- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 23, 2002

BELLE, W.Va. President Bush yesterday implored Congress, which was to reconvene today, "to not let the year 2002 become a bitter political year," even as he ridiculed Democratic support for higher taxes as "wacky."
In an impassioned speech to blue-collar workers in a cinder-block warehouse in the hills of Appalachia, Mr. Bush demanded Senate action on a trio of stalled bills he said would create jobs. The legislation would give the president trade-promotion authority, enact an energy plan and cut taxes to stimulate the economy.
"There is kind of a wacky economic theory going around Washington," Mr. Bush told an enthusiastic crowd at a heavy-machinery distributorship. "It says the more they take in your taxes, the better off you'll be.
"It doesn't make any economic sense," he added. "It doesn't make any dollars and sense. And here in West Virginia, like they do elsewhere, you've got to know this is nonsense."
Before his speech, the president telephoned pro-life demonstrators in Washington with words of encouragement as they marked the 29th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision creating a legal right to abortion. It was the first show of White House support for the marchers in a decade.
"Our nation should set a great goal that unborn children should be welcomed in life and protected in law," Mr. Bush said.
Earlier yesterday, Sen. John Kerry criticized the administration's energy plan, saying it played to Americans' fear of foreign oil dependence without reducing that dependence.
"The proponents are more interested in arousing our fears than in discussing the facts," the Massachusetts Democrat said in a speech to the Council for National Policy. Drilling in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge would not reach peak production for two decades and "cannot possibly impact the war we wage today."
The president, in his speech here, suggested that Senate Democrats were playing politics with the stimulus bill and posturing for the press.
"It's time for a vote," he said. "It's time for people to set aside who's going to benefit on the nightly news and whose picture's going to look the best.
"Let's get a vote up," he added. "Let's quit talking about it, and let's get the bill going."
Mr. Bush also made clear that the Democrats' plan relied too heavily on government spending and not enough on tax relief to stimulate the economy.
"It comes as a surprise to some in Washington that most of the hiring does not take place at the government level," he said. "Most hiring takes place when an employer in the private sector says, 'I need you to work for me.'
"And so the job of the federal government, if you think about it, is not to try to create wealth," he added. "The job of the government is to create an environment in which more people are willing to hire more workers."
To that end, the president called for a tax code that "doesn't punish" small businesses like the one he was visiting, the Walker Machinery Co.
"We ought to allow them to accelerate the depreciation schedule so that it is more likely they will buy more equipment," he said. "And we've got to reform a tax code that makes them pay more taxes, even though their profits are going down."
The remarks drew applause from Walker's management and labor alike. As the president spoke, a group of blue-collar workers stood behind him in the battered bed of an enormous yellow dump truck. They cheered when Mr. Bush denounced Democratic calls to roll back his tax cuts.
"If you want to encourage an economy to recover, you let people keep more of their money," he said. "If you want to slow down an economy, you stop tax cuts. You, in essence, take money away from people."
The president is not averse to all forms of government spending when it comes to reviving the economy. He said yesterday his budget will contain $110 billion in federal grants for research and development.
"The more research and development there are, the more likely it is we'll find interesting answers to energy problems or health problems or national security issues," Mr. Bush said. "And that translates into jobs."
Although the stimulus bill is stalled in the Democrat-controlled Senate, it has passed the Republican-controlled House. The House also passed, by a single vote, a bill to give Mr. Bush the authority to negotiate trade deals that would be subject to up-or-down votes, but not tinkering, by Congress.
"Let's open up markets to sell our products," the president said. "The Senate has got to give me the ability to do that. It came out of the House; it's bottled up in the Senate. I ask them to pass that bill."
Mr. Bush called for the continued harvesting of West Virginia coal, an important source of jobs for local residents. Although Walker employees cheered the president's call, a small group of environmentalist protesters carried signs at Yeager Airport in Charleston saying "Stop Mountain Top Removal" and "Love Our Mountains."

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