- The Washington Times - Friday, December 5, 2003

President Bush celebrated a small drop in the unemployment rate yesterday at a Maryland Home Depot store by calling for his tax cuts to be made permanent to keep the economy growing.

“You need stability in your tax code, particularly for the small-business owners and planners,” Mr. Bush said before a crowd of about 300 employees at the store just south of Baltimore. “One thing that I want you to take away from here is that if you’re interested in job creation and job growth for the future, the tax relief we passed must become permanent.”

An increase in the child-tax credit and an across-the-board income tax cuts are slated to expire in 10 years.

The U.S. Department of Labor yesterday said the unemployment rate dropped to 5.9 percent in November, the lowest rate in eight months.

But last month’s job gains were less than the 150,000 new workers some Wall Street analysts predicted, a lag the Labor Department blamed on a supermarket strike in California, Missouri and a few other states.

Nonetheless, the 57,000 new jobs in November marked the fourth straight month of job gains, totaling 328,000 since July, and is the latest in a string of good economic news.

The economy grew at 8.2 percent from July to September, the most robust rate in 19 years. The value of the stock market has grown by $2 trillion this year, consumer confidence is soaring and new-housing starts in October were at their highest levels since the mid-1980s.

Mr. Bush said the nation’s economy has “overcome a lot” since he took office — from a recession to the shock of the September 11 attacks to war in Iraq.

“I’m an optimistic guy for a lot of reasons,” Mr. Bush said. “I’ve seen what we’ve been through. We’re a strong country and a strong economy.”

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, saw the unemployment glass as half-empty, noting that “nearly 9 million Americans remain unemployed.”

“Since President Bush took office, he has lost nearly 3 million private sector jobs — the worst record of job creation since Herbert Hoover,” Mrs. Pelosi said.

She vowed that Democrats will push for an extension of unemployment benefits for six more months before Congress adjourns for the year next week.

Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin, Maryland Democrat, attended the event at the Home Depot and said he was “very pleased to have [Mr. Bush] in my district and his message was a good message.”

Making the president’s tax cuts permanent, however, would be a mistake, Mr. Cardin said.

“We have large deficits. We’re at war,” Mr. Cardin said. “We haven’t funded programs like Medicare adequately. We need a balanced budget.”

Taureane Brown, 21, a Home Depot employee from Catonsville, Md., did not vote in the 2000 election, but said he might vote for Mr. Bush next year if the economy continues to improve.

“I think he is doing a much better job than who was in there before,” Mr. Brown said. “You can see the changes in the economy. I’m stocking the shelves in here a lot.”

Mr. Bush’s stop at the Home Depot followed a fund-raiser in Baltimore that added $1 million to the president’s campaign fund.

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