- The Washington Times - Monday, October 14, 2002

Sen. Chuck Hagel, Nebraska Republican, said yesterday that President Bush was not doing enough on economic issues, and he suggested the need for a shake-up in the White House team of economic advisers.
"I think the president is going to have to focus on the economy. I think this thing is starting to tilt very much the wrong way, at least the perception of Americans [is] that the president is not paying attention," Mr. Hagel said on CNN's "Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer."
Mr. Hagel, who had criticized Mr. Bush's threats to topple Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein but voted last week for a resolution authorizing military force, told CNN he believed Mr. Bush would be "hurt" politically "for the long term" without a stronger economic message because Republicans were "so hellbent on the Iraqi war invasion."
Democrats have been trying to make the economy, rather than national security, the main issue in the midterm congressional and gubernatorial election campaigns.
Polls indicate Republicans could be vulnerable on the economy. A Pew Media Center poll released Saturday found that Americans, by a 2-1 margin, believe Mr. Bush could do more to help the economy recover.
On CNN yesterday, Mr. Hagel seemed to endorse a proposal offered by Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, who had called for a "regime change" in the Bush administration's "economic counsels."
"Maybe we should have a new team over there regarding the president's economic policies. I think that's something [Mr. Bush] is going to have to take a hard look at here, right after the elections," Mr. Hagel said.
The Nebraska Republican declined to say whether he had any particular member of the administration in mind as needing to leave.
Also yesterday, Sen. John Edwards, North Carolina Democrat and potential presidential contender, called on Congress to roll back proposed tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, slated to take effect in 2004, as a way to repair and stabilize the economy in the long term.
On "Late Edition," Mr. Edwards also urged Congress to reconvene in a special session after the Nov. 5 elections to take action to provide fast relief for the nation's economic problems. Mr. Daschle has said he would favor that approach.
During visits to early presidential-race states Iowa and New Hampshire, Mr. Edwards has called for a rollback of tax cuts that benefit the richest 1 percent of Americans. But his comments yesterday on CNN marked the first time he offered the idea to a national audience.
"Over the long term, we have to get back on the path to fiscal responsibility, And the only way to do that, in my judgment, is to roll back the top layer of the president's [$1.35 trillion] tax cut and not let it go into effect in 2004," Mr. Edwards said.
Mr. Hagel said he disagreed with the North Carolina Democrat's proposal to roll back tax cuts and said he supported the president's bid to make the tax cuts permanent, arguing that it is the "private sector that generates productivity, jobs and wealth, not government."
With polls indicating Americans trust Democrats more than Republicans to deal with the economy, Mr. Bush, in his weekly radio address Saturday, outlined some actions he has taken or is promoting to put people back to work.
He cited his reopening of West Coast ports, which had been shut down for a week by strikers at a cost of as much as $1 billion a day. He also predicted 300,000 laid-off construction workers will return to work if Congress passes a bill making terrorism insurance available to developers unable to obtain it after the September 11 terrorist attacks.
Mr. Edwards yesterday also laid out some short-term economic fixes he would like to see.
"I would give a $500 refund to each family for these increased energy costs they're going to pay this winter. We can extend unemployment insurance. We can have bonus depreciation to cause them to buy more capital goods than they might otherwise. Help for the states. These are short-term things we can do," he said.
Mr. Hagel said Congress needs to "get an energy bill out of the conference committee and vote on it this week." That "would help us, because that is productivity," he added.

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