Thompson Has Tax Plan, But Griping Steals Show

By Jeffrey H. Birnbaum and Michael D. Shear
Washington Post Staff Writers
Monday, November 26, 2007

Former senator Fred D. Thompson (R-Tenn.) proposed yesterday extending President Bush's tax cuts, due to expire in 2011, and revising the personal income tax system to stimulate economic growth.

But the announcement of his economic plan on national television was overshadowed when he later accused Fox News of trying to "take down" his presidential campaign.

Thompson, appearing on "Fox News Sunday," called for repealing the alternative minimum tax and lowering the corporate tax rate to no more than 27 percent, from the current 35 percent.

Thompson also said that he would change the current income tax system to one that includes just two tax rates and strips away tax deductions and credits. That approach was introduced in the House of Representatives last month by members of the conservative Republican Study Committee.

Estimates devised earlier this year by the nonpartisan staff of the congressional Joint Committee on Taxation indicate that major parts of Thompson's plan would cost at least $2.5 trillion more than it brings in over 10 years -- nearly as much as the entire federal government is expected to spend this fiscal year.

Asked about that potential shortfall, Thompson said that such official estimates are often wrong and that his tax cuts would stimulate "growth in the economy" and bring in more revenue than expected.

He did cite one change in spending that he would use to make up for any revenue losses, at least in the long term: his previously announced Social Security plan, which would slow the growth in Social Security benefits and create private accounts.

Fox host Chris Wallace ended the interview with Thompson by asking him to respond to short videotaped comments about his chances by columnists Fred Barnes and Charles Krauthammer, two regular Fox News commentators.

"It's the wrong message and a weak messenger. Other than those two things, it's a great campaign," Barnes said. Krauthammer added: "There's not anything there. And in the absence of something, he can't win."

When the camera returned to Thompson, he was visibly angry. "This has been a constant mantra of Fox, to tell you the truth," he said.

Wallace tried to defend his network: "Well, I don't know that -- I mean, I don't know that Fox has been going after you, and I certainly don't think Charles Krauthammer and Fred Barnes . . ."

"From Day One, they said I got in too late, I couldn't do it," Thompson interrupted.

He later blasted Fox for running criticism from "your own guys, who have been predicting for four months, really, that I couldn't do it. [It] kind of skews things a little bit."

"I understand the game of buildup and I understand the game of takedown. And we all go through it," Thompson said.

© 2007 The Washington Post Company