- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 7, 2006

President Bush yesterday mocked Democrats who falsely predicted his tax cuts would ruin the economy and cited new job creation numbers as evidence that the cuts should be made permanent.

The message was also delivered by Vice President Dick Cheney and other top administration officials who fanned out across the country in a coordinated effort to talk up the economy and claim credit for the expansion.

“The American economy heads into 2006 with a full head of steam,” Mr. Bush told the Economic Club of Chicago. “By cutting taxes when we did, we’ve had the fastest-growing economy of any major industrialized nation.”

To bolster his claim, the president cited the latest employment statistics.

“We got some new numbers today to show our economy added 108,000 jobs in December,” he said, drawing applause. “The unemployment rate is down to 4.9 percent; Americans are going to work.”

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, railed against what he called the president’s “failed economic agenda that has left millions of American families with higher bills and lower wages to pay them.”

Allan B. Hubbard, director of the president’s National Economic Council, acknowledged that sluggish wage growth is “a big concern to the president.”

“Compensation has continued to appreciate, but because of rising health care costs, a bigger portion of compensation increases have been going to support health care,” he told reporters aboard Air Force One.

“Secondly,” he added, “it’s the people with lower skills and less education who are not enjoying the wage appreciation like others. And that’s why it’s so important that we give everyone in America the opportunity to have an excellent education and to have job-training opportunities.”

Although Mr. Bush thinks wages could be better, he touted a variety of rising economic indicators, including consumer confidence, home ownership, disposable income, durable-goods orders and shipments of manufactured goods.

The president also took the unusual step of resurrecting a quote from House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, who predicted in May 2003 that the president’s tax cuts would be cause economic disaster.

“She said, ‘Today the Congress of the United States will vote on a reckless, irresponsible tax plan that will undermine opportunity in our country,’ ” Mr. Bush recalled. “Since that congresswoman had uttered those words, the economy has added more than 4.5 million new jobs.”

The president’s comments were echoed by Mr. Cheney, who ridiculed Democrats during a visit to a Harley-Davidson plant in Kansas City, Mo.

“It’s getting pretty hard for the critics to make the case that somehow these tax cuts weren’t good for the economy,” Mr. Cheney said. “The American economy is on the move, and that is because we did not listen to the pessimists.”

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, scoffed at such criticism.

“The administration’s constant response is to grant more tax breaks for the wealthy,” he said. “Today’s rosy remarks on the economy by President Bush and Vice President Cheney prove only that they’re looking for good news with a microscope.”

Mr. Kennedy predicted the economy would hurt the GOP in the midterm elections.

“It’s obvious that at the start of this election year, the Bush economy is an albatross for the administration and Republicans in Congress,” he said. “To paraphrase the famous saying, nothing concentrates the mind of a Republican Congress more than the knowledge that they’re about to be hanged in November.”

But Mr. Cheney was unapologetic about the administration’s demands that the tax cuts be made permanent, even hinting that additional cuts might be needed.

“With the new year beginning, soon people will start receiving their W-2 forms in the mail,” he said. “It’s always a bit of a shock to see how big a piece the federal government took off the top of your earnings over the past year.”

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