- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 30, 2003

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

President Bush returned from a monthlong working vacation at his Texas ranch yesterday after defending his much-criticized attempts to put the economy back on track. He also promised new efforts to ensure “steady and reliable” power supplies after recent electricity blackouts crippled parts of the Northeast.

Earlier yesterday, Mr. Bush devoted his weekly radio address to the economy, expressing confidence that it was rebounding but admitting it was difficult to create much-needed new jobs.

But Democrats, who traditionally offer their own Saturday radio address to the nation, immediately attacked Mr. Bush’s optimism, charging he had made a mess of the economy and had no realistic remedies in his pocket.

“President Bush turned the $5.6 trillion surplus he inherited from his Democratic predecessor into an estimated debt of $3.3 trillion, a terrible burden that we will now pass on to our children,” said U.S. Rep. Sherrod Brown of Ohio. During Mr. Bush’s 2-year presidency, he said, “3.2 million private-sector jobs have vanished.”

With Democratic contenders for the presidency increasingly targeting his economic policies and even some from his Republican Party expressing concern about the budget deficit, Mr. Bush increasingly has sought to emphasize his efforts to get the country moving again.

The president said it was instilled in the American psyche that workers should be “entitled to keep more of their hard-earned wages.

“That belief, after all, is why America celebrates Labor Day and not tax day,” Mr. Bush said.

He said millions of families had received checks for up to $400 in the past month as part of his massive tax-cut package announced earlier this year.

But Mr. Brown charged that Mr. Bush’s tax-cut plan favored the wealthy: “More tax cuts for the most privileged people in our society. Under the Bush plan, the average millionaire gets a tax cut of $93,500. Most taxpayers … get less than $100 in tax relief.”

Mr. Bush insisted consumer spending was on the rise, and “manufacturers are seeing more new orders for their goods. Low interest rates mean businesses have better balance sheets, and families have saved billions of dollars by refinancing their homes. These are the signs of a reviving economy.

“Now we must build on this progress and make sure that the economy creates enough new jobs for American workers,” he said.

The United States also needs trade agreements with other countries, he said, but the government will be “vigilant” to make sure they are enforced.

A key part of his economic agenda now, he said, is ensuring “a comprehensive energy plan, so that our businesses and homes can rely on a steady and affordable supply of energy.”

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