- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 15, 2002

AURORA, Mo. President Bush yesterday advised Democrats not to fiddle with his $1.3 trillion tax cut, accusing them of not understanding basic economics and drawing cheers from thousands of supporters in the nation's breadbasket.
"It's Economics 101, except sometimes people in Washington haven't taken the course. We passed a meaningful tax cut, and now some of them want to take it away from you by delaying it," the president said to loud boos in this farming town.
"That's why we're not going to let them repeal this tax cut," Mr. Bush shouted, prompting thunderous applause.
Mr. Bush, who had a half-dollar-sized scrape on the left side of his face, joked about choking on a pretzel and fainting Sunday night in the White House as he watched a football game.
He promised his audience "some good advice: Always listen to your mother."
"Mine used to say, 'Never swallow your pretzel until you've chewed it,'" he said to laughter. "I guess I wasn't listening."
The president's warning on his tax-cut package came just days after Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, made public his intention to this week's call for a delay in the next round of personal income-tax cuts. Mr. Kennedy's move followed a charge by Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle that the Bush tax cut has caused the current economic slump.
But as he did last spring, when he traveled the nation and urged Americans to write to their representatives in support of the tax cut, Mr. Bush is taking his case to the people.
"I'm confident when the people's voice rises up, the good folks up there elected to represent you all and everybody else will hear you loud and clear," he said.
While the White House labeled the Midwest tour an instrument to "highlight the importance of expanding free trade to encourage job creation and economic growth," Mr. Bush whipped the friendly crowds into a frenzy with his "don't mess with my tax cut" message.
"I know there's a difference of opinion on about what's good economic policy," Mr. Bush said earlier in the day to 3,000 workers at the John Deere Harvester Works in Moline, Ill. "But mine starts with saying this: When the economy slows down, one of the best things we can do is let people keep their own money so they can spend it.
"I've made up my mind the tax relief plan we passed, which you're now beginning to feel the effects of, is going to be permanent," he said to cheers.
While the president defended his tax cut, he also pushed for greater leeway to promote trade and explore domestic energy supplies.
Both efforts stalled in the Senate late last year, including a measure to give the president "fast-track" trade promotion authority, which would allow him to move quickly to forge pacts with other nations.
"I'm confident we've got to get my friend [Russian President Vladimir] Putin to be buying John Deere products. I'm confident what this nation needs is to level the playing field and have trade that will create jobs all across America," Mr. Bush said in Moline, where 80 of the more than 1,800 Deere workers have lost their jobs since last fall.
The president said American farmers are the best in the world and they should be allowed to develop to their full potential.
"I'm confident in the American farmer. I know the American farmer is more efficient, and can raise more crop than anybody, anywhere in the world."
In Springfield, Mo., a few hours later, Mr. Bush said: "Let us compete, and when we can compete in a fair way, we whip anybody when it comes to selling food. If you're the best in the world at what you do which we are at farming then it seems like to me we ought to encourage that product to be sold not only here in America, but level the playing field so it can be sold all across the world."
The Republican-controlled House passed trade-promotion authority by one vote 215-214 last month after the White House and Republican leaders persuaded their party's holdouts to change sides. The Democrat-controlled Senate is due to vote early this year.
Mr. Bush sought to use the trip to highlight the important role of farmers and trade in the U.S. economy.
He went from the John Deere plant on the Mississippi River, which builds $250,000 combines and sells them to more than 150 countries, to Aurora, where he delivered a speech to the Missouri Farmer's Association Aurora Feed Mill a space filled by the work of harvesting machines.
He traveled to New Orleans last night and will today speak from the city's massive port on the importance of exports, including grain that comes down the Mississippi on barges.
The president said the entire process from field to mill to the rest of the world is one of the cornerstones of the U.S. economy.
Sen. Tom Harkin, Iowa Democrat and chairman of the Agriculture Committee, wants to lock in new farm subsidies before federal funds evaporate into tax cuts and new spending on terrorism and broader economic-stimulus legislation. At yesterday's event just across the Mississippi from his home state Mr. Harkin renewed his call.
"We need this bill now. Phasing it in over three or four years just won't do," he said.
The Senate last year was unable to agree on a Democratic plan to reauthorize farm programs through 2006. Most of the money in that bill would continue to go to grain, cotton and soybean farms but also offer new subsidies for a variety of additional commodities, including milk, honey and lentils. It also would double spending on conservation.
The administration criticized both that bill and one passed by the House in October and urged Congress to delay finishing work on them until this year. It said both measures risk exceeding levels set in an international trade agreement and provide too much money to big farms that least need the assistance.
Mr. Bush also pushed for another bill that stalled in the Senate last year his energy proposal.
"We're too reliant upon parts of the world that may like us, may not like us, for our sources of energy. It seems like to me that we ought to work hard to become more self-sufficient, less reliant, by having an energy plan that encourages conservation, encourages the use of ethanol, for example, value-added processing and also explores for energy in our own hemisphere and in our own states, in an environmentally friendly way," he said in Missouri.

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