Gephardt Would End Bush Tax Cut

Democratic Rep. Richard A. Gephardt said yesterday that, if elected president, he would move to scrap President Bush's reduction of income tax rates in favor of a tax credit to help businesses pay for health care.

"I do not believe that we can retain any of the relief on rates," Gephardt said of the provision in the 2001 law. "But I will argue, as I have throughout, that my tax cuts will be of more benefit to all taxpayers, and certainly with middle-income and low-income taxpayers, than with the president's tax bill."

The Missouri lawmaker, one of nine Democrats seeking the party's presidential nomination, said he will reveal the details of his plan during a speech in New York next Wednesday.

But he discussed the proposal in a conference call with reporters as Bush arrived in his home town of St. Louis to deliver a speech on the war in Iraq and national security.

Gephardt said that in his first week in office, he would ask Congress to repeal the cut in income tax rates that Bush signed into law two years ago, essentially bringing taxes to Clinton-era levels. The law created a new 10 percent rate for the first $6,000 of each person's income and reduced the top 39.6 percent rate to 35 percent, with most other rates dropping by 3 percentage points. The rate cuts have already been partially phased in, but are not scheduled to take full effect until 2006.

Jim Dyke, spokesman for the Republican National Committee, criticized Gephardt's plan. "His tax increases will pay for his government spending, but they won't stimulate our economy or create jobs," Dyke said.

U.S. Seeks Condemnation of Cuba

The Bush administration is working with U.S. allies to win a U.N. Human Rights Commission resolution condemning Cuba's crackdown on dissidents and to use trade leverage to compel Fidel Castro's government to free political prisoners, officials told Congress.

The U.N. commission will vote today in Geneva on a resolution sponsored by the United States, Peru, Uruguay and Costa Rica demanding that Cuba allow a visit by a representative of the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Kim Holmes told the House International Relations Committee.

Such a trip was sought in last year's resolution against Cuba, and Castro's government has refused a visit, Holmes said.

Salmonella Contamination Falls

Federal inspectors last year found slightly less ground beef contaminated with salmonella bacteria than in 2001, continuing a five-year trend, an annual government report said.

In the report by the Agriculture Department, federal inspectors in 2002 found salmonella in about 2.6 percent of ground beef products, down from 2.8 percent the previous year.

The USDA said year-to-year declines were also found in ground turkey, broilers, cattle and hogs. The only increase was in ground chicken.

Salmonella, which sickens 1 million people annually, can cause vomiting, diarrhea and fever in healthy adults and can be fatal for elderly people or those with weak immune systems.

-- Compiled from reports by the

Associated Press and Bloomberg News Service