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Bush Lauds His Administration's Economic Response

In April, the U.S. economy suffered its fourth straight month of job losses. Growth in the first quarter of the year was weak, at 0.6 percent. In his weekly radio address, U.S. President George Bush defends his administration's moves to bolster the economy. VOA White House Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, Democrats say some of the funds being spent in Iraq would be better spent at home.

President Bush says his administration has been clear and candid about the U.S. economic slowdown, with more than 250,000 jobs lost so far this year.

In his weekly radio address, Mr. Bush says business incentives and tax refunds to more than 130 million households should help the economy by the start of the third quarter in July.

"This package will help American families increase their purchasing power and help offset the high prices that we're seeing at the gas pump and the grocery store. It will also provide tax incentives for American businesses to invest in their companies, which will help create jobs."

Higher gasoline and food prices are depressing U.S. retail sales. Home prices nationwide are down 10 percent. Consumer confidence is at a five-year low.

Much of the current slowdown follows the crisis in the U.S. housing market earlier this year. Many new home buyers got low introductory interest rates on their home loans, but were unable to meet mortgage payments once the rates went up, leading to record foreclosures.

While President Bush thanks Congress for working with him on the economic stimulus plan, he used his radio address to criticize opposition lawmakers for not doing more.

He says Democrats should allow drilling for oil in an Alaskan wildlife refuge to help lower energy prices.

Mr. Bush says Congress has failed to pass legislation that would allow more families to avoid foreclosure and is refusing to make his record tax cuts permanent. He says this is causing uncertainty among consumers.

In the Democratic radio address, Indiana Congressman Andre Carson says government funds being spent on the war in Iraq could be better spent at home.

"If we took even a fraction of the billions of dollars we spending in Iraq and used them here at home we could make real progress and help get our nation out of our economic slump," he said. "But even as our economy struggles, the president continues to send billions to Iraq and oppose Democratic efforts to strengthen the economy and provide real relief to families who are struggling."

Carson says U.S. tax dollars are training teachers in Iraq while too many American children go without the education they deserve. He says President Bush is spending on new hospitals and health centers in Iraq at the same time he is proposing cuts to medical assistance for older Americans.

Public opinion polls say the economy has replaced the war in Iraq as the single biggest issue on the minds of voters ahead of November's presidential election.