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Bush, Kerry Continue Debate on US Economy - 2004-04-06

President Bush campaigned in the southern state of Arkansas where he said the creation of more than 300,000 new jobs last month is a positive sign that the economy is growing stronger. Job growth is an especially sensitive political issue for the president as Democrats blame him for the loss of nearly two million jobs since he took office.

Mr. Bush says he took office during a recession and his record tax cuts have put the country back on the path to economic growth. He wants Congress to make those cuts permanent while lowering health care costs and producing more energy at home.

"If we want jobs to stay at home, and if we want the job base to expand, we have to do something about the cost of healthcare," said Mr. Bush. "We need an energy plan in this country. I will tell you, it is hard to expand our job base, it is hard to keep jobs here at home if you are worried about the reliability of electricity and if you are worried about finding natural gas at a reasonable price."

Senator Kerry campaigned in the Midwest state of Ohio where more than 170,000 manufacturing jobs have been lost during the Bush presidency. Mr. Kerry is promising to create 10 million jobs in four years, in part, by rolling back tax cuts for Americans earning more than $200,000 a year. Mr. Kerry says the president's tax cuts unfairly favor wealthier Americans and are driving up huge federal deficits.

"If you are a thoughtful person, there is nothing conservative about running up deficits as far as the eye can see," he said. "There is nothing conservative about piling debt on our children and building up the annual interest payments for that debt so we can not fund education and health care."

Senator Kerry criticized the president for not doing enough to prevent U.S. companies from using cheaper labor overseas.

President Bush has branded the Massachusetts Senator an economic isolationist who he says would hurt foreign trade. "First, we got to make sure that we are confident in trade policy," he added. "There are economic isolations that want to wall us off from the rest of the world. I don't think that makes any sense."

Senator Kerry told union members in Ohio that Americans need and deserve a new economic strategy. "When you add up the real deficit of our nation, which is all of the dreams and lives that have been hurt, add it up and it will be clear that the one person in the United States of America who deserves to be laid-off is George W. Bush," said Mr. Kerry. "And that is what we are going to do."

Senator Kerry continues to campaign on the economy Wednesday with a speech at Georgetown University in Washington. President Bush is to spend the rest of the week on his Texas ranch before meeting Monday with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.