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US Presidential Candidates Spar Over Jobs - 2004-09-04

President Bush and Democratic challenger John Kerry squared off over the economy Saturday in their parties' weekly radio addresses.

President Bush says 144,000 new jobs in August shows that the U.S. economy is on the right track. "America is the home to the most dedicated, innovative, and decent workers in the world," said President Bush. "And thanks to their effort and enterprise, America's economy is strong and growing stronger."

Following up on part of his acceptance speech from the Republican convention in New York, the president said the world is changing dramatically for American workers.

"The global market is expanding, creating new markets for our goods and new competition for our people," he said. "Workers are changing jobs more often, and they need new skills to stay ahead. This time of change can be a time of great opportunity for American workers, and government must take their side."

If elected for another four years, Mr. Bush says he will encourage investment by restraining federal spending, reducing regulation, and making his record tax cuts permanent.

Democrats say August job figures show the U.S. economy is still falling behind population growth, as approximately 150,000 new jobs need to be created each month to keep pace with new people entering the job market.

In the Democratic radio address, Senator Kerry said the job figures were more disappointing news from Americans. "President Bush is now certain to be the first president since Herbert Hoover and the Great Depression who didn't create a single new job," said Senator Kerry. "Over the past three years, we've lost 1.6 million jobs in the United States. And to make matters worse, the new jobs we're creating pay an average of $9,000 less than the ones we've lost."

Senator Kerry says the president's economic plans for a second term will hurt the middle class and working families even more by continuing to allow U.S. jobs to go overseas and privatizing Social Security, which the Democratic challenger says will cut benefits.

"In the end, the election comes down to one thing: Are we going to continue with the same warmed over policies that George Bush has tried these last four years, or are we going to move in a new direction? I believe we need a new direction for America's families," he said. "And together, we're going to put the middle class first and get our economy back on track."

The economy is one of this election's biggest political issues. Public opinion polls show voters roughly equally divided between the candidates when it comes to who they trust most to handle the economy.