Campaigning in Ohio and Michigan this week, George Bush laid out his plans for keeping America ``No. 1'' in economic strength. In a speech Tuesday to the Ohio Association of Broadcasters, the vice-president portrayed a ``new era of American industry,'' in which the service sector ``melds'' with the industrial sector to create ``modern manufacturing.'' Mr. Bush named Ohio-based companies that he felt exemplified renewed vitality within the economy, ``putting new strength in the heartland's rebound and making the term `rust belt' obsolete.''
And in a joint address to the Economic Club of Detroit and the Women's Economic Club yesterday, Bush stressed the virtues of Reaganomics - less government interference, lower taxes, free trade, and privatization.
Not that the vice-president altogether ignored his Democratic opponent. Before the Detroit audience he jabbed at Michael Dukakis for, Bush claimed, saying that the United States is no longer first among nations. ``Let's cut through the demagoguery,'' the vice-president said. ``America is No. 1. The question is how to keep it that way.''
And in the speech to the broadcasters, Bush appeared to link Governor Dukakis's economic policies with socialism.
Mr. Dukakis ``has broken with the American traditions of entrepreneurship and free enterprise,'' Bush said.
``Governments are abandoning socialism, in all its various guises and degrees,'' the vice-president said after describing his rival's economic policies. ``He clings, despite all the evidence of the last two decades, to the discredited policies of high taxes and big government spending.''
Bush, trying to deflect Dukakis's charges that the GOP is the party of the wealthy, also criticized the governor for trying to ``divide Americans, one from another, along class lines.''
By and large, though, Bush - perhaps reflecting his lead in the polls (according to a poll of 600 registered voters taken by the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Bush leads in Ohio by 12 points) - stuck to the high road.
The vice-president outlined for the broadcasters what he believes to be the key principles and proposals he has to offer ``to make sure America remains the world's high-tech leader.'' Bush says that, if elected, he would:
Focus federal resources on basic, as opposed to applied, research, letting the free market decide which technologies have the most potential. ``Entrepreneurs, not bureaucrats, are going to blaze America's trail to the future,'' Bush says.
Make permanent the tax credit for research and development (R&D).
Appropriate federal R&D funding on a two-year cycle and target spending over five years to give scientists and researchers a more stable funding base.
Strengthen laboratory-to-business links to promote the development of commercial products from federal research.
Vigorously protect intellectual property rights worldwide.
Include the White House science adviser in major policymaking.
Create a presidential council of science and technology advisers composed of scientists, engineers, and businessmen.
Bush has set as a cornerstone of his economic policies a reduction in the capital-gains tax from 28 percent to 15 percent. Dukakis has used the proposal to paint the vice-president as favoring the rich while ignoring the poor.
The Republican nominee has tried to deflect those charges by linking the capital-gains tax to America's competitiveness in the world marketplace. ``Perhaps the Massachusetts governor can explain why he wants to shackle America's entrepreneurs and businesses with a tax many of our foreign competitors don't have,'' he says. ``Japan doesn't have one, neither do Hong Kong, South Korea, Taiwan, or Singapore.'' Bush says that Dukakis's opposition to the tax ``would tip [world trade] in favor of our foreign competition.''
As for the accusation that the GOP does little for the poor, Bush told an Ohio audience that ``a job in the private sector is the best poverty plan I know.''
Meanwhile, however, Bush's campaign shows no signs of revising the ``attacking-your-opponent'' chapter in its political strategy handbook.
The Bush campaign yesterday released a television commercial accusing Mr. Dukakis of deliberately misleading Americans during the second presidential debate on his handling of Massachusetts state pension funds. In the debate, Dukakis flatly denied Bush's charge that the governor used pension funds to balance the state's precarious budget.
An early version of the ad said Dukakis ``told a lie,'' but it was revised. Bush's strategists hope the ad, calling Dukakis ``unbelievable,'' will help to neutralize the governor's charges that the Republicans have been lying about his record.