Create tax-free medical savings accounts to cover what insurance doesn’t, while increasing deductible after which insurance coverage begins. Intended to lower health costs and increase the number of insured by lowering premium costs. In first term, won Congressional passage of controversial prescription drug benefit for low-income elderly, which critics argue is insufficient.

Kerry: Increase health care tax credits for small businesses by up to 50 percent. Chance for low-income individuals to buy into the affordable health plans offered to Congressional lawmakers. Government pays up to 75 percent for catastrophic health care costs, saving up to $1,000 per worker premium. Cut annual nonmedical health care costs for mostly paperwork by up to $350 billion. Require government to negotiate lower prescription drug prices.

Repeal Bush tax breaks for families making more than $200,000, including for dividends and capital gains, returning top tax rate to 39.6 percent from 35 percent and affecting about 2 percent of the population, or 2.5 million households. Campaign estimates $860 billion over 10 years would be saved and used to pay for his health care and education plan. Low- to middle-class taxpayers would keep Bush tax cuts, which for a family of four with $40,000 in income amount to about $2,000 a year. Pay employer share of payroll taxes in 2005 and 2006 for any net new jobs created by small businesses and companies affected by outsourcing. Increase small business loan programs.

Eliminate rules for companies to defer paying taxes on foreign subsidiaries until future profits are returned to the U.S., which is intended to encourage U.S. investment and discourage outsourcing. There would be a one-time tax holiday for repatriation of past offshore profits. Use tax-deferral savings to reduce U.S. corporate income taxes to 33.25 percent from 35 percent. Kerry claims his overall tax plan would create 10 million jobs in his first term. Create 3 million jobs in 500 days by increasing spending on highways, school construction, environmental clean up and other projects.

Bush: Make permanent almost $2 trillion in tax cuts passed by Congress during his administration, now being phased in and set to expire by 2010. He credits his tax cuts with pulling the economy out of recession and its posts-9/11 slump. He would reduce business regulations to lower costs and increase U.S. energy production. He also would push Congress to set limits on class-action lawsuits and medical malpractice awards and would create $3,000 reemployment accounts to pay unemployed worker job searches.

This story first appeared in the September 30, 2004 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Would review increasing the minimum wage, but in the past he has opposed increasing it as injurious to economic growth. The President supports legal status for temporary immigrant workers. In his first term, he changed rules on who qualifies for overtime pay and signed legislation repealing Clinton administration ergonomic workplace safety rules.

Kerry: Would increase the minimum wage to $7 from $5.15 by 2007; repeal Bush changes to overtime pay rules, and institute employer-mandated ergonomic injury safeguards, repealed under the Bush administration. He also would increase the employee child care tax credit to $5,000 from $3,000; expand after school programs, and support legislation to grant legal status to temporary immigrant workers.

Would renegotiate the Central American Free Trade Agreement to include stronger labor and environmental standards, which would be required in all future trade pacts, and review existing trade agreements for 120 days to weigh fairness. He also would make “more forceful efforts” to bring the undervalued Chinese currency in line and launch an inquiry into China’s worker rights abuses; increase funding for trade agreement enforcement, and use unfair trade practice laws to counter violations. The candidate would strengthen must-buy-American-made rules for defense and homeland security supplies, including uniforms, and would press trading partners to lower paperwork and other barriers to U.S. export sales.

Bush: Would continue to negotiate free-trade agreements and press for elimination of industrial tariffs among World Trade Organization members, and keep negotiating with the Chinese about bringing their overvalued currency and intellectual property violations in line. He rejects pressuring China with the threat of trade sanctions to conform and has supported government reviewing requests for new Chinese apparel and textile quotas based on threat of U.S. market disruption. The administration has already approved three requests for new Chinese safeguard quotas.