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Bush: Rolling back tax cuts would hurt economy

Democrats say cuts skewed toward the rich

President Bush waves as he departs the White House for a trip to Missouri.
President Bush waves as he departs the White House for a trip to Missouri.

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KANSAS CITY, Missouri (CNN) -- President Bush credited the tax cuts he pushed for "signs of promise" in the U.S. economy Thursday and criticized Democratic challengers who have proposed rolling back part of those cuts.

Most of the nine Democrats seeking to unseat Bush in 2004 have said those tax cuts were skewed toward the wealthy and have done little to stimulate the economy while fueling a budget deficit now expected to approach $500 billion.

"They argue we should return to the way things were in 2001. What they're really saying is they want to raise taxes," Bush said in a speech at the Kansas City Convention Center. "Higher taxes will not create one job in America. Raising taxes would hurt economic growth. Tax relief has put this nation on the path of prosperity, and I intend to keep it on the path to prosperity."

Recent public opinion polls have placed the economy at the top of Americans' priorities, above terrorism. Though the most recent recession officially ended in November 2001, the economy has been slow to recover and productivity increases have allowed companies to boost their output without hiring new workers, analysts have said.

The result has been a 6.2 percent jobless rate -- the highest in nine years -- and growing attacks from Democrats ahead of the 2004 election.

Bush acknowledged the problem in a speech Thursday in Kansas City, telling business leaders, "Our economy must grow faster than productivity increases to make sure that people can find a job."

Bush has blamed the sluggish economy on the stock market collapse that began in 2000, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and the corporate scandals that shook investor confidence. He said the tax cuts his administration pushed through Congress earlier this year have kept the recession from being longer and deeper.

The tax cuts are spurring economic growth and consumer spending, he said. Without them, "As many as 1.5 million Americans who went to work this morning would have been out of a job," he said.

He again called on Congress to pass several White House proposals that have stalled on Capitol Hill, including a $3.6 billion proposal for "re-employment accounts" to help 1 million Americans find work. The money could be used to pay day care or moving expenses or to help retrain workers, and people who find work quickly could keep the balance of the account.

He also called on the Senate to pass legislation limiting jury awards in medical malpractice lawsuits and changing the rules allowing class-action lawsuits against businesses -- both attacks on plaintiffs' lawyers, a major Democratic fund-raising constituency.

Bush's visit to Missouri -- a state he narrowly won in 2000 -- was his second in 10 days.

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