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Inside Politics

Bush, Democrats spar over jobs


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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush touted his administration's policies for strengthening the economy in his weekly pretaped radio address Saturday, while the Democratic response advised against trusting the president's rosy picture.

"American productivity has grown faster over the last two years than at any time in more than 50 years," Bush said, citing rising activity in the manufacturing segment.

He also pointed to increases in home ownership and an unemployment rate of 5.6 percent that is below the average unemployment rate for the last three decades.

In contrast, Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Massachusetts, said the president doesn't tell the whole story. The unemployment rate peaked in 1982 and had fallen to 4.0 in 2000 just before Bush took office, according to figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

"Families across America know better," said Kennedy in the Democratic Party's radio response.

"Here's what President Bush said in his State of the Union address two months ago: 'This economy is strong and growing stronger. Productivity is high and jobs are on the rise.' Last month he said it again," Kennedy said.

But in actuality, "Job creation in America is in the basement," he added. "Last month, the economy created only one new job for every 390 out-of-work Americans, and not one of those new jobs was a private sector job."

The president's radio speech comes after a week of meetings between Bush and workers in New York and Ohio, where industries have suffered from job cuts.

Ohio's 6.2 percent unemployment rate is higher than the national average of 5.6 percent, and the state has lost more than 200,000 jobs -- almost two-thirds in manufacturing -- since 2001.

In cities such as Youngstown and Cleveland, many workers are concerned about their future and their benefits, but the proper response is to encourage more investment in America's economy, including the use of a confident foreign trade policy, the president said.

"Millions of American jobs depend on our goods being sold overseas, and foreign-owned companies employ millions of Americans here at home," Bush said. "We owe those workers our best efforts to make sure other nations open up their markets and keep them open.

"We want the entire world to buy American because the best products in the world carry the label, 'made in the USA,' " he said.

Kennedy says many families question Bush's foreign trade policy -- particularly the outsourcing of jobs to other countries.

"[Families] see their own jobs shipped overseas," he said. "They hear the president's chief economic adviser say shipping jobs to China is a good thing for America. They're cheering the president's job policy in China, but the cheering stopped here, Mr. President."

On Friday, the Senate approved a $2.36 trillion budget with smaller tax cuts than Bush wanted. Democrats claim the plan does little to reduce the deficit and takes money away from social spending programs like education and health care to pay for tax cuts.

Still, Bush says his tax cuts and trade policies have been responsible for steering the country out of recession, and urged Congress to make permanent the tax cuts due to expire this year.

"We need to make sure the tax relief is made permanent to keep our economy on the path to growth and job creation," Bush said.

But according to Kennedy, Bush's approach to job creation is flawed.

The president said his first tax bill would create 800,000 additional jobs by the end of 2002. The nation lost 1.9 million jobs instead, Kennedy said.

And even though Bush's economic report promised 3 million more jobs in 2003, according to Kennedy, 300,000 jobs were lost.

Additionally, for the new jobs created, workers received 21 percent less pay, Kennedy said. "For the past three years since President Bush took office, we have seen a widening credibility gap between what the administration says and what it does," he said.

"The pessimists have always been wrong," Bush said. "With the right policies in Washington, we will maintain America's economic leadership. We will create more jobs, and we'll help our workers achieve a better life."


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