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Bush, Kerry Square Off on Economy - 2004-04-03

President Bush and Democratic challenger John Kerry squared-off over the economy Saturday.

President Bush says more than 300,000 new jobs last month is powerful confirmation that America's economy is growing stronger.

"Our economy's momentum is building," he said. "People are finding jobs, and the nation's future is bright. America's families and workers have reason to be optimistic."

It was the biggest jobs growth in nearly four years, though overall unemployment was up slightly. The state of the economy is central to the president's re-election bid, especially job growth as Democrats blame Mr. Bush for the loss of nearly two million jobs since he took office.

In the Democratic radio address, Senator Kerry said the president is claiming success despite the loss of manufacturing jobs.

"The thruth is this administration just has not made creating new jobs or fighting for the ones we have a top priority," said Sen. Kerry. Senator Kerry is promising to create 10 million jobs in four years, in part, by ending tax incentives that he says encourage businesses to use cheaper labor overseas.

"From cars to computer software to call centers, millions of Americans have seen their jobs sent overseas," he said. "We can't retreat from the global economy or bring back every lost industry or protect every job. But we can do better."

The president's economic plan also calls for more help for small business owners, but Mr. Bush rejects Senator Kerry's call to repeal tax cuts for wealthier Americans. He says record tax cuts have put the economy on the path to growth, and he wants Congress to make them permanent.

"This tax relief is critical because all workers are keeping more of what they earn, and small businesses, which create most of the new jobs in America, have the resources to expand and hire," said president Bush. "As our economy adds more jobs, we will need to make sure all Americans are prepared to take advantage of new opportunity."

Mr. Bush campaigns in the southern states of Arkansas and North Carolina in the coming week with events highlighting administration efforts to reform federal job training and better prepare high school and college students for a changing work force.