Bush, Kerry present differing takes on economy
WASHINGTON (CNN)) -- President Bush during his Saturday radio address credited his tax relief efforts for what he said was "powerful confirmation" of a growing economy.
Citing his U.S. Department of Labor report that the country added more than 308,000 jobs in March, the president said the next step is to make sure Americans are properly trained to fill those jobs.
"Our economy has increasing demand for workers with advanced skills, such as teachers, health care workers, and environmental engineers," he said. "But too many Americans do not have these kinds of skills."
Bush said he would travel to North Carolina Monday to propose changes to the federal job training program and to Arkansas Tuesday to propose programs aimed at helping high school and college students get the training they need, particularly in math and science.
"As our economy adds more jobs, we will need to make sure all Americans are prepared to take advantage of new opportunity," he said. "We must help current workers and future workers learn the skills they need today and in the years to come."
But presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry took issue with Bush's rosy picture of the economy, noting American companies are taking their jobs overseas at an ever-increasing rate.
"For three years, President Bush's administration has stood by while we've had the greatest job loss since the Great Depression," the Massachusetts senator said in his party's radio address. "The Republican Congress has passed just about every economic plan President Bush has proposed and what do we have to show for it?"
"Just a couple of days ago, the company that makes the little red Radio Flyer wagons decided to start building them in China," he said, "eliminating the jobs of people who've worked for years at the plant in Chicago and letting another piece of America vanish."
Bush's answer to disappearing jobs, Kerry said, was further tax cuts for "wealthiest Americans" and, in December, having his Commerce Department "train American companies in outsourcing and show them how to export jobs to China."
"I guess we just see things differently," he said. "I believe America is stronger when we create jobs at home. I believe we need a new direction. That's why I have a detailed economic plan to put jobs first and create 10 million new jobs in the next four years."
"Under my plan, 98 percent of Americans and 99 percent of companies will get a tax cut," Kerry said.
"Instead of tax giveaways to the wealthiest Americans and tax benefits for exporting our jobs, we're going to have tax cuts so that help middle-class families can make ends meet and businesses can create new jobs."
The president, however, said March's job total was the highest in four years, and noted that the unemployment rate has fallen from 6.3 percent in June 2003 to 5.7 percent last month -- although last month's total was up from 5.6 percent in February.
The United States "has the fastest-growing economy in the industrialized world," he said, and inflation, interest rates and mortgage rates are low.
"America's families and workers have reason to be optimistic," he said.
Bush, too, has reason to be optimistic -- aiming toward the November election, Democrats have hit him hard on his economic record, citing more than 2.5 million jobs lost since his administration began. Friday's news from the Labor Department was the first real indication that the president may yet have something to fight back with in that arena.
Some analysts, however, urged caution. Joshua Feinman, chief economist at Deutsche Bank Asset Management, noted that the Labor Department payroll report indicated fewer hours worked and no signs of an upward trend in wages.
"We've been waiting for something like this for a long time," said Feinman, referring to the jobs increase. "But we need to resist the temptation to put too much weight on any one month's report -- probably the best thing to do is to average out the past few months; that gives a clearer picture."