for his customary tardiness, writing, “You’re late.”
He replied: “I’m on Clinton time.”
Later that day, as the plane left Phoenix, reporters scribbled, “Some place cooler, please.”
Referring to independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader and his environmentally centered campaign, Kemp replied: “I’m trading you to the Nader plane. It’s cool and green.”
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